Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Video: Monthly Reviews - Setting Up A New Month In Your Planner

If you have been writing things down as they come up, you already know, time wise, what is in store for next month. But there are some things you should do every month to keep your planner in order.

Check out the You Tube video of the monthly review process.

1. On the last day of the month, complete any end-of-the-month tasks
Don't forget to make sure you've done everything on your monthly task list.

Every month, I have to pay the bills, mortgage and school cafeteria. (My husband handles the rest of the bills.)

2. Review the upcoming month.

Just look at it. Give your brain two minutes to soak in what's on the agenda. (For every child you have, add two extra minutes. I'm convinced that kid are zombies and eat our brains on the way out of our tummies.) Make sure you have gifts purchased and wrapped for upcoming birthdays. At the very least, add purchase gifts to your task list. Realize that Thanksgiving is coming. Note that you are having house guests and really ought to clean the guest bathroom.

3. Remove the planner pages from two months ago and file them in an old planner or with binder clips or rubber bands.

On October 31st, for example, remove September's pages. I leave last month's pages in, in case I need to refer back to them.

4. Add a month of planner pages to your calendar section.

I usually try to keep three to five months at a time (more like five during the school year, when the kids are so busy with activities), so for me, this means on November 1st, I add March.

5. Add anything from your future page to the month that you just added.

If you added March, copy items from March on the future page to your March calendar. Scratch them out on the future page.

6. Make a budget for the month.

I'm showing you October's budget pages, as I haven't made November's yet. I hole punch an envelope for holding receipts until I can file them at home. (I only file receipts for returnable items.)

In my family, we have already cut cable and many other expenses. The only thing we actually track now in the planner is the shopping that goes on the credit card. We needed to cut credit card spending by four percent in order to spend less than we make, so I use last year's credit card bill minus four percent to determine this month's budget.

I keep the accounting in my planner, right before the next month's tab.

7. Go over your project list (which you also review weekly) to see what is due this month.

If a deadline isn't in your weekly pages, add it.

This month, I plan to write a novel.

8. Go over your notes/file section to make sure everything in there is something you actually want to carry around with you all the time.

For example, a health log might have made sense during pregnancy, but might not be useful now. The list of babysitters might be out of date now that your children are teenagers.

This once a month check is the only time I go over my files and it is important.

9. Scratch out the reminder on the last day in the weekly pages of this month to do the monthly review, and write it, with a circle around it because it repeats, on the last day of next month.

Tip: Make a document of what you need to do in your monthly review and put it in your files, if you don't have one.

10. Set any goals for the month and have a way to track your progress.

Some months, I skip this step. (I call that "planning for the lazies.")

This month, my goals are to eat within my calories (tracked on-line) and to write my novel (tracked in projects).

That's it. If you've been writing things down as they occur to you, the whole process takes about 10 minutes.

Happy planning!


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Monday, October 28, 2013

Video: Working The System That You Already Have: Christmas Planning In Your Planner

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

Whenever possible, I advocate using a system that you already have in place to plan.

For example, if menu planning is working for you when you jot the menu on a dry erase board on the fridge, go for it.

If it's not, consider using a dedicated space on your weekly pages.

I don't see any reason why the holiday season should be treated differently.

(Don't watch the following You Tube video in front of little ones. Safe for work, but involves Santa planning. :) )

Video of Giftie Etcetera's Holiday Planning

After all, planning for Christmas is just another project. And here at Giftie Etcetera, we use Project pages for planning projects. 

holiday binder; christmas planner; christmas project; christmas binder

Another reason to use your planner for holiday planning, instead of a separate holiday binder, is that your planner always leaves the house with you anyway, so you can do Christmas shopping anytime and anywhere, instead of just if you have your bulky holiday binder with you. 

Also, holiday planner truly only takes a few sheets of planner paper, so it won't bulk up your planner too much. 

During the rest of the year, you can file away those pages, as there is no need to carry holiday planning pages with you.

Tip: Only buy purses or bags that fit your planner.

holiday binder; christmas planner; christmas project; christmas binder

What works for me, using the system that I already have in place, is to make a Holiday Planning project (which includes Thanksgiving), to use my monthly calendar for dated events, and to note due dates on my weekly task lists (such as having all gifts wrapped by the night before the night before Christmas).

TIP: Use last year's holiday plan to create this year's project pages.

Some ideas for what you might include in a Holiday Planner:


*Elf on the Shelf ideas

*holiday traditions (Some of our favorites include an ornament chosen by the kids each year that will leave the house for them for their first college Christmas tree, wrapping Christmas pajamas for Christmas Eve morning so they look cute in Christmas morning in the pictures, and burning bonfires on the Mississippi River levee on Christmas Eve to show Papa Noel where to fly.)


*gifts purchased list

*gift ideas list

*kids' wish lists

*spouse gift list (covered in a post-it with a "Do Not Peek" message)

*your own wish list

*cut-out swatches of wrapping paper for a gift code list of who is getting what and where they are receiving the gift so that you don't have to write names on gifts

TIP: Wrap presents based on where they are headed. Wrap in green for staying home, red for Grandma's house, and blue for gifts that need to be delivered, for example. 

Paste little swatches of the wrapping paper on the gift code list so that, when it's time to leave for Grandma's house, all you have to do is grab all the red boxes.

TIP: Use only Santa wrapping paper (or snowmen or reindeer) for Santa gifts. 

In my house, one kid gets the red paper and one the green, all with Santa on them, so that I don't have to write names on the gifts (and risk the second grader recognizing my handwriting).

Enjoy the video. A special shout out to my facebook friends who helped me improve the lighting in my videos. You know who you are. :)


Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Proudest Mommy Ever: Making A Planner For A Kid

Look what happened today:

Yes, my seven year old, Ander, asked for a planner. :) :) :) 

(There are not enough smiley faces on the planet.) Ander decided on a red, erasable Frixion pen, which is a special treat for him since they can't use ink pens yet at school.

I used a cheap Plan Ahead (same size as Franklin Covey compact) planner that I had bought for the refills.

I also used graph paper, construction paper (for tabs), and the monthly printouts from Philofaxy to load the planner up with usable pages.

He had a blast filling out the planner. 

Check out the books that he has read. Clearly, he is a better reader than he is a speller.

He is keeping track of his Pokeman collection in the planner, too.

We agreed on a weekly meeting every Sunday (which I noted on my planner) to look at dates for the upcoming week.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Xs, /s, And One Line Scratch Outs: The Importance Of Marking Things As Done

Writing this post forced me to Google both the plural of the letter X and whether scratch outs was a compound word, a hyphenated word, or a two word phrase. The e-world is apparently seriously divided on both topics. There was angst, animosity, and rage over the suggested answer. (I didn't rage.The e-world did.)

In the end, I went with what was logical to me. So capital X is plural, as is standard for letters - not Xes. (I can't do the apostrophe. I'm not leaving any letters out to replace with an apostrophe. My Loyal Readers are free to disagree.You should note that anyone who disagrees is WRONG, though. :) I will rage if you force me, darn it!) (Does the smiley make my self-righteous comment any better?)

Planner'ds (see what I did there, with the apostrophe clearly representing the e in the past tense word plannered) will probably find similar levels of disagreement with today's blog topic - scratching out tasks, appointments, and days that have been completed. Most people, in my experience, prefer a check box to signify that a task is complete. Or they simply try to remember what they have completed, which in my opinion is a serious waste of a paper planner. To use my planner to its full potential, I prefer scratching out.

Tip: If you do enjoy the check box, consider changing two things. First, draw a circle instead of a box. That takes much less time. Also, consider Xing through the circle instead of checking the circle. It's much easier to glance at, visually, and see what still needs to be done.

The reason that I prefer scratching out tasks (with only one line, so I can still look back and see what I have completed) is because, although it is visually cluttered, the things that are left to do are so starkly clean and orderly that I can't miss them. (See how your eyes jump to the uncrossed out 27th?) Some people prefer Xs, and that is fine, if less efficient. (See, I'm not ragey at all! Just politely suggesting...)

I use a single cross to scratch out weekly page days as they pass. I also use one line to scratch out completed tasks and appointments.

You could just check things off, but not only will the check box (*cough* circle *cough*) take up valuable planner space, but the things that jump out at you won't be limited to things that you actually still have to do.

Bonus tip: if you use a highlighter, instead of highlighting what needs to be done, try highlighting whatever you are crossing out. Then the things that need to be done really pop.

Teacher/Business Tip: I also use yellow fluorescent highlighters to mark originals of documents that I plan to copy (like a handout for students that you want to save and use again next year or copies of a checklist for the end of the month closeout that you recopy every month). Most (not all, so check yours) copy machines don't pick up yellow fluorescent highlighter, so you never accidentally use your original, as it is marked in bright yellow.

Happy scratching!


Friday, October 25, 2013

How To Bond With Your Planner

I have an extensive list of potential blog posts in my planner. 

That said, I rarely use it. I open up my Blogger screen every morning while sipping coffee and the topic just appears in my mind. I type it in and run with it until the post is complete.

It's my Superpower.

This morning, though, I resisted my inspiration. I put it off. I didn't want to write about it - to share a piece of my soul - because I didn't want to be vulnerable. After all, the subject was private. It was not intended for the whole world to see.

But it would not go away.

So here it is, in all its raw glory.

You need to bond with your planner.

Silly, right? Trivial? Too revealing? Too embarrassing?

Stroking your planner is embarrassing. (Also, my chipped up nails are embarrassing. We shall never speak of The Great Eyebrow Fiasco of 2013.)

Seriously, you need to pick a planner color that you love. I like patterns or textures against a neutral color.

You should pick a size that can stay with you all the time. I like Franklin Covey 
compact size (about 3 3/4 x 6 3/4), but most prefer Filofax personal size (about 3 1/4 x 6 3/4).

You need planner pages that you love in a layout that works for you. For me, that means FC 365 pages in monthly and weekly.

Decorate with accessories and doodles and stickers and whatever makes you happy.

Or don't decorate at all, if that is your bliss.

Give it a name. Or not. (I am not a named planner sort of Planner'd.)

Treat your planner as a trusted companion and it will serve you for all of your days.

Let the mocking commence. I don't care. I love my planner and the critics can suck it!


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tasks And Today Markers: How I Label And Bookmark My Planner

Today's video (featuring my Gun Metal Blue nails :) ) is about how I use tabs in my planner to organize my planner.


I use side tabs for the monthly pages and to show the various sections of my planner. I made the sections tabs by tracing a section tab that came with the planner, cutting the pages out of heavy crafting paper, and hole punching them.

On top, I use a combination of Today pages markers (some from Barnes and Noble Punctuate planners) and magnetic tabs. (A link to items very similar to the items that I use can be found in the left hand column of my blog.)

Enjoy the video detailing the use of tabs. And especially enjoy the pretty blue fingernails.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Lazies: What To Do When You Want To Do Nothing

I signed up to work at the Book Fair at my kids' school. I've really loved the event in the past. My kids are really excited about reading because of this great event. I enjoy meeting the other parents and helping the kids pick out new books.

But I have The Lazies.

Yep, Mrs. Super Productive just wants to sit under a blanket, sip warm coffee, and wear her jammies.

How To Handle The Lazies:

1. Eat the frog. In other words, do whatever you least want to do, but have to do, first. It sounds counterintuitive, but I promise you will be relieved that the hardest task is done.

For me, today, the frog was applying for jobs. I do that about twice a week and it is soul-sucking. I am very qualified (with a M.Ed. and a J.D.), but there are so few jobs out there that will work with my family's schedule. I have to apply twice a week to ensure that I don't miss any openings for jobs in my field. Today was the day, since I put it off Monday and yesterday.

2. Prepare for your Monthly calendar events. If you've been keeping your monthly pages sacred, you know exactly what you have to do today by glancing at the square with today's date. Note that I cross off each day as it passes, so visually I can move straight to today.

I have to go to Book Fair. (I'll even have fun, once I am there.) So I set my alarm clock to start getting ready at about 10:30, leaving me plenty of time to look cute and eat lunch. 

Bonus Pic - me (with The Loki) at my last school event, in the rain, sans makeup or hairstyle:

3. Reschedule the stuff on your Weekly pages as much as possible. You only need to focus on today's date.

4. Do whatever is left on today's date - the stuff that can't be rescheduled.

5. Revel in the lazy, knowing that everything is complete that NEEDED to be done.

Sure, you didn't do your normal daily review. But every now and then, that's okay. Because you keep everything important in two places (your monthly and weekly calendar), you can relax and know you aren't missing anything.


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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Planner Time: Add It To Your Magic Minimums

Yesterday was kind of crazy. I had to do carpool, run a town of errands, eat an early dinner in town, and go to the last flag football game of the season, where, as the coach's wife, I had to deliver cupcakes in the rain.

My day rushed by. I wrote things down as they came up, but had no time to cross out the things that got done. I also barely had time to glance at my planner.

This happened:

Yes, I am ashamed. Those are undone tasks (from Monday), receipts, coupons, papers to process, blood pressure left unchecked and unlogged, and a table full of groceries left out instead of put away in the pantry.

I missed my daily planner review - and it shows.

I used to have three "magic minimums" that I completed daily to keep my house in order: 

1. a load of dishes, 2. a load of laundry, and 3. a 15 minute quick clean of the most attention seeking area of my house (usually kitchen/living room).

Eventually, I added two "rules" to help me out: 

1. when traveling from one room to another, carry something with me and put it away where it belongs, and 2. erase the evidence of whatever you do in the house (say, wiping down the bathtub and hanging up you towel after a bath).

But I clearly need a third rule:


Now I'm off to process all this crap and pay for my sins.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Video - Lefties: Using A Planner When You Are Left-Handed

Lefties have special challenges when writing in a ring bound planner.  When writing on the right side of the planner, the writing in the English language, which naturally moves from left to right, generally occurs directly next to the rings, making it difficult to write without the rings pressing painfully against the left hand. (For right-handed people, writing on the left side starts far from the rings and writing on the right side pulls away from the rings, so you rarely hear ring-related writing complaints from Righties.)

There are things that a Leftie can do, though, to make things better.

You Tube Video for Lefties

1. Turn the planner slightly so that your left hand can rest on paper instead of rings (as in the picture above).

2. On blank pages, get into the habit of indenting a bit and using the left space as room for notations only. On this project page, for example, I plan to note the dates of each blog post in the left column.

3. Adjust the layout of your weekly/daily pages so that the bulk of your writing is indented. In the example below, the first column is only used for due dates. All the tasks (the bulk of my weekly writing) start in the middle column, so that the rings don't get in the way.


4. Put your calendar pages in the middle of the planner so the rings aren't as prominent during most of your planning. Surround the meat of your planner (in my case, my monthly calendars and weekly pages) with pages that require less writing, like Project pages, Notes, and supplies. There is no law that says your calendar HAS to be the first thing in your planner! (Seriously, I'm a lawyer. There is no law.)

5. Choose a layout that puts your weekly calendar to the left as much as possible. I do most of my tasks on Monday through Thursday and treat Friday through Sunday as the weekend, so having Monday through Thursday left of the rings helps me write quite easily.

Happy planning, Lefties! And a special thank you to my Loyal Reader who suggested this important, and oft neglected, topic. Subscribe to email or follow GiftieEtcetera on twitter to hear about new posts.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blogging About Blogging

One of my friends struggles with looking at my planner pictures because my squiggles and scratch-outs stress her out. She is very supportive and sweet, but just cannot look at the mess. She uses an electronic calendar instead.

I can completely understand that. The biggest advantage of a planner, in my opinion, is that it is customizable to you. If not, it won't work for you. If you are a decorator, you should decorate. If you are no frills, don't decorate.

I am a doodler. (These pages would drive my friend cRaZy.)

I jot things down as they occur to me. It's a great habit to have, since I never have to stress over whether my family needs more milk or what to post on my blog. But it often leaves planner pages a tad disorderly.

So, during last nights television broadcast of LSU's FootballGameThatWeShallNeverSpeakOfAgain {hangs head in shame}, I redid the Projects pages for my blog, making a plan and organizing, all at once.

I created some guidelines for what to post and when to post it, as well as how to publicize posts. I do let my friends know when I post, but try to only let them know about posts that might be of interest to them. Note the use of a doodle box to highlight the schedule visually and a list of codes that correspond to the "type" of blog entry.

Then I started a running list (culled from those crazy, scratched up pages above) of blog entries, leaving room to the left for a date of publication, adding a code to show what type of entry it will likely be, and leaving a top box to make finding the Projects page easier.

Doesn't it look nicer?

I try to post daily, though that is only a goal. It doesn't always happen.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Master Task Lists: Working The Plan

You might have noticed that I am not one of those organization bloggers with a beautiful, perfect planner, a colorful, welcoming desk area, and warmly decorated house. (Also, I don't have one of those idyllic, perfect lives. Alas, maybe someday when I win the lottery. A girl can dream, right?) 

Instead, I am all about the practical. I work my planner so that it can work for me. If something doesn't work, I get rid of it. If something works well, I share it here. 
One thing that works well, but that I find works best if I use it only a little bit, is the master Tasks list.

As you know by now, I write most of my tasks on a monthly task list (if it's due that month), a weekly list (due that week), or one of the days on my weekly pages (if due to be done that day). But a handful of tasks are things that I want to do, but don't need to do at a certain time. If they were really important, I would schedule them during the month or week, but the tasks I am describing are lower priority tasks, but still things I want to remember to do. 

For example, I've been meaning to organize my closet, particularly the shoe area of the closet, for a while now. (The hula hoops hanging out in my clothes' closet are particularly embarrassing.)

Enter the master Tasks list.

Some of the tasks that are on this list include reorganizing the bookmarks on my web browser, cleaning off "hot spots" around the house, and editing my novel. None of them are time sensitive, but they all would make my life better or easier. I do them whenever I feel like it. (Confessional translation: mostly, I don't do them.)

By having a dumping ground for all these things in my planner, I escape the late-night worry sessions that would have me awake and anxious all the time, wondering if I had forgotten something. The Tasks section of my planner captures these errant thoughts.

And when I actually accomplish one of these tasks, it is quite rewarding.

(I got the cute baskets on clearance at Target. Aren't they adorable? )


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