Earlier this year, I reviewed a book about finding balance in your homeschool and all the areas of your life, but was left without any concrete areas to start working towards that balance in. So, when I received an opportunity to complete a review for The 7 Minute Life, I realized that this could be a great way for me to begin working towards my goals of peace and balance in my home.
I received the 7 Minute Life Daily Planner. This is a physical planner that is approximately 8.5″ by 7.3″. There are multiple forms in the front to work through, a few different calendar setups and then 90 days of daily planning pages. This planner is $24.95, and it’s meant for adults to track their busy lives, appointments, etc. As you’ll see in the review, it’s not something that would be at use appropriate to give to your children for them to plan assignments or anything like that.
I didn’t really realize until I received the daily planner that this was going to be a journey and not just a place to order my days. I began (and I would suggest you begin) by watching this 12 minute video on what the 7 Minute Life is and how it’s going to help you to manage your time more effectively.
As I opened my lime green planner and began to read the preface, I found myself underlining and mulling over words in the preface and what they might mean to my life. I realized this was going to be so much more than organizing my to-do list.
The goal of the 7 Minute Life is for you to realize what is important to you, and as you make that realization, you’ll be able to prioritize what you want to spend your time on. Then, you’ll organize your goals and completion of meaningful tasks to simply your life in pursuit of your goals. After all, our lives are made up of what we spend our time on.
The author, Allyson Lewis, really touched a chord with me in the preface to the planner as I read along and see where she writes, “Life is not a competition to see who can do the most things in a single day.” Guilty here. So very guilty of maintaining a lot (and often meaningless) to-do list and just marking time from point A to point B. I suddenly realized that I didn’t even know which of the tasks on my to-do list, in true “tyranny of the urgent” fashion, were the ones that it even made sense whether or not I completed them.
As I continued on into the introduction to the planner, I knew I needed this planner in my life when I read the words:
Most people think that if they could just “get everything done” life would be wonderful. But we have discovered that this simply isn’t true. People who feel insanely busy are in that place because their life is crammed full of low priority tasks that don’t bring them great meaning and productivity.
Don’t believe us? Take your to-do list and be honest with yourself…If you got everything done on your list how much better would your life be? Most people find it wouldn’t make a big difference.
Once again, I felt a big, stinging “ouch” of conviction. Not only had I often spent my days worrying over the completion of low priority tasks, but I had also often let whether or not these tasks were completed ruin my feelings of productivity about my day. So often, I had made an idol of my plan for my day and the things I had on my to-do list without ever once asking God if these were the things that should be on my to-do list. Sure, I was filling my to-do list up, but how much of it was meaningful and how much of my to-do list alienated me from the plan that God had for my day and my life?
As you begin working with this planner, you won’t just step into the daily planning pages and get going. Instead, there is some foundational work to do on priorities and goal setting before you ever start filling in a daily planner page. The first page you actually come to is one called “Prioritize.” In it, there are three columns of values and you begin to check off the ones that are important to you. Then, you rank them 1-10 and write them down. For me, these virtues pointed to the importance of faith, family, learning, connecting and teaching in my life.
Once you complete this exercise of priories, there are exercises to guide you through your strengths, your work loves, and your high value activities. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be ready to write your purpose in life and to write how you would know at the end of your life that you have fulfilled your purpose.
Other forms in the front part of the planner include:
- mental clutter–a great place to just write down the things that are causing stress in your life and to begin a plan of action surrounding them
- 90 Day goals–there are several pages for this so that you can differentiate work, personal, financial and life goals. There’s also space underneath each goal for breaking it into smaller tasks of action in the direction of the goal
- Unfinished work and home tasks—This is a great place to dump your “to-dos” so they’re on the list to be taken care of but aren’t urgently trying to get things done. I used my “unfinished work tasks” as a place to put school tasks and projects for the children that we haven’t gotten around to yet.
- Home repair
- Grocery List
- Connections–The personal and business people you need to stay in touch with
- Annual Calendar at a glance
- Annual Projects and Tasks–Great place to list birthdays, holidays, family reunions, etc.
- 90-Day Calendar Worksheets
- Monthly Calendar at a Glance
- Meeting Planner
Then, we get to the main part of the planner which is the “Daily Progress Report.” It’s pretty all inclusive, and as one of the videos I watched from their website states, you can pretty much make this the only thing you put on your desk to tell you what you need to do that day.
As you’ll see, the pages are pretty straightforward. The first page includes:
- Daily contacts–These are the people you actually talk to, call, etc. each day. As a stay-at-home-mom, I don’t call or visit with a ton of people, so I changed this area to be the people I’m praying for and their prayer requests each day
- What I will do…5 Before 11–These should be the five most important goals you have each day
- “7 Minute Connections”–This is place for you to write down the people you are keeping in touch with and intentionally connected with via visit, handwritten card or phone call.
- Unfinished tasks–These will be the “to-do” list your continuing to add to from the front pages as well as new things that crop up
- What I spent–great way to keep track of your expenditures for your budget
The bottom area of the page has a place for you to monitor your water intake, write down your meals and snacks, and log your sleep, exercise, reading time and quiet time. Perfect for helping you take control of your diet.
The final question at the bottom of the first page is a yes or no, “Did I do what I said I would do today?” In other words, did you complete your five before 11?
The second page of the daily planner contains the other information you’re going to need to complete your day. There are sections for:
- Appointments–I used this for our daily schedule of things outside the house and for penciling in lessons to do at home
- Voice Mail–I used this section to track the people I needed to call or email each day
- Thank you notes–I didn’t write three a day, but I kept a better track of who needed a thank you note when I used this planner
- There’s also a section down at the bottom for notes. I mostly used this section for things that cropped up that we wanted to look up on the computer, notes to myself about more things to add to the to-dos, reminders of things I needed to buy, etc.
As you can probably tell from my descriptions and pictures, this is a very comprehensive planner. In fact, if you carry this around, it’s probably going to be the only aid you need to guide you through your day, and I love it.
When I first started using the planner, I hated it–mostly because I had a big blank space or two that I hadn’t figured out how to use yet (like contacts and voice mail) and because I was having to check no every day to the “Did I do what I said I was going to do today?” Let me tell you that it is a blow to your pride and your since of accomplishment when you look at the five things you said you were going to get done and find that none of them are done at the end of the day. I soon realized that tasks that I put in the 5 before 11 were a little too ambitious for my lifestyle (like clean out the pantry), and that instead I might should put in some microtasks (like clean out one pantry shelf) and spread those tasks out over several days. Once began to see the 5 before 11 as microtasks that would help me to get to my 90 day goals and help me organize for my lessons (both at home and at church), I began to see them as a huge help.
Another one of my favorite things about this planner is that there’s a monthly progress report and you can use that end of the month wrap-up to evaluate where you are make goals, deadlines and action steps for each month as well as make adjustments to what you’ve been working on.
I can’t tell you enough how I love that there’s space for water, diet, etc. with the to-do’s and even a place to write down expenditures to keep me on track with my budget. I also love that the planner helps me to see who I haven’t connected with in a while so that I can connect with them, especially since making personal connections is one of the things I value the most about.
The only little quibble I have with the planner is that I wish it had a whole year’s worth of daily progress reports. I understand that the corporate life falls into quarters (as do the seasons), but I would love to have a planner (even a really thick and fat one) that I was able to use for a whole year, mostly because as a homeschooler, it would be better for my academic recordkeeping.
If you think this planner might be for you, I highly encourage you to watch some of the planner videos on the 7 Minute Life website. These will walk you through how to use the planner in a more detailed manner. There are also some more videos on getting started with the 7 Minute Life here and some free time management tool downloads that I think you’ll find helpful.