Friday, February 28, 2014

A Living Planner: Always Tweaking

(That's tweaking, not twerking. If you are reading this because you were all excited about twerking, you need better "type and search" skills!)

Now that that important business is out of the way...let's talk planners.

My planner is essentially alive. It doesn't have DNA (unless leather carries some residual DNA?), but it is always growing and changing. What works one week doesn't always work the next. 

Sure, I post a lot about SYSTEMS and RULES and how you should do things, but sometimes, honestly, I just make it work.

For example, I am struggling with my page between weekly pages. I need something for overflow, but a whole page is almost too much. It blocks the view of my day. So I cut up some old notepaper and did this.

Notice I also used sticky notes for overflow this week. It was a crazy sort of week. I like the smaller cutout task list to handle the cray because it lists tasks (and household tasks and grocery list on back) without blocking the weekly layout.

Next week is incredibly UNBUSY, so hopefully I won't have as much tweaking then.

(The internet tells me that unbusy is not a word. I hereby declare the internet wrong. If twerking is a thing, unbusy HAS to be a thing, right?)


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Planner Schedules - Bells and Whistles

As Loyal Readers know, I use my monthly calendar exclusively for scheduling.

I am able to do this successfully because I:

1) rarely have more than four appointments in a day, 
2) supplement with a sticky note or daily page if I have more than four appointments, and 
3) schedule work as an appointment and then include my work schedule in my work planner.

Generally, I like to only rely on that monthly calendar, as it forces me to look at the planner. But, in some instances, I won't have time for looking at the planner. For example, on Thursday, I have work from 7:30 - noon, then errands, but I have to leave my errands in time to get to carpool pick-up. Generally, when I work, I am focused. I don't stop and pull out my personal planner (as opposed to my work planner) very often. During errands, I do look at my planner, but might get caught up doing something and risk missing carpool.

On days like that, I set the alarms on my phone.

I am no technophobe. I know, I know. I use a paper planner. And, as a general rule, I find alarms really intrusive or easy to ignore (especially when overused), so I rarely use them.

But that is the key. I rarely use alarms, so when I do, I PAY ATTENTION!

Remember 5th grade? The bell rang and it meant recess! I always pretend it's the recess bell (even when it is telling me to DO something, like go to work).

When you need to focus on something, consider using an alarm so that you can focus instead of watching the clock.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Countdown Cleaning For Kids (And Child-like Adults)

***This post may contain affiliate links. See my "Disclaimer" link for additional details.***

Ander is seven. He gets overwhelmed by sweeping tasks, like "clean your room."

Loki is five. He gets overwhelmed by sweeping tasks, like "clean your room."

cleaning, parenting, kids, chores

Alan is forty-one. He gets overwhelmed by sweeping tasks, like "clean the counter."

See a pattern? I'd totally blame genetics, except that I think all of us sometimes get overwhelmed with multi-step tasks.

The Countdown Chore System

So, whenever something huge needs to be done, like cleaning out the garage or going through files, the people at Giftie Etcetera (the little people AND the big people) use a simple countdown method.

We do ten things. Then we do nine. Then we do eight.

TIP: For really little kids or older kids with attention issues, use a toy abacus for a visual countdown.

(That tip totally works for adults with ADD, too.)

The goal is to finish before you get to zero (or "Blast Off!" as Loki calls it).

TIP: A nice loud buzzer (with a custom message from you) gives kids a way to brag (and get an instant, positive reward) when they are finished. For bonus points, you know when they are done because you hear the buzzer!

How Kids Do Thier Chores

Need to clean out the car? Grab ten things. (I count each old french fry under the seat as one thing.) Toss them. Grab nine things. (Books. We ALWAYS have nine books in the car.) Everyone brings his/her own to the book shelf. Eight pieces of trash. Seven CDs go back in their cases. Six random items get brought inside and put away.

It works every time. I even manage to fool myself.


If you enjoy what you read at Giftie Etcetera, please share on social media. Click here to join the Giftie Etcetera Facebook group.

Partied at: Making Your Home Sing, Funtastic Friday

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Don't Let A Packed Planner Page Paralyze You

I'm not even going to show you my schedule for the week.

I have to substitute teach, volunteer at the school, finish the auction project (due Friday), and do my legal work. I also have something every weeknight this week and a house guest arriving on Friday.

But, in addition to that, my tasks currently look like this:

I considered removing the ominous shadow, but I kind of like it.

So, how do I not panic? Well, lots of coffee, some oxygen, and a plan of attack.

Here are some popular plans of attack that might help you when you planner is too packed. Pick one and move forward.

1. Kill the dread by doing the most horrible task first. (Some people call this "eating the frog.") 

2. Do the quickest three tasks so you can cross things off.

3. Do the most pressing item first. (I tend to panic, so this is what I do.)

4. Choose the task with the biggest impact.

5. Pick the one you like doing the most. (Blogging, anyone? :) )

6. Work from the top of the page to the bottom.

Why six approaches? Well, so you can get one die (half a pair of dice) and roll it. Seriously. If you are indecisive (I'm not), print out or bookmark this list, get a die, and put it on your desk.

Good luck rolling a five!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Attaching Planner Pages To Each Other

I've been busy.

I drank coffee, I worked my planner, and I stayed on top of things. But, don't be fooled. I've been really overwhelmed. (I even missed a day of blogging. Actually, I missed several days, but some posts were pre-scheduled.)

One thing that has helped me...something so simple that many of my Loyal Readers will having my tabs paper-clipped to the next important page in my planner.

That way, when I am trying to sneak in an hour of legal work or rushing around a classroom substitute teaching, I can open right to the page that I am looking for with no effort.

Seriously, today, there was no time for effort.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

On The Desk: Active Files

Most organized people have files (to capture things that they needed to keep, but not access daily or weekly) and planners (for information on-the-go). But what about the stuff that is too big for your planner, but you need to access all the time? 

Unlike my permanent (or semi-permanent, since I occasionally purge them) regular files, I have files that are what I consider "active." I bet most people have a few folders that always need to be available right at their desks. That might mean a household file on the kitchen counter, where you keep current bills-to-be-paid, contacts for the kids' school, or a list of household chores that need tackling. In my case, I need a file for work.

I bought a file box that I could carry with me. I mostly work from home, but I needed to be able to carry it if I work elsewhere. (In the course of normal events, I'd throw a file or two into my tote bag to work remotely. I'd only bring the whole file box with me if I were to leave town for several days on a road trip, as is often the case during hurricane season. If you don't ever have to evacuate, a more permanent file container is probably fine. Still, a file box is cheap, often going on sale for under $10.)

One thing I did was to hang four color-coded files. I don't actually put folders in the hanging files, as I find that cumbersome. I just slip the manilla folders behind the colorful hanging files. I also put some blank manilla folders in the back of the box to make filing more convenient.

I used washi taped-on sticky notes (since nobody will see this except me...oh, and my Loyal Readers) to identify what each color means.

It's difficult to tell in the picture, but the Active file is green, the Pending is yellow, the Hold is red, and the File is blue.

Active means a project that I am currently working on. That project is also listed in the project pages of my work planner.

Pending means I am waiting on someone else or something else (like a certain date) to deal with the project. For example, I am about to send my boss the results of a web search that she asked me to complete. I believe that some follow-ups should be done, based on the search results, but don't want to move forward without her approval, since I don't have enough information about her needs to decide whether to follow-up on my own. While waiting for her response, the project will go in the pending folder.

Hold is a different category than pending. Hold just means information that I am holding on to for now, but may eventually discard. For example, my boss gave me some handouts about the set-up of the company. They are important for now, as I need to learn these things about my new employer. But, eventually, I'll know this stuff, and all these handouts will no longer be relevant. Then I will toss them.

File is for things that I need to keep but that will be referenced occasionally, so the more permanent file would not be appropriate. For example, the HR handbook goes in this section. A project that recurs yearly might go in this section.

I also write all over my file folders. I use erasable Frixion pens to label the files, both because I can erase mistakes or changes and because I don't have time to deal with labels.

There is no rule that says you cannot write directly on a folder!

(Note: In the photo below, all information is made up. I do this so that I can respect any information that should remain confidential.)

The components of my labeling include:

*name of the project/vendor/customer,

*WORK (indicating that this does not go in my personal files),

*date assigned, and

*date due.

Don't forget to make an index of the files in your planner and update it whenever you create a new file folder.

TIP: Use the inside cover of the folder to make any reference notes or if a log of contacts regarding the project is required.

This system would also work well for teachers as a work file or stay-at-home parents as a kitchen file.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Planner Pen Holder Hack

My Franklin Covey Classic is sadly lacking the generous, stretchy, and numerous (okay, two) pen loops that are found in my FC Compact. (It has one pen loop in a not-so-convenient location.)

I plan on ordering a stick-on loop, but in the meantime, I did this...

I just folded a cut up piece of plastic over an interior pocket, attached it with some paper clips, and put my pens in it.

The set-up works splendidly and protects my planner from damage.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reward For Found Planner

A couple of years ago, I stayed in a hotel on a road trip. After a fun weekend holiday, I drove away. We had been driving for about an hour when the hotel called me.

"Ma'am, we think we have your calendar." (It was a Southern hotel.) (Yes, I now book that hotel every time I visit the area.)

"My calendar?" Pause. "Oh, MY PLANNER! OH MY GOD. HOW COULD I FORGET IT?!?" (Yes, I was all flustered and shouty.)

They offered to mail it.

My husband offered that mailing it instead of driving an extra two hours was a good idea.

I offered that he could walk his butt home if he wasn't willing to turn around IMMEDIATELY and pick up my planner.

I won that argument.

Right now, go do this (but without the blue ink pens and with your contact information). Don't write your address for your own security, but leave good contact information and make sure you write "If found, return for REWARD" nice and big.

Don't worry about my husband. I'll forgive him. Someday. Probably.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blog Posts: A Simple Planner Hack To Track Them

Blogging isn't part of my daily routine. Oh, I know. I post a blog every day. But I actually write about three at a time and just schedule the posts. If I didn't, there is no way I could blog so often.

(As a result of this demanding schedule, I am considering moving to posts every other day. But so far, I have too much to say. Over share much?)

I needed a simple way to glance at my planner and know whether a blog had been posted for tomorrow, without logging on to my laptop to check. But I didn't want to make it too prominent, as real life trumps whether I've posted a blog each day.

I came up with this, on my weekly menu page.

Basically, each day gets the numbered date (see right next to the word "Monday" in the yellow box), like the 17th getting 17. Then, I draw a / when the blog is drafted and an X once it's scheduled.

I think I'll add a circle around blogs that I've shared to Google Plus, Facebook, Pinterest, and twitter.

So simple. But working so far.

BONUS TIP (while you are looking at my Menu Plan anyway): Note that I've started adding lunches to my food plan when I work outside of the home and little task reminders, like to defrost or put away leftovers in the freezer.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Undated Planner Pages

For those who know that I am a Franklin Covey 365 girl, you might have noticed that the Flourish planner comes with undated planner pages. I often buy cheap planners with undated pages to use in future years. 

TIP: If you are new to planning or on a budget, undated planners and refills are available year round, can start on any date, and tend to be less expensive.

Step-by-step, here's what I do to add undated pages, usually three months at a time, to my planner.

1. I use an erasable black Frixion pens to put in the monthly dates, based on a 2014 calendar that I Googled on-line.

This is the only reason that I use black pens. It's important that it is erasable, since it is so easy to make a mistake on this part.

2. I block out the unused monthly calendar squares using washi tape.

3. use an erasable black Frixion pens to put in the weekly dates, based on a 2014 calendar that I Googled on-line.

4. I block out any blank weekly pages with washi tape and a note leading me to the appropriate next month.

Sometimes, when you enter weekly dates, you will end up with an extra weekly page between the monthly pages. This is because months are more than four weeks long but less than five weeks long, so most planner printers simply add the extra week to all months for consistency in printing.

Say the month of April ends on Wednesday, the 30th. I still want to see an entire week at once, so I move April 28th, 29th, and 30th to the first week of May.

5. As an extra caution against accidentally writing in one of these blank weeks, I staple the extra week between the monthly dividers and the nearest valid, usable week

6. Finally, I copy the dates, tasks, and due dates from my future area of my planner to the newly dated month and week pages. As I do this, I scratch out the entries on the future pages.

BONUS TIP: I also washi tape old future planning pages, which have information I must save on the back of them, to the tabs. This makes sure I don't accidentally use them instead of the newly dated pages. I don't staple this time because I don't want to put holes in my tabs. Washi tape is easy to remove when I want to discard the future page, if I use true washi tape. Be careful of cheap brands, which are difficult to move around.


P.S. Today, one of my beloved blog posts is being featured at Read, Rate, and Review. Thank you, Ashley, for letting me contribute to your blog.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Post-it Paper Processing

Every now and then, I give tips for just straight up processing paper. Usually, that involves processing paper into your planner so that you can discard it or permanently file it.

But as all planner people understand, somethings just do not fit in a planner. For me, soliciting for the school auction is a project that cannot be captured completely in my planner. This project involves lots of individual solicitations with the accompanying paperwork for each.

Sure, I track everything (tasks in my weekly section, scheduled pick-ups on my monthly pages, and deadlines in my weekly pages) in my planner, but the actual project is in a folder.

In order to track the progress of each individual task, I use a simple sticky note (or post-it) to keep a log on the paper or binder-clipped set of documents.

TIP: A paper clip works well for this individual folder. However, for long term files or large amounts of paper, a binder clip is more secure.

To keep my sticky notes portable, I use a piece of cardboard, folded to hold my notes.

The cardboard had some writing on it, so I covered it with a large sticker, cut to size, and some decorative washi tape.

BONUS TIP: To attach notes to a folder, just fold the notes over the edge of the inside pocket and secure with a paper clip.

(In the sample picture below, I track the times that each business is open. It's something I always need to see, altogether, in order to schedule accordingly.)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Organizing Under The Sink

Surprise! The kitchen flooded. Don't you love days like that?

The good news is that the plumbing only cost under $100 and that the flood forced me to clean and organize the area under the sink since I had to take everything out, anyway. (See me noticing the positive? Also, having a glass of wine. Those two things might be related.)

I started by putting things that we never use, but that need to be in climate control, in the very back of the area. For example, paint, which can't go outside because Louisiana summers are too hot, goes under the sink.

I used the paintbrush extender to slide all the paint in, since my arms are really short.

TIP: A mop or broom handle makes a great slider.

BONUS TIP: Anytime an appliance comes with a special tool, like the food processor does, go ahead and tape the tool in a labeled envelope near the appliance. I came across a good example of that when I was cleaning under the sink.

The next step was to divide the items up in categories, like insect sprays or dusting supplies.

TIP: Divide complex organizing projects in a comfortable space, then move them one grouping at a time until all are put away. That method is far less stressful than trying to organize everything with your head stuck under the sink. (And just imagine where your booty is, if your head is under the sink.)

For the rest of the things that I store under the sink, I tried to put things that are used less often near the back.

Things we use all the time, like dish washing detergent, goes in the front, where it is easy to reach.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Daily Plan In A Weekly Planner

If you are a Loyal Reader, you know that I prefer a monthly/weekly planner system. I use my monthly pages for scheduling and my weekly pages for tasks. 

Normally, I never need a daily page and actually don't recommend one unless you have lots of appointments each day.

Except, sometimes, this happens on a Monday (or a Thursday, I'm not picky). Yes, those are tasks listed ABOVE the Monday box.

While I am a fan of following set rules for your planner (because, for example, if you ONLY write tasks in one place, you won't forget to do a task), I do break the rules every now and then. Planning is more about the practical than the perfect.

Some days are so busy that they just call for a daily page.

TIP: Use the daily page sparingly, for days when you truly need a scheduled plan. If you use it too much, it takes up valuable planner space AND means you are spending too much time being busy. Humans need downtime.

I happen to have these pages (that I simply cut, hole punch, and store at the very back of my planner) from the Dollar Spot at Target.

TIP: If you don't have special pages, just use a lined or graph piece of planner paper for a daily plan.

I make three different plans. Should dos, errands/appointments, and must dos.

It really does let me organize a particularly busy day with ease. The red in this picture shows the parts of the list that I completed.

By the end of the day, I had done every single task. That never happens.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Video: Work Planner (Featuring A DIY Tripod)

One of my fellow bloggers suggested that a video is rubbish without a tripod. My Loyal Readers know that I am all about the practical, and as an infrequent video blogger, I was not about to go out and buy a tripod.

Instead, I went all DIY on the problem. Plastic ice bucket, an upside down basket, and a couple of binder clips.

You know you love my tripod! ;)

And now, without further ado, my perfectly still, spookily unshaky video about Using A Franklin Covey Classic As A Dedicated Work Planner. (That is a link. Clink on it. You won't regret it.)

Some tips from the video:

*Decide which planner will hold which information and don't duplicate or deviate, unless absolutely necessary.

My personal planner holds work times, important due dates, and important meetings.

My work planner duplicates the due dates and meetings (just for record keeping purposes, so they ALWAYS go in my personal planner first). All work projects, tasks, and files go in my work planner ONLY.

*Clear plastic makes the best page markers. Use them to hold your task list sticky notes.

*If you do not have much space, use an index page 
only ABC system. But if you have lots of space, use the address tabs to arrange projects and files. I compromise by using the index ABC system for projects and the address tab ABC system for files.

*Keep a list of completed projects and accomplishments somewhere in your work planner. You will thank me when it comes time to have your annual review, ask for a raise, or apply for a new job.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Organizing Photographs

I don't store much under my beds. I like the idea of hidden storage, but I have wicked asthma, so anything I drag out from under the bed tends to bring on a dusty, oxygen-deprived gasping for air episode. I've decided to reserve my under bed space for one purpose - pictures.

1. Go shopping for storage solutions.

I don't often recommend spending money to organize. But there is just no other way to deal with photographs, especially if you, like me, are too lazy to make nice photo albums.

I purchased two under bed containers on clearance. (They usually go on clearance around Christmas or right after and again at back-to-school time.) I also got a big plastic box and the small plastic basket pictured below. Finally, I got some photo boxes.

2. Clear out the area under the bed.

3. Sort the items into things that need to be in climate control (under the bed) and things that can go in outside, shed storage (like old yearbooks). Box them up.

4. Use photo boxes to keep loose photographs together.

5. Bring big boxes to outdoor shed.

6. Put flat boxes under bed.

And the most important step...

7. Keep a small basket somewhere to hold any new photos until you can process them into the appropriate box.

Mine goes right under my make-up table in the bedroom because it is near the photo boxes.

This basket is very important because you don't want to have to pull the photographs out from under the bed all the time. When the basket gets about half full, I pull out the photo boxes and file the pictures in the front of a photo box.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wherein Giftie Stresses Out Over Something Stupid

I grocery shop on Tuesday morning. I grocery shop every Tuesday morning after carpool drop-off. I have some coffee, grab my reusable bags, and grocery shop on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning. Got that? Was I clear enough? :)

Tuesday morning long enough after the Sunday sale paper to make a complete grocery list.

But it's soon enough after the start of the week that I haven't run out of milk or bread. It's early enough in the day that clearance meat is available and not picked over. Since I arrive right at store opening, there is no crowd. And the cashiers are still pleasant and not exhausted yet.

Most of all, my OCD forces me to do my grocery shopping every week without fail. Tuesday morning is grocery time.

Except that, this time of year, it isn't. 

My husband, once a year for a period of two to three months, works a crazy schedule at work. During that time, I have to adjust my schedule. We live outside of the city where he works and the kids attend school. We had to swap carpool schedules, so for a bit, I'll be going to the grocery store in the afternoon instead of the morning. Sometimes, I won't even be able to go on Tuesdays!

This minor change would not stress a normal person out.

But I am not normal. I make the plan, write it in my planner, and follow the plan.

If I say I'll be there at 6 p.m., I will be there at 6 p.m. If I say I am cleaning the bathroom, I am cleaning the bathroom. If I promise you the project by Friday, you will receive the project by Friday. I don't run out of milk.

But when the plan has to change, I have to remind my Type A that my Type B is something worth striving for.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Organized Cooking

A friend of mine has a blog where she shares delicious, healthy recipes. You can visit her blog at decadentlyFIT. Today, as a special treat for my Loyal Readers, she will be sharing a wonderful recipe for chili.

I cooked chili this morning, too. I promise you that mine was not as good as hers. I'm a good cook. She is a gifted cook. So when I considered what advice I could bring to her readers, I thought about what I do best. And that, my friends, is organizing.

I am very organized when I cook. Being organized means I don't miss ingredients, I have less clean up after cooking, and I can enjoy the task (and, yes, pretend I'm a Food Network star...shush, you know you pretend you're talking to the camera, too) without worries.

Here are my top ten tips for organized cooking.

1. Plan the menu in advance in a planner or on a menu board.

Because I plan my menu in advance, I know what I am cooking and when. For my visitors, if you don't use a planner, consider making one at least for your kitchen, with menus, ingredients/staples lists, shopping lists, lists of meals that your family loves, and weekly or monthly menu plans.

2. During nightly planner review (where prep for the next day happens), decide when to defrost and start cooking.

Write down the details in a planner or on your dry erase board.

For chili, I needed to defrost the ground meat in the fridge overnight and start cooking at 8 a.m., since I had out-of-the-house appointments all afternoon. So the meat went into the fridge last night and my planner reminded me to start cooking first thing in the morning.

3. Put out all ingredients and spices on the counter ahead of time.

For the chili today, I actually put out the dry items (tomato sauce, hot sauce, mustard seed, etc.) the night before, when I checked my planner, on the counter. Doing this in advance means I don't forget to use an essential ingredient.

4. Start the water boiling first.

If my meal requires boiling water (and, obviously, since Loki eats "spaghetti" but HATES "chili," I must boil water and call the meal spaghetti, 'cause he is five and that is keeping parenting real), start the water boiling first. So what if it boils for 45 minutes before you actually use it? You'll never have to wait for water to heat up again.

5. Next, start whatever takes the longest.

Today, except for noodles, chili is a one pot meal for me. I caramelized the onions and peppers (can one caramelize peppers???), then browned the meat in the same pot, and finally, added the tomato products. I had to chop the vegetables in order to start. However, if I was cooking something where veggies weren't cooked first, I would have started cooking, and then chopped the veggies while the first bit was cooking.

6. Use the timer.

Seriously. Use it. Set it and let it remind you each time you need to do something new (like stir the food or start the pasta).

7. Use the vegetable cutting board as a spoon rest.

It will keep your counter cleaner.

8. Store cooking tools within reach.

For me, this means spatulas, spoons, and potholders are close to the stove.

9. Clean while cooking.

I keep vinegar, dish soap, and water, mixed in a spray bottle, to clean counters while cooking. Also, while waiting for meat to brown, I might chop veggies or wipe down the sink or the island in the kitchen. I might unload or load the dishwasher. I can't really leave the area anyway, and lots of stuff can get down in those few found minutes.

10. When running low on an ingredient, add it to the grocery list immediately.

This single act has changed my life. I never run out of anything, unless something unusual happens (like that random rotten onion last week).

I hope some of these tips help to make cooking less stressful for you.

For those visiting Giftie Etcetera for the first time from decadentlyFIT, welcome.

You can subscribe to my organizing tips by signing up for an almost-daily email in the right gutter. You won't receive spam. You'll just get a quick reminder when I publish a new post.