Prior to the pandemic, my schedule was chaotic and caused me so much anxiety. No matter what I did to try to create organization within my calendar, it never stuck. Being an entrepreneur who always has various projects going on at the same time made it difficult to maintain a “template” for how I wanted each day to look like. Once I started working from home everyday, I took a step back to look at my work and calendar big picture. I learned that I needed to be ok with plans shifting or getting interrupted. I also realized that I needed to peal back.
I now see my work life as much more organized. I scaled back on the amount of projects I have going on at once – I strive to only work on what I am passionate about. I do have a template for my calendar, however, I give myself permission to be ok with the fact that sometimes things need to be canceled or rescheduled or put on a day that isn’t normally allotted for that specific task. It’s all about being flexible and not letting myself translate that as being unorganized, unstructured, flaky or lazy.
At the end of 2020, Jessica Zimmerman wrote the following article about her experience of needing to be flexible in the pandemic. She writes about how it is important to be driven while at the same time be unattached to plans so you can pivot early. Jessica, an educator, author, wife, mom, and serial entrepreneur who teaches her students and followers how to set healthy business boundaries, invest in themselves, and create businesses and lives they absolutely love. Her work has been featured in People, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Inc. and her new book, Sleeping With A Stranger, has hit Wall Street Journal bestseller, USA Today bestseller, Barnes and Noble bestseller, and #1 Amazon bestseller.
I hope you find this helpful!!
HOW MOM OF THREE, JESSICA ZIMMERMAN, STAYS COMMITTED TO HER GOALS
by Jessica Zimmerman
If there’s one solitary item that perfectly captures the uncertainty, frustration, and confusion of the pandemic, it’s my 2020 planner.
I’m in the second half of my thirties, which means that while I didn’t grow up with a cellphone, I’ve spent most of my adulthood with one. I’m no Luddite.
Google Docs is my best friend, I know how to work Dropbox, and between iMessage, Voxer, and Marco Polo, I’ve got a buffet of messaging apps on my smartphone.
Still, I prefer using a hard copy planner. It makes me feel more engaged with my life. Keeping track of my work schedule, my three kids’ activities, doctor’s appointments, and music lessons, my planner is usually busting at the seams.
But last year, this poor planner… as I flip through the months, I can see evidence of myself predictably working through the five stages of grief. The planner is black and blue with crossed out plans, weeks of question marks, and eventually, just… blank.
Can you relate?
It can be hard to muster any sense of purpose when all your carefully laid plans have been erased, postponed, and adjusted.
If I hadn’t spent the past five years familiarizing myself with the frustrations of the best laid plans going awry, this last year spent at home with three kids ages seven and under might have driven me mad.
But the truth is, these past months have been a reminder of something I learned the hard way years ago– whether we’re in the middle of a pandemic or just in the middle of each September’s back to school scurry, we have control of pretty much nothing.
Hear me out.
If you ask my friends, they’ll probably tell you that I’m one of the most driven people they’ve met. Back in 2014, when my wedding rentals business was facing bankruptcy, I took out a $100,000 loan and created a thriving, seven-figure, critically acclaimed business out of sheer force of will and a lot of late nights. All of this while carrying and giving birth to twin boys, parenting my toddler, Stella, and being the sole caretaker for my chronically ill husband.
You better believe those years also had planners with scratch marks and question marks. I wish I could show you how many five-year plans had gone to hell in a handbasket by month four.
After enough evenings filled with angry tears, adjusted expectations, and cursing the heavens, I realized that I wasn’t just experiencing a “fluke” year or two. That it wasn’t just a “bad week.”
The unpredictability of life wasn’t going to change. Either I needed to change my expectations, or I was going to be incredibly unhappy.
I think there’s a myth we all believe; we either have to care too much, or not at all.
Caring too much looks like: inflexibility, perfectionism, never taking a day off, hustle culture, black-and-white thinking, and commitment to a goal long after you’ve realized the path to that goal isn’t one you want to walk.
Not caring at all looks like: passivity, depression, personal neglect, the death of dreams, and ditching routines that make you feel good.
But there is a middle ground, where you can be open to change while keeping your determination. Because what if purpose and flexibility aren’t mutually exclusive, and are best held one in each hand?
What would it look like to stay committed to the life you want to live while also being content with the life you’re waking up to today?
I don’t know what the answer is for you, but this is what’s been helpful for me:
1. Work like a farmer.
Growing up the granddaughter of farmers in Conway, Arkansas, I learned early on the importance of working with the sun. It’s the ultimate act of surrender. You commit to starting your day when the day tells you it’s ready to begin, and ending your day when the sun goes to bed. For me, this means I wake up around 4:30 to get some alone time to meditate, read, and pray before my kids start their days. It also means that when I end my work day, it’s over. No opening my laptop after dinner. If you’re working from home, what would it look like for you to set specific work hours, and shut down your computer and turn off your notifications when you’re “after hours?”
2. Get email off your phone.
Email is the enemy of productivity. If you had to audit your own email activity, what percentage of time do you spend reacting to problems instead of getting your own crap done? How many times do you check your email while making dinner only to have it sour the rest of your night? Emails seldom come with good news.
You spend all day reacting to things you can’t control. You don’t need to add constant email updates to the list. Get that app off your phone, and find one thirty-minute window each day to devote to email checking.
3. Practice gratitude.
There was a season a few years ago when I felt myself getting bitter and angry about the load I was carrying. I felt like the burden of financially providing for my family, for keeping my family emotionally stable, and being the perfect parent was mine to shoulder alone.
To combat the bitterness, I started a practice of beginning my day with gratitude. I didn’t always feel grateful, but the routine started to take hold, and now, in moments when I feel frustrated or over-burdened, my first response is gratitude. It takes the bitterness away.
4. Plan one year at a time.
Ditch the five-year plans, and focus on just this one.
And when you do, start asking questions like…
“What would my ideal day look like?”
“How am I spending my work hours?”
and “Who would I like to be a year from now?”
Sometimes we set our sights on goals that we think will fulfill our biggest hopes and dreams, only to discover that the life that comes with those goals isn’t one we want to live. When we focus on daily routines and identity instead of destination, it’s easier to know right away when something is for us.
5. Mindset is everything.
My favorite mantra? “This is happening for me, not to me.”
Each day we’ll face countless challenges we have no control over, but we can control how we respond. When I feel stuck or disappointed, I like to remind myself that everything is happening for me, not to me.
Every challenge is an opportunity to pivot into my purpose and calling, not a roadblock to my happiness.
Of course, I’m hoping for a clean slate for next year. You better believe I’m still using a 2021 planner. But the truth is, even if the next year is as unpredictable as the last, I’ll be okay.
I can’t be late for my life’s purpose. I’m more determined than ever. And each day, I’m taking one step closer to the woman I’m meant to be. I can’t wait to meet her.