Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Silver and Gold - How to Simply Highlight Your Planner

I considered a different title for today's blog: Wherein the Word Undies Is Hidden in the Pictures of My Planner.  Ultimately, I am too lazy to retake the pics or block out the offensive (or titillating, depending on perspective) word.  Happy dirty word hunting.  (I am sure I will get lots of need-to-be-moderated comments from people stumbling here from Google search.  Sorry, would be undie seekers.  We are talking something far more exciting here.)

And on to the excitement at hand - silver and gold ink pens!

I found several packages of these gel ink pens on clearance at Office Depot and bought out the lot.

The green ones, of course, are backup for my main ink needs, as I generally write in green.  They are not perfect, though, because the green is a dull green and it smears since I am left-handed.  

The red and blue ones go in my pen drawer for drafting notes to the teachers or notes for the husband.  (Please please please take out the trash.  Also, do NOT eat the cake in the fridge just because it is unattended.)  (Obviously, the cake sentence would go in red ink and would be 100% INEFFECTIVE.)

The silver and gold get tucked into my planner.  There is plenty of room.  It's hard to tell (because they fit so well that they disappear, especially since they are skinny), but the gold goes on the left inner pocket and the silver next to the green pen on the right.

These pics show it better:

I use the metallic pens as others would highlights, I guess.  For example, I could see writing log items and fyis (things that do not need to be done) in pink or yellow highlighter.  Or I can imagine highlighting items to cross them out when they get done.  (That trick actually works well.)  But I find that highlighters bleed through and tend to look messy.

Instead, I write nontask/nonappointment items in gold ink.  I scratch through completed items in silver.

Note that my menu items (tonight: pasta with chicken) and my daily junk food calorie limit (500 today, though it varies from 300 to 500) in the 29th square.  Because it is in gold, I barely see it.  

That allows me to see those things that really need to get done.  I scratch through those in silver gel, so I can still go back and look at them, but know they are complete.

I do the same with the weekly entries:

Note that my junk food calories are tracked in gold right on the page where I am doing weekly tasks.  (Pro tip: do NOT eat fried chicken if you only have a 500 calorie budget for the day.  You'll be eating veggies the rest of the day.)  I would also note if my husband was working overtime in gold or if someone other than me was picking my kid up from school.  Anything that does not require action by me goes in gold ink.

I'm not a fan of color coding entries too much, as my brain processes it as too busy, but this is so subtle that the real stuff pops right out at me in green ink.

If you color-code your planner, let me know how you do it in the comments or with a link to your own blog entry!


Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Be Popular and Successful with Green Ink and Paper Planners

I went to my class reunion this weekend.  20 years after attending the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, a residential high school in the small town of Natchitoches, Louisiana, I tucked my paper planner into my bag.  In 1992, if you had asked, I would have predicted that everyone at the reunion would have a watch that told them when to be where and what to do with their day. A phone had not yet occurred to me, but smart phones are much like the watches that I envisioned in the 90s.

When it came time to leave the hotel for the first event of Reunion weekend, everyone pulled out their smart phones.  Service was spotty and they were looking and looking for the directions to the first event.

I pulled my planner out of my purse, used the tab to flip to the Friday page, and told them where and when we needed to be.  I also had a paper copy of driving directions tucked into the planner.

When someone at the event asked me to add her to our special event website, I jotted it in my planner.

Someone else had a job connection that I need to follow up on.  Put that in my planner.

When I pulled out my planner to write down a recipe for the delicious chocolates served at the barbeque, a girl who I barely knew in high school bonded with me over the star stickers she saw on the Reunion weekend dates on my monthly page.

A guy that I always thought was cool, but had barely talked to in high school, was fascinated that I also always write in green ink.  We talked for quite awhile about the best green ink pens on the market.

I have a smart phone, but I noticed that no one got into interesting conversations about iPhones or Droids.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Proper Order of Things in a Paper Planner

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Even though I keep staring at it intently and exclaiming, "Plannerist Upgrado!" while flashing my green quick-dry Pilot G2 Gel Ink Pen (because I'm a leftie, so quick dry ink is important) in the direction of my planner, my FranklinCovey Compact 365 Planner has not magically turned into a soft, buttery leather Filofax.

All those hours of yearning over the Filofax USA site are for naught, as I cannot afford to buy a Filofax without first putting it in my hands and feeling it.  My OCD won't let me. Hanging out with the Philofaxy people online is not helping matters. Visiting the only store in town that sells them and discovering only one ugly, shiny red plastic planner certainly was not satisfying.

In my dreams, the buttery leather planner, in the perfect color (whatever that is...whole 'nother post), fits everything I put in my cheap little planner now. My pesky big brain keeps pointing out that I like Franklin Covey layouts and their paper usually too wide for my dream Filos. Sigh. When I win the lotto, I am flying to a shop that sells nothing but paper planners and hand picking the right one.

In the meantime, reality happens. So I have to make the planner that I already own work. 

clear plastic divider, paper, planner, dividers

I think I am succeeding, too, as I have used the same planner since...wait for it...April 1st. That is a month and a half! (Shush. You know planner fail usually happens at the end of the first month of use.)

Without further lusting over what can never be, here are my tweaks:

Notepaper is the first thing in the planner.  

I actually don't like this particular style of notepaper, so I am considering making my own or splurging on some creamy Filofax paper paper next time, but it does its job. In a rush, I can open straight to notepaper. In this case, it holds my packing list for an upcoming weekend trip. (Note the clever use of "top under" and "bottom under." No one will ever guess that those secret phrases refer to my underthings. Stealth and intrigue, I tell you.)

packing list, dashboard, planner dashboard, paper, planner, ring bound planner, tabs, Franklin Covey, Filofax, Philofaxy,

Tasks go in the front, too.  

I actually rarely use my master task list, but it's a great catch-all for unimportant or "maybe" tasks. I rarely look at it, since more important tasks are assigned to a monthly or weekly task list or written on a certain day. Right now, all it says is "edit novel." Note that no editing has been done on novel since I wrote the romantic story of small town love last November.

paper, planner, ring bound planner, tabs, Franklin Covey, Filofax, Philofaxy,

P is for Personal. And Projects. I really should customize this tab to say "Projects."  

Projects go right after the master task list. 

Projects are listed on an index and then noted, on the corresponding date that the first task in the project must be done, on the weekly part of my planner.

paper, planner, ring bound planner, tabs, Franklin Covey, Filofax, Philofaxy, dashboard, projects, tasks,

The reason that all of this goes in the front of the planner is two-fold. First, these are things that I refer to a lot. Second, putting some of this stuff in the front and some in the back means that whatever date it is, January 1st or July 5th or December 10th, there is plenty of cushion on both sides of my weekly lists so that the paper that I write on most, the weekly pages, is sturdy and protected.

I use clear page markers. Before, I didn't mark monthly pages with a Today marker. But I found that I often forget which month it actually is. (See above, putting underthings on packing list.  Also see, having babies made me dumb.)  

Putting a clear marker to mark the monthly pages means I always know when and where I need to be. 

(If the marker is not transparent, you can't see everything. I hate that.  Why have two pages if I can't look at them all at once?)

paper, planner, ring bound planner, tabs, Franklin Covey, Filofax, Philofaxy, dashboard, projects, tasks,

I really love using a huge, transparent page divider (the same one I use as a hole-punch template) to divide my weekly pages.

Why this and not a normal today marker? I don't use daily pages. So if a day gets really crazy, I can whip out a sticky note, put it on the divider, and add extra stuff. This doesn't happen often, but on the first day of school, when I need to remember backpacks, water bottles, school supplies, carpool rules and times and id numbers, the new schedule, etc., that sticky note is a life saver.

paper, planner, ring bound planner, tabs, Franklin Covey, Filofax, Philofaxy, dashboard, projects, tasks,

Finally, the Notes section cushions the back of the planner.  

I use an index page and the A/B, G/H, M/N, and S/T dividers to keep track of on-the-go information, like names and numbers of babysitters, a list of the medications that I take daily, and ideas for my next novel (after I edit this one...sigh).

paper, planner, ring bound planner, tabs, Franklin Covey, Filofax, Philofaxy, dashboard, projects, tasks,

All I did, really, was change the order of things, but I think this will get me through the hard times, at least until I win that lottery.


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Monday, May 20, 2013

Use It Or Lose It (Your Planner, Of Course)

I usually look at my planner several times a day and in advance of making any plans. I actually keep all appointments on the monthly pages, so that I can glance at it all at once.  It clutters the monthly page a bit, but the functionality is worth it.

On Sunday, however, looking at my planner fell through the cracks. Since I didn't look at my planner at all, I didn't realize that I had an appointment on Monday morning.

See, the 20th, 9 a.m., clear as day:

I told my sister that my kid could sleepover at her house and I could get him in the morning - during my appointment.

I needed gas (and had plenty of time to get gas on Sunday), but thought, "oh, I can get it before carpool tomorrow afternoon." Nope. Had to race to get it while already running late for the appointment this morning or I would have been stranded on the side of the road.

Needed to bring a paper to the appointment. Forgot it.

Spectacular fail.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bad Habits

I have some bad habits.  (You can tell I am Catholic, because my blog always turns into a confession.  Bless me, Father, for I have been disorganized.)

I drop my shoes on the floor wherever I happen to take them off.  (I might be about to put them on again.  I can't stand walking around barefoot.)

I keep a water bottle next to my bed or my couch.  (I'm thirsty.  Sue me.)  (Please don't sue me.  I'm already poor.)

I do my nails while watching tv, and NEVER EVER put away the polish.  (Why would I?  My nails are wet when I am done with the polish, silly!)

I never wipe down the stove after I cook on the stove.  (It BURNS!)

I preach to you (and to myself) to erase the evidence of whatever mess we just made.  When I cook dinner, I clean as I go.  When we enter the house from school, we unload backpacks, sign permission slips, and prepare water bottles for the next school day.  Erasing the evidence is the number one rule that I follow in order to keep my home and car moderately orderly.  (Okay, my car is not even moderately orderly.  Shush.  Everyone needs a space to let their hair down...and their random french fries and tissues and extra shoes and receipts...hmm, anyone want to clean my car?)

But there are times when it just doesn't work.  (See above confession.  See also a four year old, a seven year old, and an anonymous male forty year old who might or might not be married to me.)

So I've started to take note of these not-so-proud-making habits of mine.  I've started addressing them.

Shoes - I put baskets in places where I drop my shoes.  Those baskets don't work so well in the middle of the living room, so my four year old has been trained to come in the door after school and put all shoes in their proper places.  It keeps them from piling up, and he considers it a puzzle, matching all the pairs together neatly.

Water bottle - Decorative coasters in every spot where my water bottle tends to land are amazing for making me feel like the water bottle is not clutter.

Nails - I store my nail polish in a bag under the side table next to the couch.  It only took about two decades to break the habit of stupidly storing nail polish with makeup - a place where it is never used.

Stove - I make wiping down the stove a part of the cleaning up AFTER dinner.  I am still working on this.  I suspect my family are the race car drivers of eating, since the stove is usually still hot when I am storing leftovers.

I could add so many more examples, but the bottom line is that I search out problems and find simple ways to solve them without really changing my behavior in any significant way.  I make the solutions fit my nature, instead of changing my nature.

What habits of yours are you unwilling to break but need solutions that keep them from causing clutter?


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Streamlining Chores

Everyday chores can eat up a lot of your day. Dishes, laundry, trash, and general pickup around the house can really suck away your time.  Ask yourself these questions and make chores less of a chore.

Unloading/loading dishwasher -

Are the dishes close to the dishwasher and reasonably organized?

Are you skipping prerinse (as most dishwashers recommend)? (Every now and 
then, this requires you to run something through the next night. But only occasionally, versus rinsing everyday to prerinse.) 

Are cabinets cleaned out to only stuff you actually use, so that it's easy to store 
things like plasticware without a crammed, messy cabinet?

Are you planning to eat leftovers at least two days a week to minimize dishes
that require extra cleaning (and cooking) time?

Laundry -

Is laundry sorted when you take off clothes? (There are multiple bag or multiple
bins laundry sorters, but I like using actual bags inside my hamper, so I can just
grab whatever bag is full.)

Are you using color catchers so you sort less? (I only sort out new, dark clothes
for the first rinse, husband's work pants that we wash on delicate, and whites and
light colors wash together.)

Are stains treated right away?
Is there a special bag for laundry that takes special attention?
Do you have enough space to efficiently fold/hang laundry as it comes out of the dryer?

Do you rewear some clothes so that you have less laundry to do (maybe
impossible in Louisiana heat, especially if you are sweaty)? But jammies can be
worn twice, for sure.

Trash -

Are trash bags right by the trash can?

Can you skip trash every other day?

Living Room Pickup -

Do you have a toy bin in the living room so your little kids can put toys back in there after 
play? (We ended each family time when the boys were little with a "basketball game" into the basket. They loved it, and still pick up after playing, usually on their own.)

What does living room pickup include? If vacuuming, twice a week enough? Once a week?

Are things stored in a logical place? Are you carrying the same things out of the living room everyday? If so, create storage right there in the living room?  Our kids' shoes just stay in the living room:

I know a lot of this might not work for you, but I hope you find some gems in there!


Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Favorite Tips for Using My Paper Planner

My paper planner addiction is irrational, but some of my favorite planner tips are quite rational (or so I tell myself lie to myself).  These tips should work for most planners, especially binder type planners (like Filofax, Franklin, or Daytimer).  Different little tricks work for different people, so I am not insisting that my way is correct, but it's what works for me.  (Ignore all of that.  My way is correct, dammit.  Correct.  In completely unrelated news, I should see a therapist about my little planner addiction.)
I won't number these (even though my OCD is yelling, "NUMBER, NUMBER") because I might not have an even number, and then what?  (I counted after I wrote the first draft.  I had twelve.  What kind of number is twelve?  It's a stupid, non-top ten number, that's what.  Ridiculous.)

Also, some of this repeats my last planner overview.  Shush, it's totally worth repeating.

Use a Planner Small Enough to Carry Everywhere

This is the same advice every single Professional Organizer gives, right?  But it actually takes some thought.  

I carry a Franklin Compact size planner.  (The normal sized placemat is for size perspective.) 

I have a pretty, small, neat handwriting (and a ton of humility, right?), so I can use a smaller planner.  My work mostly consists of Stay-at-Home-Parent duties, volunteer work, and substitute teaching, so I can get away with a smaller planner.  
When I was lawyering full time, I needed a bigger planner than this one.  (I have since retired my beautiful, brown leather FC Classic sized planner to a Household Notebook, but that's a post for another day.)

Whatever size you choose, make sure to choose how you will carry it.  When I worked as a lawyer, I carried my work bag most places and my diaper bag (for the then baby sized child, not for my own diapers) everywhere else, so I carried a tiny purse and put my planner in the work bag or diaper bag.  Now, I carry a big purse that fits my planner.  If I ABSOLUTELY can't carry that big purse (at the zoo, for example, or a wedding), I carry a little notebook to jot anything to go into my planner later.  

Understand, that only happens once a month or so.  If you find me, you usually find my planner.  (I did once leave my planner at a hotel.  They called and let me know an hour into the drive away.  I drove back immediately to pick it up.)  Which brings me to my next tip...

Write Your Contact Info in Your Planner

Go ahead.  Do it right now.  Add the following words: REWARD OFFERED.  Include at least an email address or phone number.  (You don't need to include your physical address, and probably shouldn't for safety's sake.)

Have an In-Box and an Indicator for Processed Papers/Items

Many planners have two places to keep papers in the front cover of the planner.  Mine does not.  If yours does, I recommend making one your in box and one your hold/outgoing box.  If yours (like mine) does not, you can improvise by putting papers in binder clips (to indicate papers have been taken care of) AFTER they are processed and noted in your planner.

I also put my blank notepad right in the front to use as an "idea" in-box.  This is particularly nice when I cannot write something on the proper page in the planner.  For example, if I am cooking and cannot stop, I can jot "milk" on the blank page to remind me to buy more milk.

The key to having an in box is to have a regular, routine task that reminds you to empty it out and process it.  

The other key is to not use the in box unless you HAVE to.  Note that my blank notepad is blank.  If I check the mail and it has a wedding invitation in it, I can RSVP yes immediately, write "buy gift" on the task list for the week before the wedding, and write the date of the wedding on my monthly planner.  I can then put the invite itself (if I don't want to copy the info on it) in the binder clip, since it has been processed. The in box is ONLY for times when you cannot process the paper/incoming information.

Put All Appointments/Time-Specific Events in One Place

For me, that place is my monthly page.  Details about the events go elsewhere in the note section (which my planner has) or the weekly pages.  I guard this space.  It tells me where I have to be and when.  If I don't NEED to grocery shop at 9 a.m. on Thursday, grocery shopping does NOT go there.

If you have a high appointment (say, more than four appointments most days) kind of job, consider weekly pages for this and use daily pages for details.

Have Three To Do Lists

MONTHLY - For me, this means anything needed to be done by the end of the month.  If there is no deadline at all, then it is not a task and should go in your Planner Files (known to others as the address book) under the title Maybe/Someday.  I keep my monthly tasks lists at the end of each month, before the next month's divider tabs.  

Some people have complained to me that they never look at monthly tasks.  The solution is to include things you must look at in those lists.  For example, my bar dues are on the June list.  If I don't pay them timely I lose my license to practice law, so you can bet I check these lists.  A weekly task to glance at the monthly planner near the end of the month might also work.

WEEKLY - For me, this means anything needed to be done by the end of the WEEK.    My particular planner pages have a slot for each day of the week and one extra slot, which is where I keep my weekly list.

DAILY - Some things are day-specific, but not time-specific.  For example, I have to send a dollar to school with my kid on Monday.  I have to grocery shop on Tuesday (or have a good backup, anyone?).  Those things get written in the daily slots.  

Have a System of Dividing Up Today Visually

Because the daily slots in my weekly planner are really the go to for what needs to be done today, I divide them, spatially, into blocks.

Visually, it's easier to remember things if I can see the DUE stuff in the first part, today's stuff in the main part/middle, and want to get to today or fyi items (like a note that my husband is working late) in the last part.

Circle Recurring Tasks/Appointments

That way, you will remember to rewrite them the next time they need to be done.

Keep Everything Non-Location Specific in Your Planner

For example, my monthly budget/checkbook entry is just a piece of lined planner paper behind my monthly task list.

I keep a simple hole-punched envelope behind my checkbook entry to hold receipts that need to be filed at home.

Have a Future Planning Page

Use the Address Book Dividers As a File

But...only use for filing stuff still in use.  Otherwise, it gets thrown out or put in paper files at home.

And...only use about four of the letter tabs (like AB, GH, MN, and ST).

Oh, and don't forget, create an index or you will never find anything!

For any files, I put the boxed FILE NAME in the upper right hand corner, along with the date.  This trick makes filing so much easier.  (I apologize for the sad, sad lighting in this picture, but I don't want the entire internet to see my personal information.  The point is that the box pops out at you.)

Use Project Lists

A project has a real ending date, but requires many actions steps.  I make an index, just like I did for files.  The next date that I need to work on a action/task from that project goes on my daily, weekly, or monthly tasks list, circled so I remember to note the next action once I do the first.

I use these for everything.  Examples include first day of school, planning a party, setting up a big meeting involving travel, and shopping for Christmas.

Keep Sticky Notes in Your Planner

I don't use them often, but when I do, I need them.  I also keep a black pen for filling out forms, even though I only write in my planner in easy-to-see green.  (I also recommend easy-to-see purple, blue, or maroon.)

Let me know your favorite planner set-up tips.