5 Ways Your Planner Can Help You Act, Instead of React

By Patty Gardner

Do you act or react?  “Acting” is definitely a less stressful way to live but most people spend their life RE-acting.

What is reacting?

  • Being late to an appointment because you’re gathering the stuff you need at the last minute.
  • Being late to an appointment because you can’t find your keys or bag or items you need to take.
  • Paying fines on library books because you forgot they were due.
  • Running out of gas because you didn’t realize you were low or didn’t take the time to stop and fill it up.
  • Getting arrested because you forgot to pay your speeding ticket (this has not happened to me, by the way).
  • Having your electricity shut off because you forgot to pay the bill.
  • Paying an exorbitant amount of interest because you signed up for the no interest for one year financing but then made your payment late.

Besides the embarrassment, financial hits and other consequences, reacting also makes you feel like you’re always behind.  You’re reacting to all the things life throws at you instead of acting in advance.

How do you get ahead?  How do you become an actor instead of a reactor?

1.       Have a planner, calendar or electronic device and use it faithfully.  It won’t work if you don’t use it.  And if you don’t use it, unless you’re one of those naturally organized people, you won’t be ahead of the game but running behind.  Carry it with you.  Put it out where you can see it.  Set reminders on your phone to check it.

2.       Write everything down!  If you stop and pick up library books, write on your calendar when they’re due.  Then put a note a few days ahead reminding you to return them.  If you sign up for an account and have to choose a user id and password, write it down.  If you think of something you need to do, write it down.  Don’t rely on your memory.  It will fail you!

3.       Look ahead.  If you don’t look ahead in your planner, tasks and appointments can still catch you by surprise.  It’s good to have a day when you sit down and look at the coming week, make notes about what you need to do and observe appointments.  If you need to, put extra reminders in your planner.

Here’s an example from my planning routine.  My husband rented a piece of expensive equipment for a job he was working on and he had a set amount of time before he had to return it or we be charged a very expensive penalty.

  • I noted the date due on my calendar.
  • A week before the equipment was due, I put a note on my calendar.
  • A few days later, I put another reminder.
  • After the equipment was shipped, I wrote the tracking number in my planner.
  • I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking.
  • On the actual due date, I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking to be sure it had arrived on time.

An example from my library routine:

  • After I go to the library, I put on my monthly calendar the date the books are due.
  • Then on the daily page, I put “did you return library books?”
  • A couple of days before they’re due, I put “library books due 12-26-13”
  • After I return all the books due that day, I put a mark through the note on my monthly page so I know I did it.

4.       Use questions instead of to-do’s.  Did you notice on my library example I put “did you return library books?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told what to do.  Sometimes my to-do list feels more like it’s bossing me and then the last thing I want to do is whatever is on that list.  But a question feels less offensive and less bossy.

I know this strategy is dumb, and I don’t use it for everything, but sometimes I have to do crazy things to keep myself motivated and on track.

5.       Put follow-up in your planning system.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in a long time, but when I did, I took extra steps to keep myself out of trouble.

  • I recorded the date due on the appropriate planner page.
  • A week before the ticket was due, I wrote pay the ticket. 
  • The day before the ticket was due, I checked my bank account to be sure the check had cleared.

While paying the ticket was important, making sure they got the payment was just as important.  Follow-up can save you a LOT of trouble!!!

Another example is a 0% financing for one year deal.  If everything goes well, they’re a great deal, but one tiny mistake and you’re in serious hot water.  We took advantage of one of those recently.  To stay out of trouble, I set up automatic payments delivered four or five days ahead of the due date.  A couple of days before the due date, I always checked to be sure the payment was made properly.

Paranoid? No, just careful.  I’ve had too many things go wrong to trust the system.  But I do trust my planner.

So which are you?  A reactor or actor?


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