Perfect Planner Does NOT Mean Perfect Plans

I have “planneritice”.  A friend and I have coined that term after numerous discussions regarding our obsession with planners.  Despite owning numerous planners (not necessarily all at once, although I am afraid that too is true on occasion) she and I can get lost in time searching for the perfect planner.  While this is in part due to our desire to always grow in our organizational wisdom, I have to confess, at least for me, it is in part due to the notion in my mind that the perfect planner will finally bring perfect order to my life.  No more plans gone awry.  No more searching for papers.  No more last minute runs to Wal-Mart of a gift on the way to the party.  No more forgotten birthdays.  No more…  Oh if it were only so!

As I mentioned, I have found the “perfect” planner for me.   A compilation of several planner pages and some creativity on my part.  However, let me be clear.  This perfect planner has NOT meant perfect plans.  I do make better decisions (most days).  I do worry less as I know my “to do” items are written down (most of the time).  But, life is not perfect.  I am not perfect.  The people I live with and work with are not perfect.  To live this life with any level of peace and joy, we just have to build in space for the imperfect.  

My daily planner pages are the center of my planner.  The heart beat if you wish.  I refer back to these pages ALL day long.  These pages in particular are why I love the Life is Crafted system so very much.

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These pages are divided into 8 columns.  One for each day of the week, and an extra left over.  Across the top are 8 blocks to be labeled with categories or project titles.  I use the same 8 categories each week.  Home, My girls names, Mary & Martha, Keller Williams/SOS, New House, Miscellaneous and Blog.  I look back at my Master To Do and any items on the Monthly To Do.  I select the items I need to do next and write them under the appropriate heading.  I try not to have more than 4-5 items under each heading.  Remember that need to build in time for the imperfect?  Yep.  Be real.  Know you will have interruptions (good and bad), know things will take longer than planned, just know.  The next section is a column for each day (beginning with Monday) and time slots.  This system begins at 8:00 and goes through 7:00.  I wouldn’t mind it starting a little earlier, but… Here is where I time block.  I honestly believe this is the key to good time management and absolutely the hardest habit to develop.  I fill in appointments first.  Second, I determine which tasks from the above section I want to complete on which day.  I determine a day and time and block off 15 minutes more than I think I will need.  I also leave 15 minutes between every appointment and/or time block.  So, in reality I build myself a 30 minute buffer.  And guess what?  Some days that still isn’t enough.  Below is a section to write down the 3 most important things to do that day (and these items should be in my time blocks somewhere)  and then list out specific tasks.  If I have quick phone calls, an email to respond to…. that is not a part of a bigger project and I know can happen in less than five minutes I will write those things down here and not time block them.  I love that the pages include little stars at the bottom for tracking water consumption (which you can tell I have not don :()  There is also a place to write down 5 things you are grateful for each week.  I am working hard to discipline myself to do this.  If you have read any of my other posts, you know I was convicted about Gratitude and am an avid reader of Ann Voskamp.  I’m not there yet, but this little reminder is helping.  When possible I do color code appointments.  I usually use a yellow highlighter to mark off the time blocks.  It gives me a really good visual and helps me guard those time blocks.

At the end of the day, the truth is, time management is about discipline.  It is about being mindful.  I have to stop and put some thought into what I am doing.  What is most important.  Sometimes items that don’t look important are critical-like laundry!  I have to work the plan.  We have all heard it said before.  I can get it all on paper, but if I never open the planner, never check in during the day to see what I have done (mark it off!!!!), I will fail to move forward on projects.  I’ll fail to do those things that are BEST.  My planner is simple.  I don’t use Smashbook or Washi tape.  I wish I did.  I love to see the creativeness.  It’s not me.  I’m a simple gal, needing a little focus and discipline.  So, these pages work for me.

The remainder of the planner are sections I have added to track my businesses and attempt to have pertinent information with me.  They have been the “work in progress” the past 6 months.  I think I have about got them tweaked and working.

My perfect planner is working for me.  The secret though is in me working my plan and allowing for imperfection.

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More on My Perfect Planner

As I have mentioned, I found the perfect planner.  The perfect planner for me.  You see, that is the secret.  There is no perfect planner.  There are only planners of various kinds.  We find one, or a combination of several (as I have done) and create the perfect planner for ourselves.  For some it is an electronic version.  Although, as someone who consults as an organizer and time management coach, I will tell you I have found most women still work best with a paper system, using the electronic calendar only as a month at a glance family calendar or to provide reminder alerts.  Why?  We are more right brained.  We were created to be creative.  As such, I think most of us like the visual aspect of paper planning, as evidenced by all the amazing photos on Pinterest of colorful, sticker full planner pages.  Way beyond my capacity, but some of you creative women out there can go all out!  Second, we are more tactile.  Our days are full of “touching”.  We place hands upon our homes through cooking, cleaning, decorating…  We place hands upon our family loving, encouraging, supporting.  We place hands upon a lot.  Getting to place our hands upon something tactile we can use to track our days is refreshing, rewarding and provides a great sense of accomplishment.  If you are anything like me, getting to strike a line through any of my “to do” tasks gives me sheer joy!  So today I share with you a few more sections and tips from my Personal Perfect Planner.

On Monday I took you through the first few sections.  I stopped at my Project Pages.  Let me reiterate again, how important these are.  Not only do they help me keep track of what I need to do on each project, giving me a big picture view, but they keep me accountable.  When I see too many Project Pages piling up I know I have failed to say yes to the best, and have let myself fall prey to trying to please others by never saying no.  Ugh.  I know you have been there.  Especially if you are a woman of faith.  It is hard, hard to say no and not feel guilty.  Hard to know what the best is versus the good.  Here are some tips, things I do, to help in saying yes to the best.

  1. Never give an answer at the moment you are asked.  ALWAYS ask if you can have a day to a week to think about it.
  2. Pray daily, asking God to give you direction.
  3. Review your Life Purpose Statement.  Does the task/commitment align itself to your Life Purpose Statement.
  4. Review your Project list.  How many things are you committed to right now?  Are any of them drawing to a close?
  5. Assess whether or not being involved in this task or commitment will use your spiritual gifts and human talents.  God does not call us to do things He has not gifted us to do.  Don’t take the joy away from someone else.
  6. Respond back succinctly.  We owe no one but God an explanation.  If your yes is yes, then just say so.  If your no is no, then just say so.

The next section in my planner is Special Dates.  I keep a list of birthdays, anniversaries etc… here.  I am that old fashioned girl that still likes to send a hand written note as much as possible.  Each Friday I review the next week and then over on my daily pages write down when I need to send a card off.  I love Mardells and keep a stock of Dayspring cards, which you can always purchase in bulk on sale.  I wish I could tell you I never miss a special date, but I am not perfect and sadly I sometimes let this priority fall off my mind.  This section of my planner is from Life is Crafted.

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Now we finally come to the meat of my planner.  The sections I rely upon daily to keep me centered and keep me effective.  The next section is my Month at a Glance.  While I love the Life Is Crafted system, her monthly pages do not have lines.  Being a little on the OCD side, I need lines.  I can’t stand looking at a page with crooked writing.  I know.  At this point I should stop and call my therapist.  All joking aside, not having lines just doesn’t work for me.  So, for this section I use the folio size Day-Timer Month at a Glance pages.  In addition to the fact that they are lined, there are several other things I LOVE about their layout.

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The front page of the Two Page Per Month has a “To Be Done” section.  This is where I write those things that need to be done annually or quarterly.  Things like, “run cleaning cycle in washing machine”, power wash patio”, “seal granite/marble”…  You get the idea.  This is NOT where I put all my “to do” items.  I keep those on the Master To Do list and transfer those to my weekly pages.  (more about that next week)

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The Two Page Per Month layout is great, including at the bottom the previous month’s calendar and the next month’s calendar.  To the right there is a column “To Be Done” and “Notes & Memos”.  If there is something on my Master To Do list that must be done during a particular month, I DO transfer it to this “To Be Done” section.  I use the “Notes & Memos” section to write down names/phone numbers of people I need to contact that month, but mostly use it as a reminder section for any Mary & Martha business alerts or reminders (for example if a new product is coming in stock or an out of stock item is going to be restocked on a particular day).  The daily blocks in the month layout are used for appointments.  As you can see, I do some color coding here.  Things due or critical appointments are in red.  My girls are blue and pink.  I am green.  No “to do” items are here, only appointments.  Each Friday I set aside time to sync this paper planner with my iphone calendar.  I try to keep it all synced as each day ends, but let’s get real.  I am over 40 and sometimes forget. Second, some days by the time I have a spare moment I can do little more than fall into bed.  Fortunately, I haven’t missed anything critical and this once a week “sync” on Friday seems to keep me up to date.

As my girls have gotten older I have taught them to put their own items on the iphone calendar (which is in our Cloud and shared).  This year, they are now 15, I am slowly implementing the policy that if it is not on the calendar it doesn’t happen.  Obviously having to give a little grace and use it failed moment to provide a little instruction, reinforcement.  However, if it is purely social I will tell you I have used those opportunities to be pretty hard core.

The meat of my planner are in the pages that follow this Two Page Per Month Layout.  Looking forward to sharing that in the next post.  In the mean time here are some sites you might want to check out if you are interested in creating your own perfect planner.

http://www.momagenda.com/

http://lifeiscrafted.com/

https://plannerpads.com/

http://intheleafytreetops.com/2015-mom-on-the-go-planner/

https://www.erincondren.com/

http://franklinplanner.fcorgp.com/store/