Saturday, February 28, 2015

8 Unique Ways to Use a Surface Pro 3 (Bet You Never Thought of These!)

Ever wish that you could take a screen shot, write all over it, and then e-mail it to your boss? With OneNote and a Surface Pro 3, you can do all that and more!

TIP: If you don't own a Surface Pro 3, keep reading anyway. Almost any laptop will allow screen shots.

The screen shots will be missing the cool written notes that the SP3 allows, but screen shots are a tool that people forget to use even though it is the quickest way to make an easy-to-file record of whatever idea or thought is going on in your digital world.

OneNote 2013 (shown in use in this post) and Evernote are free downloadable programs that allow you to organize your screen shots.

TIP: To copy and paste anything on your SP3 screen to OneNote 2013, just double tap on your stylus and draw a square around the area that you want to clip and copy.

Mark Up Maps

My sister and I were meeting for lunch near her conference. I used Google Maps and noted the food areas around her conference. I emailed her the possibilities so that she could select a lunch spot.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

Make a Record of a Phone Call Dealing With a Written Communication or Document

I am a lawyer, but I no longer practice in federal court. I got an email from the court, letting me know that they needed written notice of that. I called for details and noted them right on the screenshot of the email.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

Highlight Reading/Study Material

My child was recently diagnosed with epilepsy. As I educate myself on his rights, I highlight the screenshots of the written resources that I am using to study.

TIP: If you are using printed resources, take a camera shot of the document, add to OneNote, and highlight there.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

Create Medical Logs

OneNote gives me a place to write a completely searchable medical log. Yes, it even lets me search my handwriting! An email to the doctor is just seconds and a click away.

TIP: Use two columns - one for the log and one for dates or follow-up tasks.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps, epilepsy

Edit Photographs

I add text to many of my blog photos in OneNote before putting the picture through editing software. OneNote just lets me arrange font and placement so much easier.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

Record To Dos and Tasks

My husband sent me a note in Facebook to record a receipt in our budget software. I'll never go back and see it in my Facebook messages, so I put it in OneNote, where I process my Notebook regularly.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

Make a File of Computer Information

I track the hits on my blog every month. A quick screenshot and the information is filed in OneNote.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

Make Reminders for Yourself

I want to watch this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Don't judge!) Click click and a reminder resides in my Notebook.

surface pro 3, one note, screenshots, organize, medical logs, google maps

A lot of these can be done with screenshots, but I really love the ability to organize them in OneNote and write directly on the screen with my Surface.

If you loved this post, read more SP3 tips here.

Let me know unique ways that you use screenshots to organize your life!


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Best Times to Look at Your Planner

There are critical parts of a day when looking at your planner can be most helpful.

The Best Times to Look in Your Planner, planners, time management

TIP: Set an alarm on your phone or laptop when first teaching yourself to look at your planner at these times.


Take just a second and make sure you aren't forgetting anything about today.

TIP: Store your planner by your alarm clock overnight. It will be handy for writing down late night thoughts. Make your first act of the morning checking your planner and moving it to your work tote or purse.


Always make sure you have everything that you need for the day with you by glancing at your schedule and anticipated tasks.


Stay-at-home moms might want to dedicate a particular time as arrival. For me, it's when I make my coffee (for household days) or log onto my work computer (for working an outside job days).


Check on what's happening tomorrow.


Get the dinner out of the freezer to defrost.


Prep for the next day. Put your planner by your alarm clock.

In other words, if there is a transition, check your planner!


P.S. I got creative in my picture (above). Can you guess what is holding up the watch?

Linked at:

Tator Tots and Jello

Thursday, February 26, 2015

7 Characteristics of Highly Organized People

I blush and protest whenever someone calls me organized.

Me? I'm a disaster of epic proportions!

I lose my glasses - while they are on my head, mind you - at least once a day. I can never find my Nook charger. I forget to send in permission slips or to cook dinner. 

And my house is comfortably messy. "Comfortably messy" is code for shoving everything under the sofa in a mad dash if company is coming over. Do not open the closets without a helmet!

organized, organize, planner

I am on a constant journey to be more organized and I do have an idea of what that looks like.

Organized people are:


Organized people spend time each day doing stuff. No fancy tricks are needed. They simply stand up and do some things that need doing every single day.

TIP: Start with 15 minutes each day. For 15 minutes, walk around your office or your house, doing all the things that catch your attention. Set a timer and feel free to stop (if you want to) when the timer dings.


The people who have a method for marking down what needs doing or appointments in a dedicated place are more organized in other aspects of their lives simply because they know how their time is going to be spent. It doesn't really matter if the planner is electronic or paper.

The use of a planner is the reason people think I am organized.

Silly people! 1 out of 7 characteristics does not make me organized.

TIP: Like Giftie Etcetera on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to get great tips for using planners.


Organized people understand that they cannot do it all alone, and they get friends, living companions, and co-workers involves in the systems that make lives work smoothly.

TIP: Decide on one thing that is a better fit for you to accomplish that someone else is currently doing, and trade with them for something they are better at doing. Both of you will spend less time and misery on the task.

For example, my husband is not good at cooking. I hate helping the kids clean their rooms. So I say, "I'll make your favorite supper while you help our oldest clean his room."


This one is a bit strange. But it's true. Organized people tend to write down things that need remembering, not just as planners of the future, but as recorders of the past.

TIP: Make a running communication log in your planner. Date, people involved, topic, and any notes will come in handy at some point, like when the hospital swears that you didn't pay that bill.


I fail miserably on this one. Miserably.

Organized people know how to use space efficiently and most effectively to keep stuff available and easy to locate.

TIP: Organize one space this week based on actual use, whether it's your bathroom, kitchen, or desk. Daily stuff goes on counter/desktop, weekly stuff goes nearby in cabinets and drawers and shelves. Yearly stuff goes to storage or difficult to access spaces.

For example, my planner (used daily) gets a space on my desk, while my washi tape (used monthly or less often) goes on the high shelf.


Routines make life easier. Instead of thinking about what to do, the brain and body work together almost automatically to do the task.

Some routines that are important are an "entering the house" routine (where one hangs up the purse, puts the receipts in the receipt jar, hangs up the jacket, and puts keys in the little tray) and a "prep the night before" routine (where one sets out food, bags, and coffee cups for in the morning).

TIP: At first, while learning your routines, write them down, post them, and practice them.


This one is a shocker, right? But highly organized people don't freak out because they are organized, so rolling with the punches of sudden emergencies or changes is easy for them.

I am not relaxed.

What characteristic will you be working on this week?


Linked at:

Snickerdoodle Sunday


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Getting Everything Done: The Marathon Planner Technique

Sometimes, there is nothing left to do but push through a task list until you run out of steam, time, or open eye lids.

planner, getting things dones

When that happens, I open my planner, do everything I can do from the quickest tasks first to the most time-consuming last, and only stop if I pass out (okay, not literally) or cross the finish line.

TIP: Cross out the completed tasks will a highlighter so everything that is left jumps out at you.

I call this method marathoning. Everything else is just training for marathon days. Only the toughest will survive. Oh, and those with a plan and a planner.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is Fifty Shades for You?

If you haven't noticed yet, I've been doing Off Topic Tuesdays for a while now. On Off Topic Tuesday, I write about life beyond day planners and efficiency posts.

Today's topic, like last week's one about Submissive Wives, comes from my interactions with the blog community. (Confession: It looks like I posted that on a Thursday. For someone who writes about scheduling, I am kind of awful at it!)

WARNING: This post is PG-13. Usually, everything that I write is completely family-friendly, so I feel compelled to let you know that today's post contains adult subject matter. Also, this review contains some spoilers about the content of the story Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Right now, there is a big trend in the blog world to review Fifty Shades of Grey, the book by E L James and the movie that was recently released, and to tell people not to read it.

My issue with the reviews?

Most of the people reviewing have not read the book or watched the movie!

I don't mind the advice that one should or shouldn't read based on religious belief or the level of violence in the film. Truly, Fifty Shades is not appropriate for all audiences.

But the advice is sometimes being given along with inaccuracies about the book and movie, and that is unfair to readers.

I wanted to offer a different perspective. I think people should make the decision to read/watch or not do so based on actual information, rather than conjecture about what the book might be about.

For the most part, I'll talk about the story itself, but I will make distinctions between the book and the movie where appropriate.

Is Fifty Shades soft-core pornography?

Fifty Shades (the book) is only slightly more graphic than the average historical romance novel. The words for actions and body parts are more crass and modern, but the actual story doesn't contain that much more sex than my mom's Harlequins.

In the movie, there is a lot of implied sex and nudity. There is no actual penetration. The actors use a lot of crass language.

My verdict?

The book is a cross between romance (usually story-driven) and erotica (usually sex scene-driven).

If your religious or personal beliefs allow you to read about sex, it's fine to read. If your moral standards mean that you don't read about sex or sex outside of marriage, this is not the book for you.

If erotica doesn't bother you, you'll likely find this book pretty light-weight reading.

On the other hand, the only thing that keeps the movie from being soft-core pornography is the lack of actual penetration. There is full frontal nudity of the female, and almost full frontal nudity of the male. I'm frankly surprised that it got an R rating instead of NC-17.

Disclaimer: There is a lot of personal bias here, as I am more comfortable with graphic description in writing than I am in pictures.

No humans were disrobed in the making of the book. Many humans were disrobed in the making of the movie.

No humans were touched in the making of the story. Many humans (okay, two and perhaps some body doubles) were touched in the making of the movie.

Even if you decide that the book is fine, the addition of actual human beings disrobing, touching, and simulating sex acts might bother you in the movie.

If NC-17 level sex in movies doesn't bother you, you are fine to watch the movie. If it bothers you to see actual humans in sexual positions or without clothing, or if religious or ethical beliefs forbid you from watching such things, the movie is not for you.

Is Fifty Shades violent?

Yes, Fifty Shades is violent. In the book and in the movie, there are spankings, whipping with implements like belts, and restraint.

In addition to watching Fifty Shades last weekend, I watched a PG-13 movie called "Jupiter Ascending." It had much MORE violence than Fifty Shades.

Unless you've been a victim of violence or really cannot tolerate any violence at all, the book and movie are fine. Violence is part of the storyline, and getting past violence, including flashbacks to child abuse, is a real part of the story.

The book and movie, unlike the portrayal by many bloggers, is NOT about violence, but about healing from a violent past. This is an important clarification, and one missed by those who have not actually read the story.

Of course, if you are an abuse victim, the early parts of the series will be hard to read and watch. Abuse victims, due to their own history and reasonable sensitivities, probably should avoid Fifty Shades.

Is Fifty Shades oppressive to women?

I don't think so.

The woman in this story clearly holds the power and shapes the nature of the relationship, even though the man, at first, wants to be in control. He offers her a contract laying out all the ways he will control her. She refuses and builds a relationship on her terms, not his.

The woman never has sex or sexual contact without consent. She is never raped, despite reports to the contrary. There is clear (and even written) communication about what constitutes consent or lack of consent, and she is clear that she wants to do everything that they do together.

There is a scene where, while sleeping, the man is touched in a way that he did not want. He is touched where scars from being abused as a child are present. I've never seen a blogger post about the non-consensual touching of the male. It really bothered me, though, so I note it here.

The woman in the story is whipped with a belt once. She has all the power to stop the act, and she chooses not to stop it. The man, of course, also has all the power to stop the act, as he is the one doing the violent act, and he doesn't stop it. They both clearly regret the moment. This is probably the most difficult scene to read and watch.

As they both regret their actions, they subsequently change, in a real and permanent way. The scene that is the hardest to watch is a pivotal point in the plot and getting past that moment is a crucial point in character development.

Unfortunately, the change doesn't begin until the second book and movie.

Most abusers never change. We all understand that. But in this book, the man does change. The woman chooses not to be a victim. There is a lot of positive strength in the characters.

Most people in real life do things that seemed appropriate at the moment, and are later regretted. As young adults, most people make mistakes. In that way, this book reflects real life. People do things that are stupid because they are young, unsure of themselves, and bad at wise decision-making.

The belt scene is one of those things.

In all good stories, there is a point of evil or bad that allows the characters to grow and fight the bad. That the bad is, in this case, internalized in a broken man who needs to grow and become better, does not oppress women.

Men who abuse women do oppress women. But this book is not about abuse of the woman, as nothing happens without the consent of the woman. That important distinction between abuse of women and a mutually satisfying relationship is lost in most reviews that I have read on-line.

As I noted above, the book is about an abused man, and his journey to not pass on that abuse. The woman in the story is young, and makes the same sorts of stupid mistakes that many make when they are young and inexperienced, but she is not a victim.

Is Fifty Shades for You?

To be frank, Fifty Shades is poorly written in the first novel of the trilogy. And make no is a trilogy and to enjoy the story, you need to get through the horrid writing in the first book and read completely through all three books. That said, it is a solid, sensitive story and very thought-provoking.

The movie is visually stunning, but it's difficult to watch so much nudity and violence on screen.

If you are religiously or ethically opposed to erotica or soft core porn, do NOT read or watch Fifty Shades.

If violence is difficult for you to stomach, do NOT read or watch Fifty Shades.

If you are the victim of abuse, you might want to avoid Fifty Shades.

For the rest of you, it is all about personal taste. But at least you can now make that decision knowing the truth about the content.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The Wisdom of a Weekly Plan

Planners often debate the wisdom of monthly, weekly, and daily pages.

Monthly pages are excellent for long-term planning. They give an overview of what is happening. Daily pages break down tasks and schedules in detail. But many planners skip weekly pages.

I think that is a grave error.

A weekly plan is essential to making good decisions about how to spend the available time.

Think of it this way. Monthly pages give an overview of somewhat inflexible appointments and travel. Daily pages allow specific lists to accomplish and scheduling of smaller, more flexible amounts of time.

Weekly pages, though, allow the person planning to control stress, make decisions about priorities, and be realistic about available time.

The weekly plan gets pretty cramped if there is too much on it, naturally limiting plans to an achievable quantity. Daily pages, in that respect, simply have too much room.

When a planner runs out of space, a decision must be made. Do I add a sticky note with a list of errands to run? Do I move something to next week? Do I need to call a sitter for Sunday? These decisions are critical to getting things actually accomplished.

Because of the great advantage of weekly plans, I plan only monthly and weekly pages for most of my planning. If I use a daily page, I rarely create it more than a day in advance. My monthly and weekly pages guide that daily plan.

Exception: If you have a schedule that is hourly, say seeing clients, you do need daily pages to create those schedules. Just don't plan on those pages or you risk losing the benefit of a weekly plan.

The biggest weakness in most on-line planning, in my opinion, is the poor way that weekly plans are handled. Monthly views often show schedules just fine and daily pages have lots of detail, but weekly plans - complete with all their advantages - are short-changed when done on most apps.

If you are not using a weekly spread, consider getting one. It will change the way that you plan. At first, that may be uncomfortable, especially if you usually avoid decisions by planning on the virtually limitless space of daily pages. But once it becomes habit, a weekly plan will become a natural way to force you to think about how you spend your time.

Affiliate links to the Plan Ahead planners (right sidebar) contain the Plan Ahead planner. The small size of the Plan Ahead planner contains the undated weekly and monthly inserts that are pictured above in my Franklin Covey compact planner.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

New Ways to Write in a Planner: A Flashback Post

Loyal Readers will recall this Sunday Flashback Post, but the rest of you should really check it out.

planner, context codes, codes, writing, day planners

As usual, I went back to look at things that have changed since the original post.

I do most of the writing in my planner just like I did back in 2013! But some things have changed.

Now, I highlight to scratch things out. And when I use a line to take notes, I add the symbol for a task (an O) before the context code.

See? Very little changed! That's why this classic post is worth reading. It works!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Best Budgeting Tools

Most people don't have the proper tools for budgeting. Having less-than-superior tools can make it hard to keep track of what is spent every month. What are the proper tools?

Surface Pro 3, budget, budgeting

Mason Jar

I like this big mason jar for receipts. It's clear, so I cannot ignore that I haven't processed them yet.

Budget Application

I have an app that works well for me (Spending Tracker) on my Surface Pro 3. The key, for me, is very simple-to-use budgeting programs (or I don't use them) and a fun, portable laptop.


Now, if you are a Loyal Reader, you know that I used to use pen and paper to budget and that I almost always prefer writing. So why the technological solution?

Well, first, math.

I like the computer to do the math for me. Ironically, I'm excellent at algebra and trig, and horrible at arithmetic.

Second, I prefer the graphs that computers can do over the thousand pieces of paper for discerning how I am spending my money.

Third, I don't have to file thousands of pieces of paper! My Surface keeps track of the numbers for me.

The most important reason that I don't write my budget in my planner, though, is because I don't need to make decisions on the front end (those are made at a meeting with my husband) and I don't need to remember the information. If I did, I would use paper. I only need the running tally of the number, which the computer communicates quite well.

I am a big fan of a paper planner. But, sometimes, another tool is better. 

For budgets, try a glass jar and a great laptop.


Friday, February 20, 2015

How I Tricked My Kids Into Doing Chores

I truly believe that parents have an obligation to teach children to care for the home and for their families.

chores, homemaking, childcare, housekeeping

In that spirit, each day after school, my kids do about fifteen minutes of daily chores. Those chores are required and non-negotiable. The kids "earn" one hour of play time on electronics (e-credit) for doing those chores without grumbling or complaint and in a timely manner. 

But make no mistake. They must do the chores before they can do anything else. But they get e-credit if they do them to specifications and cheerfully.

Also, if we are having company or their rooms get out of control, they might be assigned a weekend chore to clean rooms or the guest bathroom.

For a long time, that was all that we expected of them. But they keep begging for more e-credit.

So I made a list (pictured above). If I hated doing it (like cleaning the microwave) or if it was an every-now-and-then chore (like matching the unmatched Tupperware), it went on the list.

(Yes, I misspelled it as "Tubberware." Consider that proof that my list is authentic!)

For each task, the boys earn one hour of e-credit.

Now they beg (especially on weekends and during school holidays) for extra chores to do. They do them cheerfully. No money is involved, electronics are still limited, and everyone is happy!

They can also purge one toy for ten minutes of e-credit. Twelve toys have gone to Goodwill this week alone.

How do you get your kids to do chores?


Partied with: Home Matters

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Subservient Wife: How Carrying the Housework Burden Destroys Marriages

I've been thinking about gender roles a lot lately.
housekeeping, homemaking, marriage

Maybe it's because I recently was in an accident that the police officer stated was because I am one of those "women drivers." (I filed a complaint, it was founded, and the police officer was reprimanded.) 

Also, my child has had some medical issues at school and, though my husband works five minutes from the school and I work more than thirty minutes away, I got all the phone calls. 

I was starting to think that everything was falling on my shoulders - not because of any actions that my husband was taking, but because I am a woman - when I innocently clicked on a blog post about organizing.

Instead of really being about organizing, though, it was actually about being submissive to a husband in cleaning the house, even when the husband was actively messy in order to annoy the wife.

I am firmly against the concept of a subservient or submissive wife.

(Should I pause for you to gather your thoughts and absorb your shock? No? All of you already knew I didn't pledge to obey in the marriage vows? Well, yes, I guess that is pretty obvious.)

Yes, in my household, I do most of the organizing. I'm a natural at it, and order is a struggle for my husband. Still, he is the one who organizes the kids' rooms, due to all the dust. I am very allergic to dust. We share the cleaning, about 50/50 on laundry, all the dusting to him, and the kitchen cleaning mostly for me. I cook all the meals, but I only cook about a quarter of the time and, otherwise, it's leftovers or hubby microwaving something or baking meat (the only cooking that he does) for the kids and for his lunches. 

I probably do more chores, overall, especially if you count errands, but I work 15 hours a week to his 40 hours, so that seems fair.

But what does not happen is me doing chores in service to my husband. Instead, ALL members of my family - the kids, my husband, and I - serve each other.

The author of the article (sorry, I won't link it, as I found the title of it so deceptive and refuse to add "hits" to her blog) argued that letting go of resentment and serving one's husband frees one from resentment.

Know what really frees one from resentment? Sharing responsibilities.

In fact, the author sounded pretty resentful and as if she was repressing that feeling due to religious beliefs.

The author of the article argued that a wife should wait for God to change her husband.

Know what really changes a husband? A loving wife who shares her whole life with him, instead of making the house a virtual no man's land.

The author of the article argued that the Bible tells a story of women keeping the home and men working outside of the home.

But the division of labor for our ancestors was very even and the Bible reflects that.

Men worked sunrise to sunset, in the fields, hunting, making tools, and doing all sorts of household chores. Women surely tended babies more, due to biology, but also engaged in sunrise to sunset household chores. Having a man going off to work and a woman staying in the homestead is a new, modern concept. Families used to work together. When Mary and Joseph are mentioned in the Bible, they are most often spoken of as a couple, working as a team.

If one party does all of the housework, the problem is not just the natural resentment that is created.

I've seen marriage after marriage break up over the issue of one party resenting the other. I've also seen people stay married, by law and by living together, but without a real marriage, because one of the partners was carrying too heavy of a burden and the other was insensitive to that and unwilling to change. Their marriage is over, just as much as those who divorce, but they don't see it. It is heartbreaking.

Doing chores together is an opportunity to work together and strengthen the marriage that is lost. A marriage where spouses share chores is a marriage where they know (and teach their children by example) compromise, honor, and respect.

I wish women would stop using Christianity as an excuse for their husbands. Don't let men off of the hook for housework. It's good for their souls - and for your marriages.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Write the Perfect To Do List in a Planner

Task or "to do" lists are a mainstay of productivity. People who are successful (or, frankly, just trying to stay sane) often jot lists of things that must be done in order to plan, whether or not they use an actual planner. That is a fine technique to get stuff done.

But I aim beyond "fine technique" to "refined technique."

These tips help to refine the writing of a task list in a way that makes using the list easy.

planner, planners, tasks

Define Temporal Limits

In other words, make sure that it is clear what time period the list will cover. In the photo, my list is for the week of Mardi Gras vacation.

(Yes, here in Louisiana, we enjoy a week off for that important holiday.)

Define Length Limits

I could have used a sheet of paper for my list, but I decided on a smaller post-it note instead. That way, I won't write down so many things that I will fail to complete the list.

Group By Context

Computer tasks go with computer tasks. Errands go with errands.

The idea is to make sure that when I sit down at my computer, I get all that stuff done at once (or, at least, in two sessions) so that I don't need to take out the computer, boot up the computer, shut down the computer, take out the computer, etc. That would really miss time.

Any hints about what helps your task lists rock? Leave those ideas in the comments!


Monday, February 16, 2015

How to Control a Out of Control Medical Crisis: Our Adventures in Epilepsy

We've been struggling with my 6 year old for about a month and a half now. He seemed really sick. Tired and lethargic, forgetting things, and suddenly not doing any school work at all. I didn't know what was wrong.

I did know that four different people (two teachers, a parent volunteer at school, and the receptionist) contacted me with genuine concern. I knew he was forgetting stuff, being uncooperative about his worksheets even though school is easy for him, and sleeping all the time.

I brought him in to the doctor.

They tested, at my urging, for mono. No mono.

They tested, not at my urging, for cancer. No cancer. I cried a lot after I got that result.

I was relieved. I almost didn't go to the follow-up visit. I almost just stayed home and left him at school. But it was too late to cancel the appointment, so I showed up to avoid the "missed appointment charge."


The sleep-deprived EEG confirmed seizures - frequent ones. An MRI is scheduled, but since his are generalized (on both sides of the brain), he is at low risk for a brain malformation or tumor.

I did what I do. I began studying and planning.

I didn't know that 1 in 10 people have had seizures. I didn't know that seizures could be hard to see (but easier, now that I know what I am looking for). I didn't know that some people - about 1 in 1,000 - die from seizures. I had a lot to learn.

I also had a new, long to do list.

An MRI to schedule with the nursing staff. School excuses to turn in. School excuses to acquire. Prescriptions to fill. Support groups to join. Education to pursue. Teachers and school personnel to notify. Meds to give, twice a day, exactly 12 hours apart. Blood work to draw on a regular basis. Follow-up appointments. Etc.

The diagnosis of epilepsy had my life spinning out of control.

I needed a plan. I needed my planner.

Here are the steps that I used to control the out of control medical crisis my baby is facing. I hope it helps some of you, whether you are dealing with epilepsy, cancer, or some other diagnosis.

1. Get a planner.

I prefer paper. It is simply easier to write down notes and look at my entire month at once on paper.

My Surface Pro 3 allows the same ease of writing, but is not always portable or charged for doctor visits. Also, some medical facilities and tests, especially sleep-deprived EEG areas, do not allow electronics.

But for those using technology, just make sure more than just a calendar is available. A place for notes and easy note-taking is essential.

2. Have a space for appointments.

Monthly planning pages are great. I don't just need to know when the appointments and blood draws and such are scheduled. I also need to know about other things, like when the school field trip is so that my kid never has to miss something fun for an appointment that could be scheduled some other time. 

medical, epilepsy, cancer, planner, calendar, appointments

3. Designate a section of the planner for a log of everything dealing with the diagnosis.

I used my Project section and created a project called "Child's Name Medical."

medical, epilepsy, cancer, planner, calendar, appointments

In that section, I put:

*lists of current medications and dosages

*medical history

*running log of seizures, doctor's appointments, phone calls, and tests

*lists of things I would like to do, like sending the school nurse a link for a free epilepsy training or joining the local epilepsy walk in Baton Rouge on March 28th

*questions for support group or for upcoming doctor's appointments

*uplifting statistics

4. Have a task list.

I add all tasks to my regular errands list or task list. In my planner, I use the weekly pages for this purpose.

5. Relax. Schedule time for that, too.

I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, and prayers that we have received. We are at the beginning of this journey, but people at the end of it, seizure-free for many years, have taught me that epilepsy can be controlled in most cases.

But I haven't relaxed much. So, yesterday, my husband and I got a trusted sitter and had a hibachi and movie date.

Those who read my blog all the time know that I am very open and honest about my struggles and successes (and, sometimes, complete failures...yikes). But it took a while to write this post. I needed that time to relax, first, and step away from the problem.

medical, epilepsy, cancer, planner, calendar, appointments

If you know someone with epilepsy or another serious health condition, or a family member taking care of them, please share this post. Maybe I can make someone's life at least a little bit easier.


Daily Docket at Planner Fun

Visit my friend at Planner Fun to see an incredible FREE Daily Docket.

When Becky at Planner Fun first posted it, I suggested that I wished that it started with Must Do instead of Should Do. So she made it happen!

free printable planner pages


Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Use a Planner

For my Sunday Flashback, I invite you to read How to Use a Planner 101.

planner, planners, planner tips and tricks

As happens every Sunday, I wanted to tell how I have evolved my planner use compared to the older post.

But I can't.

I haven't changed anything. I still set-up my planner this way.

You know what that means, right?

The system in my flashback post works!

So go ahead and read the old post, linked above and here, and tell me what you think.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

5 Simple Steps to Prepare Your Facebook Account for After Death

Facebook has added a new feature to allow a Legacy Contact to manage your account, in limited but important ways, after you die.

With so many people turning to Facebook to memorialize friends and family, it's critical that you take a couple of moments to add a spouse, relative, or trusted friend as your Legacy Contact.

Facebook Legacy Contact, technology tips

5 Simple Steps to set up a Legacy Contact:

1. From the Newsfeed or any group page, select the arrow in the upper right hand corner.

Facebook Legacy Contact

2. Select "Settings."

Facebook Legacy Contact

3. In the left column, select "Security."

EDIT: This step is no longer required as of 2017.

Facebook Legacy Contact

4. To the lower right, select "Edit" in the "Legacy Contact" row.

Facebook Legacy Contact

5. Add the appropriate information and press "Done."

This is what it will look like when fully set up:

Facebook Legacy Contact

Don't forget to tell your Facebook friends about this by sharing this post.


All images were created using a Surface Pro 3 and OneNote 2013.

Friday, February 13, 2015

3 Simple Steps to Create a Daily Plan

Click here for a video about creating a daily plan.

plan, daily plan, planner, you tube

The three steps:

1. Check the monthlies for today's date.

2. Check the monthlies for the recurring events.

3. Check the weeklies for today.

You really need to see how easy it is to make a daily plan (here if you haven't clicked yet).


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Housekeeping Wars: The Confession

My husband and I have been together for over two decades.

We never lived together before we got married, but we had apartments next door to each other.

It should not have been shocking that I NEVER make my bed.

But every night, like clockwork, he makes the bed to military precision. He tucks in every corner. He fluffs and straightens the pillows.

Then I climb into bed, fold my pillow, yank the covers and sheets out of the corners, and burrito my body into the comforter.

He frowns.

You can see my usual response.

housekeeping, marriage

We do agree on one or two aspects of housekeeping. For example, we both happen to be over-the-roll people.

Except one night, about a month ago, I was sick. I stumbled to the bathroom, and while there, had to replace the roll. I must have put it upside down.

The next morning, my beloved came storming out of the restroom, shouting, "ARE YOU PUNKING ME?"

I laughed so hard! He did not seem amused.

A couple of times, he told me that I didn't load the dishwasher correctly. I responded exactly as you might guess.

I no longer load the dishwasher.

For me, the housekeeping wars are not a big deal. They are more of a gentle sparring match, which ends with me not doing the dishes.

For him, I suspect, they are an oppressive nightmare that must be tolerated in order to live with me.

Maybe this attitude is why my roommates could never stand living with me for very long? 


Partied at: Home Matters

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 Essential Sections That Every Planner Needs

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

When setting up or updating a planner, one of the most critical decisions is how many sections (or tabs) to have.

There are five that cover almost any needs.

planner, tabs, sections


Projects includes any current, multiple step plans that are happening.


*logging my youngest child's behavior for a potential epilepsy diagnosis

*doing a research project for work
*planning a birthday party


Most tasks belong on the weekly calendar pages because they are active and coming due, but for those that need remembering but not on a serious timeline, this is the place to dump them.


*clean out the deep freeze
*edit my novel
*make an emergency tote bag


The monthly and weekly pages are the heart of the planner. They go in the middle so that the planner is easy to write in.


*doctor's appointments (on monthly pages)
*pay tickets (on weekly pages)
*schedule dentist (on weekly pages)


Like Tasks, Future is a catch-all spot for anything happening after the calendar ends. (No tab is pictured because I put it right behind my calendar tab.)


*husband's birthday next year
*yearly physical
*tax deadlines beyond the immediate ones


Notes are exactly like Projects, but they are currently inactive, yet needed for reference.


*list of current medications

*list of sizes for clothes shopping
*contact information in case of emergency

The full page sized Avery Dividers cut down to fit any size planner really easily.

Make sure to Pin this simple list for future reference!


Partied at: A Little R and R, Wise Woman LinkupWorthwhile WednesdaysWaiting on WednesdayWay Back Wednesday

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Get Everything Done: Using Task Grouping in a Planner

One of the easiest ways to organize tasks and actually complete them is to group them based on where the tasks will be done. (I first heard of this suggestion in the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen.)

I put my own spin on how I use that idea. For me, that means the following codes are written before each task:

C = computer

Ph = phone
H = home

E = errands
Pl = planner
A = anywhere

getting things done, planner, task, to do list

But the real trick is to learn to write the tasks so that they are grouped together. 

The Trick:

Start one list (like Ph in example below) in the lower section of the planner square and one (like H) in the upper, and add to those sections as new stuff arises, leaving space in the middle for other tasks.

getting things done, planner, task, to do list

TIP: Expand this concept by writing Computer tasks to the upper right and Errands to the lower right, or some similar groupings. Leaving the empty space in the middle when writing is the key.

It's not a perfect solution, but as this photo illustrates, the trick manages to mostly keep like tasks together.

getting things done, planner, task, to do list

Then, when running errands, I do those tasks. When on my computer, I tackle those to dos.

Such a simple trick, but reteaching yourself to enter tasks this way into your planner will pay off!


P.S. Let your friends and co-workers know about Giftie Etcetera by sharing this on social media.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

7 Things That You Aren't Writing Down

For today's Sunday flashback post, I chose 7 Things That You Aren't Writing Down, But Should. It's worth clicking on the link and reading the post!

planner, menu, budget

The surprising thing about this post? Even though I have moved to digital planning for work, I'm still writing down most of the things that I suggested.

The only one that I am not writing down? The kids' homework. The older kid is in third grade and has straight As, so homework is his problem (at least until grades drop). The younger kid gets a paper handout, so that works for me!


Saturday, February 7, 2015

5 Cool Ways to Use OneNote on My Surface Pro 3

***This post may contain affiliate links. These links help you find the items that I use in my planner and financially support this blog. See my "Disclaimer" link for additional details.***

I've been playing with OneNote 2013 on my Surface Pro 3 . In the process, I've learned lot of new, cool stuff that I can do with OneNote!

*Coloring Book

OneNote is like a coloring book with unlimited pages. If I can find it on-line, I can color and decorate it. Here, I did my new Facebook profile picture.

OneNote, Surface Pro 3, surface tricks and tips


I've written before, of course, about using OneNote for my daily planning. And it leaves unlimited room to doodle.


Want to show friends how to edit a photograph in MightyText? Want to teach Grandma how to check her Facebook messages?

I just double click on my pen, write in my notes on the picture, and upload to the web.


I've been working on three novels. (I blurred out most of the writing, so no one can copy it.) OneNote is a fabulous way to note my edits. Then, I can correct my novel in Word, side-by-side with my notes.

I can't wait for Nanowrimo this year!

*Super, Extra Cool Note-taking

Of course, anyone can take notes in a notebook. 

But in OneNote on a Surface Pro 3, I can copy my favorite blogs, read them, and take notes on things that I want to follow-up on.

This works for research for work or school, too. 

Welcome to my new readers who are following my explorations into using technology for managing lives. Check back here each Saturday for technology tips or subscribe to my blog for updates.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Before and After: Better Post-it Colors for My Planner

Loyal Readers may have noticed that I don't care much for decorating my planner. It's already pretty on the outside, and the insides are just like I like them - practical.

But the wild colors available in most post-its, including the ones on my dashboard, drive my eyes crazy. Brights greens, yellows, and pinks are just not me.


post-it, colors, planner

Fortunately, I found a new line - the New York City Collection - and I love all the colors (except the yellow). The light greys and blues coordinate quite well with my black and white Franklin Covey Flourish.

post-it, colors, planner

I am much happier with my dashboard now.


post-it, colors, planner

Why don't companies make stuff like Post-its in more subtle colors?