Do you know what I used to do when I couldn’t stick to my planner? I’d buy a different one!
I was completely and utterly convinced that the reason I couldn’t stick to my planner didn’t have anything to do with me – I just needed to find a planner that would work. I spent hours researching planners on Amazon and Pinterest not realising that my approach to planning was the real problem.
So I have some good news and bad news for you.
The good news is that almost every planner will work. The bad news is that no planner will work until you get to the true reason that you can’t stick to your planner! So in this blog post, I’m going to share 7 of the most common reasons that women can’t stick to their planner. I hope you find it helpful!
7 Reasons you can’t stick to your planner:
1. Your plans aren’t realistic
The reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that your plans aren’t realistic.
Planning to be productive every second of every day is a formula for failure. And intellectually, we all know this. We all know that we need sleep and downtime and breaks. So why do we plan for our ideal selves instead of our human selves? Because we’re trying to cover up our insecurities with productivity. We think that if we can just do more then we can be more and we’ll finally feel like we’re good enough.
The only problem is that unrealistic planning only creates more evidence to support our negative self-beliefs and we become less willing to put ourselves out there. We then find ourselves stuck in a rut – too scared to make realistic plans (because even if we achieve them, we still won’t be good enough) but scared to attempt our unrealistic plans and fail.
If this sounds like you, start to think about the driver behind your unrealistic plans. Are you trying to make up for a lack of self-worth with achievement? Why is it so important that you achieve more?
Once you’ve started to uncover the real reason you’ve been creating unrealistic plans, it’s time to start prioritising. If you could only do one thing on your to-do list, what would you want it to be? You might find yourself thinking that there’s no point doing just one thing on your to-do list. Take note of this, as your unrealistic plans have likely left you achieving nothing on your to-do list. Which means one thing is a big step forward and will likely create the momentum you need to complete the others.
Break your first priority down into the steps you will need to take to achieve it and put them in your calendar. This is an important part of the process as scheduling your plans on your calendar is what brings them into reality and what will allow you to create self-discipline and workable plans. I recommend assuming that each task will take 1.5 x to 2 x longer than estimated.
If there’s room (realistically) for a few other tasks from your to-do list, now is the time to add them. Remember to make sure your tasks are prioritised. Part of the prioritisation process is being willing to let go. There are tasks on your to-do list that you want to keep doing because they are comfortable, familiar and reduce the time spent out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to these as these are often the ones you will need to let go of to step into who you want to become.
If you find this process challenging, bring to mind a person that could achieve what you want to achieve and ask yourself how they would plan their day. What are the things they would do? What are the things they wouldn’t do? I personally find this exercise super helpful while I’m still cultivating self-belief around my own abilities!
2. You want everything to be perfect
The reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that you want everything to be absolutely perfect.
Wanting everything to be perfect is not a bad thing in and of itself. But if you’re incapable of continuing with an imperfect plan, aspiring to perfection will hold you back because there will always be disruptions and unforeseen events.
If you have a tendency to abandon a goal or habit once your perfect track record is ruined, make sure you watch this video on 3 Ways To Stop All-Or-Nothing Thinking.
3. You expect to feel motivated
The reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that you expect to feel motivated all the time.
Here’s how to achieve your goals and create the life you want: You set a goal that you present-day self could not achieve and then you become the kind of person that can achieve that goal. To do this, you have to switch off autopilot mode which means that you need to put a lot of mental energy into everything you do until it becomes the new autopilot.
And there is always a period of time where your motivation has disappeared but your results have not yet come, so if you rely on motivation you will never make it through the dip.
If you plan for the version of you that is motivated, you will not achieve your goals. If you plan for the version of you that is determined to stick to their plan no matter what, you will achieve your goals. Successful people do not rely on motivation, they rely on determination.
If you’ve been backing out of your plans because you don’t feel motivated, it’s time to create determination. The way I most like to do this is to write down a goal 15 times per day that specifies the what, not the how, of my goal and has the phrase ‘no matter what’. With repetition, you will create the belief and determination you need to achieve your goal and will become less reliant on motivation (e.g. I will lose X kg no matter what; I will wake up at 6:30am no matter what).
For more on affirmations, read this blog post on how I used an affirmation to quit my full-time job for blogging (I know affirmations sound totally woo woo but they’re really just a tool to direct your brain so it can see possibilities it normally wouldn’t see).
4. You only follow through if you feel like it
The reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that you only want to follow through with your plans when you feel like it.
If you have a weak commitment to your plans and only follow them when you feel like it, you need to build willpower. Willpower is just the ability to follow through with your plans, regardless of whether you feel like it in the moment. And willpower is developed with practice. Here’s what to do:
- Make a plan to take a specific action at a specific time
- When the time comes, do what you planned regardless of whether you feel like it
Developing willpower is simple. What’s not simple is all of the mental drama we create about doing something we don’t feel like doing.
To develop willpower, it’s important that you are specific with your plans so that you can actually follow them. Make sure the plans you make are clear enough that you could give them to another person to follow. Really take the time to map out the specifics, it makes it that much easier to follow through.
5. You get disheartened when you don’t see immediate change
The reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that you get disheartened when you don’t see immediate change.
If you find yourself giving up on your plans, it might be because you’re allowing yourself to be prematurely disheartened. When I make plans, I like to expect that I won’t see a tangible result for at least 12 weeks (if not longer, depending on the goal). I find this helps me stay curious, committed and out of judgement.
What might be happening is that you’re scared of wasting effort and you tell yourself the story that effort is only ‘worth it’ if you get a result. But this mindset will hold you back for more than one reason. If you are scared of wasting effort, you are missing an opportunity to learn and go. Effort is valuable in and of itself. But not only that, if you are willing to put in the effort you will most likely achieve the result (it may just take longer than expected). And the time will pass anyway – ‘conserving effort’ is not a thing!
Impatience is ego. It’s you wanting to avoid the discomfort of putting effort into something that isn’t working. It’s you wanting to look good. Learning to be patient with your goals, and to put the effort in without an immediate return, will change your life. I guarantee it. And if you want more help with this, listen to Episode 10 of The Smart Twenties Podcast: The Fear of Wasting Effort.
6. Your planning process is holding you back
The reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that your planning process is holding you back.
I love the idea of a Bullet Journal, but the reason I’ve never started one is because I know it wouldn’t be practical for me. I would want every page to be perfect – a beautiful work of art. This would mean that I wouldn’t have the freedom to blurt my thoughts out onto paper and change my plans when they no longer make sense. And I know my perfectionist tendencies would have me procrastinate on planning so I would have less opportunities to mess up my pretty journal.
Bullet Journaling works incredibly well for some people, I’m definitely not trying to say you shouldn’t do it! But if you are finding that an time-consuming and artistic system is actually stopping you back from doing the actual planning, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach.
Have a think about how you would plan if your planner didn’t have to look pretty (I’m not saying it shouldn’t look pretty, but we are not talking about planning as a creative outlet in this post). How would you plan? What would be practical?
And once you have really had a think about what works for you from a practical perspective, you can find a way to make that pretty – if that’s what you want! I personally find that doing a braindump of my to-do list by pen in an undated journal is what works best for me. I then prioritise it on paper and paper before popping everything I’m planning to do into iCal (so I can make sure that I’m not trying to do too many things).
7. You’re scared of letting yourself down
The final reason you can’t stick to your planner might be that you’re scared of letting yourself down. And I know this sounds totally counter-intuitive – if you were scared of letting yourself down then for sure you would actually stick to your planner. But one way to manage the fear of letting yourself down is to avoid making plans so you don’t have an opportunity to let yourself down. Another way of managing this fear is to make your plans so unrealistic and overwhelming that you can always find an excuse not to start.
If you find yourself struggling with this, make sure you find out more about my online course Get Out Of Your Own Way! In the course I will guide you step-by-step through the handful of exercises that will stop you procrastinating and letting yourself down. You can click here to learn more!
So there you have it – 7 reasons you can’t stick to your planner. I hope you’ve find it helpful and I’d love to hear which of these resonates with you!