Plan as much as you can to make life simpler

March 7, 2019 by David Riedel

Planning as much as you can to make life simpler sounds both obvious and difficult. For example, how do you plan for emergency room visits, sudden job loss, or in other words, the unforeseeable?

News flash: You don’t plan for emergency room visits. That’s why they’re called emergencies. (You could debate me over whether it’s more cost effective to call an ambulance or get yourself to the hospital, but I can’t tell you how to make specific healthcare choices).

You can, however, plan for other things that seem unforeseeable. And you can do that while mapping out the rest of your daily life.

You’ve seen all those productivity journals out there, lately, right? “Best Self,” “Ink + Volt,” “Focus Planner.” There’s a new one each day.

The genius of each is that they pinpoint a way to schedule your day so that there are fewer surprises and more productivity. I tried the “Best Self” journal, and it’s pretty helpful, because I am the kind of person who needs a plan but hates planning. But — shocker — the more I plan, the easier life gets.

There’s only so much scheduling one can do when one is caring for a five-month-old at home (as I am), but here’s what a typical schedule looks like for me now, and it’s made my life significantly easier:

6:00 – Awake, make tea (I cut coffee earlier this year, boo hoo), write 500 words of anything (article, book, journal entry – this is just to get the creative muscles moving).

7:00 – Get kids up, feed the almost-four-year-old while my wife feeds the baby.

8:00-8:30 – Drive the almost-four-year-old to school/daycare.

9:00 – Arrive home, take over baby care from my wife. She leaves for work.

9:30 – Baby goes to sleep for his first nap.

Now this is where things get a little looser. You never know how long the baby’s nap will be. He could sleep 40 minutes or three hours. So the first thing I do when his head hits the crib mattress is to take a shower, or work out and then take a shower.

Then I do a bunch of short tasks I know I can finish quickly, and if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world. These tasks are short, after all, and they include doing laundry, emptying the dishwasher, updating the family finance spreadsheet — things like that.

Let’s assume the baby wakes at noon. Here’s the rest of the schedule.

12:00 – Baby time. It’s all baby here.

2:00 – Baby naps.

I use this baby napping time to do work stuff. Two p.m. is a safe time to call anyone I need to speak to for a piece I’m reporting (it’s long enough after lunch but not close enough to end-of-day for them to be unavailable). It’s also a good time to watch anything I need to watch to get ready for my podcast or for any movie reviews I have to write.

And I buried the lede here (the lede is the beginning of a news story), but when the baby takes his second nap, I move $20 into the family savings account, every day, without fail.

Twenty dollars a day is $7300.00 a year. It’s a decent chunk of money, and it’s money I put in on top of what my wife and I have already agreed to save. For me, it’s all about having the biggest cushion I can. We haven’t had any big health emergencies with ourselves or our kids, but as any parent knows, it’s a constant worry. And if you have a low-premium/high-deductible plan like we do, you need the extra cash in the savings account for the unexpected.

And the reason I mention that $20 savings in this blog post about planning is because I’ve made it a part of the plan: I put the baby in his crib for the second nap, I open the Wells Fargo app app and I make the transfer.

Now let’s assume the baby wakes up at 3:30. It’s time to play with him and make dinner (or if my wife is home, she’ll make dinner and I’ll pick up our almost-four-year-old from school; we plan our dinners weeks in advance now). After the kids go to bed around 7:00 p.m., it’s free time. Now I even plan that. Free time used to be Netflix and chill. Now it’s catch up with my wife, read and write, and make sure we’re on the same page for the following day.

The plan seems mundane, and it is. If you told me when I was 24 that at 44 I’d map out my life this way, I’d have thought you were nuts. But when all the pieces are in place each morning, it’s easy to roll with the unexpected, like the baby sleeping only an hour instead of three. I have experience with it now, so even surprised don’t surprise me much.

And on the chance one of my freelance opportunities dries up or my wife’s job goes kerblooey? At least I’ve been saving $7300 a year for five years to cushion the blow.

What can you plan to make life easier day-in and day-out?


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