Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Peek at My Planner in Action

I've been talking about my planner on the blog a lot, so I wanted to give you a peek at it in action.  Of course, January hasn't really started yet, and let me promise you that by the end of the week, this week's entry (starts tomorrow, officially) will be jam packed with writing.  But I hope this gives you some tips on using your own planning in an organized way.

First, a review.  My planner is a half size bound weekly/monthly Greenroom planner from Target.  It does not come with a cover, but I like one, to protect it from, well, everything, so I bought a cheap planner that came with a cover, removed the cover, and am using it for my FAR SUPERIOR planner.  I wish I could find a pretty color cover like this, but all the right sized ones came in black or red.  :(

It has room for a thin Moleskine, sticky notes, and my planner... my G2 .7 Pilot Pen (currently in black).

A picture of the tabs....

In addition to the pages that this blog will focus on (the ones that I use regularly), I have some other useful stuff tucked in the planner.

The first is a sample page from my Moleskine.  Anything I want to remember, journal, think out, or keep track of goes in the Moleskine.  The most important item on the page (in this case, steps to take immediately if I get a new job, like arranging child care, go in the corner box on top).  My index, on the inside cover of the Moleskine, tells me what page each thing is on.

I literally just keep this as a running journal.  I set out reminders of my morning and afternoon routine (which I refresh myself with after Christmas breaks from school ;) ) on this page, as well as the words to a prayer that I found particularly wise and wanted to remember.  Having this stuff in my Moleskine, a dedicated place, keeps it from cluttering my planner, which is really just for action items.

In the planner itself, I do keep a one page list of things that are happening AFTER 2013.  You should do this.  That way, when you see the dentist in September, you can make a note six months later to get a followup, even if you don't have your 2014 planner yet.

There are three pages each month that get serious use.  I mark those pages with a paper clip.  The pages are:

1. The monthly calendar

2. The monthly task pages

3. The weekly pages.

The monthly pages are used for any timed events and my weekly menu (since timed events tend to dictate the weekly menu).

If something is circled, it repeats again the next week.  I write it out two weeks in advance, on the Sunday before.  It's a scheduled weekly review of my planner.  Note the visual indication of the menu plan with little dashes on either side of the menu item.  (I am very flexible.  If I don't know what to cook, I use the menu.  But if I am craving chicken, I simply swap with another day.  I always try to use what is already in the fridge or freezer or what is on sale.)  Also, in the notes, you will see the number of school days this month.  That's because I have to write the check for lunches for the month.

My FAVORITE aspect of the Greenroom planner is the two page spread after the monthly spread.  I use it for nonweek specific tasks and goal-reaching.

The first page is my running task list, including any month specific tasks.  The second page is a checker board page.  I'll show you how I use that treasure in a minute.

First, the task list.  I've explained this system before, but not with pictures.

A star means this item is on a deadline and MUST be done in January, by the due date.  No star means it can carry over to next month, if necessary.  I am stingy with stars.  These are the things that, should I end up in the hospital, I'd need my husband or someone else to take care of.  For example, in the entry below, if I don't sign up or decline Express Scripts, thousands of dollars of meds won't be paid for by my insurance.

Each entry gets a date (if due in January) or an arrow (if it can move to February).  I used to not put the arrow, but I needed something visual to mark each task.  If I copy a task over and over, month after month, I often just delete or delegate it.

Next, I start the task with an action verb, so I know WHAT to do.  Having that decision already made it important.

Finally, entries either get no code, or:

E = errands
H = home
C = computer.

That way, if I am stuck at the computer, I can get a bunch of stuff done at once.  If I am going on errands, I can grab whatever I need at home, all at once.

I save the top half of my checkerboard page for extra tasks (since my list tends to go over one page, just barely).  But then, I put certain things on the bottom half of the checkered page.

In the left column, I have my Weekly Tasks, which, if I keep up with it, keeps my house clean.

To the right, I have three mini monthly calendars (undated).  I track such things as whether I did a 15 minute quick clean each day and my weekly task for the day, how many calories above or below my daily goal that I consumed, and whether I worked out.  It's not about goal setting (which I would use my Moleskine for), but about goal reaching!

Finally, the Weekly portion of my planner (again, marked with a paper clip) is the most used and most important.  It is where I plan my day.  These entries look pretty empty, but each day, I jot everything that needs to be done.

In the notes area, I keep week specific (but not day specific) tasks in the left column.  Generally, something either just needs to be done during the month (and goes on monthly list) or on a specific day.  But if it is just something that much be done this week, it goes on this short list.  To the right, I keep the grocery list.  I have a separate grocery list and coupon planner, but this is just for items that come up during the week.  My planner is ALWAYS with me, while my coupon planner is only with me when preparing for grocery shopping.

Note that even on the weekly entries, I have some organization.  Specifically, DUE items go in the first column (for example, library books), stuff I need to do go in the middle, and stuff I am waiting on from other or just need to know (like hubby is taking eldest to karate class at 6:30) go in the last column.

Hope you learned something and that you will share your tips with me in the comments.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Setting Up My Paper Planner for the New Year

I've already given you a peek of my planner for the new year.  It's a combination of a thin Moleskine and a monthly/weekly greenroom calendar from Target (held together in a notebook binder, also from Target, that has a pen loop and space for an ink pen and a sticky note notepad.

Currently, I use the Moleskine notebook for anything that is not really planner appropriate for Americans.  My research on paper planners has revealed that Europeans often use planners more like a diary.  My Moleskine is more like that.  Right now, it's being used for:

-specific lists like Christmas gift lists and a running wish list
-planning special projects (like redoing the kitchen or a kid's birthday party)
-tracking my job hunt
-noting prayers that I love
-making notes about the size and style of comforter I want to order
-listing blog ideas or novel ideas
-a list of phone numbers that have to be added to my new smart phone (long story about electronics circa 1990 and no backed up numbers...sigh)

It's probably the best planner idea I have ever had.  Before this, I didn't quit know where to keep a running gift list for Christmas.  I knew I wanted it archived (so I can use it again next year for a starting point of that list) and I wanted it with me when on the road (in case I saw something that I wanted to buy), but where to keep it?  My planner was too full if I keep all those lists in it, when I had the binder kind.  Now that I have a bound planner instead, the Moleskine seems to be a good solution.

My top ten tips and tricks for my Moleskine:

1. I number even pages.  No need to number every page.  I number the even pages because I end up folding up the odd page corners.
2. Once I am done completely with a page, I fold the bottom left hand corner up.  That just marks the archived pages.
3. Active pages (like the current Christmas list) get a folded down corner in the upper left hand corner.  Now, they are super easy to find.
4. I keep an index on the front cover.  (e.g., Pp. 1 - 2, Honey Do List; Pp. 3, Things Borrowed; Pp. 4, AM/PM Routines, Ideas for New Jobs...)
5. I date every page, just in case.
6. If something really important is on the page, I make a one or two word note in a box in the upper right corner.
7. I leave some small sticky notes on the inside back cover.
8. The cover shows my name, phone number, and start and end dates.
9. Old copies of the Moleskines are archived with my old planners.
10. I buy the Moleskines with 16 removable pages, perfect for writing little notes to the teacher or anything else you need to tear out.

The Moleskine takes care of the *extras*, but, truly, most of what I plan goes in my planner.  As the year begins, take a moment to copy your Future Dates 2013 page into the proper spaces on your 2013 planner.  Some of the things that I copy include:

-doctor and dentists for me and the kids (including eye doctor, dentists, annual exams, and specialists)
-birthdays (I mostly just keep track on facebook, so I only copy birthdays where I plan to buy a gift or have dinner with the person, mostly my immediate family, my godchildren, and my birth family)
-my annual licensing renewal due date (I'm an attorney)
-my driver's license renewal due date
-my Continuing Legal Education due date
-my car inspection due date
-a reminder to inspect my engagement ring so that it stays under warranty

Also, designate a page in your planner for 2014 Future Dates.

Next, populate your monthly calendars.  I have limited appointments (usually, less than four a day), so all appointments go on my monthly calendars.  I'm a huge proponent of only writing things in one place, so NO time specific stuff goes in the weekly calendar.  None. But if you decide it does, maybe you don't need a monthly calendar, too.  I like looking at the glance at the full month of time commitments, while having the extra space afforded by the weekly calendar for details and tasks.  January's monthly calendar is already pretty full (with the dates that school and karate start back, a zoo trip with friends, and carpool reminders), but the rest of the year just has a couple of follow-up doctor's appointments and my volunteer commitment on the third Monday of each month through the end of the school year.  I especially like that monthly calendars are tabbed in my greenroom planner, so I can open to any page very quickly.

The coolest thing about my greenroom planner (available at Target, by the way) is that after each monthly calendar, there is a two page spread for the month.  The first page is lined and the second has little squares all over the page.  You should designated a space for tasks that are not time sensitive.  For me, this is the space.

On the left, lined page, I list tasks.  Stars indicate deadline specific/must do, the date or arrow indicates a due date or no due date, the description always starts with a verb so that I will know exactly WHAT to do, and then it gets a category, like E for errands, C for at computer, H for at home, or none for everything else.


*     01/15     Sign up for Express Scripts     C
       >>>>>    Deliver paper to doctor            E
       01/31     Call to book hotel for vacation
*    01/15      Call to order art frame
       01/31     Label tax folder and gather together tax papers

The next page is currently blank, but since it is composed of small squares, I will probably use it for goals checklists.  I will check off each time I exercise, track my calories, etc.

Finally, fill in the weekly squares as things come up,  Since school is out, weekly school reminders are now listed in the first week of January.  If things are going to repeat, I write them the first time and circle them, so that I know to recopy them to another date once they are completed.  Right now, I have the cafeteria payment (due January 3rd) circled.  It is due monthly, but does not go on my monthly task list because it must be done the week it is due, and not just anytime during the month.  I also put FYIs here, like that my husband is going to the movies with a friend.  I write down Mass days when my children must wear a special uniform to school.  I note report card days and birthdays and school registrations.  In the Notes section, I write down a weekly dinner menu and start my grocery list as I run out of staples.  This is my working area, so mostly, this section will get full the week it happens, as I jot down ideas and things I need to do.  But it will get full - probably overfull.

Enjoy setting up your 2013 planner.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Gifting Season

All that Christmas lore about naughty and nice lists?  It just proves that Santa is freakin' brilliant, since Christmas is all about lists!

I actually keep most tasks and appointments on my task list and in my planner, so that I can overview exactly what needs to be done with everything else.  I add Christmas gifts to my errands list or my weekly shopping list, as I plan to buy them.  But I certainly have some special rules for myself and lists for keeping track of Christmas gifts.

1. Create a small wrapping center as soon as you start buying Christmas gifts and wrap as you go.  

For me, I use the child's table in the corner of my kitchen.  If you don't really have room for an out-of-the-way temporary wrapping center, consider wrapping a large box and putting it under the tree, filled with wrapping supplies.  I use a decorative Santa Snacks bucket (meant for putting cookies in the middle of the table) to hide scissors, tape, labels, and markers in plan site!  (I don't bother with bows and ribbons, but go for it, if you are into that stuff!)

2. Wrap Santa gifts in Santa faced paper so you don't get caught playing Santa.  

I just hide the paper with the Santa gifts.  Any paper with Santa's face on it is used only as Santa paper.  I buy it on clearance after Christmas.

I wrap each kid's gifts in different paper, so Santa can sort quickly at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning, and also so the boys can visualize their own pile (with their distinctive stocking on top and a couple of the biggest gifts unwrapped, like my four year old's much coveted castle this year).  In order to be able to wrap as I go and never forget which paper belongs to which boy, I cut swatches, labeled them with the correct child's name, and tape them in my planner.

3. Make special lists for people getting multiple gifts, like my husband or my kids.

Note in the picture above that I covered his list in sticky notes.  That's because he steals my planner when we are Christmas shopping together, and I didn't want him to see his list!

Here's a peek of the one for the boys.  I list corresponding gifts (and prices, though I don't try to spend the same thing) in two columns, so I can make sure gifts are about equal in size (though the younger kid's gifts are usually bigger) and number.

4. For everyone else, make a list including date the gift will be given, recipient name, markings if it is wrapped, what the gift is, and a place for any notes (like "Ordered Amazon 11/29").

On 12/23, I'll bring some of these to a party.  On 12/24, I'll be able to easily grab others from under the tree and not worry that I forgot someone.

I save this list from year to year to make a list next year.  :)

5. Have a separate space from your gift list to jot ideas.  

For me, that's the next page.  See?

Hope you have a fun, stress-free holiday!  Happy shopping and...

Ho. Ho. Ho.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Planner Fail

Good thing I only paid about $10 for my new planner, because it is a huge FAIL.  How could I have been so stupid?  The cover of the old planner is lovely, with green and blue swirls, and browsing in Barnes and Nobles one day, I decided I had to have it, to replace my too heavy to carry Daytimer Family Plus.  I bought an inexpensive planner binder to protect it.  (In the pic, the writing on the sticky note is covered by my hand to protect the innocent.  Also, it gives you an idea of the size of the 5 1/2 by 8 planner.)

There are issues.  Most important, there is no monthly calendar.  I like to put timed events on my monthly calendar.  Also, there was no divider between months and check out these areas for writing.  You know that is not enough space for me!  The picture is the TOTAL space for one week.  What was I thinking?  I write a lot during any given week.

I had found several that I liked better, but none of them had sufficient notes pages.  I solved that problem at Target today, when I purchased my new Greenroom Weekly/Monthly planner at Target.  It's about the same size as the FAILED planner, so it fits in my cover.  (BTW, the cover was a planner at Target, as well, but I hated the planner inside of it!)  The reason I did not choose this one before was the lack of Notes pages.  So I solved that by adding a thin Moleskin in the front pocket.

Notice that I am not wearing my engagement ring.  It is being repaired, because apparently the expensive repairs last year were not sufficient for all the heavy labor I do that ruined my rings, like, you know, driving my car or using the remote control.

Notice that the planner had a clear, plastic cover.  I love that!  There were some great, similar ones (in lots of patterns) with hard, cardboard covers, but they were slightly thicker and did not fit in my planner cover, which I consider necessary for keeping sticky notes, notes, and pen together.

I have never had a Moleskin notebook.  I know, right?  How is that possible?  I've drooled over them, of course.  This set of three, thin, stitched together lined journals includes 80 pages each, with the last 16 pages perforated.  The back cover has a pocket, perfect for bits of paper that have not been processed yet.  The paper is so smooth.

Look how nice the Moleskin, sticky notes (with an owl), planner, and pen fit together!!!

I am including pictures of most of the planner, but I've describe it in even more detail.

The first page is totally blank, so you can see the cream color of the antique-looking paper through the plastic cover.  It really is thick, creamy no glare paper.

Next is a cover page, with the bottom half totally blank.  I am going to use that to leave a note to anyone finding the planner that they will get a reward!

The third page is for personal information.  I usually don't fill out much here, in case I do lose the planner.  But the "Notify" in an emergency part is very nice.

Next is a two-sheet schedule page.  I assume this is for students, but I will use it to note work schedules and any recurring events, like daily carpool and karate class for my kids.

The first tabbed page is a 2013/2014 overview.

Next, there is a tabbed holiday and important dates page.  I will use this for future planning, 2014 and beyond.  (Future planning is nice for recopying a January birthday for next year or planning a dentist or doctor appointment in a year.  Anything that happens annually goes here, as the event passes on the monthly calendar.)

I LOVE the monthly layout.  There are downfalls, such as minimal empty space and starting on a Sunday (while weekly pages start on Monday).  But the lined, spacious boxes for appointments make it worth it.  I will dedicate this space ONLY to time sensitive daily events.  Tasks, due dates, and FYIs will go on the weekly pages.  Basically, this only tells me where I need to be and when!

Behind each monthly page hides this little gem of a space, college-ruled lines on one side and boxes on the other (perfect for tracking - exercise, daily writing, prayer - anything you want to do daily or weekly).

I plan to use the ruled area on the list as my Task list.  The right will be for any permanent notes I need to have in my calendar and any check-off type lists.

The weekly spaces, behind each respective month, are a real gem!  Notice the huge amount of writing space.  Also, there is a note area, for things like weekly tasks and menus.

There are 12 pages for Notes.  I will assign one to each month.  Any notes that I need to keep will go on the proper, half blank/half lined page.  (My Moleskin with be for my daily mind dumps, taking notes during a meeting or a phone call, etc.  These pages are more for if I buy tickets and need to keep a confirmation number or have a car accident and need a permanent record of the date.)

There are only thirty contact entries, but that is fine since those tend to stay in my phone anyway.

Only the first page of Resources is shown below.  Again, I probably won't use Internet Resources because I bookmark or Pinterest those.  But it's nice to have.

Other resources include the Formulas for calculating area, decimal equivalents of fractions, weights and measures, and (pictured below because it appeals to my inner nerd), temperature and periodic table.

The last section, geography, is also fun, with state capitals, a US map, a two-page world map, and a map of Europe.

Finally, there is one more blank page.

I think I'm going to like this one.  I hope so.

Updates after I get to start using it...groan...IN JANUARY!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Only Coupon At Target (a.k.a. My Friend Heidi Wants to See My Coupon Binder)

I don't spend a whole bunch of time couponing.  After all, who has a whole bunch of time?  But I do enjoy paying a little less for groceries and necessities every week, so I use some basic coupons.  I also use a grocery list and a coupon binder.  Check out my fancy coupon binder:

Pretty, right?  Ha ha.  Really, you are going to be loading your coupon binder in and out of stores.  You are going to be shoving in your cart, in your trunk, and under a pile of cans on the kitchen counter.  For me, must haves are that it be cheap, wipe-able, and seals shut (in this case with a magnetic tab).  That's it.

I don't keep my weekly menu or grocery list in my coupon binder, because I only want to have to have my coupon binder with me in two places: at home and while shopping.  If I have time to go to a coffee shop on a Monday and do paperwork, I might bring my binder to work with there.  But, really, making my weekly menu in my planner is a better idea because I can glance and see that we are eating out on Monday night or going to a party on Friday night.  And I ALWAYS have my planner with me, so if I have a craving for an orange or run out of coffee, I can list it in the grocery list in my planner.  I add grocery items to the list as I run out at home.  In the pic below, dinner menu is to the center left and grocery list is to the center right:

I shop on Tuesdays.  And I only shop at Target.  (Every now and then, Target doesn't carry something.  In that case, getting that item from another store becomes an errand, to be done on errand day.)  Since I live outside of the city, going to a bunch of stores wastes too much gas and time.

Because I shop on Tuesdays, Sunday and Mondays are when I prep for shopping.  (Exception: if I KNOW I am eating something in particular or out the next week at dinnertime, that gets noted on my menu.  Also, if I run out of something, it goes in my planner on the grocery list that I just mentioned.)

At prep time, I enter last weeks' receipt into my budget in Excel, enter any high priced or meat/cheese/staples items into my price book (that I will show later), and file the receipt in my little monthly receipt envelope that lives in my shopping tote.

The inside cover of my binder contains post-its, any 5% off an entire shopping day coupons that I got from Target for using their pharmacy, and any gift cards.  It also contains a yellow legal pad (or scratch paper) for making this week's final grocery list.

To start the grocery list, I copy what is needed from my planner for this week (milk, bread, sugar...that sort of thing.)  If I have a coupon for any of it, I attach it with a binder clip to my grocery list.  (I put these coupons in the same order as things are set out in the store.)  Target accepts one Target and one manufacturer coupon, so I check for both.

I check's weekly ad (released on Sunday's) and Google "this week's target deals"  to decide from the ad and from other bloggers if there is anything I want to buy due to sale.  For example, I don't buy Halloween candy often, but when it goes on sale for trick-or-treat, comes with a $5 gift card, and I have two coupons, it's worth it to stock up then, even if it is two weeks before Halloween.  I only buy some stuff, like toilet paper, my husband's Diet Mountain Dew (*cough* addicted *cough*) and paper towels, when they are on mega sale (about every two months).  And if something like lean ground beef is one sale (I love 95% lean for cooking, but it's expensive and freezes well), I stock up.  I add those things to the grocery list.

Then, based on sales, I adjust the weekly menu if necessary and make sure I have the right ingredients for each meal.  (Usually, I use things in the freezer for cooking, but if potatoes are on sale, we might have a potato side instead of a rice side, or vice versa.  And, of course, if an expensive meat is on sale, we might plan a meal around that.)

Finally, I pull any coupons that are about to expire, cross them from the index, and decide if it is worth using them this week.  (For example, I would ALWAYS use a coupon on my coffee, since it rarely goes on sale and I am always going to have to buy it.  But an ice cream coupon might not ever get used, if that kind of ice cream, a treat, never went on sale.)

Since I add items to my list as we run out (or, in the case of TRUE staples, like milk, when we have less than a week's worth left), my list is complete at this point.  If I add an item to the list that has a coupon associated with it, I star the item on the list.

In order to make list making easier, I have a handwritten list of all my coupons, an index, divided into three parts - cold food, dry food, and nonfood.  If I clip a coupon, it gets written on the list.  After the first time, it only takes a second, I promise.  And having an index is so useful!  I scratch out coupons as I pull them for use (and just rewrite if I end up not using them).  

My index lists:  the date, T or nothing (for Target or manufacturer coupons), the amount off, how many you must buy, the type of item, the brand name, and any special instructions.  For example, line 1 and the last line on this pic say:

11/04            1.00/2   Cheese                  Kraft Singles    8 - 16 oz.
10/27    T     1.00/2   Frozen Potatoes   Ore-Ida  

The next portion of my binder is a plastic. half cut clear folder, filled with unclipped, unindexed coupons.

I print (in black and white and low quality ink, so I waste as little money as possible) any coupons on, and on Sunday or Monday.  (I have tried everything and Smartsource does not work for me.)  Throughout the week, if I get any coupons in the mail, catalinas from the store, or coupons from the newspaper, I also put them in this section of the coupon binder with the printed coupons.  (I do not subscribe to our newspaper, as it has very few valuable coupons in our local, per area bloggers.)  When I get a chance (but always before I make my final grocery list), I cut these out, file them, and add them to my master lists of coupons.  Cutting and indexing coupons is a good activity to do while my kid does homework (he feels like I am working with him) or during my weekly coffee shop visit.

Next, I have my sorted coupons.  I divide them into manufactors (which can be used at any store) and Target only coupons.

In each pocket, I put this month's coupons in the right side binder clip, and future coupons in the left side, sorted in EXPIRATION order.  That way, I can grab those that are going to expire this week when I plan my grocery shopping, without missing any.

It would seem like it would be hard to find the coupon that I want, until you consider that I have that awesome index.  I can locate any coupon in seconds on the indexes, check if it is Target or manufacturers, and check the expire date.  Then, I can find the coupon by looking in the right set, under the expiration date.

I rarely price match, since Target's policy isn't very convenient or generous, but if I do, the weekly ad I am matching to goes here:

I have an NOT INDEXED section for nonstore coupons, like pizza coupons and roller rink coupons.  I just sort through this occasionally.  The coupons often go to waste, but you never know when you will use one!

I keep a price book of frequently bought items, so I can note a good sale price.

The back page of the binder holds my notes about coupon policies at Target.  (You can also print them off the internet and bring them with you, but I like my basic notes better.)

I keep this binder, reusable grocery bags ($0.05 off for each one used at Target), my receipt binder, a kid's safety scissors, extra binder clips, and anything else for grocery shopping in one tote bag in my trunk, so that I don't forget it!

I only spend a few minutes each week couponing, but through coupons, using the 5% discount, using reusable bags, buying double of expensive stuff when it is on sale, only shopping from a list, and planning menus around sale items, I save about $30 to $50 a week.