How to Plan When Everything is Up in the Air


How do you plan when everything is up in the air?

What do you do when the universe throws a wrench in your best-laid life plans?

One thing is certain: Life has to go on. Flipping a switch and going into hibernation mode until the crisis passes is not a viable option. Imposing a shut-down on your dreams and plans is not the answer.

Especially when everything is up in the air, it’s vital to stay focused on your life goals and keep your plans moving forward, however gradually that may be.

Like a lot of things, this is easier said than done.

That’s why I’m sharing the following 3 strategies to help you successfully navigate uncertain times.

Have a plan to keep your momentum going – and your spirits up.

Etching your plans in stone when everything is up in the air does not make much sense. However, it’s important to keep in mind that things will settle down at some point and to be ready to act when it does.

Doing what you can in the interim to keep your plans moving forward not only helps you stay sane through the chaos; it ensures that you’ll be ahead of the game once the dust settles.

Take, for example, our plans to move from Iowa to the Pacific Northwest in early 2020. The original plan was to put our house on the market and move in April or May. Because of COVID, our moving date was postponed.

Planning around a moving date that’s a moving target is a bit tricky, but not impossible.

We had finished the most daunting step in our moving plan before all hell broke loose. The original plumbing in the main bathroom of our 120-year-old house was totally wrecked and needed to be updated to help sell the house faster.

It was unfortunate that we couldn’t put our house on the market and move as soon as we’d hoped. But, by getting an early start on our plans, we had a new, fully-functioning bathroom that would not need to be renovated later.

Glass half full! (Except that an electrical fire gutted the same bathroom exactly one year later – further delaying our move!)

Fortunately, we were still able to keep our plans moving forward without even leaving the house by continuing to declutter, getting organized and packing away any non-essentials.

In the midst of so much uncertainty, it’s vital not to give into despair. Identifying and following the steps you can take now toward your goal can help you stay focused and feeling purposeful, which gives your spirits a boost as well. Double win!

Keep one eye on the forest and one eye on the trees.

It’s tempting during times of crisis and uncertainty to want to crawl into a hole and hide until the storm blows over. But, bringing your life to a screeching halt for the foreseeable future is not realistic – or healthy.

During uncertain and challenging times, more than ever, it’s crucial to keep your plans, hopes and dreams alive and to be on the alert for when and how to act when the time comes.

Tunnel vision is not your friend here.

Instead, focus one eye on your goal and one eye on what’s going on around you, so that you’re able to catch and respond accordingly to opportunities and challenges as they arise. Because things can change quickly, it’s essential to remain vigilant.

Try to maintain your Zen in the face of mayhem.

Not knowing how things are going to turn out can drive you bonkers. It can be paralyzing when the path ahead is murky – when you can’t see what’s lying in wait around the next bend.

But it’s best to keep on keeping on despite the uncertainty and trust that things are going to work out. Seriously, when do we ever know how things are going to turn out?!

Life is filled to the brim with uncertainty!

Focus on what you can change rather than freak out about what you can’t. Try to stay calm and embrace the unknown. Think about what makes you feel Zen. Seek out healthy ways to combat stress and get centered.

I spent six long years trying to stay Zen while living in a place I could not stand. This gave me more experience with this particular strategy than I care to admit.

One way I stayed calm was to keep our plans to move to the West Coast front and center in my mind. Activities that supported our future move, like decluttering, organizing and packing non-essentials, had a very therapeutic effect.

What other activities helped?

Chilling out with our cats, especially our therapy cat Pretty. Getting lots of hugs and being goofy with my husband – because what’s the use if you can’t laugh when everything around you is going to hell in a handbasket?

Cooking, baking, listening to music and walking outside are always calming. Other stress relievers include watching movies (both streaming and from our vast DVD library), Food Network shows like Chopped and high-cheese paranormal shows like Paranormal Lockdown.

Beach scenes accompanied by calming music on Sharecare Windows also worked great. Since we weren’t living close to the beach as originally planned, at least we could watch it on TV! Reading books was another Zen-inducing pastime.

What are the common threads?

One common thread between these three strategies is the need for flexibility. When the shit is hitting the fan, you need to get out of the line of fire! Stay alert to what’s going on around you and be prepared to adapt your plans as the situation changes. And, whatever you do, keep the flames of your dreams, hopes and plans alive – because that’s what will get you through the darkest times.

How do you plan when everything is up in the air?

I’d love to hear from you. Please share your strategies in the comments below!

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retirement advisor-margaret

About the Author

I founded Your Place Finder in 2017 to help retirees and almost retirees like you anticipate and overcome the pitfalls and challenges – and reap the rich rewards – of finding the perfect location to move for retirement.


  1. TG on Aug 16, 2021 at 1:51 am

    I sometimes plan for the worst, and when the sun shines, it feels like you just won. Think outside and well beyond the box, and “IF” something not so good happens -at least you might”ve had a plan for that too. If IT never happens (the plan ahead for all what ifs), then you used some time and effort and all is still good. It all seems to work itself out eventually.

    • Margaret on Aug 16, 2021 at 12:31 pm

      Hi TG, Thanks so much for your comment. It sounds like you have an excellent strategy for being ready for whatever comes your way! I really appreciate you sharing! Margaret

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