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Get Out of Crisis Mode with a Strategy (and the Perfect Planner!)

Katya Bowd

Posted on April 23 2018

Have you ever started the day with a bit of anxiety over the backlog on your to-do list? Me too. Especially on the mornings when I woke up early to try and get caught up… just to hear little feet also hitting the ground to get a jump start on the day.

There’s something to be said for having a few minutes first thing to organise your thoughts for the day ahead. But what about those days (weeks… months…) when you can’t get 2 minutes to string your thoughts together? Starting in on urgent to-do items seems extra daunting, and it can be difficult to know what to work on first.

In times like these, there are a few strategies one can use to reboot, recharge, and reorganise so time isn’t lost just spinning wheels. When life has been crazy, and you can’t get a moment to breathe, one suggestion is to take 5 seconds, and simply schedule a date on the calendar.

You heard me. Schedule a date. With yourself.

We love making sure that every important event and task finds its way onto our planner inserts; it makes us look so organized and “together.” However, when every waking moment is spoken for, and we haven’t set aside time for margin and for managing our time, trouble is on the horizon.

This date with yourself doesn’t seem to do much when you’ve already found yourself in full chaos mode. But that’s the beauty of it - you’re going to start fixing the situation with preventative measures. You want to make sure you won’t end up right back in chaos mode again in the future!

As every mum knows, even if you took time to make one, the kids are not going to follow your beautifully structured agenda for the week. They will demand time and attention as they need it, regardless of what else is on your plate. We can’t control that.

What we can do, however, is plan ahead so we can have a few moments to ourselves when someone is scheduled to back us up. The trick to making this work, however, is to actually put it on the calendar. Then one has to actually arrange someone to help with the kids. Then, it’s just a matter of going somewhere where you won’t get distracted by to-do items.

This happens a lot to busy mums who are very dedicated to running their household well and keeping their kids nurtured and healthy. We get distracted by all that we know we have to do, tackling whatever is bothering us the most at the moment. But it’s often done in a way that is unfocused - and unproductive.

The trouble is, working this way for any length of time leaves the “high-level work” (prioritizing, planning ahead, and preparations) on the back burner. The result is a recipe for burnout.

  • If we don’t prioritise, we don’t construct a well-oiled routine. Our habits are more haphazard and what is important is often overlooked for the sake of doing something that is urgent - whether it is important or not.
  • If we don’t plan ahead, we may have our to-do list prioritised, but we may not be allowing ourselves adequate time to accomplish what we set out to do. Again, it is often a case of saying yes to too many things until we find ourselves packed to the gills with obligations. Then, Murphy’s Law takes over. One of your little ones becomes sick or unexpected events come up (or both), and there is no time left for actually doing the work you so carefully prioritised.
  • If we prioritise and plan ahead, but we don’t prepare for the work we set out to do, we are once again setting ourselves up for failure. Perhaps the plan for the day included spring cleaning, but we didn’t have supplies on hand. Maybe we’ve been tasked with putting something together, but we don’t have the right materials. Losing time to prep work on the due date is not the most peaceful way to finish a project. We end up eating our time for other work we planned to do… and the cycle repeats.


In light of this, for any mums currently caught in crisis mode, the right approach to getting out of it and getting organised does not include sitting down with your planner accessories and making your mum planner a dazzling specimen of creativity and organisation.

But, it does briefly include your planner. So grab a pen, and get started with these 5 steps:

  1. Make a date with yourself. Put it in your planner and make it non-negotiable. Make a list of likely babysitters to call for that time.
  2. Find something that will keep the little ones busy for 30 minutes. I know that sounds impossible. But you can combine a few tricks, like a show geared toward toddlers and a snack they can munch without requiring much prep work on your part. If you can bring in last minute reinforcements, all the better!
  3. Start tackling the urgent/less-important items that have piled up, prioritised by how long it will take you. *This is important.* When you find yourself in crisis mode, you need a quick win to change the mood. Have you procrastinated something that will take 2 minutes? Do it first. Is there a 5-minute project that’s been bothering you? Tackle it next. Go for 15 minutes, then take a moment and reassess. These should be items that don’t require much decision-making or creativity - just focused time. When you’re overwhelmed, activity that requires too much thinking is just going to prolong your productivity paralysis.
  4. Feeling a little better yet? Repeat step 3. Find a few more really quick items that you’ve been procrastinating, set a timer for another 15 minutes, and just get them off of your plate.
  5. Now stop. The A5 planner inserts for your planner have everything you need to put the rest of your to-do list on the path to completion. Grab a pen, and dump into one page a list of any remaining to-do items that are recurring or will take more time to accomplish.

You don’t want to tackle these recurring items or longer-duration projects right now - this is your Reboot phase.  Work through these 5 steps until you feel your anxiety begin to drop and you feel more confident that the backlog has become manageable.

The next phase is your time to Recharge. You’ve taken on your procrastinated to-do list and really made some headway. This list might have grown because someone was really sick, or maybe a major life event happened when you least expected it. Perhaps time-management simply had not been given adequate attention in your life. It might have been a case of “all of the above.” Whatever the circumstances, you’ve taken charge and made real progress.

That feels good, doesn’t it? And the temptation can sometimes be to continue plowing through, neglecting other things that need to happen (like laundry or menu planning), until we are once again backlogged. Except this time it’s the everyday stuff that’s falling off the radar. Don’t let that happen. It’s ok to come back and repeat this process a few more times if you can swing it, but don’t hyperfocus and overdo it just to end up with fussy kids and piled up dishes.

Don’t worry, thanks to your thoughtfully designed planner inserts, the rest of your to-do list will soon be managed with less anxiety and overwhelm. Just not yet. For now, we are doing a brief, focused, rescue mission to help us reboot.

When we use this strategy to reboot, it’s important to come back and also Recharge. Stop and do something non-urgent that is really important. Fix a simple meal for your family and sit down to enjoy it. Read some stories with your kids. Go for a walk. The high burst of willpower and energy it took to clear the clutter from your to-do list needs time to replenish so you don’t crash and burn. So take time to breathe in your fresh frame of mind, knowing you’ve already planned a time to make the rest of your work more manageable.

When your Date With You rolls around... Don’t. Put. It. Off. It’s going to be your time to reorganise, and set yourself up for real success. Time-management is all about preventative maintenance. We don’t want to be overbooked, overwhelmed, and overdrawn in our energy reserves. So we have to intentionally manage our time and our resources.

Reorganising is going to require taking an honest look at your obligations. Do you have too many commitments, making it impossible to keep up if something unexpected comes up? Are your obligations not quite in line with your values, and the decision-making process for how you choose to spend your time needs to be tweaked?

Often we are doing helpful, admirable work for others - but, it’s at the expense of critical work we need to do to keep our homes running smoothly. This time, the schedule you've allotted is for doing a high-level task: assessing and managing your workload to prevent crisis mode in the future. Carefully consider what you schedule for yourself. Be mindful of your motivation for all tasks and events as you add them, and be protective of your margin time.

In your mum planner, the size of your planner inserts will give you a place for everything. The routine, weekly tasks can be laid out on a spread so nothing falls through the cracks. The oddball project with a due date has a place in your schedule. There is space for the brainstorming and checklists necessary to help you prepare for upcoming events. Having removed any potential distractions, you can really put this time to good use and set up your planner to be an effective, productivity-boosting tool.

What other tips do you have for a Crisis Mode Reboot? Share with us below!