Sunday, March 18, 2012

Papers, Papers, Papers

The amount of paperwork that I do in a single day is overwhelming, even if you don't count a single thing that I do for substitute teaching. (And, frankly, 50% of substitute teaching is keeping up with paperwork). I thought a log of today's work might be enlightening to me and perhaps help me find some solutions.

1. Checked email. Had to read an email from the Middle District court, even though I am not actively practicing law, so I don't get behind. Also had an email to read updating me on my uncle's health (he had a surgery) and on the plans for my sister's wedding shower.

2. Processed letter from school regarding Kindergarterner's field trip. Involved writing a reminder to send him in field trip appropriate clothes on that date and to pack a lunch for that date. Also had to sign permission slip, write a check, email husband check # and amount (as he keeps the checkbook), and put it all in a properly labeled envelope.

3. Processed letter from school regarding raffle tickets. I had to fill out ten raffle tickets, write a check, send hubby the check # and amount, and put everything in an appropriate envelope. Also, a reminder went on my calendar to put this stuff in my child's school bag tonight.

4. Checked the on-line school website and noted in my planner that my child has to bring easter eggs to school in a couple of weeks.
5. Typed out 18 thank you notes to print tonight on brightly colored paper for Ander's classmate who gave him birthday presents. Yes, I've decided to skip formal notes or the torture of having him hand write them. Shush. This is the last year that I can get away with that.
6. Checked email from Ander's school. Bus service is cancelled tomorrow due to a teacher protest at the Capitol. Need to send email to husband, as it means carpool will be longer than usual tomorrow morning.
7. Copy monthly April calendar and task list to April weekly calendar.
I try to keep all paperwork and supplies with my planner so I can do paperwork anywhere, anytime. That includes envelopes, ink pens, and my checkbook. Good thing, since I never seem to have time to deal with papers, these days. I used to go to a coffee shop at least once a week and plow through the paperwork, but that's much harder to do when hubby is working serious overtime and I have a 3 and 6 year old. I also try to do all quick paperwork as I receive it and only check email a couple of times a day.

Does everyone else have this much paperwork everyday?


Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Guided Tour of My Day Planner (Warning: Long and Written for Time Management Geeks Only)

I've been searching the internet for sites that give me ideas about new ways to use my day planner. There are many sites that tell me to put things on my calendar (d'uh) or make a task/to do list (double d'uh). And there are many pictures of day planners in use. There are some great sites about making your own Household Notebook, but my planner needs to be portable and things like emergency contacts and recipes stay near the fridge. You know those sites where women share the mysteries of what is in their purses? I NEED one of those for day planners. Truly, I mean NEED. Much like I NEED chocolate or coffee or air. Since the web is apparently lacking in this sort of thing, I guess I'll have to create it. Of course, if you know of a good website for this purpose( comes close to what I am looking for), let me know.

With no further ado (which is like a PROMISE of further ado and a complete waste of time, right?), a guided tour of my day planner:


My brown fake leather, zip up day planner is a half sheet (as opposed to 8 1/2 by 11 standard sheet) day planner by Franklin. It's one of the seven hole punched ones. It zips up because I keep papers in it and they fall out of unzipped planners. It's a half sheet because I've tried smaller page planners and they are nice and portable, but I just have too much to do. If I worked full time in a static location (office, home) where I could rely on Outlook or a household notebook, I'd use a smaller planner. But I am currently a stay-at-home mom, a substitute teacher (in many different classrooms), and a volunteer at my kid's school. I am busy and on the road and need to keep everything together and be able to work from home (most days)or the road (substitute days) at a moment's notice. My Franklin planner costs about $50, but after killing three $20 planners within a year, I decided it was worth it to have secure rings and a protective outside cover. You can certainly get such a thing cheaper. I used my Christmas money, but shhhh, don't tell hubby. He doesn't understand that this really is as important to me as Call of Duty maps are to him. If I carry a small purse (ie. for a dinner party), I leave my planner in a tote bag in my car. Otherwise, I buy purses that fit my planner.


My inside front cover contains three pockets - a large one, a small one, and a zippered one.

In the large pocket, I keep anything that entered in my calendar or task list, but cannot be tossed until it is complete. For example, I currently have directions to a birthday party that is this weekend, directions for logging on to my child's homework website (only needed until we log on for the first time, so no need to file), the t-ball registration form, a receipt to give to my sister, and a recipe that needs to be typed up and added to my recipe binder.

I use the small section as my in box. It is often empty, as I process it at least twice a week, but currently holds directions for signing up for recycling and my tire receipt to put in my car.

The zippered section is used for my ring warranty, as the ring has to be inspected twice a year and the paper signed, so leaving it in my home filing system is worthless. It saves me from filing and unfiling it twice a year.


My planner is divided into three main sections. The first section keeps track of stuff that should be done everyday, but does not HAVE to be done. I try to use these sections daily, but on a crazy day or a day on the road, they can be totally ignored. They are for normal days, when I am at home at least for the afternoon and evening.

On the left hand side of the planner, I keep my Master Task List. I list things that should be done, but don't have to be done by a certain date and aren't critical on this ongoing list. For example, it contains things like "organize junk drawer" and "clean oven." If it gets more than a page long, I assign some items to dated pages, delete some items as not important, assign some to my husband, or recopy them on a new master list. I triple space the items and put a big circle to the left of them for checking them off.

On the right, I have my Daily Checklist. I make this checklist on my home computer using Microsoft word and some blank refills for my planner. Across the top, it has headings for: Date, 15QC (15 minute quick clean), Laun (...dry), Dish (, Week (one of the chores on the weekly list, typed in small font at the bottom of the page, including dusting/wiping surfaces, sweeping/vacuuming/mopping the floor, toilets and tubs, appliances/electronics/mirrors, car, and two days of choosing something from the master task list), Exer (...cise), Cal (...ories, entered in my on-line journal), Tom (...morrow, meaning putting my stuff together for tomorrow), and Lent (just during Lent, where I am currently getting rid of one unused item a day).


I use monthly and weekly calendars. The monthly calendars are tabbed and have a small space for writing tasks. I use these for future planning. For example, today (the day I actually started writing this know, last week...sigh) is February 25. February and March appointments and dates are currently on being kept in the weekly pages. If I open to those monthly calendars, there is a big X over the pages, so I don't accidentally miss something. If something comes up for April, I write it on the monthly calendar. This gives me an overview of the big picture when planning in advance (like for vacations), but allows me to plan details weekly, which is important for actually getting things accomplished. On the last day of each month, I have a circled Task (circled means when I do it, I have to recopy it to a date in the future - in this case, the last day of the next month) reminding me to copy the upcoming month's monthlies into the weekly calendar. (For birthdays, anniversaries, and other yearly events, I copy the "circled Task" idea, but I put boxes around those yearly repeats. ;)) After December, I keep one page called "Future" with next year's appointments. I just jot them there and enter them when I replace my planner pages each year.

My weekly pages are the heart of my planner system. I use one of those planner bookmarks that says "Today" to mark the current week. Weeks that have already passed at lightly crossed out, so nothing gets accidentally missed.

I like the calendar to my planner to have all the weekdays together on one side and the weekend together on the other. I was lucky enough to find that this year at Wal-mart, of all places. I got Day-Timer Desk FamilyPlus Two-Page-Per-Week pages. Next year, if I can't find those, I will use the Franklin refills that have the days across the top of the page and six large boxes for notes. The point is to have about 5 lines for appointments, as I rarely have more than 5 scheduled things on a given day, about 5 or more lines for tasks on each day, and an FYI/Pending section for each day. Right now, I have eight lines for appointments on any given day, 8 lines for tasks, and 4 lines for pending.

If I find I have a particularly busy day (say, more than 5 appointments or tasks), I made some daily refills on my printer at home and keep them in the file portion of my planner. A very busy day, like the day of my child's birthday party, might get it's own page. I would note that on the weekly planner.

I keep each day's calendar entry pretty sacred, in that I only write down things I really am going to do (or reschedule, purposefully). The decision about how to categorize each entry keeps my day running smoothly. I'll give last Thursday as an example.

I had the following CALENDAR entries: 7 a.m. Sub (...stitute teaching), 2:30 Call School (...back about request to sub tomorrow), 2:30 Pick up Loki, give sister receipt, 4 Carpool (circled because it repeats daily and needs to be reflected on tomorrow, too). Note that some tasks (calling the school and giving my sister the receipt) were time specific, so included on the calendar. I had to call the school at exactly 2:30 p.m. because I cannot call while I am subbing but the school I was calling gets off at 3 p.m. My sister needed the receipt for her wedding reception deposit dropped at my mom's house when I picked up Loki at 2:30.

In the tasks section of Thursday, I had the following TASK entries: freeze leftover roast, freeze chicken breasts, check with office about subbing tomorrow, address envelope for mailing taxes, and print free gymnastics tickets. None of these tasks need to be repeated, so none were circled. Note that they were day-specific tasks. The food needed to be frozen or it would get bad and be wasted. I needed to know if I was scheduled to sub tomorrow. The taxes are time sensitive, although I did not find an envelope so I rescheduled that task for the weekend. And I printed the gymnastics tickets, saving us $15 in entry fees to the gym meet.

In the FYI/Pending section, I had the following PENDING entry: @teacher: resend invites. I was waiting on Ander's teacher to reply and let me know if his birthday party invites were truly missing. They weren't. The FYI/Pending section is really important for items that I assign out to husband (noted by the @ sign and his initials) or just need to know (like FYI - Hubby working late).

In addition to an entry for each day, I have seven lists that I keep in the weekly area of my planner. That might seem excessive. Heck, that's probably excessive. But it works for me. ;) I like these planner pages in particular because they have room for the lists. Many weekly pages don't. If mine didn't, I think I would still keep these lists, but having them in a different place would be really inconvenient. Right now, if I open to my TODAY marker in my weekly planner, I can quickly see everything that needs to be done.

The first three lists(located across the top of my particular planner pages, from left to right) are divided based on context (in true Getting Things Done fashion - read that book if you haven't yet!) and they are TASKS, ERRANDS, and HOME. These lists are sacred because they only contain things that have to be done this week or rescheduled. If something can be done whenever, it goes on the Master List. If something does not need to be done until next week or next month, it goes on whatever weekly or monthly page it needs to be done on. If any of these tasks are date sensitive, the due date goes right after them. If a task goes on to a daily entry, it gets scratched out so it's not listed twice. Tasks that can't be done until something else is done or somebody else does something get started with the @(what/who-I-am-waiting-on) symbols. TASKS can be done anywhere, pretty much. For example, calling to sign up for recycling in my neighborhood is on this week's task list. ERRANDS are things that must be done outside of the house, like inspecting my car or going to the bakery to order a cake. By separating them out from other tasks, I can do them all on the same day and use the ERRANDS list to decide what I need to take with me out of the house (library books to return, perhaps). The HOME list works under the same theory. On the next day that I spend primarily at home, I will do these things.

The fourth list across the top is the MAYBE list. All the things I WANT to do this week, but do not HAVE to get through, go on this list. For example, scheduling an eye doctor appointment doesn't HAVE to be done this week, but must be done soon, before the summer, since I need new prescription sunglasses. It goes on my MAYBE list. Items from my Master List that really need to be tended to get moved to this list.

The fifth list is a dinner menu for the week. Right now, next week's list only has notes on it saying I plan to eat out on Monday's night (a ladies' night) and Friday night (LSU gym meet). Before I go grocery shopping, though, I will plan my menu, starting with items that I have to use (like the salad ingredients that are getting bad in my crisper).

The sixth list is my grocery list. As I run out of something or think of something I need, it goes on this list. I keep a master list of common groceries elsewhere, to glance at each week and see if something important (such as bread) is missing.

The seventh list is my NOTES. If an entry can't fit details, I put a symbol by it (like *A) and start the note with *A. Notes takes up a lot of room on the page. But it allows me to do the following: Calendar Entry - 2 p.m. Ander Birthday Party *A; Note - Bring cake and candles, can arrive by 1:50 p.m., 3456 Jefferson Highway, contact is Julia, 555-555-5555.


For the most part, filing gets done at home. Recipes go in a folder in the kitchen or as a favorite in my bookmarks on my computer. But I do have a folder in my planner (for filing items that aren't hole punched). I also have the following files (with a cover sheet listing all categories and a/b, g/h, m/n, and s dividers (because having all of the alphabet adds too much bulk to the planner):
-anniversary list by year (for buying anniversary gifts)
-borrowed (for listing items that I lend out, dates, and noting when they are returned)
-business (ideas for starting my own business)
-cafeteria code (for the kid's school, discarded each year)
-contacts (most addresses are available on my phone or on-line so easily that I no longer put them in my planner, but this is for things like the local takeout joints or my kid's school)
-daily planner refills
-diet (for jotting done calories eaten when I am away from my computer)
-gifts (ideas for friends and family)
-grocery master list (made from four or five weeks of shopping lists)
-jobs (for notes on job applications pending)
-medical (an on-going medical log of all doctor's appointments)
-menu (a master list of common meals that I prepare)
-packing list (a few copies of my master list for making a packing list when I travel)
-printer ink (a reminder of the kind of refills I need for my printer)
-recipes (for jotting them down until I get home)
-services (a list of babysitters, lawn care people, and housekeepers, as needed)
-substitute teaching (where my notes for each assignment go)
-taxes (an annual list of what I need to gather to do taxes)


The plastic inserts in my planner hold the following:
-coupons (I don't use many)
-address labels with my address
-rubber bands
-paper clips
-my jump drive

Finally, I have a hole punched planner notebook in the back of the planner.

I know this is a lot of detail. But I hope it either gives you ideas of how to use your planner (or iPhone,blackberry, or Droid) or that you give me some!