Ok, so I made two decisions that made the busiest month of my year busier, at the same time that something that I didn’t choose – a fall by my 86-year-old mother resulting in a serious brain injury – threw a wrench into my carefully-laid plans.

Let that be a lesson to me forevermore to strip away everything BUT the essentials when it comes to January.

When I think about it, that makes the most sense. I mean who doesn’t want to start the year clear and laser-focused, ready to get after those fresh new goals unobstructed by the extraneous?

What I learned from not having a planner for a whole month

If you’ve been reading me, you know: I love a paper planner. I can’t really get by without one. Yeah, yeah, all of my appointments are in the Google calendar that rules my days, but the actual planning of the days, weeks, months, quarters, what I need to do when and why – well, that’s something that I’ve relied on paper for with excellent results. Over the past three years I’ve been experimenting and trying different planners: from the Daily Greatness Business Planner to bullet journaling to the 90DY Planner to the Full Focus Planner. I was doing great with the latter, when Susan Hyatt announced, sometime in December, that she was coming out with her own beautiful planner with a feminist-bent.

So of course I bought one.

And proceeded to wait.

As I write this, it’s January 26th and it still hasn’t arrived, due to unexpected issues with their printer/distributor. I know this is driving no one more crazy than Susan herself. I ain’t mad.

How did I manage?

By hand-creating, in one of the many blank notebooks I had laying around, a quick and dirty hybrid of the Full Focus planner and bullet journaling. Emphasis on the quick and dirty. And guess what?

It totally worked.

First I first dedicated the second half of a great notebook from Muji (truly my favorites, since the paper is thick but not too thick, and the spine allows the pages to open truly flat, and did I mention cheeeeaaaaap, and it’s small and light enough to tote around in my bag) – back when I thought, well, surely, I won’t need to do more than a couple of weeks. Then, when I ran out of pages there, grabbed a Moleskin off the shelf in my office, and ran with that. The Moleskin’s less great than the Muji, but still: it totally worked

I’m still waiting on the GO Planner from Susan and eager to lay hands on it, but for 2020, I wonder if I’ll even bother to spend money on someone else’s planner ever again?

As long as I have 2 pages for each day, the left devoted to top 3 priorities, my schedule, and other top To Do’s (lifted from the Full Focus Planner), and a page for notes and thoughts, then I think I’m good. I can probably do without the fancy artwork and inspirational quotes.

What I learned from implementing a new project management system in my busiest month

Oh, that. I really wish I’d thought twice about that. You see, on January 1st, I launched Aero Workflow, a workflow management app by accountants for accountants. Don’t get me wrong: I love it. There are so many features that make life easier for me, keeping track of the many details associated with each client in my busy business. BUT adding the learning curve for me and my team to a month already packed with year-end financials and 1099s: not the greatest idea I ever had.

Why didn’t I wait until February? Well, I’d paid for the white glove done-for-me onboarding and wanted to just get it done. But February would’ve been so much smarter. Hands down.

New stuff just takes so much more time than you ever think it will to integrate into how you’re presently doing business. It seemed like a simple thing – ok, on 1/1/19, we’ll dump Basecamp and hop on Aero – but nope: not simple. And just to be clear, I’ve got N O T H I N G against Basecamp. It was a great tool while we used it – and I’m in love with the book by its founders, It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work, so really wanted to stay with it – but Aero offers accountant-specific tools and integration with Gmail that I just couldn’t do without any longer.

But implement in January? Never again!

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And then, elder care.

The day after my 88-year-old father had a cardiac catheterization that let us know his heart was fine (big sigh of relief), my 86-year-old mother, coming home from running an errand down the street from their house, managed to somehow, no one knows for sure, fall and hit her head. A new neighbor found her on her back on the sidewalk in front of the house, dazed and complaining that her head hurt. She was taken by ambulance to San Francisco General’s excellent Trauma Center (thank you, Facebook!), where she remained for 4 days. Followed by another week in the ICU, then regular hospital, then skilled nursing.

Did I mention my father is legally blind and has relied on my mother for a couple of years now as both his communications medium (he can’t see the buttons on the phone) and driver?

It’s been a wild month of keeping my father company and being at my mother’s bedside and now being on hand in her first days home, to fetch and carry up and down the 19 steps between the 1st floor of their Victorian, where the kitchen is located, and the 2nd, where the bedrooms, bathroom and tv room are – and to which she’s currently confined, pending additional physical therapy to manage said-stairs.

It’s been a month of keeping my parents’ wide circle of friends informed by Facebook, email and text, sending out daily bulletins, fielding calls, turning everything I learned in years of promoting my brand to a different purpose. [Hmmm, interesting. How does what we do in our businesses actually prepare us to deal with what life throws at us?]

I should have been better prepared for elder-care. I should’ve seen this coming. In my own defense, I can only say that my parents are such spry, active, independent late 80-year-olds that I forgot. I thought they were just going to keep on keeping on in their particular way, going to the ballet and the opera and the movies and to Italian class and everything else, forever.

Yeah, wrong again.

In an instant, things can change. Do change.

And here we are, now a month later. My mother’s home again and adapting to the limitations she currently has, impatient as hell with all of it. I’m there as often as I can be, sleeping over periodically in my childhood room, and working pretty much every other waking minute in order to stay on top of my workload and not miss deadlines and ensure that client books are ready for taxes. It ain’t over yet, so I’m trying to get as much sleep as I can, keep up my own strength, for whatever comes.

And some great happy news: a grandbaby.

In April of this year, I am becoming a grandmother! I am thrilled beyond words about this, and can’t wait to welcome Baby Girl Trélaün to this glorious world. My goal is to get my business into shape so that by the time she arrives, I am free at least 1, preferably 2, weekdays per week to be of help to her parents who will be, like all first-time parents, besotted AND exhausted. To be of help in whatever way serves them, of course.

What IS helpful?

If the past month has taught me anything, it’s made me ask this question over and over:

What would be helpful? When I’m actually trying to help someone else, what would truly help THEM, not just satisfy my own need to be helpful, my itch to do something?

Lots of impact there, whether it’s to do with elder care, or a grandbaby, or my own business.

So: Thank you, January, for being REAL again. Thanks for helping me. ;> Whatever happens after this, it’s bound to be easier.