Best Laid Plans

BLP Ep #162: Planning-Adjacent: Tips to Help Tame Work Stress / Enjoy Your Work Days More

September 4, 2023

In this planning-adjacent episode timed especially for Labor Day, I share my favorite work tips, from strategizing to use vacation time well to creating an effective email strategy.

(Also: avoid bad pens at all cost. Seriously!)

As promised, I will also share the BLPA signup (released via newsletter Friday) –> HERE! There are fewer than 10 slots remaining for this round. These sessions start in October so they are timed to help you have your system READY by the time you’re ready to think through 2024.

Outline of the tips discussed:

1-  Spend time every year thinking through how you will use your next year’s vacation days

2-  Start every day going through a plan for what you will do with your time.  A mini-audit as to what is upcoming.  If possible, 

  • make sure every meeting has an agenda
  • make sure you figure out when you can eat or take breaks (bonus if you think about what you might do during the break that is rejuvenating, relaxing, or fun)
  • think through your desired end time / results
  • Create a realistic to do list based on what is needed and the time available.

3-  Develop some kind of ritual around your email. Don’t let it expand and take more of your time/energy/attention than it needs to!

4- If synchronous communication becomes overwhelming, figure out what to do about it.

  • create new processes
  • create new time boundaries (ie: office hours)
  • discuss with individuals 

5-  If your workload feels unreasonable, collect data!

  • track your time
  • track your interruptions or demand
  • figure out how you might be able to change things to be a better and more sustainable employee for your organization and have a discussion

6-  Have a standing weekly meeting with yourself to plan your NEXT week.  

  • look at schedule conflicts
  • any unnecessary meetings?
  • think about priorities

7-  Don’t use bad pens.

WHY ARE WORKPLACES FILLED WITH BAD PENS?  (I mean yes, they are cheaper. But still.)

Favorite planning products for work:

  • Full Focus planner
  • Blank stalogy notebook
  • Small monthly planner for planning far in advance vac days
  • GOOD PENS! My favorites are the Pentel Energy Clena and the Pilot Juice Up, and Uni Jetstreams for ball-point.


  • Teacher ep is coming soon! It will feature a mini-interview and lots of clips/quotes from teachers — on all things teacher planning AND what teachers want students/parents to know re: planning.
  • Sept QA

Episode Sponsors:

Jenni Kayne: Find your forever pieces at Listeners get 15% off the first order by using code PLANS at checkout!

Green Chef: Clean eating with ingredients shipped directly to your door. Go to and use code 60dtt to get 60% off plus free shipping!


  • Reply PNW Millennial September 4, 2023 at 10:10 am

    Sarah – could BLPA help me if I feel generally fine with my planning strategies but totally adrift at goal-setting?

    My work is great, but on relative cruise-control. I have two busy children and essentially no hobbies.

    In the past, my goals have been very results-oriented (ace this exam, run a race at this pace, get this paper published); now, I’m wondering if this phase of life calls for goals that are more process-oriented?

    I, one, feel like my time is not my own, so committing to a big, audacious goal feels selfish but, two, am craving rest and repose (?I think… but maybe it’s more lack of direction that leaves me unenergized).

    Anyway – is BLPA a good fit for this problem? Relatedly, any books you recommend for someone middle-aged and stuck?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 4, 2023 at 10:55 am

      I do believe yes, because two of the major tenets are: a) actually giving yourself TIME/SPACE to think about goals that a you really care about b) developing rituals and processes that help you revisit your goals on a regular basis to move forward with them.

      (and finding ways to deal with the everyday distracting stuff so it doesn’t get in the way as much).

      • Reply Daria September 4, 2023 at 5:24 pm

        Forgot who said that.. I think Christine Koh from Edit Your Life: “life is too short for bad pens.” I second the UniBall. Didn’t try the Juice Up. Prefer a thick point, just got Papermate 1.0 writes solidly.
        Agree 100% on everything you stated above. As a full time pubic school teacher I have to look at each day and determine when my lunch is since we use a rotate and drop class schedule (high school). Sometimes my lunch hour is before the actual student lunch and sometimes after. Sometimes it’s two classes after, pretty much at the end of day, so on those days I make sure that I have good snacks if I have time, or, just any snacks if I don’t. I cannot go into a classroom full of students hangry 😉

  • Reply Alison Rodriguez September 5, 2023 at 11:03 am

    Love these tips, Sarah! I’m going to focus on Tip #5

  • Reply Jami September 5, 2023 at 9:42 pm

    The tips about synchronous communication really made me think about how things can really be circular. For example in my previous job, we started using MS Teams to communicate extensively during COVID, and when I moved to my current role, it was only being used for meetings. So I transitioned our staff to using it mainly because they were always knocking on my door when I was in meetings! One person actually attempted to open my door while I was in a meeting. So I guess I’ll take the instant messages over the actual intrusion.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 6, 2023 at 1:09 pm

      ooh interesting – but if people are less afraid to message would you get 10 messages for every one actual intrusion? if so may or may not be worth it!

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