Clever Carly: Developing a Stress-Free Planning Strategy

Add these mindful practices into your planning routine

Hello, planners!

Another week is coming to an end—and whew, it was stressful. I can’t reiterate enough how much I love my work, but not every day is filled with planning-induced rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes projects or clients can be difficult, and the stress meter spikes. In these moments, I try to remember I’m not alone in my planning-stress woes: Amid all of the other hectic careers, CareerCast rated meeting planning as one of the top five most stressful jobs in 2018.

Then, after taking a few breaths to calm down, I’m reminded that I—and probably you, too—need to infuse my planning practices with more mindfulness and self-care. It’s not always easy to break out of your planning routine, but taking time for your mental health should always be a priority.

Here’s how I’m switching up my process to make sure I’m getting my work done while also practicing mindfulness and taking care of myself, too: 

Organize, Organize, Organize

The foundation of any stress-free project is organization, and that process should start immediately. Before you get planning, sit down and write out every action step it will take to accomplish your goals. That might seem like a lot of work, but when you have a realistic understanding and expectation of what it will take to throw a stellar event, you are more mentally prepared for the work that lies ahead. Once you have your list, you can build out a manageable schedule that ensures you tick every box on your to-do list in a time frame that doesn’t make you lose your head. 

Take Mindful Breaks

As a planner, you might feel like you have to be “on” 24/7, but the reality is that everyone needs time to sit back and reset. Taking regular timeouts—even 5 minutes here or there—can help take the edge off, avoid burnout and restore focus. And by “timeout,” I don’t mean scrolling through Instagram; I mean sitting down, taking a breath and focusing on one pleasant thing. Ideally, these breaks should be happening regularly enough that they serve as a preventive measure against stress boiling over. That said, sometimes work is just plain frustrating, and hitting a tipping point comes faster than we might expect. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, use the same process as above: Take a moment for yourself to clear your head. If you’re having trouble relaxing, try a guided meditation break. Overall, the distance between you and work will help you calm down, and the time away—however brief—might offer a new perspective or approach to whatever issue was causing stress.

Automate What You Can

You might want to do it all, but a never-ending to-do list combined with a limited time stamp is bound to create more stress in your workflow. Instead of taking on each task independently, delegate what you can, and automate the rest. Today, there’s an app, software or technology for just about any task. For example, platforms such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social can automate social media postings, while radio-frequency identification (RFID) can streamline event processes such as check-in and cash transactions.

Plan for Last-Minute Requests

No matter how much you plan ahead and organize, there are always going to be pesky things that come clamoring in at the eleventh hour, be it an issue with a vendor or a last-minute client request. Because we know that these asks or problems will likely appear when we least expect them (or want them to), it’s important to build out our schedules to account for them. It could be as simple as adding in some leeway time to the calendar, or establishing a mistake protocol. That way, however stressful last-minute requests might be, or however close to deadline they come in, you can take a deep breath and move forward.

Practicing self-care is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, yet it’s one of the easiest things to push off our to-do lists (trust me, I’ve been there). These are just a few ideas of what I’ll be doing to practice mindfulness at work, but because everyone deals with stress differently, I urge you to find a way to bring peace and wellness into your own life. And by all means, if you discover something revolutionary, a stress-reducing planning elixir perhaps, will you let me know, too?

Plan well (and be well!),

Clever Carly