Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Peek at My Planner in Action

I've been talking about my planner on the blog a lot, so I wanted to give you a peek at it in action.  Of course, January hasn't really started yet, and let me promise you that by the end of the week, this week's entry (starts tomorrow, officially) will be jam packed with writing.  But I hope this gives you some tips on using your own planning in an organized way.

First, a review.  My planner is a half size bound weekly/monthly Greenroom planner from Target.  It does not come with a cover, but I like one, to protect it from, well, everything, so I bought a cheap planner that came with a cover, removed the cover, and am using it for my FAR SUPERIOR planner.  I wish I could find a pretty color cover like this, but all the right sized ones came in black or red.  :(

It has room for a thin Moleskine, sticky notes, and my planner... my G2 .7 Pilot Pen (currently in black).

A picture of the tabs....

In addition to the pages that this blog will focus on (the ones that I use regularly), I have some other useful stuff tucked in the planner.

The first is a sample page from my Moleskine.  Anything I want to remember, journal, think out, or keep track of goes in the Moleskine.  The most important item on the page (in this case, steps to take immediately if I get a new job, like arranging child care, go in the corner box on top).  My index, on the inside cover of the Moleskine, tells me what page each thing is on.

I literally just keep this as a running journal.  I set out reminders of my morning and afternoon routine (which I refresh myself with after Christmas breaks from school ;) ) on this page, as well as the words to a prayer that I found particularly wise and wanted to remember.  Having this stuff in my Moleskine, a dedicated place, keeps it from cluttering my planner, which is really just for action items.

In the planner itself, I do keep a one page list of things that are happening AFTER 2013.  You should do this.  That way, when you see the dentist in September, you can make a note six months later to get a followup, even if you don't have your 2014 planner yet.

There are three pages each month that get serious use.  I mark those pages with a paper clip.  The pages are:

1. The monthly calendar

2. The monthly task pages

3. The weekly pages.

The monthly pages are used for any timed events and my weekly menu (since timed events tend to dictate the weekly menu).

If something is circled, it repeats again the next week.  I write it out two weeks in advance, on the Sunday before.  It's a scheduled weekly review of my planner.  Note the visual indication of the menu plan with little dashes on either side of the menu item.  (I am very flexible.  If I don't know what to cook, I use the menu.  But if I am craving chicken, I simply swap with another day.  I always try to use what is already in the fridge or freezer or what is on sale.)  Also, in the notes, you will see the number of school days this month.  That's because I have to write the check for lunches for the month.

My FAVORITE aspect of the Greenroom planner is the two page spread after the monthly spread.  I use it for nonweek specific tasks and goal-reaching.

The first page is my running task list, including any month specific tasks.  The second page is a checker board page.  I'll show you how I use that treasure in a minute.

First, the task list.  I've explained this system before, but not with pictures.

A star means this item is on a deadline and MUST be done in January, by the due date.  No star means it can carry over to next month, if necessary.  I am stingy with stars.  These are the things that, should I end up in the hospital, I'd need my husband or someone else to take care of.  For example, in the entry below, if I don't sign up or decline Express Scripts, thousands of dollars of meds won't be paid for by my insurance.

Each entry gets a date (if due in January) or an arrow (if it can move to February).  I used to not put the arrow, but I needed something visual to mark each task.  If I copy a task over and over, month after month, I often just delete or delegate it.

Next, I start the task with an action verb, so I know WHAT to do.  Having that decision already made it important.

Finally, entries either get no code, or:

E = errands
H = home
C = computer.

That way, if I am stuck at the computer, I can get a bunch of stuff done at once.  If I am going on errands, I can grab whatever I need at home, all at once.

I save the top half of my checkerboard page for extra tasks (since my list tends to go over one page, just barely).  But then, I put certain things on the bottom half of the checkered page.

In the left column, I have my Weekly Tasks, which, if I keep up with it, keeps my house clean.

To the right, I have three mini monthly calendars (undated).  I track such things as whether I did a 15 minute quick clean each day and my weekly task for the day, how many calories above or below my daily goal that I consumed, and whether I worked out.  It's not about goal setting (which I would use my Moleskine for), but about goal reaching!

Finally, the Weekly portion of my planner (again, marked with a paper clip) is the most used and most important.  It is where I plan my day.  These entries look pretty empty, but each day, I jot everything that needs to be done.

In the notes area, I keep week specific (but not day specific) tasks in the left column.  Generally, something either just needs to be done during the month (and goes on monthly list) or on a specific day.  But if it is just something that much be done this week, it goes on this short list.  To the right, I keep the grocery list.  I have a separate grocery list and coupon planner, but this is just for items that come up during the week.  My planner is ALWAYS with me, while my coupon planner is only with me when preparing for grocery shopping.

Note that even on the weekly entries, I have some organization.  Specifically, DUE items go in the first column (for example, library books), stuff I need to do go in the middle, and stuff I am waiting on from other or just need to know (like hubby is taking eldest to karate class at 6:30) go in the last column.

Hope you learned something and that you will share your tips with me in the comments.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Setting Up My Paper Planner for the New Year

I've already given you a peek of my planner for the new year.  It's a combination of a thin Moleskine and a monthly/weekly greenroom calendar from Target (held together in a notebook binder, also from Target, that has a pen loop and space for an ink pen and a sticky note notepad.

Currently, I use the Moleskine notebook for anything that is not really planner appropriate for Americans.  My research on paper planners has revealed that Europeans often use planners more like a diary.  My Moleskine is more like that.  Right now, it's being used for:

-specific lists like Christmas gift lists and a running wish list
-planning special projects (like redoing the kitchen or a kid's birthday party)
-tracking my job hunt
-noting prayers that I love
-making notes about the size and style of comforter I want to order
-listing blog ideas or novel ideas
-a list of phone numbers that have to be added to my new smart phone (long story about electronics circa 1990 and no backed up numbers...sigh)

It's probably the best planner idea I have ever had.  Before this, I didn't quit know where to keep a running gift list for Christmas.  I knew I wanted it archived (so I can use it again next year for a starting point of that list) and I wanted it with me when on the road (in case I saw something that I wanted to buy), but where to keep it?  My planner was too full if I keep all those lists in it, when I had the binder kind.  Now that I have a bound planner instead, the Moleskine seems to be a good solution.

My top ten tips and tricks for my Moleskine:

1. I number even pages.  No need to number every page.  I number the even pages because I end up folding up the odd page corners.
2. Once I am done completely with a page, I fold the bottom left hand corner up.  That just marks the archived pages.
3. Active pages (like the current Christmas list) get a folded down corner in the upper left hand corner.  Now, they are super easy to find.
4. I keep an index on the front cover.  (e.g., Pp. 1 - 2, Honey Do List; Pp. 3, Things Borrowed; Pp. 4, AM/PM Routines, Ideas for New Jobs...)
5. I date every page, just in case.
6. If something really important is on the page, I make a one or two word note in a box in the upper right corner.
7. I leave some small sticky notes on the inside back cover.
8. The cover shows my name, phone number, and start and end dates.
9. Old copies of the Moleskines are archived with my old planners.
10. I buy the Moleskines with 16 removable pages, perfect for writing little notes to the teacher or anything else you need to tear out.

The Moleskine takes care of the *extras*, but, truly, most of what I plan goes in my planner.  As the year begins, take a moment to copy your Future Dates 2013 page into the proper spaces on your 2013 planner.  Some of the things that I copy include:

-doctor and dentists for me and the kids (including eye doctor, dentists, annual exams, and specialists)
-birthdays (I mostly just keep track on facebook, so I only copy birthdays where I plan to buy a gift or have dinner with the person, mostly my immediate family, my godchildren, and my birth family)
-my annual licensing renewal due date (I'm an attorney)
-my driver's license renewal due date
-my Continuing Legal Education due date
-my car inspection due date
-a reminder to inspect my engagement ring so that it stays under warranty

Also, designate a page in your planner for 2014 Future Dates.

Next, populate your monthly calendars.  I have limited appointments (usually, less than four a day), so all appointments go on my monthly calendars.  I'm a huge proponent of only writing things in one place, so NO time specific stuff goes in the weekly calendar.  None. But if you decide it does, maybe you don't need a monthly calendar, too.  I like looking at the glance at the full month of time commitments, while having the extra space afforded by the weekly calendar for details and tasks.  January's monthly calendar is already pretty full (with the dates that school and karate start back, a zoo trip with friends, and carpool reminders), but the rest of the year just has a couple of follow-up doctor's appointments and my volunteer commitment on the third Monday of each month through the end of the school year.  I especially like that monthly calendars are tabbed in my greenroom planner, so I can open to any page very quickly.

The coolest thing about my greenroom planner (available at Target, by the way) is that after each monthly calendar, there is a two page spread for the month.  The first page is lined and the second has little squares all over the page.  You should designated a space for tasks that are not time sensitive.  For me, this is the space.

On the left, lined page, I list tasks.  Stars indicate deadline specific/must do, the date or arrow indicates a due date or no due date, the description always starts with a verb so that I will know exactly WHAT to do, and then it gets a category, like E for errands, C for at computer, H for at home, or none for everything else.


*     01/15     Sign up for Express Scripts     C
       >>>>>    Deliver paper to doctor            E
       01/31     Call to book hotel for vacation
*    01/15      Call to order art frame
       01/31     Label tax folder and gather together tax papers

The next page is currently blank, but since it is composed of small squares, I will probably use it for goals checklists.  I will check off each time I exercise, track my calories, etc.

Finally, fill in the weekly squares as things come up,  Since school is out, weekly school reminders are now listed in the first week of January.  If things are going to repeat, I write them the first time and circle them, so that I know to recopy them to another date once they are completed.  Right now, I have the cafeteria payment (due January 3rd) circled.  It is due monthly, but does not go on my monthly task list because it must be done the week it is due, and not just anytime during the month.  I also put FYIs here, like that my husband is going to the movies with a friend.  I write down Mass days when my children must wear a special uniform to school.  I note report card days and birthdays and school registrations.  In the Notes section, I write down a weekly dinner menu and start my grocery list as I run out of staples.  This is my working area, so mostly, this section will get full the week it happens, as I jot down ideas and things I need to do.  But it will get full - probably overfull.

Enjoy setting up your 2013 planner.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Gifting Season

All that Christmas lore about naughty and nice lists?  It just proves that Santa is freakin' brilliant, since Christmas is all about lists!

I actually keep most tasks and appointments on my task list and in my planner, so that I can overview exactly what needs to be done with everything else.  I add Christmas gifts to my errands list or my weekly shopping list, as I plan to buy them.  But I certainly have some special rules for myself and lists for keeping track of Christmas gifts.

1. Create a small wrapping center as soon as you start buying Christmas gifts and wrap as you go.  

For me, I use the child's table in the corner of my kitchen.  If you don't really have room for an out-of-the-way temporary wrapping center, consider wrapping a large box and putting it under the tree, filled with wrapping supplies.  I use a decorative Santa Snacks bucket (meant for putting cookies in the middle of the table) to hide scissors, tape, labels, and markers in plan site!  (I don't bother with bows and ribbons, but go for it, if you are into that stuff!)

2. Wrap Santa gifts in Santa faced paper so you don't get caught playing Santa.  

I just hide the paper with the Santa gifts.  Any paper with Santa's face on it is used only as Santa paper.  I buy it on clearance after Christmas.

I wrap each kid's gifts in different paper, so Santa can sort quickly at 3 a.m. on Christmas morning, and also so the boys can visualize their own pile (with their distinctive stocking on top and a couple of the biggest gifts unwrapped, like my four year old's much coveted castle this year).  In order to be able to wrap as I go and never forget which paper belongs to which boy, I cut swatches, labeled them with the correct child's name, and tape them in my planner.

3. Make special lists for people getting multiple gifts, like my husband or my kids.

Note in the picture above that I covered his list in sticky notes.  That's because he steals my planner when we are Christmas shopping together, and I didn't want him to see his list!

Here's a peek of the one for the boys.  I list corresponding gifts (and prices, though I don't try to spend the same thing) in two columns, so I can make sure gifts are about equal in size (though the younger kid's gifts are usually bigger) and number.

4. For everyone else, make a list including date the gift will be given, recipient name, markings if it is wrapped, what the gift is, and a place for any notes (like "Ordered Amazon 11/29").

On 12/23, I'll bring some of these to a party.  On 12/24, I'll be able to easily grab others from under the tree and not worry that I forgot someone.

I save this list from year to year to make a list next year.  :)

5. Have a separate space from your gift list to jot ideas.  

For me, that's the next page.  See?

Hope you have a fun, stress-free holiday!  Happy shopping and...

Ho. Ho. Ho.