Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sheep Herding At Disney: Using A Special Section In My Planner

Two weeks ago, we announced to our 4 and 7 year old children that we had booked two days at a working sheep farm for vacation.  Feeling bad about deceiving your kids with Santa?  Don't.  My husband and I are clearly the meanest parents on the planet (at least according to our 7 year old, as he marches in the humid Louisiana sunshine to train for "sheep herding" trip).  

The truth?  Next week, we are going to Disney World for the very first time in the kids' lives!

We didn't know if we could swing Disney this year, budget-wise or time-wise, but the answer ended up being yes.  With school and other obligations, we realized that we would have to book the trip at the last minute (3 weeks in advance) and we would have to suck up the cost.  Since booking the trip, we have been obsessively planning.

(I suspect my friends might be about to stage an intervention.  It won't work.  {sticks out tongue}  Seriously, they love me, but they don't understand just how much planning soothes my nerves!)

First things first.  I got out my planner and created a section just for Disney.

Understand, I have a great working system of a capture page in the front of the planner, a weekly spread, and a monthly spread, so I was not going to mess with that. If you have a system that works, use it!

The Disney section is only for extra stuff.  Usually, stuff like that would go in the project or files section, but I knew I would be using the Disney notes too much in the next three weeks to justify hiding it in those parts of the planner.  A special section is justified anytime you are working on a major project.  (I would do the same if I was buying a new house or having a baby.  Anything huge!) (Yes, I did just equate a trip to Disney with having a baby.)

While researching Disney, I discovered that I needed to buy quite a few things. Apparently, I need a backpack filled with water bottles with filters, hand sanitizer, and cheap ponchos.  Who knew?  I have a separate coupon planner that I use for grocery and shopping lists, so for now, anything the internet said I NEEDED to have went on my capture page.  (Shush it.  Needed, people.  They said I NEEDED it.)

Obviously, the dates and times of specific Disney-related events (check-in at the resort, opening time of the park of the day, and meal reservation times) went on my monthly page.

Tasks, as usual, went on my weekly pages.  We had to buy and download the touringplans app, where I had to enter parks and reservations while my husband entered the attractions we hoped to see.  (Division of labor is a fabulous thing.)  There are maps to be acquired and printed.  Tinkerbell care packages to be put together.  All of those tasks went inside of my regular set-up so that nothing slips through the cracks.

Would there be anything left for the Disney section of the planner?  Why, of course!

There is an agenda (to help my husband and me enter the right info in the touring app).

A list of park hours is handy.

I made a checklist for when we arrive at the park, since there were too many things to do to fit everything on my weekly pages.  Things like requesting wake-up calls (in a character's voice), giving the Tinkerbell gift to the boys (filled with stuff like autograph books and glow sticks for nighttime parades), and plugging in the charger for the computers and phones in the room made this list.  I won't forget to check this list because I noted "@resort: checklist" in my weekly pages.

I also made lists of everything that I am packing (using the internet and my master packing list as guides).  I divided these lists by the container that the stuff would be packed in (e.g., my suitcase, kids' suitcase, backpack, thermal tote, car).  These lists will also come in handy for making sure we don't leave anything at the resort.

I went ahead and started packing whenever I could, in a designated area in my kitchen. I just check it off whenever I pack the item.

I made a log for use in the Disney parks themselves.  It gives me a place to check off when we eat an extra meal or snack on the Disney Dining Plan and reminds me to apply sunblock, take a picture of the kids, take pictures of our parking spots, and write phone numbers on the kids' bellies in sharpie markers everyday.

Since we paid for the Disney Dining Plan, I made individual lists for each park of our families likely favorite things to eat that are covered by the dining plan.  

I have decided that my planner is not going into the park, so I don't lose it, so I purchased this plastic, sort of waterproof container to bring only the pages that I need to the park each day in my backpack.  Note the Mickey colored binder clips!

Yes, I understand that this post can be used as evidence that I am obsessed.  But all this planning means that, when we check in at Walt Disney World, I can relax and enjoy.

The kids are going to go wild when they realize there is no actual sheep herding farm.  We aren't telling them until we arrive at the gates.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Mr. and Mrs. Planner

I was having a discussion with some folks from Philofaxy (the best blog ever, so if you haven't visited, you should) when the topic of how to use your Filofax came up. 

I have a theory.  Your relationship with your planner is like a marriage.  It can last a lifetime (or until the rings break, at least) or it can fall apart rather quickly.

Planners have personalities. 

If your personality does not match your planner, things will never work out.  I like pretty colors, but my planner needs to sort of go with everything.  It doesn't have to match, but in true What Not to Wear style, it needs to coordinate.  It can't be too boring.

Right now, I have a black planner. Not my first color choice, but it has little time swirls all over the cover, giving it texture.  I can't stand a boring black planner, so this works for now.  I really tend to gravitate towards blue planners.  And while many people love leather, I prefer a nonleather planner.  But that means my planners don't last long enough, especially as the only nonleather planners that I find tend to be vinyl. 

How a planner feels also matters.  There needs to be a spark when you hold it.  You should like to touch it.  (Pro tip: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES STROKE YOUR PLANNER WHILE IN PUBLIC.  I am a criminal defense attorney and I've seen people committed for far less!)

Planners need time together with you. 

planner, day planners

Your planner needs to be portable enough to fit your life.  And you have to fit your life to your planner.

I use a Franklin Covey compact size.  (It is roughly equivalent to a Filofax personal size, but a bit wider.)  An A5/classic size is too big for me but anything smaller is too small.

Keeping your planner with you is hard work, just like a marriage is hard work.  I choose bags that fit my planner.  My backpack, purse, and messenger bag all have a designated spot for my planner.  At home, I have two places where I am willing to put my planner down - and that's it.  If you like your planner open in front of you all the time, consider getting a recipe stand (like chefs use in kitchens).  The stand will hold your planner open on the counter.

Planners need to communicate with you.

My planner has monthly and weekly pages.  That's enough communication for me.  Daily pages feel like I am being nagged!  And naggy marriages just don't work.

Planners have to be nurtured. 

Write everything down.  Use your planner everyday, in every context, for everything.  Don''t assume you will remember something if you don't write it down.  You won't.

We don't remember any of the things that we have forgotten!

Happy honeymooning.


Eat Your Vegetables

In an effort to be frugal and waste less, our family has made a lot of changes in the past few months.  I have learned to cook (and cook well), so we eat at home instead of at restaurants.  I am using menus, grocery lists, and shopping lists so that we waste less food.  

But I was still throwing lots of food away.  In particular, vegetables were being wasting in massive quantities.

I've done three things to pretty much end the wasting of veggies in our household:

1. When I make our shopping list each week, I check on the veggies in the fridge.  Anything not used gets chopped and frozen for later meals.  I now pull frozen carrots out to add to stew or onions out to use with burgers.  Leftover zucchini?  Stir-fry!  Jalapenos?  I pre-prepare poppers and toss those in the freezer.

(Chefs will tell you to quickly boil things like carrots before freezing.  I probably should do that.  I don't, though, and no one has complained.  I do chop or cut veggies into reasonable sizes before freezing, since you cannot chop a frozen carrot.)

2. I designated a gallon ziploc bag in my freezer to hold scraps of savory vegetables (like onion, garlic, and green onion).  I am going to simmer those veggie scraps with the bones of a rotisserie chicken to make homemade stock.

3. Finally, there is no reason to waste little bits of veggies that can give a kick to other meals.  The tops of these fresh jalapenos wouldn't work so well in stock, but the tiny pieces are perfect for adding to taco meat, enchiladas, or Mexican pasta for a tiny kick!  I plan to just keep reloading that same ziploc bag and use a little at a time.  I am keeping some little containers (like sour cream containers) for freezing things like green onions or jalapeno bits while recycling the container, but I was out of those when I started this ziploc.

We have saved a lot of money this way.  Even better, our food is so much better for our taste buds and our health, since it always contains yummy veggies.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I'm Not So Good At Obedience

I have strict rules about what I put in my planner:

1. If it must be done by me and has a certain time attached to it, it goes on the monthly pages.

Example: My cousin's wedding is Friday at 7 p.m.

2. If it must be done or really should be done, but no time is attached, it goes in my week-on-two-days pages.

Example: I have to wash whites today to account for tomorrow's work shirt for my husband and the kids' karate lessons.  Normally, laundry would not go on the weekly list, but if something specific needs to be washed or we are running low on clothes, it gets moved there.

3. If it must be done this month, but not on a certain week, it goes on my monthly task list.

Example: My bar association dues are due at the end of the month.

4. Otherwise, things are captured elsewhere.

*Daily Capture Page - The "in-box" front page of my planner, used to jot everything before I have time to process it.  Right now, it has blog ideas, a list of grocery items that I ran low on this morning, and some notes from a discussion of an event that I am planning.

*Master Task List - A list of anything I want to do that is not on a deadline, like editing my novel.

*Projects List (and accompanying notes for each project) - Multistep projects.  The date the first remaining task is due is noted in my calendar.

*Routine List - A list of anything I want to do that is not on a deadline but must be done regularly, like doing the dishes.  I mostly just do these things, but if I get stuck, this note reminds me what must be done.

*Files - Anything else that is too active or portable for my home files goes here.  I keep things like my master packing list or list of meds here.

This system works because I know that anything on my monthly, weekly, and monthly task pages NEEDS to be done, deleted, or delegated.  

Well, it works when I am not a stupid head who writes "backup novel" six days in a row without doing it.  Because, then, my netbook dies and I lose hours of work on my second  novel.  Let's all bow our heads for a moment and mourn.

Do as I say, not as I do.  Backup your work, do what Mr. Filofax tells you to, and remember that obedience to your planner is a virtue.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

What's In My Bag? Why, A Mobile Office, Of Course.

I am a stay-at-home mom, want to be author (one book written but still needing polish and another started recently), and a serious, overcommitted volunteer (both at my kids' school and my alma mater).  Though I am currently not working outside the home in any official capacity, I am also a certified teacher, so I substitute teach a lot, and an attorney, so I confer with colleagues and occasionally notarize things.  Plus, my family is trying to live on this one income budget, so I cook and budget like a crazy woman.

To celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a messenger bag that I have been eyeing forever at Barnes and Noble.  What I like the most about the bag is that it is incredibly sturdy and has a thick, comfy strap that goes across my entire body, so it lands right on the hip.  Also, it's more verticle than horizontal.

Does my husband know me or what?  Screw diamonds and rubies.  Give me bags and planners!  (Next on the list?  A personal size grey Malden.  Or a blue Boston Franklin planner in compact size.  How do I convince him how impressive such a gift would be?)

The bag comes with a front zipper section.

And it has these great little side pockets, which would be perfect for my water bottle and coffee cup.

The flap is secure, but opens and closes easily with the magnetic clasps.

In the large compartment, there are two parts.  

The back part is padded and has a velcro strap to hold stuff in.  The front part is just open.

In the front, open pocket, I can fit my netbook (not pictured), my coupon folder, and my planner.  (My planner goes in my purse if I leave the house without my new bag.  My coupon folder goes with my reusable bags when I go shopping.)

In the back portion (where other, more reasonable people would keep their computers due to the padding), I keep some manilla envelopes and a plastic folder.

The manilla envelopes are for ongoing projects.  For example, I recently had a car wreck.  All car wreck related documents go in this folder.  Once everything is fixed and the case is settled, I will file this envelope in my permanent files or toss (depending on what happens).  In the meantime, I need the stuff out of my files and with me because it is an ongoing project.

Other examples of uses of the manilla envelope system include gathering tax receipts for the year, gathering documents for a particularly big meeting, or organizing handouts for a project.

For things that just need to be filed or done, but aren't a project, I use the plastic folder.

The left side is basically my in box.

On the right, I have things that need filing (which I try do do every other month or so) in "file" binder clips and upcoming tasks (like wedding invitations) in next month's binder clip.  Behind those, I have a general "to do" binder clip for things that I would like to get to someday.

Note that all of these things are ALSO written in my planner.  Otherwise, they would disappear from my mind.

The awesome bag also has a place for pens, binder clips, and paper clips.

I keep my bag right next to the sofa... to my netbook.  That way, I can work at home and anywhere else.

I get that people who work full time jobs use briefcases for this purpose, but since I work at schools or coffee shops or all over my house (including my kitchen table, my island in my kitchen, the living room, and my bedroom), I needed this!