Thursday, May 29, 2014

Orderly Living In A Temporary Dwelling

The post is also known as "how to unpack in your hotel room." But doesn't my original title sound much more fancy?

In my 39 years, I've only left something in my hotel room one time.

{Lowers head in shame and mumbles, "yesitwasmyplanner."}

That was embarrassing!

"Ma'am, I think you left your binder calendar thingy in your hotel room. Can we ship it to you?" -Best Hotel Staff EVER

"No thanks. I'm only an hour away. I'll come back for it right now." -Desperate Plannerd, thanking her lucky stars that her emergency contact information was in her planner

"Seriously? Don't you write a blog about this stuff?" -Annoyed Husband

(See how I wrote that in third person? It feels less painful that way.)

How you unpack in a hotel matters. Here are some hints to help you:

1. Bring your packing list with you, turn it over, and start a repacking list.

There are two advantages to this. First, you can glance at your original packing list to make sure that you are leaving the hotel room with everything that you started the trip with. Second, you can list things that are unpacked away from your luggage, like hanging items or the laptop you have plugged in on the desk, for repacking.

2. Do not assume you will remember hanging items, toiletries, or other items stored away from your suitcase. Write them on the repacking list.

3. Don't totally unpack.

Mostly, if the trip is shorter than a week, you can live out of your suitcase. Things come out of the suitcase and get stored back in it. At the end of the trip, the suitcase is pretty much still packed! No extra packing needed.

4. Don't unpack clothes into drawers.

They hang or they stay, neatly folded, in the suitcase.

5. Repack items as they are used. The suitcase is their home.

6. Bring a laundry bag for dirty clothes.

7. Bring a couple of empty tote bags or a bag loaded with consumables (like snacks) that you can use once it is empty.

Tote bags are great for souvenirs and other items you didn't expect to carry. And if you don't get any extras, they fold up neatly in your suitcase.

8. Designate an area for each person in the room.

For my family
, we use the areas between the beds and the walls. The kids' suitcase goes next to their bed and our suitcases go beside ours.

9. Toss dirty clothes in dirty clothes bag (stored next to suitcase).

10. Toss trash in trash cans.

I know those two sound silly, but they really do make it obvious when other stuff that belongs to you and should leave the hotel room with you, needs to be repacked.

Happy travels!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Planning A Trip: A Designated Packing Area

I've blogged before about what I am packing for my upcoming cruise. The cruise is still along time away, but I am quickly accumulating things that are needed for the cruise and for no other purpose between now and then.

So far, I have acquired travel size shaving cream (even though everyone says to splurge for the lotion-added razor, but my cheapness wins out), baby powder (I am surely not reproducing EVER AGAIN, but it gets out sand), Shout stain wipes, Clorox wipes (something I needed in a small package because at home I use Clorox plus some natural products), my new waterproof Nook case (which, let's be honest, I will break out next time I take a bath), and a small camera case that I bought for $3 on clearance (for my credit cards and tip money on excursions).

Generally, when new things come into the house, the following happens:

1. Things that have a designated home go into that home. If I am almost out of toothpaste, the new toothpaste goes in the toothpaste/toothbrush/floss basket in my bathroom drawer.

2. Things that are in excess get a backup location NEAR the currently-in-use item. When I almost run out of something, I put it on the shopping list. But, sometimes, shampoo goes on sale really cheap. Then, I don't put all three extra shampoos on the edge of the tub in my soap/shampoo basket. Instead, they go in a place in the nearby closet, where I store extras for the bathroom, with any other shampoo already there.

TIP: Store like items together. Even when I buy travel-sized shampoo, I store it with other shampoo (unless it is replacing the single travel shampoo in my travel toiletries kit). That way, I can always check quickly to see how much shampoo I have, and I always know exactly where to look.

3. For clothing, I follow a one-in one-out rule. New shoes? An old pair that I never wear gets tossed.

But this stuff, my vacation supplies, is different. I don't want to store Clorox wipes with the Clorox, only to search for them when it's time to pack. And for local pools, I am wearing flip flops, not swim shoes. Those are designated for rocky beaches only.

It makes no time management sense to store them away and then gather them back up to pack.

But it makes no organization sense to just leave them hanging around on a counter, messing up the place.

So I grabbed an extra tote bag and tossed all of this in that bag and stored it in its new home, near my luggage. Note that I choose this location so that I cannot forget this bag of stuff when packing! Never assume you will remember. You won't.

I guess I can say vacation packing has officially started! Woo hoo!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Planning Unplanned

Today's entry involves a run to the liquor store. Now, as a general rule, one should not talk about drinking on a public blog. I think the exception is when you are the designated driver exceptions are when you are the designated driver and when you are mom in desperate need of wine.

Public Service Announcement:

Kindly let me take a moment to remind folks that you never have to drink and drive. Drink at home or have a trusted designated driver. Take a cab. Drinking and driving is very uncool.

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging...:)

Friday night, I was sitting around the pool with friends. They decided they wanted some drinks. I was the designated driver, so they started shouting orders at me. "Jungle Juice." "A corkscrew." "Gentleman Jack." I couldn't keep up.

Luckily, my planner dashboard is just a blank piece of graph paper. So I opened my planner and made a list.

Ignoring the part where I am a freak who took her planner to the got the order right and made everyone happy. And nobody had to drink and drive.

A blank sheet of paper that is easy to access and use in an unplanned, random manner, is a lifesaver (perhaps literally, in this case, where I could pick up drinks and avoid having someone drink and drive).

I use the blank page for so many purposes.

Listing people who want to be in a private group on Facebook so I can add them later:

Doodling (while listening that popular kids' ballad with the words, "here I stand...)...

(Confession: No, no kids were with me. I was singing it by myself.) 

I also make notes during meetings, doodle, and jot down anything else that pops up.

An organized planner makes your life easy, but a blank sheet of paper opens your planner to possibilities. Try it. You might like it.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When To Customize A Planner

I generally follow a planner "system" of a dashboard, project pages, monthly calendar for appointments/events/time sensitive items, weekly calendar for tasks, future pages, and notes/files.

But sometimes, something doesn't quite work in the system.

For example, my grocery list doesn't really work as a project, because it needs to be VERY accessible. I don't want to have to find the tiny tab. Plus, because I use the page up and start a new one weekly, it's not worth relabeling each week, unlike most of my on-going projects.

I'm solved the problem, quite organically, by writing the grocery list on the second sheet of my planner. I just started doing it one day. And guess what? It works, I know where the grocery list is, and I don't see any reason to add weight and thickness to my planner by adding a tab.

Understand, this only works because the rest of my planner is so organized that I can simply remember the exceptions to the system.

I also have a running list of things that my husband is supposed to take care of on a one-time basis. (For his regular tasks, like much of our bill paying, I only note very important things, like paying the mortgage. He can deal with the electricity bill. He has always paid on time, and if he doesn't, he can pay the penalties and get the energy reset for us.)

This week, I've asked my husband to call the roofing company (definitely his area of expertise, if you can even claim that either of us is remotely qualified to have a conversation with a roofer), check on the OT for my kid (covered through his insurance, so he needs to check with the insurance representative at work), and order sunscreen (because he has Amazon Prime on his account and we need free shipping).

I just put my husband's task list on my weekly task sheet and recopy. It isn't really an active project, after all, since I don't have to do anything. And the items are time sensitive (must be done in the next week or two), so I don't want to "hide" them. The @ symbol is followed by my husband's initials to tell me that I am waiting on him to take care of it.

TIP: Making a note of the date that you communicate with your significant other or roommate about something keeps a lot of arguments from ever happening. Strike that. Making a note of the date that you communicate with your significant other or roommate about something keeps lets you WIN a lot of arguments.

Happy planning!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Working From Home Like I Work My Planner

I work from home.

Except, sometimes, I don't.

(This is a great time to remind you that my posts are pre-written and time-delayed, in case you lust to be a stalker. Too bad for you!)

You see, I had to compartmentalize my life in order to find balance.

I got the idea to write this tactic down when I was struggling to work from my kitchen table last week, and my eyes kept seeing the dirty floors. (*Somebody* really ought to mop those). When you work from home, things like that can be distracting. I needed to get out of the house and work somewhere else. This time, that meant a favorite coffee shop, near LSU, where everyone is studying or working around me. It's like my own little cubicle.

I already do a great job of compartmentalizing my planner.

Appointments go in one spot...

...while tasks go in another. You can even see household tasks on the page marker to the right, in a different location than the rest of the task list.

If you don't work from home, you still might want to try this once a week (or once a month). Find a coffee shop, library, or abandoned classroom, and bring a stack of work - bills to be paid, blogs to write, checkbooks to balance, papers to grade, etc. Sit down and get it done. It really does work.

On days when I actually work at home, I average 2 to 4 hours of work. Outside of the home I average around 6 hours of work. And I can stop obsessing over the laundry that is sitting around, unwashed and unfolded. (Seriously, *somebody* ought to do something about that!)


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer Travel Plans Requires More Than Just A Planner

This summer, I am going on a number of trips. Some are short trips and some are longer trips. In some instances, I am bringing my family with me. Other times, the kids are staying with my husband or other family.

All of this travel means a ton of planning.

I'm basically planning in three ways.

1. Putting dates and information in my planner.

Obviously, my first step is to add dates to my monthly calendar, tasks that pop up to my weekly calendar, and putting notes on the project pages for each trip.

TIP: To the extent possible, use the system that you already have in your planner to plan special trips. The truth is that you probably won't do a task if it is listed on a special, never-looked-at page, but you will likely do it if it's on your normal task list.

2. Start a separate packing list for each trip.

As I think of something that I need to bring on each trip, I add it to that packing list. About a week before each trip, I will use my master packing lists, which are really just old packing lists kept in the file section of my planner or specific lists that I downloaded off the internet for a specific kind of trip (like a business trip or a Disney trip).

Each trip really does need a different list. First of all, I need specific things on certain trips and not on others. For example, I need to remember to bring bathing suits, sunscreen, and a lanyard on a cruise, but not on a weekend trip with with girlfriends. In addition, I like to bring the list with me for repacking at the hotel.

TIP: The last thing you should pack is your packing list. Use it before coming home to make sure you have everything in your suitcase that should be there.

3. Designate a suitcase or corner of the house for packing specialty items.

This weekend, I am going to a reunion/graduation out of town. I'll only need a small overnight bag. I am not going to wear the clothing that I am packing during the week, so I will go ahead and throw it in my overnight bag throughout the upcoming week.

(Yes, those are little brown owls.)

For my cruise, I can go ahead and put the extra swimsuits in my large suitcase, since I won't ever need them between now and then. Even though that trip is months away, it is unlikely that I will use the large suitcase for anything else between now and then, so why not use it to store items for that trip?

These three practices - using my planner for dates and tasks, making packing lists for each trip, and reserving a suitcase or space for items that must be packed for each trip - generally mean less freaking out and stress the day before the trip.

Also, packing for a trip is pretty exciting most of the time, so they are tasks that I enjoy doing.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Inappropriate Planner: What To Do When You Can't Bring Your Planner With You

I am a champion of the concept of always taking your planner with you. I actually use a compact planner and only purses or bags that will carry it. But there are some very special situations where it is inappropriate to take a huge planner.

For me, a week's vacation on a cruise ship is one of those select instances when carrying a planner is inappropriate. I will be out of contact with the electronic world (cell, e-mail, etc.) so there shouldn't be any incoming tasks until I return home. I will receive a daily agenda (which Carnival Cruises calls the "Fun Times") where I can plan my schedule and make any necessary notes. And I don't plan to bring any work with me. All the things that I need a planner for just don't exist in paradise!

But I still have a few things that I need to remember.

I need to bring my packing list (for repacking to come home) and my U.S. citizen documentation. That is going in a plastic, water-resistant folder and staying in the safe during the cruise.

In addition, there are little things I need to remember on some days of the trip.

So far, on Sunday (when I embark), I need the driving directions to the port. On Tuesday, we are going on an excursion that requires a beach bag, but I CANNOT wear sunscreen or jewelry to it. So I need a reminder about that. I also have a confirmation number to take with me. That little bit of information is not worth taking a planner, but I still need a place to write them down.

There are some other things to remember that will come up during the week, surely. For example, I can imagine meeting new friends and wanting to note their names to connect on Facebook after the trip or noting the name of a great room steward to give an extra tip at the end of the trip.

For this purpose, I bought a small notebook. It's 
a Franklin Covey 365 flip-top notebook that I got on clearance at Target. (By clearance, I mean it wasn't in their system but I begged and pleaded and told them how much I wanted it, so the manager sold it to me for two or three dollars.) I get refill paper and mini-pens to fit in the pen loop from Office Depot.

It has little pockets on the outside and inside (good for receipts or business cards) and I decorated it with some polka dot craft paper.

I wrote the day and date of each day of the cruise on the first few pages. If something day specific comes up that I need to remember, I'll write it on that day instead of in my planner.

In order to make sure I don't accidentally write information in my main planner on those days, I blocked them out on my monthly and weekly pages.

I will also create other pages, too:

Notes - for anything that I just need to remember (like "blog ideas" or "if stranded during excursion, call 1-800-Carnival") (I made that phone number up. Don't call it!)

Tasks - for anything I need to do during the cruise (like "tip Gina in Camp Carnival for doing extra for Loki")

Packing for Home - noting anything that I do not keep with my luggage that needs to come home with us (like "documents from safe" or "blow dryer in bathroom")

Post-Cruise - entries in my main planner that come up on the cruise (like, "call Carnival about booking next cruise within 30 days") (I am just kidding about that one, Husband.)

Budget - a log of my spending on flexible items (like drinks or meals on excursions)

I will also use the extra pages as a sort of journal of what we do each day.

Basically, it's a tiny little planner, just for travel. I'm really excited not to carry a planner with me for a whole week. I love my planner and it is a sanity saver, but oh the sweet freedom!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chores: Let Your Kids Watch

Yesterday, Loki told me, "all you do all day is sit on the couch."

"No," I protested, "that's all you see."

But what if that is all he sees? Is that the image I want? Should I worry about his perception?

Yes, if I want him to be a husband and a father someday, I should worry.

Here's what really happened...

At 7 a.m., Loki goes to school (Daddy does morning carpool)

7:30 - 9:00 a.m. 
Work (I'm a lawyer who works from home)
9:00 - 9:30 a.m. Drove to kids' school in the city to drop off tuition checks
9:30 - 10 a.m. Filled prescription and pulled coupons for grocery shopping
10 - 12 noon Shopping - a big trip, including needs like shampoo and food for the week
12 - 12:30 p.m. Unloaded groceries

12:30 - 1 p.m. Made lunch, checked e-mails, and ate lunch
1 - 2:30 p.m. Work

At 3 p.m., Loki gets off of school.

2:30 - 4 p.m. Pick kids up from school, hear about their day in the car (as they take turns telling me during the long commute)
4 - 6 p.m. Work, oversee homework and chores, put dinner on the stove
6 - 6:30 p.m. Finish cooking and serve dinner (including pork chops, veggies, pasta, and a hot dog for Loki the Picky)
6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Sit on the couch, admittedly, but the boys asked to use their "electronics time" that they earn through chores to use; while they watched tv together in the other room, I researched an excursion for our upcoming cruise vacation, caught up on Facebook, and got up to lay out clothes and snack and water bottles for tomorrow

7:30 - 8 p.m. Helped Loki with bath and read Harry Potter with him (he reads the one, two, and three letters words and I read the rest)

At 8 p.m. Loki goes to bed.

He saw me sitting for a very interrupted HOUR, y'all. An hour - filled with little chores the whole time. But he thinks that sitting on the couch is "all you do, Mommy."

So I'm going to change things. I've been busting my butt to get things done during the day, while the kids are at school, so I can be available to them in the evenings. Those days are over.

They are going to see me sweep the floor, clean the counters, and fold the laundry. Mommy is no longer going to be available for their every whim. Instead, she will be doing housework when they can see it. If they need me, well, they can help me while we talk!

I just don't want them to think that I live a life of leisure when I am working so hard to take care of them. From now on, whenever possible, I'll let my kids watch me do chores.

It's time that I get credit for what I do and that they understand that food does not magically appear without work. (Even in Harry Potter, food cannot be created from nothing! And that is with magic!!!) (On the cruise, food will appear as if from magic. I cannot wait.)


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Planner Peace: Wherein Giftie Is A Lady Under Stress

It's hard to describe the peace that comes with processing your planner and knowing that your life is in order.

But describing the mess that occurs when you neglect your planner? Easy. Feeling *&%#'ed. (That word is only as naughty as you imagine when you read it. I'm a lady, after all. :))

Seriously, though, today is Sunday, May 11th. (Happy Mother's Day to my Loyal Readers who are moms.) And, as you can see in the picture above, I've neglected my planner since Thursday!

(Neglected is perhaps too strong a word. I wrote things in it a lot. I just didn't bother reading it.)

So I processed my planner. I went in order, from the front pocket, where I had a receipt to write on my budget page, through today.

TIP: For simple budgeting, set one budget goal for "free spending" (spending that is for non-set items, like groceries and clothing) for the month, and just subtract out each purchase during the month as if you are entering in a check book. When you get to zero, stop spending!

On Thursday, I had done most of the list, but had not scratched out each item. Simply scratching through the items made the list shorter. One step closer to peace...

Some things had to be rescheduled. I have a box of green onion sausage in the refrigerator that needs to be cut into separate servings and frozen. That got rescheduled. (It's not a rush, since the meat stays fresh for several weeks, but it really crowds my fridge.)

Once Thursday was processed, I moved on to Friday.

I understand that, to many of you, this step-by-step explanation is boring overkill. After all, you don't have sausage to put in the freezer!

But it is really important, when you are paralyzed by indecision and overwhelmed by the tasks that you are facing, to find a method of getting through it. Working your planner is a great method to achieve that sense of accomplished peacefulness.

Sometimes, doing the most critical item and working your way through is effective. Today, starting at the beginning and working through to the end proved successful. Just remember that each step brings you closer to planner peace.

Once all the completed or rescheduled items were taken care of, there was a short to-do list left.

TIP: Rather than recopying the list somewhere, use a different color pen or highlighter to indicate tasks to do right now.

I simply worked through those tasks from top to bottom.

Some of the tasks were items to put on my grocery list. So I went ahead and started this week's list.

TIP: If you use coupons or check sales papers, go ahead and note that in the upper left hand corner of the grocery list.

I shop at Target, so my codes include: Cartwheel, gift cards, coupons, text coupons, sales, and a discount for using reusable bags.

Finally, everything for this week was done.

I moved my today page marker to next week.

For Monday morning, I now have a simple list of what needs to be done.

This, my friends, is planner peace. I've caught up on overdue tasks and I know the plan for tomorrow, so I can relax and enjoy Mother's Day. 


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Realistic Planning: An Extra Day

I always feel like a busy little bee, but April and May consistently prove to be particularly busy. Add in December, and you have the three busiest months on my calendar. In April this year, we had a First Communion (big deal for my kid) and Easter. In May, there's the school fair, end-of-the-year parties, and graduations. Also, my husband works a ton of overtime in April and May, leaving me virtually as a single mom.

I took a hard look at my calendar and knew something had to change.

The single biggest change I am making is to the time suck that is grocery shopping.

First, I'm moving the entry from the tasks list on the weekly pages to the actual monthly calendar.

Shopping is an appointment that I really strive to honor, and since it requires prep (which will remain on my weekly task lists) - such as making a list, taking inventory of the fridge and pantry, pulling coupons, and creating a weekly menu - changing the trip at random whenever something comes up means spending a lot more money and running out necessary foods. It's a money and time suck.

Second, I'm going to start shopping every 8 to 10 days, instead of every 7. Two weeks is just too long to wait for new bread and fresh produce. But I KNOW I would use food from the pantry and freezer and save money and time if I shopped less often.

In the pic below, you can see the red boxes around my 8 day shopping schedule.

There will be 10 days whenever I go from a Friday to a Monday (since I refuse to shop in the nightmare that is a weekend at the grocery store). And, occasionally, I will go 9 days if something important falls on day 8.

Another important change to my monthly calendar is actually scheduling my up to 15 hours of work each week. I was simply scheduling the number of hours I planned to work each day. It was too easy to ignore it when I had something else to do. So from now on, work is getting scheduled.

Finally, I am budgeting some money for working in coffee shops some days a week when I am driving into town anyway. This probably doesn't sound like a change in time management, especially since I mostly work from home, but for some reason, maybe because I learned to work that way during law school, I've shown myself time and time again that I have laser focus on my work in a coffee shop, so it just makes sense.

Of course, the biggest change will be getting to June. I cannot wait!


Friday, May 2, 2014

How To Schedule During A Planner Power Through

It's a busy time of the year for us. Between the many events in April and May (including Easter, Mother's Day, fair weekend, and First Communion) and my husband's busy season at work (which ends after May, thank goodness), we are barely functioning as a family. There is no planner in the world with room for my current to do list, and that's with anything unimportant moved to June.

Still, we are getting through with only a few meltdowns. My planner is still the secret to our survival. I am using my planner to capture thoughts, tasks, and appointments. I am powering through May, using time tested planner techniques.

1. Schedule the hard appointments. Hard appointments, for me, are pretty much set in stone. Only an ER visit or a death would cancel them.

For example, I schedule the kids' choir performance at the fair and the doctor's appointment on Monday on my monthly pages.

2. Schedule the soft appointments.

Work (the little W on my calendar) must happen, but since I work from home, the hours are not set. I am in a pretty good routine of working in the morning, but it needs to be there or I won't do it.

3. Put the maybes elsewhere.

I dump the maybe appointments (like a trip to use a store coupon before it expires) on the weekly pages this time of year. I just don't have the time to commit to them and I need to treat my monthly pages as a commitment.

Note that during the rest of the year, I usually put maybes on my monthly schedule.

June cannot get here soon enough.