This message was posted in the teacher’s lounge at one of the schools where I work. As soon as I saw it I took a picture and texted it to my mother. If no one is credited for coining this phrase then I’m giving it to her. She lives by this manifesto and is one of the most efficient people I’ve ever known.
It’s the reason why she’s such a clear communicator. You always know where you stand.
It’s also very clear what the days and week will look like while you’re staying at her house. Everything is planned in advance. During family get togethers she compiles a list of fun activities, puts them on a calendar, and even assigns meal responsibilities. While this may sound a bit rigid, it is actually just the opposite. Careful planning frees up our precious time, since we’re not wasting it by constantly figuring out how to handle each task. Time is available for more important things – like drinking wine and playing Quiddler.
The Plan is the Plan. There it is. So beautiful in its simplicity. Yet, not everyone appreciates its genius.
You’re either a planner or you’re not. I’ve learned this the hard way through 10 years of marriage to a member of the latter category. “Let’s just play it by ear” is a favorite phrase of his. This strategy is great for avoiding uncomfortable conversations and living in the present. Who wants to spend all that mental energy planning things? Yuk! I get it. But “playing it by ear” can also lead to miscommunication, confusion, and divorce.
Ok, maybe not divorce, but oh my god can we just make a plan and stick to it!
Question: How are we going to handle (insert any routine task here – carpool, dinner, bedtime)?
Answer: By following the plan we’ve already discussed, that’s how! No need to reinvent the wheel.
Planning is a frequent topic in my work with children and families, too. Kids crave the security that plans provide, even if they push against the boundaries. Rules-lame! Having a plan doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible, it just means you have a place to start. A familiar place from which to deviate when something unexpected happens. If you don’t have a plan in the first place, the problem-solving becomes even harder.
Bedtime is a perfect example. On school nights we try to get the kids fed and in the bath by 6:30pm. If, instead, we decide to “play it by ear” and let the time tick much past 7:30pm, a series of whining, stomping, and tantrumming crescendos until everyone faints and falls asleep in a puddle of tears (mostly mine). If we stick to the schedule the kids are much happier because they know what to expect. We have time to relax. We play in the bath, read a few books, and even have time for snuggles before the lights go out.
So, when all else fails and you don’t know which end is up, I refer you to the message in the teacher’s lounge. The Plan is the Plan. If you have trouble making one I’ll give you my mother’s phone number. She’ll be happy to send you a laminated copy.
-my mom and dad enjoying themselves during a recent (well-planned) family vacation-