By day I work in a field where I am helping people achieve and attain their goals. By night, this desire and commitment continues in other ways. I love to write and journaling has always been a source of therapy for me. As I got older, using a planner became equally cathartic. I record funny memories, movie stubs, even pictures my children draw for me. And I learned how to make goals for myself. When I wrote down a goal it became a physical, tangible finish line for me to race towards. If I could see it (this result) then I could achieve it.
So I thought, “If this works for me – it could work for others!” I began buying and decorating planners for the parents that I assist. Some of these parents struggle with addiction, unemployment, unhealthy relationships, homelessness, mental illness, etc. Some of them suffered trauma in their childhood that made it difficult for them to plan ahead. Their mentalities were very much in survival mode; therefore, when new situations arise they tend to be reactive rather than proactive.
Most of us know that we will eat every day. We know where we will sleep and who will be in our home in the evening. We have stable things in our lives that are easy to take for granted. Some of the population I work with may live in centers for treatment and recovery, they may surf from one friends couch to another, they could live in shelters or on the street. So how do you plan doctor’s appointments, classes, and groups – when you can’t even plan when you’ll eat next? How do you apply for jobs when you don’t have a working phone number or mailing address? And while you are dealing with all these environmental stressors – you are also carrying around internal trauma that may make it difficult to interact with others. Often, things can get too overwhelming, and a person might just give up.
Well… NEWSFLASH. No matter which walk of life you journey upon – organization and planning for your future can be overwhelming.
A few years ago I met a woman who struggled with addiction. Her addiction was so strong that she could not safely parent her children and they were taken into the custody of the State. She worked with her case worker, got the help that she needed, and, over the course of a year, was able to get the children back. Shortly after that happened; however, she had a celebration in her home, invited some of her old friends over, and went on a bender so bad that she was blacked out for two days. The boys had to run to a neighbor’s house hungry and scared because mom was not responsive.
I got to know this woman in the year that she was fighting to get the kids back. She was communicative, active, and engaged with her recovery. But once she graduated from all her courses, her poor coping skills, developed over the course of her life, lead her right back to her bad habits. She had no supports to turn to. And no matter how good of a mom she was when she was sober – she could NOT control herself around the substance. She could be sober, she’d proven that she could be sober for a long period of time. She knew what she was supposed to do if she wanted to party – make a plan of safety for the kids (like secure a sitter or have the boys stay with friends or family for the weekend). But she didn’t. And now the State was looking at a second removal.
Enter the Dragon. I may be small, but I am mighty. I came to her house armed to the teeth with good intentions and a new planner. I sat down with her and said, “Forget all the bullsh*t. Forget all the difficult, stressful crap that you have to deal with every day. If you had a day just to yourself – what would you do?”
And this beautiful soul smiled at me and said, “I’d take a bubble bath. I’d grab a good book, light some candles, and let Calgon take me away!”
I gifted her with a new planner and wrote that in as SATURDAY. That was her goal. To do some self-care. This means that she had to block that time out. People who do not know how to plan often agree to take on more than they can handle. They spread themselves out too thin, things get hectic, and they become overwhelmed. I had her choose the hours of her bubble bath, block that time out, arrange a babysitter for the kids, and made sure that she had some candles and a book.
It seems like such a tiny little thing, right? For some of us, yes. But for others – it might be a new experience. Never take for granted the ability to maintain some semblance of control in your life.
I gave her the planner, some adulting stickers, and a brief overview of how to develop habits of planning for herself.
The key is to follow these few steps:
- Make small, manageable, attainable goals to build the habit.
Goals like: Get up before noon! Take a shower! Drink Coffee! Feed the cat.
- Make a To-Do List
I like to make a list of all the things that I have to do. Writing down tasks helps us stay organized because not all of us have photographic memories! You may even find that you’ll need to create more lists – like a Grocery List, a Wish List, etc!
- Block out the time for your task
Probably the most important part to make this successful is managing your time. Making your priorities a priority! You can make a list of 20 things to do, but if you attempt to cram them into a lunch hour you’ll meet absolute failure. Instead, try to commit to just knocking off 2 of those things per day. Your list will get shorter and then you can move on to the next priority!
- Be flexible and forgiving
Things come up. You are not always going to be on top of your sh*t. You have to be forgiving to yourself. It’s easy for us to internalize failure, which makes us depressed, which makes us give up or try less. It’s important to know that failure is not always a bad thing – as long as it means you’re trying. IF you are failing because you are NOT trying – that is a whole other story. There is a difference between forgiving yourself and being a habitual procrastinator – don’t get the two twisted.
This woman and I became rather close over the time we worked together. She did get her kids back and, while life continues to throw obstacles at her, she can manage her chaos by breaking things down into more manageable pieces. She still falls sometimes – but she knows how to get back up.
So far I have gifted over 50 planners to moms in residential treatment programs and teenaged foster children who have worked really hard and are now going to college! Can you believe that! One of the kids that I mentored, at one point in her life, couldn’t see beyond the weekend. And now she is an inspirational speaker to other foster youths and is a first year student at the University.
These people that I work with have had horrific and traumatic experiences in their childhoods. And, yes, they may have developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms in the course of their lives to deal with those demons, but no one woke up one day and said, “I want to be an addict”. No one said, “I want to be homeless and steal from others”.
I have met some of the most amazing people in the course of my work who have taught ME lessons that make me a better person. I think that’s the most important thing we can do in this life. To leave someone better than when we met them.
I want to thank EVERYONE who has donated to my IAmEmpowerful cause. I try to donate Passion Planners (www.passionplanner.com) because they are the best planners for my needs. I purchase my planners out of pocket and it can get pretty expensive so I also take whatever planners people want to donate. A special thanks to Samantha Duve who read my post about Empowering Other Women on Facebook and immediately purchased a Passion Planner for a new mom going through the journey of reunification. Ms. Duve is an example of one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead and I won’t forget her act of kindness. And neither will the mom that she gifted with the Passion Planner!
Maybe I can’t help everyone or make a huge difference in this world. But I can help ONE person – and that would make all the difference in her life.