How to plan in the face of uncertainty

I don’t know about you, but with Christmas come and gone I often get a case of the post-Christmas blues. You know, that lunchbag letdown feeling similar to when you return home from a vacation. When all the fun and festivities are over and all that’s left is taking down the tree, cleaning up the wrapping paper and heading back to work for a long ol’ stretch of winter.

Usually, my saving grace is that shortly after Christmas comes the New Year and I get to do one of my favorite things. That is, to pull out my new planner and get working on some goals and intentions for the year ahead.

Typically I really love this process. But this year is looking just a tad different. First and foremost, since I now have a baby to factor in, it sometimes feels laughable to try to plan anything beyond the two-hour window until the next nap.

Second, and probably most obvious, is this little thing you may have heard of called COVID-19. With the pandemic persisting and restrictions ongoing in many places, not only might it feel like there’s little to look forward to, but there’s also still so much uncertainty.

How the heck do you plan for the coming year when no one knows how long this is going to last or what we’re going to be allowed to do when?! It’s conceivable that you might want to throw in the towel before even starting and forego planning altogether.

But, despite the uncertainties, I don’t want to completely pass over my planning tradition. I know myself, and that’s a surefire way for me to continue on in winter blah mode for the next several months, waking up on the other side feeling crummy and tired and like I’ve wasted away the rest of my maternity leave.

So I figure I’m just going to have to pivot. To adapt my process slightly and do my best, given the current set of circumstances.

Here are some things I’m considering…

Reflection

This is nothing new. I always include some reflection on the previous year in my planning process. Taking stock is a great jumping off point for goal-setting. Afterall, how can you get where you want to go without first knowing where you’re at?

You can keep this pretty simple. What were some of your wins this past year? What went well? What didn’t? What did you learn? What things are you grateful for?

If you’re looking for a little more inspiration in this area, I love this youtuber: https://www.youtube.com/user/muchelleb. She has all kinds of content around resetting and some thought-provoking lists of questions to ask yourself as you do.

A little disclaimer here…

At the risk of stating the obvious, 2020 was a challenging year. If reflecting seems to bring up more negatives than positives, that’s okay. Give yourself some grace and try to take some comfort in the fact that we made it through. (The “this too shall pass” mentality can be helpful if you’re feeling in the trenches still.)

Plan for things that are within your control

With so much out of our control these days, set yourself up for success by focusing on things that are WTIHIN your purview.

Maybe you can’t control the circumstances around your kids’ school but you can control your mindset and attitude about it.

Using this blog as an example, I can’t control how many people read it or whether they like it but I can commit to getting a post up every week regardless.

Once you’ve layed out your intentions or goals, scan back through them and see if they need to be adjusted in this way.

Be flexible with timelines

In the realm of goal-setting, we often hear about SMART goals, for which the T stands for “time-bound”. Meaning, we’re more likely to follow through on a goal if we assign a deadline. And this is true.

However, when there’s as much uncertainty involved as we’re currently facing, I’d encourage you to be flexible here. That doesn’t mean not to aim for a deadline, but rather to not beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly as planned. If it takes you six months to accomplish what you’d like to have done in three, well, that’s still something to be proud of.

Likewise, if you’re feeling bummed about a lack of things to look forward to right now, maybe think about planning something fun, but with no attached timeline. You can still do the research for that trip to Ireland you’ve been pining after, even if you might not be able to go until 2022. In some cases, the anticipation can be just as fun as the thing itself. Or, at the very least, it can provide a temporary mental escape!

Wishing you all the happiest of New Years and happy planning!

xoxo

Laura

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