When my hometown in Louisiana flooded in a massive, 3-day rainstorm, the group kept talking about planners and order in general.
That is, they did until one member said that her house flooded and she was stuck. Her planner wasn't good enough for the to-do list that grows so long and massive after your home is completely ruined.
If you don't know about what happened in Louisiana this week, I've written about the flood.
In its aftermath, her planner wasn't big enough or strong enough to calm the stress of balancing work, parenting, and being suddenly homeless.
She asked for advice. Another member of our on-line planning group lost a husband and mentioned that the 5-part plan I had shared applied to her, too. A friend had a house fire. She needed to hear this as well.
So I've decided to share this 5-part plan more publicly, as a blog post.
If you are struggling about how to approach the time right after a life-changing disaster or death, take the time to read this post (even if your current "planner" consists of reminders on your phone or a pile of papers on the counter).
If you know someone struggling in the aftermath of a tragedy, please share this link with that individual. It's my hope that this helps those in Louisiana who have lost their homes and all disaster victims hereafter.
STOP AT SUNSET DAILY
When disasters happen, the aftermath means constant action. At first, that means getting food, shelter, and water. Perhaps you need to plan a funeral or find clean clothing.
Eventually, the tasks start piling on. Insurance claims. Cleaning out debris. Getting a loan. Finding a contractor. Paying bills.
Stop at sunset each day. Literally. Do what you can during the day, but have an endpoint.
Drink wine, pray, sleep, have sex, chase your kid around. Whatever your things are that make you human, do those things. Do normal stuff even when - especially when - things aren't normal.
Your list after a disaster or death is too long.
I acknowledge with absolute understanding that it is a real list that must eventually be done within a reasonable - and maybe even unreasonable - time period.
That's okay. You have about three good months of "I flooded" or "he died" before more than basic tasks are expected of you. Rely on that!
Otherwise, you will be exhausted and cry in a corner anyway, but it won't be a quick, necessary cry. Instead, you'll relive the nightmare that you are experiencing over and over again in your mind.
So build in a daily break for yourself to rest and relax. Sunset is a nice time to do that.
CREATE A "DEADLINE CALENDAR"
Normally, I say have one calendar - whether Google calendar or a monthly calendar in your planner - for tracking appointments in deadlines.
That's bad advice in this post-disaster situation.
Create a new, separate deadline calendar. ONLY DEADLINES go on this calendar. As you receive, read, or think of a true deadline, put it on the calendar. This is NOT planning. This is simply noting the HAVE TOs.
This deadline calendar is not for "want to do" items. This is for "have to do" items.
Things that might go on this calendar include:
*Make an insurance claim by x date.
*Find out the deadline for an insurance claim by x date.
*Unpack and triple wash/disinfect school clothes by Sept. 9.
*Arrange transportation to school by Sept. 9.
I don't normally recommend a separate deadline calendar, but this is not normal action mode. The deadline calendar will also help you with the next recommendation.
START A "FUTURE TASK" LIST
Make a future task list. Put those tasks that are NOT DUE during the next three months on that lists (with a due date, if applicable).
Now, stop working on the items on that list. You don't have time right now.
Either something is a deadline in the next three months and goes on the deadline calendar OR it is a future task.
For example, if the disaster happens in August, start the future task list on December 1.
As anything you want to do but don't HAVE to do in the next three months occurs to you, write it on the future task list.
Want to buy and install trim? You can live without it for 3 months. Write it there.
Want to make the yard pretty again? Write it there.
If it's not a deadline (and, if you are wondering, it's only a deadline because of SERIOUS REASONS like mold risk or legal needs or something like that), it goes on the future list.
It's sort of a brain dump, but different, because you are pledging to yourself that you are not dealing with it yet.
You are giving yourself the gift of time and grace.
CONTINUE USING YOUR ESTABLISHED PLANNING SYSTEM
Other than a deadline calendar and a future task list (to deal with in three or four months), use your planning system (whether a planner or Outlook or just crossing your fingers and hoping you remember) as you normally would.
Know your schedule, note conversations with insurance adjusters, and jot daily task lists.
But stick only to must-dos for now.
Should-dos still go on the future lists.
Deadlines go in the normal plan, but also on that special calendar so that you NEVER miss one because you check the deadline calendar every day.
Set an alarm to check the deadline calendar every day.
ONLY BRAINDUMP IF IT HELPS
You don't need to remember and write down every single thing that needs doing. In other words, it's okay if you are not emotionally ready to braindump yet!
Instead, consider writing down a task or deadline as you get a trigger that causes you to think of the new item for your deadline calendar or task list.
Feel free to braindump all at once (my usual recommendation) or simply write down one thing at a time (a recommendation filled with grace and time to recover - something you might need to give yourself permission to accept).
Ask yourself...must do?
Don't do it or, if you feel attached to it (like house trim), write it on that future list.
What is the deadline? If there isn't really one, it goes on the future list.
If it needs to be done in the next two weeks, give yourself a two-week deadline on the deadline calendar. Then plan it like normal.
Use these five steps to ensure that you are giving yourself TIME and GRACE to be human:
1. relaxing at sunset
2. deadline calendaring
3. creation of a deferred "future task" list
4. normal use of your planner system
5. no stress over brain dumping
Giving yourself permission to slow down is so important. You need time and grace to recover and heal.
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