Friday, January 31, 2014

DIY: Using A Spiral Bound Planner In A Ring Bound Planner

I tend to love the layout of spiral bound inserts. For some reason, spiral planners often have the features that I need, except that I want to flexibility of a ring bound planner. Spiral planners also tend to be cheaper. When I found this spiral bound planner on clearance at Target for less than seven dollars, I know I had to have it for my classic-sized work planner.

So I improvised.

Note: Giftie is not crafty or artistic. You can do this, too, no matter your skill level.

I simply removed the spiral binding.

I used an ink pen to pry it apart a bit.

My fingers did the rest, but you could use pliers.

I thought of just hole punching it.

But I decided it would look neater and stay together better with washi tape.

Pull the tape out in a strip longer than the paper, then place it evenly against the edge of one side of the paper, using the paper itself to line up the tape.

TIP: This sounds weird, but tape top to bottom and let the roll of washi dangle a bit at the bottom. If you tape bottom to top, the weight of the roll will mess you up.

WAVES HAND AND PRETENDS TO BE LUKE: You see no dirty laundry in this picture.

Once that is done, pull out enough tape to go around the back of the paper and continue taping the paper.

Trim any excess.

Don't worry about perfection. It will look good in your binder because the taped part is covered by the rings. I promise!

WARNING: This works best for monthly planners (12 pages or so) or weekly calendars (52 pages or so). I would not do this much work for 365 pages. As it is, I am doing this three months at a time, which takes about 30 minutes (including removal of binding, which only has to be done the first time).

BONUS TIP: Save the plastic cover. Tomorrow, I'll show you how to use it to make page markers.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Special Sections For A Work Planner

For the most part, my planner set-up, complete with Dashboard, Projects, Tasks, Monthly and Weekly, Future, and Notes (also called ABC or Files by some) works for all situations. It is purposefully flexible. You can have two current projects or one hundred current projects. You can schedule, list tasks, and get things accomplished with the set-up. That said, I am about to start using a second planner for work.

Since my work will all be at home and my planner does not need to be very portable, I'm using a Classic-sized Franklin Covey planner in simulated leather. Classic size is about A5 or half the size of a letter sheet of paper, but be aware that FC has different hole punching from Filofax. This particular binder is no longer on the Franklin Covey website, but similar binders are there for about sixty dollars.

While contemplating a second planner for work, I thought of two special sections that have served me well throughout my career - a communication log and a billing section.

TIP: As a lawyer, I log every communication. If you only need to log a few of your meetings or phone calls, as is the case in my personal planner, just designate a place on your weekly pages or make a communication log a part of your Notes/Files.

I am setting up my second planner to mirror my first. The sections will be in the same order, so that I don't get lost.

I made a color-coded index instead of labeling the tabs. Once I am sure this set-up works, I'll probably go ahead and label the tabs.


Graph paper, printed out at home, would work well here. I happened to have some legal-lined paper, so that's what I am using.

Communication Log

The communication log is one of the big differences between my personal planner (where I would simply note an important meeting in my Notes section or a phone call on my weekly pages) and my work planner. 

For any job that I've ever had that involved a desk - lawyer, school teacher, compliance officer - having a communication log has proved invaluable. Someone claims you didn't call them? Turn to the date, time, and details of the call. Long meeting with lots of notes and some follow-up tasks? A communication log keeps you on track.

(In the picture below, I hide some details to protect the innocent.)

TIP: Use a box in the upper right hand corner to identify each page as a "Comm. Log" for easy filing within your planner.

TIP: Put date/time in the left hand column and a box around the name of the interaction (for example, TC to AMB means "telecom to my husband using his initials).

TIP: Indent the actual notes.

TIP: Write tasks or scheduled event reminders, or an * to show that a task or event or other follow-up is to the right, in the left-hand column.

TIP: Circle the items in the left-hand column as they are processed into other parts of your planner or completed.

TIP: At the end of each communication, draw a wavy line. Keep a continuous log on both sides of the page to save paper.


Projects are treated just as they are in my normal planner.

TIP: Do not duplicate information if you don't have to write it twice. This includes projects. A project that goes in your work planner does not have to be put in your personal planner.

EXCEPTION: A huge project with a big looming due date might be worthy of a brief note in your personal planner on the weekly pages, if getting the project done on time will affect your personal life.


For me, the monthly pages are only for scheduling work.

On my personal planner, I'll write "work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m." or whatever my work schedule happens to be. On this planner, I'll write down the 3 p.m. meeting with the client.

See yesterday's blog entry for an example of this.

I use the weekly pages to list my work-related tasks.

Again, I do not duplicate entries in my personal planner and I only note deadlines in my personal planner that will affect my personal life.


Billing is another big difference between my personal and work planners. I keep extra calendar pages (in this case, undated Franklin Covey pages) to track the hours that I will bill. Obviously, lots of jobs do not require you to track billing. But for lawyers or self-employed business people, tracking billing is critical.

TIP: Even if you only use one planner, consider a second monthly or weekly calendar for billing purposes. That way, if you need to prove your invoicing, you can simply make a copy of that portion of your planner without showing your bosses or clients anything that is not their business.

The monthly pages that I am using include an index page, where I will summarize my hours to track that I am working enough to reach my billable goal.

It also includes a monthly Master Task List where I plan to track completed projects and tasks, so when the performance review asks "what did you accomplish," I can answer honestly.

TIP: If you work for someone else or ever need to make a resume, consider a note page called "Accomplishments" and add any achievements to it once per month.


I don't have a future section yet, but as soon as anything comes up for 2015, I will make one.


I have enough room in the classic-sized binder to use the ABC tabs. I will still use the first page to index whatever I file in this section.

The rest of the binder looks pretty much like my personal set-up.

I hope this makes work a little less painful for you. And I hope this post was helpful even to people who will continue to use only one binder or not work outside of the home.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Second Planner?

You know that I am a one planner girl, right?

But I am thinking of becoming a two planner girl! (And the second planner is a Franklin Covey Classic zip up planner.)

Hold your applause.

Look, as a general rule, I think that limiting yourself to one planner serves most people well. Since there is little or no duplication, you are unlikely to miss a scheduling conflict or forget to copy something. All of us have only 24 hours in a day, so two planners won't create more time.

But I do believe there should be exceptions to the one planner rule.

1. If you have confidential information that you need to track, use a separate planner

This applies to lawyers, medical professionals, teachers, counselors, people who work for big corporations, etc. When I worked for the state, my planner was discoverable as a public record. I certainly did not want to have to turn over my personal planner if someone made a public records request. So I needed one planner for work and one planner for home.

TIP: If you use a work and a personal planner, always write in only one planner, except for duplicating work scheduling stuff that goes outside of the normal work day and personal stuff that happens during the work day.

EXAMPLE: Let's say I work weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and have a dentist appointment Tuesday at 9:45 a.m. and fly out of town for an overnight work event Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Personal entries: Tues: Work 8 - 4, Dentist 9:45; Wed: Work 8 - 4, Flight 6 p.m.

Work entries: Tues: Out of office 9:30 - lunch, 2 p.m. Meeting with Todd, 2:45 p.m. Budget Meeting; Wed: Flight 6 p.m.

2. If you have information that never leaves one location (like home or work), a separate planner will keep your personal planner lighter and easier-to-carry.

For example, a home management binder might track emergency routines, your menu, your recipes, your chore lists, and your yearly maintenance on your home. Since all those things are done at home, there is no need to carry them everywhere.

If you do this, you should not duplicate any information. That is, your schedule should still go in your personal planner. No need to copy it over to your home binder and risk getting it wrong.

3. If you simply have a ton of information to carry, you might need a separate planner.

When I was teaching school, I keep a separate planner in my teacher tote bag, complete with lesson plans, attendance sheets, parent contact information, seating charts, and a behavior log. Note that my substitute contact list, since I sometimes needed it away from school, went in my personal planner.

I am currently looking at doing some legal work (which must be, by its very nature, keep confidential), I will be working from home 90% of the time (so my second planner would basically stay in one place, meaning I can use bigger pages), and I will need a central location to keep up with the research projects. All three of the criteria above are met, so a second planner is reasonable for me, if I do end up doing the legal work.

Tune in tomorrow to see the details of my work planner set-up. I plan to copy my personal planner set-up, mostly, but will have a couple of sections that are different for work purposes. To subscribe to Giftie Etcetera and receive an e-mail when I post tomorrow, simple add your e-mail address in the space in the right gutter.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Done Three Ways: Marking Completed Tasks In Your Planner

I write using Frixion erasable inks. They are fairly inexpensive, stay in my (admittedly large because I use Franklin Covey) pen holders, and are colorful.

I know they are controversial, mostly because some people are afraid that the writing would disappear in a hot car or over time. So far, even though I live in the Deep South, I've had no problems. But I accept that it is possible to have the ink fade.

TIP: If Frixion ink fades, try putting your paper in the freezer overnight.

BONUS TIP: Write a note to your kids in Frixion ink and erase it. Give it to them to put in the freezer for a few hours. Then have them read the secret message.

I am willing to take my chances, though, mostly because my archiving is just for convenience. For example, I got a text from a friend today, wanting my mailing address. The friend and I had texted back and forth in the past, so I knew it was someone who I knew. But her name wasn't in my cell phone, so who? Our last text was about her coming into town the week of Thanksgiving, so I pulled out last year's pages and found out who visited back then. If I couldn't do stuff like that, it wouldn't be a huge loss.

That said, I wanted to talk about the different ways that you can handle marking things "done" in your planner. If you don't have the option to erase or white out, of course, some of this might not apply to you.

If something is undone and recopied (with tick marks) to another day or rescheduled (without tick marks, if for a legit reason, like someone else rescheduling), I erase it. In the picture above, under the words "Allstate waiver," you can see that I erased a couple of things. One, for example, was an errand to pay my mom back some money that I owed her. My trip to my mom's house was cancelled due to bad weather, meaning I had to reschedule the task for a legitimate reason.

If something unimportant was done, I simply scratch through it. I use one wavy line, so I can still read the information. Mostly, that is what happened to tasks in the second box of the picture above.

If something important was done (like re-enrolling my kids in school), I write over the task in my highlight color "DONE" and the date. There is an example of that in the third box in the picture. It's hard to read on the computer screen, but serves as a reminder of when I completed the task, say if the school claims I didn't meet the deadline. I can say, "I did on January 28th" and start sorting things out from there.

TIP: Also note any receipt or confirmation number when you mark the task done.

Note how consistent I am about my record-keeping. Not done? Erase. Done? Scratch or note.

Actually scratching stuff out makes the rest of the writing pop out of the page so it is easy to see.

This simple method has saved me many times when someone claimed I didn't do something. Usually, that someone is not someone who actually knows me. (My husband, bless his heart, is finally starting to realize that if I say I did it, I did it, and I can produce evidence to prove it.) (Marriage is not a contest.) (But if marriage was a contest, I'd win. ;) )


Monday, January 27, 2014

5 Ds: Taming An Overwhelming Task List In Your Planner

Does your task list look like this?

Yes, that's my current reality.

When your task list gets overwhelming (or, you know, exceeds an entire hot list), there are many ways to get it under control.

1. Done. First, scratch out any tasks that you've actually completed. If you've been that busy, there are probably one or two that can be scratched off.

In my case, I was able to scratch off a note to write a brief letter to the auction committee. The letter was done, but I never got around to scratching it off the list.

2. Delete. Next, delete anything that is past due or really has no serious consequences if you cancel. There are things that you meant to do or wanted to do that didn't get done. Maybe those are worth deleting.

My kid's pen pal is just not getting a letter this month, especially since they are about to move and their address will change before we get around to sending one. I'll add that back to the list when they get to their new home. Arranging t
wo play dates also went off the list. We are just slammed and don't have time in the next couple of weeks.

I was also able to delete a duplicate entry on my task list. Yes, that's right. My list was so long that I had written a task on it twice.

3. Delegate. Make some tasks someone else's problem.

My husband promised to put the new registration sticker on my car by January 31st. I can scratch that off my list, especially now that this public shaming is sure to make him do it, right?

4. Defer. Some things can and should be put off. 

I have a gift for my mother-in-law that she left at my house after Christmas and I won't see her until March. I am planning a couple of trips, but it's really too early to buy plane tickets, in case plans change. And my April planner pages don't have to be added to my planner until the end of February.

A lot of these deferrals went on my February or March task lists.

The rest went to my Someday/Maybe list.

5. Dedicate. Dedicate to doing things that really should have been done already or should be done this week, based either on due dates or importance.

For me, that meant adding paying my mom some money that I owed (we went in together on a wedding gift) when I see her on Tuesday.

Once you've done the 5 Ds, you can rewrite the remaining items on a new hot list.

I keep mine on my household sheet between my weekly pages.

Don't forget to highlight due dates.

That's it. My list went from 24 items to 10 items. 10 items is doable!

BONUS: Gratuitous picture of my seven year old helping his little brother clean their bathroom. It's their new Sunday chore. I taught them how to do it, step-by-step, yesterday. (Saturdays are for cleaning any mess in their rooms, dusting, and vacuuming.) See the smile?


Sunday, January 26, 2014

All About Giftie

I love peeking into people's planners. It's like eavesdropping on their lives. (I can also spend hours at a coffee shop, listening in on conversations around me. It's completely ethical! What? They are talking in public. It's fair game. {innocent look})

Most days, I give you a peek into my life. You see my most personal possession - my planner. (If you had inappropriate thoughts about what my most personal possession might be, 1) shame on you :)- and 2) really, do you know me at all?!?) 

What would you guess about me from peeking at my planner? There have been clues about me. Some of the clues are admittedly deceptive, but I promise that the deception is not intentional.

About Giftie: She values the practical over the pretty, but indulges in the pretty whenever possible.

The cover itself gives you some clues about me. It's blue, a fairly neutral, business appropriate color, but more exciting than brown or black. I removed my buckle from my Boston binder, even though I liked the look of it, because the buckle got caught in my purse all the time. 

About Giftie: She is mostly unemployed, but really busy.

Yes, my calendar gives clues, like the way I handle carpool most mornings or substitute teach.

I also do some other things for cash, including careful budgeting, couponing, and freezing cooking to save money, my blog to earn a bit of pocket change, and some legal stuff. (I have a Master's degree in education and am an attorney.) 

I am considering some other part-time stuff, including some legal work or serving as a consultant for businesses and individuals, helping them streamline processes to be more efficient. 

(Don't you want to hire me as your business's efficiency expert?)

About Giftie: She loves to write.

If you read my blog, you probably already know that. 

What you might not realize is that I've served as an expert editor for the American Bar Association for an on-line paper (about collateral consequences in juvenile delinquency in Louisiana - exciting, yes?) and have written oodles of lawyer training materials, have successfully completed Nanowrimo (an unpublished romance), and am seriously working on a second novel (more than halfway done at over 50,000 words). I am also considering a third novel (aimed at young adults this time). 

Perhaps I'll write a nonfiction e-book about planners, too. I have an outline, but am too busy with the current novel. (This pic is fuzzy on purpose. Think of it as a teaser.)

About Giftie: She takes baths or showers, every single day.

Of course I take a shower regularly. Why wouldn't I?

Still, I feel the need to dispel any myth that Giftie is stinky. :) Such a rumor might have been started because every second or third day, my planner says "Bath." 
For the record, my kid is a skin condition and gets baths on only certain nights. Since the routine varies, it goes on my planner. 

TIP: For entries that involve kids, use a K for kids in front of the entry.

About Giftie: She is allergic to most pets and pests.

Translation: All hail Death to Mouse! Also, it means I really do have to keep up with household chores.

About Giftie: She skipped fifth grade (in the 1980s) and made a perfect score in reading on the ACT (back in 1991).

My school didn't have enough fifth graders for a whole class, so I was put in a split 5th/6th grade class. Since I was getting the 6th grade work done easily, they placed me in the 6th grade instead of 5th.

I contend that anyone can make a perfect score in reading on standardized tests, short of a debilitating learning disability, if they read fast. And I read really fast. It's my superpower.

About Giftie: Despite her gift with words, she gets lost at least once a week and is constantly embarrassed by her inability to help her kids with math homework. She is also a horrible typist.

It's like math and spatial relations left my brain when I graduated high school. My budget calculations in my planner? Done with a calculator. :(

About Giftie: She named her kid Loki on purpose.

Despite popular opinion, I do NOT deserve a naughty kid because he is named Loki. 

Here's my best argument (and as a trained trial attorney, a good argument, I hope): he earned the name! You see, my pregnancy with my first born was hard (hospitalized for morning sickness, surgery during the pregnancy, gestational diabetes, infections, heart issues, and a premature birth). So imagine how UNFAIR it was that my second child tried to come early from week thirty onward! Unfair, I tell you. He was being very naughty, so we nicknamed him "Loki" after the Norse god of mischief. It stuck. You see? Not my fault.

About Giftie: She says "not my fault" a lot.

I even own that Sheldon Cooper shirt that says, "don't you think if I were wrong, I'd know it."

About Giftie: She loves her Loyal Readers.

Seriously. I really do.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Space And Time: Planning Next Week

There is a big difference between knowing what you need to do today and knowing what you need to do next week. One of the main reasons that I use a paper planner is the ability to visualize my upcoming week.

Honestly, electronic planning works really well for knowing what you need to do today. If something pops up that must be done, you just do it. Open Outlook and check off those three tasks. Go to Google Calendars and note that 3 p.m. appointment. Use Evernote to make a list. But electronic planning makes it too easy to add stuff to next week. After all, computers have virtually unlimited capacity for adding appointments and tasks. 

Paper artificially creates limited space. Limited space, while it's something that everyone who loves planners eventually whines about, is one of the greatest strengths of paper planners. 

As I add things to next week, I eventually run out of room. When my layout (a horizontal weekly layout, in my case) creates an artificial barrier to adding anything else to my task list, I either have to stop adding things or rearrange and reschedule things to other weeks. The artificial barrier (space) reflects a real life barrier - limited time to actually accomplish tasks. The lack of space forces me to plan next week in a way that is actually doable.

My monthly calendar shows timed events. Next week is already busy. I know if I schedule too much other stuff, I will be overwhelmed and too busy to focus on important things. Again, limiting my appointments to these teeny tiny blocks is a positive thing.

If I just kept my tasks in Outlook or my calendar on-line, I don't think I would be as aware of what is upcoming. There is nothing like writing something down and realizing that you are out of space already, a week in advance. It forces you to prioritize what actually needs to get done.

For example, right now, my general task list is full. I need to do some things or it will be overwhelming. Even limiting myself to a hot list helps me think reasonably about what I can and should do.

When you choose your layout, think about what you are actually capable of accomplishing in the time allotted on the paper. 

If you are consistently overbooking, maybe you have too much space! (Gasp! Too much space?!? It can happen, you know. :) ) If you consistently have too much time and accomplish everything on your list, maybe you have too little space. Adjust accordingly.


Friday, January 24, 2014

No Stinkin' Chore Chart

My kids are home from school due to the weather today. We live in a swampy, semi-tropical climate, so we don't get snow. Instead, we get icy overpasses every mile or so, shutting Louisiana down anytime there is precipitation and a temperature under 32 degrees. 

So far this morning, Loki (age 5) demanded lunch then burst into to tears, refusing to eat it, because he was "not hungry! I told you I am not hungry!" {eye roll}

Ander (age 7) pushed me to the point that I yelled, "try me! Just try me. Roll your eyes one more time, and you will be scrubbing the floors, Cinderella." (I can't figure out where he gets that eye roll thing from. Hmm...)

No worries, though. They won't make a mess or destroy all my hard work cleaning and organizing that happened during the rest of the week. Yes, you read that correctly. They will not make a mess.

How can that be?

Well, I was determined that my children would not take after me (*cough* exceptforthateyerollattitudething *cough*). When I moved away to boarding school, at age 15, I didn't know how to clean a room, do my laundry, or cook a basic meal. I ruined all my clothes the first week of school. My kids needed to learn home ec skills, and I figured that was best done starting early and often.

So, from the time they could throw blocks back into a box (maybe around 9 months old), they had to at least help pick up toys. At first, it was a fun game. Eventually, two things happened. First, they got good at cleaning up after themselves. Second, they never complained about chores because they just assumed chores are what people do.

Here are some of the house rules that we follow. The kids probably don't even realize these are rules. I am really consistent about this, so they think this is what all kids do.

1. Never transition from one activity to the next without erasing the evidence of the first activity

This rule works because it is simple, has a natural consequence of delaying doing the next thing and a natural reward of keeping the house mess from getting overwhelming, and is a habit.

Since they pick up a toy before playing with something else or clean up after brushing their teeth before putting on jammies, they never (okay, almost never) leave a mess behind. I simply remind them. "Oh, sorry, you can't watch a cartoon until you pick up your blocks." Often, I don't have to even do that because it has become such a habit.

As a bonus, my kids almost never have to clean their bedrooms unless we have company. The rooms just stay fairly neat. If things get a little out of control, we will make them clean the rooms before it gets overwhelming.

2. Split up the obligations at meals

Mom cooks and puts away leftovers. Dad clears the table of salt, pepper, and any extras, like butter. Dad also wipes down the table. The kids scrape the plates into the trash can and put them in the sink. It's automatic at this point.

When the kids see that everyone is contributing and the family is all working together, they feel like things are fair. Fairness goes a long way towards avoiding fights.

3. Do daily chores together

The seven year old unloads and loads the dishwasher, relines trash cans, and cleans out the dryer lint filter. The five year old unloads silverware, gathers shoes from all over the house, brings clothes from all hampers into main hamper, loads the washer and dryer (after Mom sorts), and gathers all trash cans on trash day. They must do these chores before playing.

These chores are expected, but it does make it easier if Mom and Dad are doing our chores at the same time. Forcing myself to be a good example has really changed my own attitude towards chores.

4. Extra chores are reserved for earning money or as punishment.

I actually keep a list of occasional and unusual chore ideas, like cleaning out the microwave or cleaning baseboards in a certain room, in my planner.

The kids can earn a dollar on Saturdays by asking to do and completing one of these chores. Notice that they have to take the initiative. 

Since they are above and beyond the normal chores, the kids seem to think of it as a job and take it very seriously. These chores are purely optional, unless, of course, someone mouths off or is mean to others. Then they must be done before any playing can be done.

My favorite consequence is to have them scrub one square of kitchen floor tile, on their hands and knees, for each word they speak after being told to quit being mouthy. (That, people, is brilliance. Shuts them right up.)

5. Kids are in charge of their stuff, which can be found on their kitchen chair.

Anything on the kitchen chair before dinner must be picked up before you eat.

In my house, as soon as my kids could toddle, I'd bring them their socks, open the drawer, and teach them to put their socks away. Now that they are older, I fold the laundry, but I just put it on their kitchen chairs and they have to put it away before sitting down for supper. If a spare toy gets left out, I do not put it away. I put it on their kitchen chair. When I get done processing their school bags, the bags go on their kitchen chair and must be hung up before they can eat.

That's pretty much it. If my husband and I were as disciplined as I am with the kids, our house would be perfectly neat. 

My hope, of course, is that the kids will grow up without having to struggle to be neat. I'm already seeing it. Their rooms are constantly neater than mine and struggles over chores rarely happen in my house. It's so much more pleasant than constantly demanding that kids clean up.

We don't have a chore chart, because our routines and habits take care of chores. You only need to write it down if you need to remember to do it - and my kids remember internally. They are carefully trained. Hopefully, their habits will serve them well.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Working The Plan: The First Twenty Minutes

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I am not someone who gets up and immediately gets to work. 

I need some time to wake up, explore some Facebook, and sip some coffee

planner, task list, hot list, purple frixion marker

The people around me finally have started to appreciate this reality after years of dealing with the Pre-coffee Grumpus. 

I don't know if The People That I Live With are getting smarter or if I have been just getting grumpier, but my five year old was shaking his head the other morning and mumbling, "leave her alone. She hasn't had her coffee."

But once those critical things are done, it's way too easy to slip into the slacking trap, where I play on Facebook or do something to procrastinate.

One simple change totally transforms my day. 

It's a change that you can make, whether when you arrive at the office or in your house after the kids get on the bus. If you have kids at home, make this happen while the kids eat breakfast or during morning cartoons.

That change?

Spend the first twenty minutes of your day doing things that will make your day successful.

Set a timer and get started.

For me, that means that I glance at the supper menu and do anything that needs to be done this morning to make supper happen

Today, that meant boiling the red beans and setting them to soak for two hours, flipping the turkey in the brine for putting in the oven later, and getting out the pancake mix for the mess of waffles that I plan to feed into the freezer.

(Should I worry that only the small red beans were available this week at the produce stand?)

red beans, kidney beans, old cooking pot, cooking pot

Next, I threw in a load of laundry.

Laundry, washer, washing clothes

Then, I checked my planner and did today's MUST do (sending an e-mail in today's case).

planner, planner productivity, hot list

For those in offices, I recommend checking your planner for any deadlines, setting out files for any meetings, checking your e-mail for any emergencies, and checking your mail/in-box.

This case is affordable and amazing for miles for today's meetings.

TIP: If you work in an office, add this twenty minute routine either right before leaving for work or right when you get home. It will change your life.

For those at home, in addition to laundry, supper, and planner must-dos, I recommend a load of dishes (but that is assigned to someone else in my house - the seven year old - so I didn't have to worry about it).

It's twenty minutes that you probably think that you don't have. But, truly, it will save you MORE than twenty minutes a day in the long run.

Imagine if supper was already defrosted and marinated when you got home. 

Imagine if your laundry never piled up. 

Imagine if you didn't have to worry that you had forgotten something important because the most critical thing on your task list (other than having coffee, obviously) was completed first thing in the morning.

That first twenty minutes - and how you spend them - really does matter.


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stylish Tasks: How To Write Tasks In A Planner

Ideally, when you open your planner or your to do list, you get lots accomplished. That's the purpose of writing things in your planner, right? To get them done!

But the reality is that most of us struggle with one of two issues: laziness or indecision. Here's the thing...I suspect that, for you, it's mostly indecision.

That's right! I don't think you are lazy. Oh, sure, you put your planner aside to watch Downton Abbey or you avoid opening it when you are wiped out from cooking dinner, but that's not lazy. That is called "enjoying downtime." :) You need that to recharge and refresh your body and your brain. That's why we have the Sabbath, vacations, sleep, and weekends. If anything, we don't have enough of the lazies. Humans need an ebb and flow to their lives. Embrace the lazies.

But embracing the lazies does mean, of course, that we need to get things done when accomplishment is what is on the agenda, so that we have enough time left to enjoy the lazies. And indecision, sadly, stops so many of us from doing just that.

Consider your task list.

Everyone's list looks different. Mine looks like this, complete with a main list and less important sub-lists and context codes.

But yours might be arranged in number order by priority, divided into a main list and an other list, have little asterisks in front of important tasks, divide up by context, be random, or be color-coded. These, of course, are only some of the many ways to write a task list.

None of those your style? Well, I was nice about the lazies before, but there is no excuse for not finding a style that works for you. That's right, not doing your work = NOT LAZY, but not finding your style = LAZY. Makes perfect sense, right?

You see, when you implement your style, whether it's my friend Julie's method of writing everything down and having a detailed, scheduled daily plan or my friend Michelle's simple Outlook list of deadlines, you make a decision about what to do first.

If you wait until you open your planner to decide what to do, unless you are some sort of superhuman who doesn't deserve weekends, you will be paralyzed by indecision. Doing something first will depend solely on your fickle mood, instead of a well-made decision.

So take a look at your task lists.

Are you a numbering sort? You prefer to write things in the order that they need to be accomplished in? Number things as you put them in your planner. (See the Monday block above.)

More visual? Group like items. Or write must do tasks crosswise over the lines so that you see and do them first and write less important tasks on the lines. (See the Tuesday block above.)

Star important stuff so that you know what MUST be done first. (See the Wednesday can figure out the rest of this pattern without my help, right?).

Take special night of the Friday block - random. It's the only style that I really do NOT recommend. If you tend to write things down at random, you will have a harder time making a decision about what to do first. Instead, pick a style. Divide by where you will do the tasks, which task is most important, or even which task is due tomorrow. But pick a style, learn it, and use it - whatever it is.

After a week or two, if your tasks are still not getting done, reevaluate whether your style of planning is working for you. It should make your eyes happy and your hands productive!


P.S. A special shout out to my new friend Yez for the awesome supplies used in part to create this post!