Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Secret to Using Google Timer

Need to remember to make a conference call in 25 minutes?

Have a 4 year old in time out for 4 minutes?

The pot needs stirring in ten minutes?

Forget about using the timer that is across the room on the stove!

technology, tech tip

Instead, use Google Timer.

Just open Google and type in "timer x minutes" where x = the number of minutes. Press enter.

TIP: Make sure your sound is on!

That's it. You can set timers for everything while you are working at your computer, without fumbling for your cell phone or accidentally blowing up your microwave. (What? Am I really the only one who has overheated a microwave or two?)

Don't forget to pin this amazing tip!

For more technology tips, visit Giftie Etcetera most Saturdays.


Friday, May 29, 2015

A Case for Not Canceling the Duggar Ladies

In light of the revelation that the oldest Duggar, as a teenager, committed inappropriate and illegal acts against five girls, TLC elected to cancel the show 19 Kids and Counting.

I was a huge fan of the show.

Now, I am not the kind of Christian depicted in the show. In fact, I found a lot of the show offensive.

I worried about the idea of courting instead of dating. (To me, courting seems more like an arranged marriage, while dating seems more self-selected.) I have no issues with big families, but 19 seems enough to risk the life of mom and new babies. Also with 19 kids, there just isn't any way to give any child enough attention. I worried about the females. I wondered what kind of abuse any of the children would face if they were gay or lesbian. Would there be a shunning? Would they be forced to hide or lie? Would the kids ever learn science?

But I love my anthropology classes in college, and for me, watching the Duggars was a form of education. I tried to understand people who were very different from me. In addition, as a productivity blogger, how the household was organized was fascinating. The social makeup of the families' mini-society was intriguing.

But I a pro-equality for women and I am profoundly against child abuse and neglect.

Even putting aside the teenage male's actions (which were not okay, just to say it explicitly), I couldn't disagree with the cancellation of the show. Just cutting the offender from the show would not be enough. After all, the parents did NOT stop the offender from contact with the victims.

The parents were adults when the offenses happened. They were in charge. Once they found out about the abuse, it was neglect to NOT keep the offender away from the females in the household.

So, for several days, I said nothing.

But something was nagging me.

No, I did not think that because they were Christian and forgiven by God (assuming, for argument's sake, that they were forgiven) that viewers should forgive them. My children watched that show (albeit with mom whispering, "no, Ander, sex is not like putting together Legos" and "no, Loki, they are wrong about when the Earth was created"). They hid this criminal activity from me, and my children now want to know why this is in the media all the time. What do I say? "These nice looking people are monsters?" My children would never trust again.

No, I did not think that the parents were innocent. If anything, a 14 year old can, understandably, do really stupid stuff. At 14, stupid is kind of the norm. The parents were the ones who failed to take appropriate action (which, for me, means a minimum of NOT ALLOWING CONTACT WITH THE VICTIMS).

But what about the victims?

off topic, 19 kids and counting, duggars, marriage, Christianity, parenting

It is reasonable to assume that the female Duggars got paid a lot per episode. 19 Kids was their job. Those weddings and childbirths were filmed with compensation.

That's right. TLC canceled the employment of the innocent victims.

How is that okay?

Did they get a choice in the matter? Did the young ladies get to decide if they wanted to continue with the show? Did TLC continue to pay the victims, even if they stopped filming?

I don't know those answers.

But I certainly hope the offense against these young women was not compounded by them losing their jobs for having been harmed.

TLC could do a spin-off with the women featured (other than the mom, who had an obligation to protect her daughters). That seems much more reasonable than taking away the employment of the victims for the offense of being molested, doesn't it?


Linked at:

Faith and Fellowship Blog Hop

Stop Cookie Cutter Planning

Cookie cutters are useful. If you want a plate full of cookies that look exactly alike, use a cookie cutter for consistency.

But planners are not about consistency (except, of course, about their consistent use). They are about practicality.

A planner must work for you, and since you aren't a cookie, a cutter cutter planner won't do.


Ring-bound, spiral, or arc?

Monthly, weekly, or daily?

Horizontal? Vertical? Printed holidays? Note pages? Addresses? Project planning? Menus? Household tasks?

The only way to create a planner that fits you is to think about your life.

I don't know any easy way to show this except to tell you about my life. (Projects, files, monthly, weekly, and daily refer to parts of my planner.)


I'm a mom, so I have to keep track of PTO meetings, school calendars, lunch payments, and project deadlines. Also, my planner has to be very portable, to bring to volunteer meetings, events, and occasional substitute teaching. I need to oversee chores and homework and drive the kids to karate practice.


Projects - to plan my volunteer work
Files - to store each year's "First Day of School" checklist
Monthly - to book meetings and practice; to note school calendar
Weekly - for tasks and deadlines, like pay lunch money
Daily- for planning all of the parenting responsibilities with everything else


I'm a lawyer who works part-time, mostly from home, as a staff attorney for a company.


Laptop - to research and write; to file 

OneNote - to outline and edit
Monthly - to schedule appointments and note paycheck periods
Weekly - to note deadlines and time sheet requirements
Daily - for making a list of what needs doing today


I am home (not working or doing carpool) about 10 hours more than my husband each week (and more during his busy overtime season). I do much (but definitely not all) of the housework. I do all the grocery shopping and the majority of the cooking.

Monthly - to note grocery shopping days
Weekly - to write menus and time-sensitive tasks
Laptop - to track daily household tasks
Daily - to make a plan for the day

I'll stop there, but you get the idea.

I would add that I don't have a lot of set meetings during the day most of the time, so I don't need a lot of scheduling space. Vertical weeklies don't work for me, since most of my stuff is not scheduled. I also don't need addresses in the planner. Those are captured electronically.

The point is that I stopped and created a recipe for my planning. I decided what I need and what I do need, and I created a system that deals with that!

Someone else's system might have elements that work for you, but the system that YOU create is the one that will make your life easier.

Join us at Facebook in our discussions of customizing your planner for you by clicking on my signature below.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

3 Reasons Why I Schedule Summer Days

In my day (way back in the 1980s), there was a class called Home Economics. All the girls - and a handful of boys...grrrr - learned how to sew, cook, and do other assorted domestic chores.

Home Ec was virtually useless. I failed the sewing part, which put me out of the running for junior high Valedictorian. I already knew how to cook. Also, I resented the boys, who got to slack off in musical instruments class.

I want my kids to learn how to cook, sew on a button, peel potatoes, clean a room, organize art supplies, and balance a checkbook.

Even if they take the modern version of Home Ec (called Family and Consumer Sciences), they just won't learn all the living skills that they need at school.

So, this summer, instead of doing math practice in the formal workbook the school suggests that we use, they will be helping calculate the family budget, adding and subtracting hours and minutes of earned electronics time, and doing real-life PE - walking, running, and biking with mom. They will be reading novels that they enjoy and working as a family to serve each other.

This summer, we are on a schedule.

schedule, productivity, parenting, summer school, homeschool

There are 3 main reasons why I schedule summer days.

1. Fewer Freak Outs

Honestly, our schedule is very loose and subject to change, but it's a good skeleton outline of our day.

My kids complain about the schedule, but the reality is that, when they know what is coming, they are calmer and less stressed out.

For example, my kids are always hungry. Knowing that lunch is "in ten minutes" keeps them from screaming about how they are "STARVING" and how I "NEVER" feed them. (I feed them five times a day. Last night, two minutes after eating half a ribeye steak, oven fries, a salad, and dessert, my 9 year old skinny child announced that he was faint from hunger.)

It's also nice knowing that, if chores are done quickly, you have tons of free time.

Notice that the schedule has a lot of free time. It's summer, after all!

2. Teaching Opportunities

By scheduling the day, I can make sure that I have time to teach my kids life skills.

Today, I taught them to clean one corner of the room each day.

"Oh, that's easy," The Loki, age 6, announced proudly. If he had the clean the whole room, he would get overwhelmed, freak out, and throw a tantrum. Instead, he now knows how to divide a big job into small, attainable pieces.

3. Sanity for Mom Means Sanity for All

Mostly, the schedule means I am not hit with "I'm bored" or fighting several times a day.

I do work during their free time (which they love) and during "Reading Hour" (because 6 year olds no longer take naps, or so The Loki claims right before he falls asleep every day).

I do chores when they do chores.

It feels more than fair to them, since Mommy does "even more work than us!"

By 3 p.m., I am done except for supper (which is already planned, defrosted, and prepped).

Summer is still lazy, but the kids are learning lessons that will make life easier. I love that.

Come talk about how you are handling your summer schedules by clicking on Etcetera (below) and joining our Facebook group!


Linked at:

Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

To Do List: Circles Instead of Squares

Writing a to do list? Try making circles instead of boxes.

to do, tasks, planner

*Circles are quicker to draw.

*Circles look nicer.

*Circles are just as easy to check off.

*When you check off a circle, it's easier to see the straight lines of the check against the curved lines of the circle than it would be to see the six straight lines of a check and square.

*With circles, you are different than other planners. You stand out.

Try it! I think you will like it!


Linked at:

Kenarry: Ideas for the Home

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thank You, Skinny Ladies

I am always nervous when I work out at my local gym.

I feel stupid asking for class schedules or where the water fountains are located. I fumble with the locks on the lockers. I can never seem to set my bag down anywhere but on a puddle of water.

I can only seem to make myself go every week or so, and I frequent three different locations depending on my schedule, so I get turned around in each separate location.

But it's something else that makes me feel so awkward.

I am ALWAYS the fattest person in the room.

weight loss, off topic

I am not always the fattest person in my real life. Many of my friends are about my size. Some are smaller; some are larger.

In fact, I wear a size 18, only slightly above the average size in America. And, frankly, right at the average size in the Deep South.

But at the gym, especially the yoga and Pilates classes that I favor, I am still waiting for the day when someone bigger than me walks in the door.

It hasn't happened in the year that I've been a member of the Y. I have always been the fattest person in the room.

I even invited my own hashtag. #StillTheFattest

So why do I go back, week after week?

I blame the skinny ladies.

I work out more than once a week (just not at the gym). When I work out alone, I tend to walk for 30 minutes or do yoga at home for 20 minutes.

But at the classes, I stay for the full 60 minutes. The social factor works for me. All the other people, regardless of their shape and size, push me to stay the whole time.

I might stop to use my inhaler (yes, during yoga, which indicates how much I struggle) or might assume corpse pose for a full three minutes right in the middle of the hip stretches. All of my ab work needs to be modified by the instructor. All of it. The next day, I am sore and stronger. Each time, it gets easier.

And the key reason I keep going? No matter what happens, I have never gotten one glance of judgment from the skinny ladies in the classes!

No one seems to notice my belly peeking out as my yoga pants roll awkwardly down to the danger zone. (Why do they do that?!?) No one glances up when I walked across the room to get yoga blocks because my arms are too short for virtually every Pilates pose that involves bending down and touching the ground. (There is one exception. The teachers notice, and have started to either walk over and adjust my pose along with a few others or to make an announcement about modifications to the whole class.) No one ever smirks or glares or makes me feel uncomfortable.

If anything, the skinny ladies are more self-conscious. They look more nervous than me, and size does not seem to change that.

I think that, in my mind, I imagine that others notice my size more than they do.

The reality is that anyone in the class who thinks about my size at all seems to take a "good for her for being here" attitude.

If you are scared to try Zumba or spinning or whatever your exercise class of choice happens to be, consider that most people are focused on themselves. Then, do the same thing. Focus on yourself.

Remind yourself that it is easier to step into a class with a perfect butt and toned biceps than it is to bring a flabby belly, puffy cheeks, and thick thighs. When you step into class anyway, you are the one working harder. You are the fighter. You are the strong one.

Thank you, skinny ladies. You made it okay for me to get healthier.

(Side Note: Yes, my gym bag is a bit unusual. I got it a couple of years ago at Target and it's really just a zip-up tote bag, but it's easy to launder, big enough, and zips up.)


Linked at:

Dream Create Inspire

Ramblings of a Bad Domestic Goddess

Monday, May 25, 2015

To Do to Done: 4 Ways to Mark Completed Tasks

Checking off a completed task is not the only satisfying way to mark tasks as done.


Of course, checking off a task brings it's own satisfaction. But it does not make an easy-to-read visual tracking of what still needs doing.

*Single Line

I sometimes use a single line to scratch through a completed task. The advantage of this tactic is that I can still read what tasks I have accomplished.

*Squiggle Line

A messy squiggle makes it easy to see what is left to be done, but leaves things, well, messy! And it's hard to read what you accomplished.


A highlighted completed task is my favorite way to mark my to dos as done. It's easy to read what you accomplished and easy to see what is left.

The major disadvantage? Carrying around a pen and a highlighter!

How do you mark completed tasks?


Linked at:
Awesome Life Friday

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Trick for Scheduling Long Periods of Unspecified Time

My title is all fancy and complicated, but this post is really about solving a simple problem. How do you schedule flexible time (meaning you can do it any time that day) that eats up most of your schedule?

schedule, planner

For me, this question arises in two ways.

I am employed with completely flexible, work-from-home hours, but I still have to work several hours a day. I need a way to note that on my schedule, but still take advantage of the flexibility of not having to work at 3:15 p.m. if the weather is perfect and my kids want to play in the park.

I also grocery shop about once a week. That takes at least two hours, so it needs to be noted on my schedule, but it can move around if a friend calls to have lunch together.

Maybe you are a student and have to study for three hours today. Perhaps you homeschool for five hours each day.

Whenever something is a time suck, it should go on your schedule! But while appointments go in at a certain time, the flexible time sucks should only be tentative scheduled, to give you an idea of how much you have to go and approximately when the best time to do it is.

I solve this problem by putting brackets around the untimed, flexible but necessary appointment (as in the green circle above).

Now I know at a glance what can be moved (if I must rearrange my schedule) and how many hours total are already booked.

(In the example, I ended up working from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. until 5 p.m., during my kids' appointment. I moved my workout, which honestly should be in bracket, too, to 7:30 p.m.)

For more planner tips or to get your specific problems and organizing issues addressed, click on Etcetera below and join my Facebook group!


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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sparkly Clean, Organized Houses - Only on TV

I understand that television is fake. But I think directors could change one little thing to make sitcoms seem more real.

They could add a sink full of dishes to the set.

organize, organizing, clean, cleaning

My kitchen (pictured above) is not a mess. But (left to clockwise) my chairs are not tucked carefully under the table, my purses and bags are unzipped and hanging haphazardly over my desk, and there is a mug and a plate on my side table.

That's the reality. A bachelor on a sitcom? He has a Mountain Dew can, open and empty, on some surface. A college girl? She has four pairs of shoes slipped off right in the doorway. A mom? There's probably sticky orange juice on the counter and a pile of mail to sort.

Sitcoms could really up the realism by simply letting the sets get messy.

Why don't they? I, for one, would welcome the recognition that things are not perfect in real life.

So, vote in the comments - sparkly sets or realistic sets? I'd love to hear what you think.


Linked at: , Foodie Friends FridayFrugal Friday
Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Where Details Fit in a Planner

One reason to use a daily page is to actually make a plan for the day. But that does not mean that you need a cluttered schedule, where you might overlook important times.

Instead, I propose that you write the essentials in a schedule and the details in the other parts of the daily plan (as seen here on my Quo Vadis daily page).

details, daily docket, daily plan, schedule, tasks, project planning

The green Ws indicate where I scheduled 8 hours of work and put a small arrow, to indicate that the details are listed in the meat of the page. The three tasks, like "draft policy," indicate what needs to be done in those 8 hours.

TIP: Use a tiny arrow to indicate where the details are located away from the actual schedule.

The Ps (for personal) show what time I need to do an errand (which cannot be done earlier in the day because the pharmacy won't have Crestor ready until late in the day). The details of the errand are in the middle of the page, where actual planning gets done. Again, a tiny arrow next to the scheduled time indicates that I should look below to find the details.

This method can work with virtually any daily set-up. It just makes sense. I could have crowded the schedule with details and times, but this way, CP (carpool) jumps out at me. My 8 hours must be done before or after CP. There is no other option.

Notice that I do put some questionable activities, like a family walk, with a question mark on the schedule (circled in yellow). I hope to walk, if we don't have an afternoon thunderstorm!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to Become an Organizing Blogger

I've noticed many members of the planner community are moving from commenting in Facebook groups and on blogs to publishing their own blogs.

I love it! More blogs for me to read.

blog, planner, organize, off topic

Becoming an organizing blogger is so easy enough that even more of you should do it. We organizing bloggers just have one big secret.

The big secret?

We aren't organized!

Instead, we document our processes and attempts to organize.

Think about it. How often have I shared a planner tip, only to abandon the tactic within the month? How many times have I put up pictures of piles of dishes?

So get out your planner and a camera. Or take a picture of your cluttered closet. Make a plan, follow the plan, and tell us about it!

If you start a new organizing or planner blog, make sure to add your link to the comments of this post. We want to check you out.


Linked at:
Awesome Life Friday

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Proper Planner Attitude

Planning isn't all about what layout you use or which tabs are easiest to read.

At the heart of it, planning is really about knowing what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what you can change without undue stress if the plan doesn't work out.

planner, perspective

As I write this post, my life is pretty stressful. The picture shows my jam-packed Thursday (chaperoning a field trip, working out, doing an hour of work, dinner with my mom, karate for the big kid, delivery to the school as the room mom) and the crazy rest of the week. All of this is happening while my husband works 10 to 12 hour days.

But when I described my day to friends, I didn't call it stressful.

I said it was "exciting."

Who am I kidding? I will barely make it through tomorrow, much less that weekend.

But something funny happened when I called my schedule exciting.

Instead of a panic attack (my usual response), I felt challenged. I can do this. I will do this. And at the end of it, I will schedule some well-deserved downtime.

Instead of looking at my planner as a to do list, I looked at it as a goal list. It changed my world.

Now, open your planner and look at tomorrow's plan. Instead of stressing, remind yourself that you have a plan of attack, that it is doable (and change it right now if it isn't), and you will be living life tomorrow!


I thought so.


Linked at:

Reflections from a Redhead

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Using One Note: Cut and Paste Versus Print to File

I love having Microsoft One Note on my Surface Pro 3, but for a long time, I was clicking on the top button of the One Note screen, cutting out a portion of my screen, and copying into One Note.

print, technology, OneNote, One Note

That trick is AMAZING for capturing a bit of information, a portion of a picture, a coloring page, or anything smaller than or equal to a screen shot. If I need a printable for my planner, I can create it, customize it, and print it from One Note!

But for bigger pieces of information, like a court ruling from Westlaw or a long article from a newspaper, there is a better way to capture the information to One Note.

Simply "print" it (like you would any other website) and choose One Note as your printer!

The pages will print (as one One Note page if you mess with your One Note settings) and list the website link in the bottom left hand corner of each page of the printout, just like it does in your printer.

That way, you can read, highlight, and take notes, right there on the document, just as if you had used an ink printer.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Planner Tabs: The Case for Less Than a Handful

Planner tabs are used to divide a paper planner into sections. My planner only has four tabs now.

I know that number comes as a shock to a lot of planner people. It's crazy low, right?

planner, tabs, sections

It works, though, because I select the tabs so carefully.

I use no tab for my dashboard (consisting of sticky notes and blank paper).

After that, I put my projects section (not pictured). I used to have my master task list after that, but since I rarely use it except as a dumping ground, I made that list one of my active projects!

(That's a little bit brilliant. Don't you agree?)

Then I have calendar, future, and notes.

I still use tons of post-it tabs, to mark project sections or notes sections. But having only four permanent tabs means a lighter, thinner profile for my planner. It also mean, ironically, that I get to things more quickly when I have fewer options.

How many tabs do you have? What are they labeled as?


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Kids Can Do Chores (Video)

My kids, Loki (age 6) and Ander (age 9), explain all about doing the chores in the video at this link.

parenting, parenting advice, household chores, chores

My favorite part is when the 6 year old rats out Mommy over her "shoe" issue. The issue? I drop them wherever I take them off.


*Make chores routine, so kids feel confident doing them.

*Make chores age-appropriate, but remember that even young kids can do something.

*Make chores a family activity.

*Praise, praise, praise. Let your kids make a video bragging about what they do! (Feel free to share the link to your video in the comments.)

*Give the kids tangible rewards, like electronic time or playtime outside, as soon as the chore is done. (We don't pay for chores and kids who are not cheerfully - or at least not sullenly - helpful don't get rewards.)

Enjoy the video!


Linked at: Baby Brain Monday, Hip Homeschool Hop

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

5 Ways to Write a Schedule in a Planner

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

No matter how much you follow a system or use borrowed ideas to write in and set-up your planner, every single planner is like a fingerprint of the individual.

One way to create a unique look in your planner is to carefully select the way that you write your schedule.

I was looking at pictures of daily schedules that some members of the Giftie Etcetera Facebook group posted, and the difference between each daily plan was striking. Each person used a unique system for writing their scheduled appointments.

This post overviews some of the most popular schedule writing methods.

(My apologies. I have no idea who created the underlying schedule form that I am currently using in One Note. If it's you, let me know so I can share your blog link and give you full credit. Since I don't own the underlying schedule form, I will not share a blank copy.)


Arrows create a clean daily plan, but they leave out a lot of detail. It's sometimes difficult to tell at a glance the start and end times of events.

However, it does give a decent overview of the breakdown of your day.

My pet peeve about arrows? They are never perfectly straight. See how the "Dinner w/ Bob" arrow is too far to the left? Drives me crazy!



Boxes allow the writer to block off large chunks of time. Plus, if you are a better artist than I am, you can theoretically match up the squares on the boxes. If you need a quick view of your day, this is the way to go.

However, a ton of short appointments would look rather crowded and messy with this method. 

planner, paper, writing, schedule


Casual planning, in this case, means putting in information in a casual, writing-across-the-page way. I circled the key times in the example, to help indicate when important activities start. It's a quick, easy, and effective way to enter information in a planner. I like this method for a rapidly evolving day.

The disadvantage? It can get messy and there is not a lot of information (like end times) on the planner page.

planner, paper, writing, schedule

*Colored Boxes

Coloring in a box, with a computer or a highlighter, is a nice way to create a neat visual.

It takes a lot of input time, though, and can be difficult to change or make perfect. This method is best reserved for schedules that need to be shared with others.

planner, paper, writing, schedule

*The Giftie Method

This is how I plan!

1. Start times, plus any set end times, are written on the appropriate line.

2. Important events are underlined (or circled, which I don't do only because I circle repeating events).

3. Related actions are noted with an arrow.

4. Notes are indicated with a dash.

5. Informal times (like lunch) are jotted on the page, across the time slot.

6. A partial left-side box is drawn from before the start time to after the estimated end time.

planner, paper, writing, schedule

You can see how The Giftie Method is superior, right?

Ha ha! It's okay if you can't. My method might not be your preferred method, and as with any planning, you should do whatever works best for you. You have unlimited options when you open your planner. Choose wisely.

If you enjoyed this post, please share on social media.


This post was created using OneNote on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Mother

It rained today.

off topic, mother, parenting, scheduling

Oh, it didn't rain all day. The rain started two minutes after I got on the interstate to drive to carpool and continued until two minutes after I returned home.

The Loki, my 6 year old, adamantly refused to get in the car at carpool. The teacher stood by the car, in the pouring rain, coaxing him in. I threatened. I bribed. Nothing. The teacher got soaked. My car got soaked. I looked completely ineffective as a parent.

Getting wet was not the worst part of my day.

At 3 a.m., my older kid, Ander, puked in his bed in his sleep. 
I had laundry to do, but first we had three batches of pillows, sheets, blankets, and stuffed animals to wash. Yes, my 9 year old still sleeps with stuffed animals. 

Early in the morning, before the rain ever started, I opened the fridge to grab milk for my coffee, and the syrup that Ander had precariously placed on the shelf jumped out, bounced on my bare toes, and exploded all over the floor and the underside of the refrigerator. I couldn't even yell at him because he was sick!

My husband had to work overtime. I also had to work overtime, which meant I worked from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., except lunch, went to carpool in the rain, and came back after 4 p.m. to work some more.

I cooked lunch and Ander's tummy couldn't handle it, so I cooked two lunches.

I cooked dinner and burnt the pan. Fortunately, I did not burn the vegetables. But halfway through, I had to stop and clean the pan. The Loki declared dinner "yummy" (no small victory!) but he refused to eat any vegetables other than peas.

I had a politically sensitive matter to deal with for a volunteer project. I hate saying no.

I had to oversee homework, chores, and snacks. I had to give the epilepsy kid meds.

None of this even touches anything on my to do list in my planner. It's just the bonus stuff that cropped up. I did the stuff in my planner, too.

But it's okay. I signed up for this.

In two weeks, school will end.

My work doesn't usually require overtime, but in a month, my husband's work won't demand it, either.

The epilepsy kid is seizure-free.

We'll slow down, relax, and enjoy life again.

Sometimes, being a good mother doesn't actually mean doing any parenting. Sometimes, it just means surviving. Sometimes, it's okay just to survive.


Linked at:

The Evolution of Mom

Monday, May 11, 2015

How to Use the Notes Space on a Weekly Spread

Unfortunately, many weekly inserts (I'm talking to you, Filofax!) don't include an undated notes space in the spread. I won't settle for a weekly spread without a notes section included somewhere.

weekly, planner, notes

TIP: If you must use a spread without a blank notes section, consider a hole-punched page divider in the center for that information.

For me, this small space if critical for three reasons.

1. Overflow - The empty space serves as an overflow space for details about date-specific entries that need more information (like an address or phone number or reminder about dress code) than is available in the dated spaces.

2. Notes - Notes from telephone calls, confirmation numbers, or anything else that needs recording and archiving and is week or day specific goes here.

3. Lists - Weekly lists are perfect for this space. Menus, what to wear, or items that are worth thinking about (like what gift to give a birthday boy in two weeks) fit perfectly in this extra space.

There are weeks when this space stays empty. That is okay! It is still not wasted space, as the blank area means nothing was noteworthy that week.

How do you use your note space?


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Erasermate Pens and the Many Ways They Suck

My weekly technology feature is a little unusual today. It's about a practically ancient technology - ink pens.

Frixion pens (featured on this blog over and over and over again) are my favorite pens. I need something erasable. In fact, I used pencil in my planners for years. But Pilot Frixion pens go beyond erasable.

They are bright, write smoothly, and come in many colors and highlighters.

So why try Papermate Erasermate pens?

erasermate, planner, frixion, pilot pens, ink, quo vadis

Well, they are cheap. As pens go, they are dirt cheap. My husband is a fiscal analyst, y'all. He has every penny we spend on a spreadsheet.

Also, I thought I'd take one for the team. Planner world, I did this for you.

It sucked.

The look? Well, see the picture above. I had to retrace my writing sometimes even to see it at all. There are spots where no ink hit the page at all, regardless of pressure. 

The feel of the pen on the paper is jerky. There is no cool scratchy sensation. Instead, the pen seems to get caught even on the softest paper (like my Quo Vadis pages).

Erasermate pens only come in basic colors. I tried the blue, and it is dull and harsh, all at once. (Yes, that seems impossible. But it seems impossible that I would use the word "suck" in a title on my blog. However, I am a truth-teller, and suck is the truth.)

Frixion pens are completely worth the slightly higher (but still reasonable) price.

I thought about given the Erasermates to my kid, but that seems cruel, doesn't it?


Linked At:
Frugal Friday

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Beauty of a Balanced Weekly Planner Spread

Today's planner tip is simple.

Make your planner spread visually balanced.

planner, decorating

Notice that I achieve this by using a daily page to one side and the weekly spread to the other. I use clean lines and quadrants of the page to designate various lists. I don't overcrowd entries.

I don't decorate, exactly, but I use decorative page markers, a colorful highlighter, colorful ink, and basic shapes and tags to give the page a pop.

If your planner is nice to look at when opened up, you will use it more and find it easier to use.

If you enjoy my planner tips, please share with your friends on social media.


Linked at: Momma Told Me

Kenarry: Ideas for the Home

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Stop Wasting Valuable Planner Space on Menu Planning

Paper planners are limited in space by the very nature of paper. A planner can only be so heavy, so wide, and so tall before carrying it or turning pages is even feasible.

Still, it needs to contain all the most important information.

menu, planner

Menus, for people in families or on budgets, fall into the category of important information. Menus help people eat healthy food, have a variety of choices, make a grocery list, save money, and reduce waste.

It's hard to think of an argument against having a menu plan every week. And, unless you are a "on the fridge" type of person, your menu plan is probably in your planner.

Your beautifully designed menu plan? Your carefully Pinterest-searched printout?

It's probably taking up TOO MUCH SPACE.

Don't feel bad. I was doing the same thing. I've wasted half a planner page on menus. Prior to that, I was using a whole page every week and carrying several weeks worth of menus. If you searched "Menu Planner" on-line, you will discover many full or half page forms.

It's time to downsize.

Instead of wasting so much valuable planner space, I am now using a temporary list as a menu planner, on a small post-it right behind my hard, plastic dashboard. If I want to keep old ones for ideas, I can have an entire page of post-its in my Notes section of my planner.

My entire menu plan measures 2" x 1.5" and is microscopically thin. It's placement is to the left of my ongoing shopping list (which is located to the right of the planner spread, but not pictured, above). The plan is nestled among other temporary but very active lists, like my timesheet for work (on another post-it), my Gift list, and my "Owed (To or From)" list.

Planner space is too valuable to waste on a somewhat repetitive list of seven items.

If you enjoyed this post, join us in my Facebook group (by clicking the Etcetera link below) and discuss ways to use your planner wisely to get your life in order.


Linked at:

Couponin Diva

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Using the Four Quadrants in Your Daily Plan

The Four Quadrants are something that I learned a long time ago from Stephen Covey's writings.

Basically, the most Important and most Urgent tasks go in the upper left hand corner of the four squares and the least Important and least Urgent go in the lower right hand corner.

Many productivity scholars suggest that people drop the nonurgent, unimportant items from your life.

I don't disagree!

But I use the quadrants a bit differently than others. I use my quadrants for building my daily docket.

For me, anything Urgent is a Must Do (in the right column). The top things need to be done first, of course, since they are truly important. Anything Nonurgent is a Should Do (in the right column). I don't put more on my daily docket than I actually plan to do, so I don't drop anything unless I unexpectedly run out of time!

Examples of my tasks:

URGENT & IMPORTANT = Email school about kids' medicals

URGENT & NOT IMPORTANT = Dye my hair (urgent, trust me!)

NONURGENT & IMPORTANT = Turn in an article (before deadline, so not urgent)

NONURGENT & NOT IMPORTANT (but worthy of my list) = Cleaning

If you appreciate learning new ways to set up your planner page, remember to share on social media.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why I Believe Organizing Bloggers Are Lying Liars

Organizing bloggers are lying liars.

Oh, sure, I read everything about organizing that I can. I hoard their tips (and my own). I love the blogs. Organization porn is only surpassed by planner porn. I love it!

But, seriously, unless the bloggers are home full-time with NO kids, surely their kitchens sometimes look like mine?

organize, organizing, order

You need to understand how this disaster happened. (You probably also need to know that it stayed this way for a couple of days. Oops.)

In my house, we erase the evidence of whatever we do (like cooking supper) and we do a load of dishes daily. So I was innocently cooking dinner, thinking I'd clean up right away. I had complete confidence that I had this.

But I forgot to check my planner, so as I served and ate dinner, I realized too late that it was time to bring my kid to his new black belt karate practice. We gathered up the belt and the bag and drove away.

Karate times had changed, but my husband didn't understand that, so he didn't tell me. We spent an extra half hour at karate.

When we returned home, it was late. Too late - and too aggravatingly unexpected - for me to focus on anything but going to bed.

That's how real life happens, right? Things happen, and our houses and systems and planners get out of control.

I figure that most organizing bloggers (at least, the human ones) must stage their photos.

Not me! Here, you get reality - the cold, ugly, harsh reality.

Welcome to Giftie Etcetera, where I show it like it is.

Keep erasing the evidence and doing daily chores. Don't stop checking your planner. But understand that things won't be perfect.

Perfect is not the goal. Aim for happy imperfection instead.

(Organizing bloggers are free to post links to their rebuttals in the comments. At least one of you must be super-human and really that organized, right? :) )


Linked At:

Home Matters Linky Party - Grab Button

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Messy Note-to-File Planner Tip

I don't archive much. Basically, I bind my monthly and weekly pages into a binder clip each year and toss them into a decorative box.

But that casual attitude toward archiving doesn't mean that archiving or filing away old planner entries is useless.

I go back to those entries a lot. Sometimes, I reread them for fun. More often, I need to prove that I did something (like paid a bill, canceled an appointment, or took a continuing education class).

For information that I might need to find later, I like it to jump off of the page for me. But I struggle with that because I color in entire entries with highlighter as a normal practice, so I end up not having a way to make them look different.

In response to that problem, I've implemented what I call the messy note-to-file planner technique.

planner, monthly, weekly, note to file

I simply write the details (DONE, date, time, notes) right OVER the original entry. It's messy, but readable, and the entries now jump out at me because they are messier than anything else on the page.

(Another option is to write the details in highlighter and put a box around it.)

Where do you write your note-to-file information?


Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Best Tricks for Never Ever Forgetting to Use Your Planner

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

The single biggest hurdle for people new to using a planner (and...ahem...some of us more experienced folks) is to remember to write things down and look at them again.

Using a planner, planner, writing in a planner

Establishing the planner habit is challenging. But with dedication and some tricks to help you remember to use it, the planner habit can become part of your routine and your life.

*Carry Your Planner Everywhere

I've gotten good enough at using and depending on my planner that I can occasionally leave it in the car when I run in the park or have dinner with a friend. 

(Note that I do not leave it at home. I might need to go back to the car to plan our next dinner date!)

(The term "run" required a bit of creative license. It's more of a slow walk.)

But when first starting or restarting dependence on a planner, get a bag big enough to carry it and carry it everywhere.

*Dedicate Homes for Your Planner

Think about how a planner is used and pick a placement that makes sense.

I jot ingredients on my grocery list and meal ideas in the kitchen. I peek in my planner in the morning to see what to wear, based on the day's schedule. I always use my planner next to my laptop, adding tasks to my lists or crossing them out.

Therefore, I have three dedicated places for my planner (in addition to my purse/work bag). 

In the kitchen, it goes on my desk in a book holder

In the bedroom, it goes on my side table in a designated tray

And any other time, it's next to my computer.

NOTE: More than one home might make good sense, but KNOW the locations and use them exclusively.

*Set an Alarm for Routine Review of Your Planner

Until there is a clear routine of looking at and using your planner, consider a three times per day alarm. (Just because I love paper doesn't mean that I don't love technology, too!)

Choose the times carefully. I need to look at my planner first thing in the morning, upon arrival at work, and when I get home in the afternoon. You might prefer other times. That's fine. What's important is that the alarm teaches you to rely on the planner.

*Write Everything Down

For now, if you must do it, if you think about it, or if you did it, write it down.

With time, you will learn what you need reminders of (like taking out the trash on Tuesdays, since I ALWAYS forget) and what you don't (like brushing my teeth).

But err in the direction of writing too much at first. That step serves two purposes: 1) creating the habit of writing in your planner and 2) opening your planner day after day, all day long.

*Log Some Stuff

I don't track water intake. I naturally drink a ton of water, plus I use a refillable container to ensure that I get enough. It would be silly for me to track water.

But you might want to log water intake, calorie intake, or bedtimes. Maybe you log what your wear to work, phone calls, or meals that are a hit with your family.

The thing about having a log is that you are forced to use your planner on a regular basis, so you get into the planner habit.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas for remembering to use your planner!

I wrote the original post that inspired this one a while back. To see the original post - and for even more great tips - click on the Flashback Post link here.


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Friday, May 1, 2015

Planner Tip: Mark Out Extra Days on Monthly Pages

Yesterday, I was teaching exponents to 6th graders.

If you don't remember exponents, an exponent equation includes a base number with a superscript number representing the exponent to the upper right.


Exponents are read as in the following example: 2 to the 3rd power. 

To solve that equation, the student would multiply the base number, 2, by itself for the number of times indicated in the exponent, 3.

2 x 2 x 2 = 4 x 2 = 8

So, 2 to the 3rd power equals 8.

As you might guess, a lot of students did this instead:

2 x 3 = 6

The students were very smart. They understand how exponents work, but they were struggling with paying attention to the rule. Since our brains process so much automatically, their brains would process the question as 2 x 3 and they would answer carelessly.

I do the same thing with my planner. I am easily distracted and often do things without stopping to consider them.

Things are so automatic that I will often write stuff in an undated box in my monthly planner.

To solve that problem, when setting up monthly pages, don't forget the simple act of marking out the undated, unused spaces that represent days that do not fall within a particular month.

planner, monthly, planner tricks, planner tips and tricks

That simple planner hack will take care of the problem of mindlessly entering information in the wrong part of the page.

Sometimes, I color in the empty blocks. I've used washi tape or markers to fill in the boxes. But, somehow, I cross out the boxes that will remain unused every time I set up a monthly page.

Try it. It's easier that exponents and just might work for you!