Episode 417: [PLANNING SERIES] How To Plan Amidst Uncertainty

Most perfectionists find it challenging to plan out their week when they don’t know what will come up or how much energy they’ll have. Whether you’re working an exhausting day job, doing shift work or raising young children alongside building your business – there are certain things that can feel hard to plan around. Especially when no one has taught you how to plan properly…

Some perfectionists plan their week as if everything will go smoothly, hoping for the best and then abandoning their plans when the inevitable happens. Others feel like they can’t make plans at all and wing it day by day, praying they’ll be able to find the motivation to do what matters most. But neither of these approaches work.

If your weeks feel too uncertain but you would like to be able to plan in a way that allows you to follow through consistently and sustainably, then this episode is for you!

You’ll hear how I use my Power Planning to get out of my own way and get shit done in my business, even though I have a lot of uncertainty – being a parent of three kids under the age of three (including twins).

In this episode, I dive deep into the practical things I do to make Power Planning work for me when life is throwing constant curveballs.

Find the full episode transcript and show notes at samlaurabrown.com/episode417.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • The practical strategies that help you plan amidst any uncertainty
  • How to structure your weeks in a way that makes sense for you
  • The importance of ‘buffer time’ and where to add it in your calendar
  • How Power Planning stops you from feeling bad about changing your plans mid-week
  • How to create flexible structure that takes into account your perfectionist brain

Featured In The Episode:

Announcement: PGSD will open for enrollment on 10 September 2023 (for one week only)

My 12-month group coaching program Perfectionists Getting Shit Done (aka PGSD) will teach you how to plan properly as a perfectionist and get out of your own way. The doors to PGSD will open on 10 September 2023 for one week only. To find out more about the program and be the first to know when the doors open, join the waitlist today: samlaurabrown.com/pgsd.

Listen To The Episode

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Hi and welcome to another episode of The Perfectionism Project. A podcast full of perfectionism advice for entrepreneurs. My name is Sam Laura Brown, I help entrepreneurs release their perfectionism handbrake, so they can get out of their own way and build a fulfilling and profitable business. I’m the founder of the Perfectionist Getting Shit Done group coaching program, which is otherwise known as PGSD. And for even more perfectionism advice to help you with your business. You can follow me on Instagram @perfectionismproject.

Sam Laura Brown

In this episode, we are going to be talking about how to plan amidst uncertainty. If you have been listening to this planning series of which this is part three, then you will already know about the difference between procrasti-planning and planning properly as a perfectionist, you will know the steps of power planning, which is your power hour little tweaks and weekly review. And maybe you listen to all of that and like, Okay, I really want to start planning in a way that actually allows me to follow through to get shit done, and to do that consistently and sustainably. But my week is just too uncertain.

Maybe like me, you’re a parent, I have three kids under the age of three, I have Lydia and then twin boys, Jack and James. And I am very busy with that I’m breastfeeding the twin. So I don’t know when they’re going to need a feed. Like there’s a lot of variables, I don’t know how much sleep I’m gonna get. Like, there’s a lot of things that influence my ability to get shit done. When it comes to that maybe you are someone who has a health issue. Maybe you have a job, maybe you’re caring for another family member or your partner like there are things going on in your life that make it really hard to know, will I have enough energy. How long will this task actually take me because it’s a task I haven’t done before. Or if it’s a task that I tend to overthink, and find it really hard to get complete.

So like I don’t actually know how much time to allow for myself, like, I don’t know when I’m going to be motivated and inspired. And I love working in alignment. So like I don’t know when that’s going to happen. Like if you can relate to that this episode is going to be really helpful. I’m just really honestly gonna be chatting through what I do with my Power Planning and what our PGSDers do as well with their power planning, because all inherent to power planning these things I’m going to be talking about, but what I do to allow myself to plan properly, and really get the benefits of having flexible structure, because I loved like when I look at it, I love working from a to do list because it provided this flexibility of like I want to be productive, but I just don’t know when that’s going to be possible.

So if I just at least have somebody that captures everything, then when I do have time to be productive, I can start being productive. And also this appeal of time blocking and working from a calendar was like I wanted to have structure and control and to kind of know what was coming that week. But I really because of my perfectionist mindset, I really over schedule myself like I wasn’t able to stick to my calendar and forget to look at my calendar. And so we want to have flexible structure. And that’s what power planning allows.

And if you love flexibility, and you love structure, and like having this rhythm and like this, knowing that by the end of the week, you will do those things that you need to do and that they’re not having to just all live in your mental load. And like you have, you feel like you have all these tabs open of like this thing that you’re meaning to start that you haven’t yet and you have this idea for that thing. And like you just know that you have your priorities you have set them in the context of your goal, not just what everyone else is doing, like you know what’s important, you know what isn’t important.

And you’re going to be able to trust yourself to do that. Because you’re planning properly. Like, that’s what we’re doing when we’re power planning. And in this episode, I’m going to be sharing, what about your Power Hour, little tweaks and weekly review is going to help you be able to plan amidst uncertainty. So I’m going to be talking about when you’re doing your Power Hour, pay attention to this. So you can plan even if your weeks uncertain. When you’re doing your little tweaks pay attention to this, when you’re doing your weekly review. Pay attention to this.

So know that I mean, I know this is we all feel like we’re the only one who has an uncertain week that we have trouble estimating how long tasks will take us. Some of that in, especially in terms of estimating how long a task will take is our perfectionist mindset and perfectionist brain and being in this all or nothing of like, well, I need to be able to have enough time to get it all done. And also like you know, it’ll take as long as it takes. And I love working. So I don’t mind if I actually don’t get anywhere else. Like there’s all that whole thing too that’s going on and really influencing this.

But of course there are external factors going on. We have other things that might be going on with our mental health or things like that, like there are things that influence productivity. And so we want to make sure that yes we’re painting in a way that works for our perfectionist brain, but also we’re planning in a way that actually works for the life we have and really thinking of ourselves as a whole complete person and supporting ourselves with that so we can show up consistently so we can show up sustainably and really achieve our goals and do it in a way If that actually feels good, and actually is something that we want to be doing long term like when not creating this business that we hate, and we feel chained to, and that we resent, we want to be able to create a business that we actually enjoy running.

And that is possible when you are planning properly. That’s what makes such a big difference. So when it comes as well, just to give you a little bit of background into my week, if you haven’t listened to many other episodes of the podcast, is that I work three days per week, I’m now working like less than I ever have before. And the business since having kids, my business doubled, and I like halved how much I was working. And that’s because I really started to master through experience and practice how to plan out my week, even though I had no idea what the hell was going on.

Like when I was pregnant with the twins, I felt so sick. And then in the third trimester, I was so uncomfortable, like I was just by the time it was the beginning my third trimester, like, are we just done with the business, I just wanted to give birth as like to meet the boys like, it’s just there’s so many things that go into actually showing up for a business, especially when you’re your own boss, like I have a team now, that supports me, and helps me build the business. But it hasn’t always been that way.

And when you are your own boss, and you don’t have like, if you’re someone who you did really well, with deadlines, and like you did really well like me in school, I have a law degree and a finance degree and a diploma in French, because we perfectionist love putting way too much on our plate. But if you’re like me, and you are someone who did well academically, and you kind of always did things at the last minute, and you like having those deadlines and things like that, like it’s really powerful to know that you can actually plan your week in a way that’s going to mean that even when you don’t have that external person keeping you accountable, you don’t have a boss or you don’t have a professor, or maybe you say things right now like to your partner, like can you help me, make sure I get this done, maybe you share your to do list with them or you like, get them to try and be your cheerleader, like, why not learn how to be your own cheerleader, how to motivate yourself.

And then of course, they can encourage you, but you’re not having to rely on them and be like wishing they were more supportive or like having to share things with them, you can do that from a place of want, and not a place of need, because you’re able to keep yourself accountable, because you have flexible structure that takes into account your perfectionist brain, the other things that are going on with your brain, and also the realities of your life instead of just trying to pretend like for example, for me right now, if I’m like, well, I want to have this morning routine where I wake up at 5am.

And then I do this hour of personal development. And then I do this and like, that’s not my reality right now, because I’m breastfeeding I want to be, and I need to wake up and feed or pump and then I need to do like there’s so many other things that go in my morning that didn’t used to. And so instead of me resenting that I can’t do that I can actually plan a week for myself that has those key elements that I love about a morning routine, like I’m someone who does have a good morning routine.

But I can create that for myself. And I can actually follow through with it instead of wishing I had this perfect morning routine and being all or nothing about it and it not happening and then feeling so bad about that. So let’s talk about the Power Hour, little tweaks and weekly review. And when you’re doing each of those, what you need to be looking out for or really thinking about to make sure that you can plan out and uncertain week, but just know again, that we all have an uncertain week.

So power planning is inherently designed to allow you to plan when you don’t know what will come up throughout the week when you don’t know what your energy levels will be like throughout the week, when you don’t know how long certain tasks will take like it’s all accounted for with the power planning process. So when it comes to your Power Hour, there are three things I want you to be thinking about specifically. So first of all, we want to make sure that you are scheduling commitments and clean rest before you schedule your needle movers.

And this is because when you have uncertain things happening and like there’s stuff going on, you want to make sure that you have mental bandwidth and resilience to be able to adjust your plans and pick yourself up and keep going. And the most draining thing you could do is to always kind of be working. And I know like I love being productive. I just love working like I don’t actually need that much rest. I prefer to just work until everything is complete.

I just want you to consider that the reason everything doesn’t get complete is because you’re always working you’re always like half on but you’re never like just really fully focused and then you have that really concentrated time to just be resting when yes, you have other things going on in your life too. But you’re able to give yourself a safe space like create that emotional safety for your brain that there are times where you don’t have to be courageous but you don’t have to be being productive or like doing more so that you can be more human actually just let yourself be.

And that gives you more energy to be able to do the things you need to do and to be able to adapt your plan. So we want to make sure you are scheduling when it comes to their power hour, your commitments first, other external things you have going on lunch plans, whatever that looks like, you are scheduling your clean rest, and then you are scheduling your needle movers. So for example, for myself at the moment, part of my week is breastfeeding, I do that multiple times per day or pumping. And so I will schedule that in a commitment. And I don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen. And so I end up dropping and dragging that around the day. I’ll talk about this more when it comes to little tweaks.

But I know that approximately every three hours, I’m going to need to spend half an hour either breastfeeding or pumping. So instead of pretending that that’s not happening, I can just account for that. And I schedule that in before I then decide how much time I’m going to have for work and what tasks I’m going to do. So for example, with recording a podcast episode, I’m not going to schedule that right before I’m due to breastfeed, because I don’t know what time the boys are going to wake up and when they’re going to need me to feed them. So I will schedule that kind of thing, after I’m breastfeeding, so that I know that I’m not going to be interrupted.

And I’ve learned that just through practice, and through really knowing how to keep my plans, flexible, but not having to be in the state of like, okay, well, I should just write a to do list because I’m breastfeeding on demand. And I have no idea when that’s going to be so I can’t actually plan out my week like you can. And it’s just really like through this process as well. Your weekly review, really start to understand how you work how your brain works, when to schedule things, and really be able to give yourself as well through scheduling commitments and clean rest before your needle movers, you’re not going to be over scheduling yourself, that’s a big problem.

When it comes to having an uncertain week, if you have over scheduled for yourself and you already couldn’t follow through with your plans, even if everything did go perfectly. And then one little thing comes up. And you have no space to be able to drag and drop things into on your calendar like then you’re behind. And then you’re just feel like you’re constantly trying to catch up. And then that makes you put pressure on yourself. So it makes you overthink things. So things take even longer than you get even further behind. And of course, eventually, a few days later, you’re forgetting to look at your calendar.

So you want to make sure that instead of planning your work, and then everything else around that, that you are planning, your commitment, and then your clean rest, clean rest, just think of it for now is time that you’re choosing not to work on your business, you are scheduling that and then you’ll needle mover that’s really going to help you have the bandwidth to make adjustments and be adaptable. We also want to make sure during your power hour that you are adding buffer time to your calendar.

So within that time that you have for work, you are going to be having some blocks of time that aren’t designated to anything in particular in my calendar, I literally just write buffer time. But this is time. That means that if I fall behind, if I overthink something, if something unexpected comes up, that I can just adjust my plans and there’s wiggle room there so that I’m not like okay, well now I have to just try and squeeze things in and get things done in half the time. Like if you find yourself trying to squeeze things in, that’s a sign that you’re not planning properly.

And we all know that we’re not actually going to squeeze that thing in, but we love to be optimistic about it. So we want to have time where if something unexpected comes up, we can say cool, that’s alright, because I have two hours at the end of my Friday to put this kind of thing into. And so what I like to do personally, and also the more uncertainty I have in my life, the more buffer time I put in my calendars, if I’m planning out multiple weeks at a time, I don’t recommend doing this until you have done your first three months of power planning. We’ll talk about more of that reason behind that in the next episode in part four.

But you want to make sure that when you are playing out multiple weeks at a time like that last week for me when I’m planning out multiple weeks, like when we have a launch, for example, is basically all buffer time, because I don’t know what’s going to come up along the way. And so you want to have that flexibility built in. But at the moment, I have typically about an hour, I work three days a week. So I have an hour at the end of each workday of buffer time. And usually I’ll have a couple of hours at the end of my Thursday at the moment is the final day of my work week.

So I’ll have a couple of hours out of buffer time. And that really helps me to be able to feel committed to my plans and to really give myself the best shot at actually following through with them. Because if you don’t have buffer time, it’s going to be really hard to feel committed because your brains like well, things will have to go perfectly. For me to follow this plan. I’m going to have to not overthink anything. I’m going to have to not procrastinate on anything. I’m going to have to just be this robot.

And you already know from experience that you’ve tried to do that so many times and it hasn’t worked so it’s likely not going to work this week. And then you go into the week feeling like okay, well I’m optimistic this week could be different, I’m just going to try and be more disciplined and more motivated and more aligned and more inspired. But ultimately, you know that it’s just a good intention. So of course, you end up falling off, you end up not looking at that calendar, you end up just adding more things to your to do list.

So we want to have that buffer time, so that we are able to commit 100%, we’re able to actually say, Cool, I know that if something happens, I can change my plans and still get to where I want to go. And then we want to make sure in that power hour. The final thing I want to mention here is to review for workability. So like, what’s the reality of your life right now? Does your plan like do your plans even make sense, given the circumstances of your life, given what else you might have going on with your mental health, your physical health.

Maybe you have a job kids like, given all of that? Does your plan actually make sense? Have you given yourself time to eat? Have you given yourself time to sleep? Have you accounted for the fact that when you need to do something courageous, you just need to zone out for like half an hour after that. And if you end up trying to schedule, something that requires a lot of brainpower, say for example, like you want to do an Instagram Live. And that’s something that’s maybe new to you you haven’t done before. And that’s going to require a bit of courage.

And then you plan right after that you’re going to be doing write your email newsletter, or whatever that is that like, your brains are going to do that you’re going to end up just scrolling through something or like walking around the house or whatever it is, because your brain just needs time to decompress from that courageous act. And so you need to look at your calendar for things like that. And you learn that through your weekly review. But when you are doing something that is going to require courage, do you have a little time after that to just give yourself a minute and for your brain to like, okay, cool.

And then keep going or have you got yourself planned to do courageous things or boring and tedious things back to back to back to back to back. Even if you are someone like me, I prefer to have like a block of work time, then a block of rest. Some people prefer like work a little bit rest a little bit work a little bit rested a little bit. So it’s really up to you. And you’ll learn that over time with your power planning. But you want to make sure that you are structuring your day in a way that makes sense for you and will help you follow through.

So for me personally, in the morning, I love to do things that require more mental energy and more focus. And then in the afternoon, I’ll do more like add many things, or things that I find easy all the time, for example, on a podcast that definitely wasn’t something that felt easy all the time. But now, with a lot of practice that is, so that’s fine for the afternoon. Back in the day, that would have definitely been something that I need to do in the morning. Otherwise, I’d be dreading it all day.

So it’s really understanding yourself in that sense. And knowing that you can experiment with things like for a year, I experimented with having a slow morning and kind of like easing into the day and starting like the work at kind of 11 o’clock, midday and afternoonn to me, just not a good time to be working. But for some people like that slow morning and easing in works so well.

So the next thing I want to talk about is your little tweaks. This is a second step of Power planning, and there are a few things I want you to be paying attention to. The first is that when you are making these adjustments to your calendar, to see that as a normal part of the process, that doesn’t mean that you are doing it wrong. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t planning properly. Part of planning properly, it’s literally step two is to make changes to your calendar, because new information will come up, there will be unexpected events that come up things that require attention, whether it’s within your business or in your personal life, you might be feeling way more tired than you’d expected to feel.

Or maybe you’re feeling way more focus and you’re expecting to feel and things are actually taking you quicker, you identified through yourself coaching, there was an easier, simpler way to get it done. And so you did that. And now you have extra time on your hands like you’re going to be adjusting your calendar constantly. And that is a sign that you are planning properly. And it’s really going to help you as well not have this pressure on yourself to have to do everything perfectly and quickly.

And the first time that you know that, okay, like there might be some times that I overthink things and that’s okay, because I’m just going to make my adjustments and follow through like we’re not aiming for, like trying to be this little productivity robot. I know, we want to be that I know we love thinking about if I was to go to a cabin in the woods, I could finally be productive. But what we want to do is see these little tweaks as a normal part of the process.

And with that said, I want to mention to you that sometimes little tweaks are going to be big tweaks. And that’s okay, there are going to be things that happen. Whether again, it’s an external thing that happens, whether there’s a family emergency, or whether you are just feeling so exhausted or you’re in your head about something or like that there’s a million things that can go on and you need to make big adjustments to your plans.

And that’s okay. Do I still do that I make big adjustments to my plans. And I don’t see that as a problem. And so I can just keep going and just keep working towards my goals and getting there. So that’s what I want you to be paying attention to in your little tweaks, and just really making sure you’re updating your calendar to reflect what happened. So that you’re able to get those insights into your brain into how you work into how you rest, like you’re really able to start understanding yourself. Because what happens is if we fall off our calendar, and then we forget to look at it, we don’t look at it, we don’t update it.

And then at the end of the week, you don’t know why you didn’t follow through. And you might say why procrastinated or something vague, but you don’t really specifically why, and you don’t have a tool to help you really investigate that. So you’re just going to probably next week, make the same kind of plans and make the same kind of mistakes. So you’re not going to be able to follow through. And eventually you’re going to feel like you should be further along that there’s a problem with you, like, you know better than to not be doing the things you need to do. Like there’s that thing that you’ve been thinking about doing for so long.

And you haven’t done it and you feel so guilty about it. And like, why can’t you just get it that like, if you aren’t adjusting your calendar to show yourself what’s going on, you’re just going to be left with the only strategy you have of being more motivated or being more disciplined. Or maybe you should get a new marketing strategy. So at least you feel aligned with it. And you’ll be more consistent, we don’t want to have you doing that we want to have you actually knowing what’s going on with you. And being able to do that in a really compassionate, objective way.

So make sure you are making these little tweaks. Again, they might sometimes be big tweaks, but it’s all part of the process. And finally, I want to mention your weekly review. So what we need to do with the weekly review, when it comes to the whole, like planning amidst uncertainty is make sure that you are comparing your screenshots. So at the end of your power hour, you’re going to take a screenshot of your calendar, and you are going to save it to your desktop to a folder, whatever you need to just have it saved somewhere.

And then at the end of the week, after you’ve done your little tweaks, and you’ve added your checkmark emojis, and it reflects, roughly speaking, what happened, anything that didn’t happen, isn’t there, because you you have your before screenshots, so you don’t need to be able to have that on your calendar anymore. You can just have what actually happened and trust that when you compare it with the before screenshot, you will see okay, I plan to record a podcast episode. And that didn’t happen.

So instead of feeling like you have this calendar that is creating this log of like all the things you thought you would do, but you didn’t and feeling bad about that, you just know, you’ve already got that captured in your before screenshot. And you can just adjust your plans as you go. So that your calendar at the end of the week really just reflects what happened, and what you spent your time on and what time of day you did things all of that, like it’s all just reflected that.

So with your weekly review, you need to make sure you are comparing those screenshots, if you do follow the weekly review process, this will be part of it. But know that you are comparing your screenshots. So you are thinking about things like what patterns can I see what came up that was unexpected and annoying as well like, when it’s us getting in our own way, there are a few familiar ways for each of us that we like to do this that we think like that we didn’t know you may be that we would overthink a certain thing. But then every time you do that task, you tend to overthink it.

So that’s such great information to know that you might overthink your social media because you’re scared of judgment. And it feels really vulnerable, putting it out there. So you spent a lot of time editing and perfecting and polishing. So you know next time when you are planning out your week to account for that. And maybe you give yourself a little block of self coaching right before you work on your social media, for example, like you need to compare those screenshots.

So you can really start to understand what came up that disrupted your plans, whether it’s internal or external. And you can also see, like, maybe there was something that you had no control over. And maybe that is something that you over time notice does happen quite regularly. It might be something different every time but every week, that is something that does come up, then you can start to understand, Okay, how much buffer time do I actually need. So you want to also as we’re doing this create a strategy. So next week’s plan is more realistic and easier to follow.

So if you thought you might be able to wake up at a certain time each morning, like I like to track as my one of my commitments. So I scheduled this before a clean rest and my needle movers what time of day, I’m planning to wake up, and then I adjusted. So roughly speaking to the half hour, I can see what time I woke up on each day. And if, for example, I plan to wake up at 5am every day and I wake up at 7am every day, the next week and be like, Okay, I know I want to plan to wake up that early. And I really want to work towards that but it’s not happening.

And so instead of me having to wake up later and feel behind and adjust my plans, I’m just gonna plan to wake up later and plan accordingly. And then over time as I increase my capacity, I can then start waking up earlier so we want to be looking out for things that we can do next week that make this week easier to follow through on and also once you have lowland power planning I want to mention, you can put your own spin on things just so you know, like, if you’re listening to this and like some of our PGSDers you are into things like human design and astrology, or you are into, what else am I thinking about like working in a way that is in rhythm with your menstrual cycle, like you’re going to be doing anyway when you are power planning.

But you can also put your own little spin on things like some of our PGSDers, you’d say with the astrology stuff, like they will put in their calendar like an I don’t know really astrology stuff, kind of watch this, but they will put in like, you know what, like astrological signs going on at that time and take that into account in that planning, you will be doing that as you are power planning. But in the first three months, it’s really important to just be focused on developing this skill, being growth minded about it, not expecting yourself to be perfect at it in the beginning, I’m still not perfect at power planning is really important to have that three month commitment approach and see it as an experiment.

So I’m going to be talking about that in the next part. But in this episode, just to quickly recap, we talked about in your Power Hour, making sure you schedule commitments and clean rest before your needle movers adding buffer time and reviewing for workability your little tweaks in that second step, you are seeing adjusting your calendar as normal, and you are letting be okay that sometimes the little tweaks are big tweaks, and in your weekly review and making sure you compare your screenshots, and you’re creating the strategy. So next week’s plan is more realistic and easy to follow.

Because, again, bottom line, we all have things that stop us from following through with our plans, internally and externally. And the more we have awareness around that, and we can start to see actually, it’s quite predictable that things are going to come up so we can plan for that. And we can start to get an understanding of how long tasks take us. And we can start to put in strategies in our calendar, like if we if something is completely new, you can add in a little task at the beginning of that block, saying okay, I’m going to brainstorm what I need to do in this task. And then I’m going to do my little power planning session after that.

So I can plan out the specific things like there are strategies to account for the uncertainties. And it’s so much better to do that than to end up in the burnout cycle, for example that I talked about, in part one that can end up happening when you are really just in this mindset of like I don’t know when I’m going to be productive. So I just need to have this full list and you are writing the to do list.

You feel overwhelmed, then you do busy work and then you feel guilty then you attempt a needle mover and then you feel behind it the whole thing repeats we really want to have a planning method or strategy to help you actually do the things you need to do so this is how to plan amid uncertainty. I hope it’s been helpful in the next episode I’m going to be sharing with you about this three month commitment and how to make sure that you are successful with your power planning.

Before you go I want to make sure you know that the doors to my group coaching program for perfectionist entrepreneurs called perfectionist getting shit done aka PGSD are going to be opening at 6am New York time on the 10th of September 2023 But only for one week only. So if you want to be the first to know when the doors open or to find out more about the program, you can go to samlaurabrown.com/pgsd.

Author: Sam Brown