Simple functional planning for busy moms and overwhelmed caregivers (no washi and stickers)

During the first few years as a caregiver, I was able to kinda wing it without needing to properly prepare and plan my days. However, when my mom had a tracheostomy done last year, there are new caregiving tasks that needed to be done, more items had to be purchased and tracked, proper budgeting needed to be done….. on top of trying to beat the increasing fatigue I was feeling (blood tests revealed I had aneamia and after taking supplements prescribed by the doctor, that improved).

I watched many YouTube videos on planners, planning and productivity to try to figure out a practical and simple planning system that I am able to follow. After watching tonnes of videos, I followed the planning method from Kallie Branciforte from the YouTube channel That Practical Mom (previously known as But First, Coffee).

As caregivers, we can draw a lot of inspiration from busy stay at home moms and I always explore the planning methods used by them. Kallie’s planning is simple, no frills and easy to adopt. During my initial journey when I had to balance my tasks around my energy levels, as well as work on my blogs and YouTube channel, I draw a lot of inspiration from the straightforward no nonsense way she did her planning. All she uses is inexpensive notebooks from Target to plan.

I first saw her sharing her simple notebook planner via a YouTube Shorts and then proceeded to watch the planner video.

Below is the video she had done a few years ago when she first share her planning method:

Then the following video was published last year with the launch of her planner but she also explained how we can use any notebook to do it:

I have watched both videos a number of times and it really did help me during the initial months to keep my head afloat in the overwhelming to-dos and duties that is swimming around my head.

Her planning system is simple. With a 1 dollar notebook (initially before she launched her own planner), she would have a brain dump of all the things she had to do on left side of the page, then a weekly layout  on the right side of the page. After she did the brain dump of tasks she had to do, she divided it based on priorities.

And then the next two pages (side by side) would have a one week spread (vertical layout) from Monday to Sunday. She would then list down the tasks that needed to be done that day which includes caring for her kids, taking care of the house, cooking and content creation (she has a large YouTube channel with more than a 1 million subscribers and active on other social media platforms).

Mothers with toddlers and young children would be able to relate that it is next to impossible to follow a structured plan by the hour. Because toddlers can nap at unexpected times and get up anytime, kids may make a mess which requires cleaning or fall sick …..all these easily throw timing off. Hence in order to have a plan and stick to it, one would need to be very flexiable.

In the beginning, we may not be sure how long each tasks realistically take. We would need to time the time we need doing the tasks- just writing down the start time, then the end time. After a few times, we would know clearly how long it takes.

Kallie uses time block method, ie in the weekly planner layout, instead of putting time, she would lay out a few chunks of time in between to do such as when the kids is napping or if she had a nanny come over for a few hours, etc. I could totally relate because previously when my energy levels were unpredictable, not able to stick to a slot causes the entire day’s plan to be thrown out of order.

How the method help me initially:

For few months (after my mom had her trach tube), I followed the guidelines provided by Kallie when it comes to planning my day and tasks. Transferring the tasks to paper really reduces the overwhelm I am feeling. I use a 20 baht (less than USD1) whimsical unicorn notebook to do my planning:

In the first section below, I would layout what are the important things that I need to be done on that week to get an overview.  Then flip another page and I would have the weekly spread which details the tasks that needed to be done for the day.

Just for a little colour, I’ve cut out some designs from Chinese New Year red packets and stuck them on the page using UHU glue. The paper size is almost A4 hence there is enough rows for me to plan out tasks that I needed to do for that particular day.

I have a page where I outline a few ‘typical days’ where I would do a sample daily planning with breakdown by the hour to give myself a realistic view of how many hours I can fit in for certain tasks like housekeeping and content creation. As I need to ease into the role, using this method really helps to keep me more organized and less overwhelmed.

I would know clearly that if I deviate from the task or spend too much time on like YouTube or resting, then specific tasks would fall behind.

How I keep my days organized now

After few months of consistently building a routine based on the guidelines above, I have gotten used to doing the tasks with familarity and know how long each tasks would take. Gradually I find that I do not need to sit down to plan each day because I am already very familiar with what I need to do and fit each tasks into certain slots of the day.

In the beginning when we try to fit into a new role, such as being a new mom, have another newborn, trying to juggle work with side hustle, etc, everything may seemed haywire if we do not plan out our days properly. As we plan each day properly and get familiarized with our new roles/ responsibilities, we may find that we do not need to plan out each day anymore because we know what needs to be done on a given day.

For example, if I waited till evening to do some of the main tasks, my mom’s ‘evening care routine’ would require about 2.5 hours (include bed bath, changing dressing on her trach tube, phlegm suction, NG tube tape change, laundry and diaper change/cleaning and any wound dressing).  That means, I have to make sure I start the tasks at least 2.5 hours before feeding my mom her evening meal. I know if I start late, things would snowball and ended up late. If that particular day I felt tired, I would move around and adjust the tasks accordingly to make sure my mom gets fed on time. One of the valuable lessons I’ve learned is to be adaptive and flexibile in my timing. Through a few years of training, I have no issue getting up at strange hours in the morning such as 2am, 3am or 4am.

For cases of busy moms, it could be the time required to prepare food (if it had not been done so prior), cooking, cleaning/washing up for the family’s meal each time. If there are other preparation before meals such as bathing the kids and/or helping them with homework, once one is familiar with these tasks, one would be able to estimate the time require for preparation leading on to the meal time and start on time.

Unless the day would not go as normal, for example if my mom have a doctors appointment and I go with her to the hospital, I would then plan out the day to make sure I remember to do important tasks. For that, I would just do a draft on the day’s schedule on my passport size notebook (which I made myself).  For important things to do such as deadline to pay bills, doctors appointment, and other events, I would write down on my desktop calendar which is on my desk at all times. I also have a book where I track my payments and medical supplies stock to make sure I am on track. For example, when I open my notebook, I can see when is my next insurance or credit card payment due, and if I have ordered and paid for my mom’s tube feeding food from the hospital, and how much stocks of items such as diapers, and other medical supply items available.

Aside from that, I do not need to map out my day as I am clear on the daily tasks and would them according to my energy levels. It tends to fluctuate and can be unpredictable- in which I would need to priortize rest after fulfilling my caregiving duties.

I am grateful to learn this planning as it has helped me to learn the ropes and stay organized in all aspects of my life such as storing my mom’s medical supplies items, keeping on track with bill payments, budgeting and tracking stock of items available. I also use a planner for content planning. Having all these like medical supplies stock and content planning moved to respective planners have made a huge difference. For example I do not need to wonder at the back of my head if I still have enough adult diapers, or medicine, or disposable items in stock to last me till the next purchase because I’ve created a simple system to record my stock and dues- all I need to do is to make sure I update the book each time when I take or restock my supplies.

Conclusion:

In the beginning when we embark on a new phrase of life, with more tasks/projects or have too many things to do in a day, it helps to just create a simple way of planning but drawing inspiration from others who are going through similar situation as us.

There is no need to go over with decorations, painting or lettering, using washis and stickers to make our planner look pretty especially when we are busy with time or not particularly artistically inclined. But having a simple notebook with a cover that I like does make me wish to open the book more. Since the book cost like less than USD1, the paper quality is not prestine…. but it is still good enough that normal pens does not bleed through.

You may plan using pencil or erasable pens if you are trying out and worry about making mistakes. Sometimes, design appeals to you, you may want to invest in a notebook or planner that come with preprinted designs so you need not need to decorate it yourself.  I have simple preprinted designs of monthly layouts that I use each year mainly for my blog content and social media planning.

Once you ease into your stage of life, the repeated tasks you do would soon become a habit. Then you may not need to go through such detail planning. With the skill you acquire, you can then modify and figure out new systems to complete other tasks, to keep track of something or to plan for projects or a certain goal.

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