Learn how to organize your time, your energy, and your life with a master plan…
Heroine. Not Heroin.
When last we peeked in on this journey, the heroine waited impatiently next to boxes of pencils, ill-tempered papers, and a messy planner, breathlessly anticipating further instruction. She had been promised rescue from a life of despair and frustration, rerouting her trajectory toward household paradise.
Note: It might be time to cut back on the romance novels.
Now For Reality
As we near the end of this series (Home Management), you’ve already:
- Created a box of supplies so you don’t have to search for what you need and procrastinate accordingly.
- Learned what a calendar / planner is for, set it up, and started a habit of keeping it up to date and checking it regularly.
- Sorted everything out into two categories:
- Papers that need to be addressed and
- Papers that can be filed.
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The next step in running a smooth household is something I do every week – write out a Master Plan.
Are you ready to create a Master Plan?
I know you are.
Before we begin, gather the following:
- Calendar / Planner
- Notebook or printer paper
- Action / Pending Box
- Unicorn Box including 3-hole punch
- A temporary container or folder to hold a small stack of papers
- Any old to do lists, including last week’s Master Plan and/or Weekly Action Plan, if you have done this before
Cookies? What a Good Idea. I’ll Be Right Back.
To start, here’s a picture of my Master Plan, along with a brief explanation of each heading.
Your own Master Plan categories will vary. You can add, delete, and rearrange them over time as you figure out what works best.
Paperwork / Computer:
Tasks to do on a computer and traditional “paperwork” (forms to fill out, etc.)
Updates for calendar
Phone Calls / Texts / Emails:
Any communication using my phone.
House / Cooking:
Non-routine household tasks and special cooking or baking.
Example: cookies for classroom parties. Make sure you make extra for yourself, even if you’re on a diet.
Especially if you’re on a diet.
Places to go this week.
Notes to myself.
Tasks that don’t fit elsewhere (they ate too many cookies – see above).
Outside / Car / Garage:
Tasks that involve me physically going out to the garage or outside.
Renewing my registration doesn’t go here, but putting the registration sticker onto the car would.
Basically, this is my nag list.
Filling in the Contents: Using a Weekly Review Checklist to Create a Master Plan
I use the checklist below to complete my plan. However, as before, you will eventually customize yours and make it your own.
Fill out the Master Plan using the following steps.
- On a sheet of paper, create a blank Master Plan similar to the one pictured below (double-click on the image to see it up close).
- Gather all previous incomplete To Dos and any new To Dos. These are found on:
- Last week’s Master Plan (or any previous To Do lists if you don’t have one),
- Last week’s Weekly Action Plan (if you’ve done this before)
- Any email reminders or starred action emails
- Transfer all of these old To Dos to the Master Plan, writing them in the appropriate category box.
- Look through everything in the Action / Pending box. Just a quick glance-through, but hit it all.
- Add anything new that you hope to accomplish in the next 7-8 days to the Master Plan.
- Put aside any papers that no longer go in the Action / Pending box. Use the temporary box to contain them. These might be papers that go to someone else with no further action from you. Or papers to shred or, God forbid, file.
Be sure to put anything that still has an associated action back into the action box after you’ve written it on the plan.
That way, whenever you do a paperwork task this week, the backup paperwork is right there where you can easily find it.
Now, isn’t that nifty?
- Now, take a look at the following checklist of reminders. There may be tasks on here to add to your Master Plan. Be sure to include any other items you can think of, as well.
IMPORTANT: These tasks do not get done right this minute. This list only serves as a reminder of what to put on your Master Plan..
You may do them at the very end of your review session. Just don’t do them now, so they don’t distract you from finishing your review.
Copy and customize this list as needed. I also highlight anything that must be done every week no matter what, for those weeks when I am in a hurry.
- Check email spam filters
- Renew library books
- Check for and pay any bills that are due
- Reconcile checkbook
- Check for and buy / order pet supplies
- Check for and order refills of any medications / supplements
- Plan menu
- Make grocery list
- Schedule appointments
- Make errand list for the week
- Check monthly newsletters / events calendars for clubs / organizations you belong to – add any calendar or action additions
- Buy / send upcoming greeting cards / gifts to add to shopping list (don’t forget stamps)
- Think about upcoming holidays / check holiday lists
- Shred old papers
- File anything sitting in the previously designated “To File” box.
(Or don’t. I don’t. Well, maybe twice a year. After all, if I need it, it will still be right there later.)
- Anything else you can think of that might be done in a week. Not necessarily every week, but this gives you a quick checklist to scan and make sure you’re not missing anything.
Prioritizing Examples: Cake – Pink, Vegetables – Yellow, Planet Fitness – No
At this point, your Master Plan should be completely filled in.
Now it needs to be prioritized.
- Using my pink highlighter from the unicorn box, I highlight everything that’s a top priority. Things that absolutely, positively must be done in the current week, no matter what.
- I also use pink for anything with a deadline of this week, even if it’s a lesser task or event. Just so I remember it’s a last-chance item.
- Then I grab the yellow and use it for the important items I skipped over with the pink. The things I’d really, really like to get done.
After that, I continue on and also yellow out the stuff that needs to stay on my radar.
- Anything not highlighted on the list can wait until next week for me to look again. It doesn’t mean it has to wait. It just means if I don’t get to it, life will go on.
At least for a while.
Now 3-hole punch your plan and put it in the front of your planner. If you don’t yet have a planner or you use a closed planner, put it in your Action / Pending Box.
It Just Kinda Happens
But first, I always take a quick phone picture of it. That way I have it if I need to look at it while I’m out and about.
There’s also always a (
very real slight) possibility that I will lose it somehow.
Don’t ask me how.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot:
- If any papers come in during the week that don’t need immediate attention (i.e., attention within the next week), I throw them in the Action / Pending box to be added to the list later. I know I said that already in my last post – just refreshing your memory.
- If they do need attention this week, I put them immediately on the list and highlight them and then put them in the box, setting an alarm if necessary.
I’m Trying Not To Use the Word “Brainstorm” Again – You’re Welcome
If you’d like to make your own checklist, have yourself a good thinking session. Think through everything you want to check up on each week. Not necessarily that you need to do, but if you put it on the list it will remind you to give it a 2-second thought.
Where Is That Jury Summons? I Need a Night Away From My Kids
Congratulations – now you have a plan – instead of occasionally sifting through a pile of papers, holding your breath, praying you don’t come across an unpleasant surprise. Or worse yet, avoiding the papers completely.
That’s no way to live.
Your plan gives you confidence that anything that bullies its way into your life from now on will be quickly subdued.
You’ve even prioritized and can easily see what’s most important. Highlighting the most important tasks not only keeps you from losing track of them, it shuts up that inner anxious voice. The one that is always wondering if there is an expiring rebate, an overdue medical form, a jury summons, or something else in the paperwork pile that will cause stress or shame if its forgotten.
Next, we’ll make a schedule to put the Master Plan in action alongside all those routine tasks you do (or hope to do) every, single week.
P.S. I’m excited to say the entire series is finished and posted.
How to Organize Your Life With a Master Plan