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“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”
– Serenity Prayer
Every planner loves to know what to expect.
Planners like to have control over their environment. They want to know exactly what to do when it needs to be done. And truthfully, unplanned moments are always a source of stress and frustration.
Unfortunately though, the only thing that we can truly expect in life is change.
And boy, does change happen at some of the worst and unexpected moments of life.
Because of the likelihood of unplanned moments in a lifetime, it’s extraordinarily important that planners know how to ‘roll with the punches’.
(Please note that I use planners and bullet journals interchangeably, so you may see both terms used within this article)
It’s great to plan ahead, but sometimes things change…
Types of Unplanned Moments
Some types of unplanned moments are better than others. For planners, I think there is a lot you can actually prepare ahead for, even if you aren’t specifically sure of when something may occur.
Here is my list of types of unplanned moments that affect people:
Predictable, But Not Consistent Events
These types of unplanned moments are generally (but not always) a bit more benign. These are events that you know exactly that they will happen, but you don’t know when.
- Mild Events- Examples of these events include drills (fire drills, weather drills, bomb threat drills), bad weather (sometimes), power outages (most of the time), working on call or as a substitute, mild illness
- More Significant Events- Diagnosed Medical Emergencies (low blood pressure, seizures, asthma attacks), bad weather (sometimes- hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding)
While some of these unplanned events are worse than others, many of the events in this category you can prepare for ahead of time. I’ll discuss this more later in the blog post.
Completely Unplanned Moments
Much like the previous set of unplanned moments, these fall into the ‘mild’ or ‘significant’ range. However, you’ll notice that this type of unplanned moment is much likely more stressful, it carries more emotional weight, and there’s not as much you can do to specifically prepare for these.
- Mild Events- Examples of mild events include in-laws dropping by unexpectedly, your car breaking down on the way to work,
- Significant Events- Examples of significant unplanned moments include losing a job, unexpected illness or death, war, severe weather causing significant destruction, fire
Prepare Your Planner for the Unexpected
So, the first step is to recognize and admit that unplanned moments will happen. Not just to you. To everybody!
Actually this blog post formed as a result of an unplanned event.
A month ago I was walking happily, no problems.
In two days, I’m having major hip surgery. It involves a hospital stay for multiple days.
Yes, I can’t think of a more fun way to
spend than day than getting my pelvis cut open!
(That skeleton has screws on purpose!)
What was frustrating was that I spent all this time creating goals for myself for the next six months… Of course, majority now totally go out the window. I’ll be out of work for a few months. I’ll be on crutches for the next two months.
I know in the past my attempts to salvage my plans would have been long gone. I would have tossed my planner in the trash out of frustration and failure. Now I have the skills to overcome these scenarios, and I want to share them with you.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Yes, it’s frustrating when you’ve wasted time over a spread or a plan you’re not going to utilize.
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
It’s perfectly acceptable to feel angry or even grieve some over the hard work that you put into your planner. It sucks that you worked so hard and can’t even use it.
But don’t think it makes you a lazy person because you weren’t able to keep up during a challenging, unexpected moment. Real life is ALWAYS more important than your planner.
Prepare Ahead as Much as Possible
I mentioned earlier that for the “predictable, yet not consistent” category can really take advantage of preparing ahead.
This awesome spread by TheColorBujo on Instagram
shows the importance of planning ahead!
I know of people who keep detailed charts about their children’s allergies or medical conditions and will stuff them in pockets of their planner, or have the details on serrated pages. If their child has a medical emergency, the parent is quickly able to provide this detailed list to medical professionals to provide more prompt care.
Some other types of pages you can create include:
- Plans for bad weather or fire (drills, location of important documents)
- Emergency Kit spread (items in emergency kit, location, chart when to replace certain items)
- Back up phone numbers/services
For the completely unexpected moments, you aren’t always going to have a spread or a plan to correspond. But there are ways that you can prepare your planner so you aren’t stressing out if you are unable to update it regularly.
For instance, consider batch planning. Do as much as you can when you set up your planners. That way if you miss a week, you’re not scrambling trying to find time to set up the next week. I wrote an entire post about batch planning if you’d like some more details, and feel free to read all about it here.
It’s OK to Leave Trackers and Pages Empty
I didn’t even finish the rest of this month… oops!
But I keep going anyways!
Seeing a page empty or part of a tracker empty is never fun. I mean, one, it makes you feel like you’ve failed. Two, it feels strange to start back up again after some time away.
If you are able to remember events and habits, you can always go back later and fill in the empty trackers and pages.
If not, you AREN’T a failure. It’s ok to leave it empty. If you feel this may be helpful, you can write notes explaining your unplanned moment in the empty spots.
Beautiful, minimalist layout by Fay on her Instagram!
It’s OK to Change (or even drop!) Your Goals
I mentioned earlier that my hip surgery made most of my six month goals null. I can get frustrated and give up.
In a way though, that’s mighty impractical. For instance, one of my goals in this six month period is to pay off an extra mortgage payment. Well, now I’m out of work for a couple of months because of my surgery. I’m fortunate to receive some payments while I’m off work; however, my focus now is to make sure our family is financially stable. We’re about to go into the holiday season, too.
Once I’m back to work, I can get back to focusing on this goal!
It’s also worth evaluating to see if there are adjustments you can make to meet your goals despite of the changes.
Scale it Back and Keep it Simple
You can have fun without going all out!
I wrote an entire article about keeping it simple in your planner. Long story short, though, if you feel significant distress about being unable to maintain your planner as a result of an unplanned event, you may find your planner is too complex.
Simplifying your planner is powerful. It doesn’t mean you are a failure if you aren’t able to maintain it. You need to find a system that works for you!
This article here is also a great resource of specific solutions to try if your planner stops working.
Keep Realistic Expectations
Another example of a beautiful, minimalist page by viv on her Instagram!
If you feel like everything has to be perfect all the time in your planner, you are likely going to feel more distress when unplanned moments occur.
Before you go, make sure to take a moment to read these five tips about keeping a successful planner. It’s a great guide not only for keeping good expectations, but also how be realistic for anything that could throw you off your planner game.
How have you managed to keep your planner going when going through unexpected moments? I’d love to hear about your experiences and how you overcame them! Feel free to mention them in the comments, or (if you prefer to be a bit more anonymous!), send me an email! If you go to my Contact page, you can send me a message!
PS- Want to know more about how I made some of the spreads featured in this article? Make sure to read this article on my seven favorite bullet journal tools to make beautiful spreads!
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