The Search Never Ends-Planner Perfection

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Project List and Tracking
Project List and Tracking
Slim Weekly Planner purchased at Barnes & Noble
Slim Weekly Planner purchased at Barnes & Noble

Well, I know it is NOT just me.  There seems to be a never ending search among-st women for the PERFECT PLANNER.  Now, I know perfection is NOT something to be pursued, for none of us is perfect, but it sure seems like there would be a planner out there that met women’s needs.  We are all so different thought.  Some of us like to decorate our planners and want lots of white space in which to create.  Others of us, like myself, like lots of lines to write on.  Most of us need to manage a whole slew of people’s schedules and events.  Some of us want to manage those things by time slots, others want to see a section for each person they track.  The list could go on and on.

Out of curiosity, I thought it would be fun to do a little survey.  What would you want in a planner?  I thought about a survey, but I don’t want my limited thoughts, creativity to stifle your thoughts.  So, just post in the comments.

I want a month at a glance with lined boxes.  I like a 7 day per week on two pages overview.  I like an area to note appointments and like this to be numbered by the hour.  Again, I like lines.  I have this thing about crooked writing.  I want a place to put “to do lists” by category/project.  I do not need a contacts section.  I would like to track my water drinking.  You get the idea.  Dream away and give me all your best ideas.  Never know what my happen with those ideas!

 

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Perfect Planner-Business Pages to Keep Me Going

Where did Friday go?  Ever have one of those weeks?  This has been one.  I love fall.  I love back to school-not because my kids go back to school, but because it is the beginning of a new year: new calendar; new schedules; new plans…  However, it takes a a bit to get used to it all and to get all my systems in place.  My planner helps, in fact I couldn’t survive without it.  It keeps me focused.  I can also trust my planner when I can’t trust my brain!

I currently home-school one of my daughters.  I strive to live my priorities God, family, then work.  I have been privileged to have the opportunity to stay at home.  When my girls entered middle school I began working towards developing opportunities to earn some income, while still keeping my priorities.  For a brief period I actually went back to work outside the home, working for someone else.  The discontent was overwhelming-not just for me, but for my family.  It became clear I needed to be back home, where God had called me years earlier.  I had to quit comparing myself to others.  I had to quit wondering why I couldn’t “do it all” like some of my friends and acquaintances.  That’s not what it was about.  It was about God’s call for me.  What my life looks like is and will be different from that of others.  I can’t explain it.  I don’t always understand it.  That’s o.k.  God has plans.  His plans are often not in accordance with our ways.  It is not for me to understand, it is just for me to obey.

That being said, I am back at home.  I have begun an organizing business with one of my best friends and recently Mary & Martha found me, I am an independent consultant.  I have my real estate license, but am not sure where that will go or how long  I will keep that.  Managing our home, home-schooling, working in ministry through the Christian Women’s Job Corps and the Women’s Missionary Union, and juggling these income opportunities is challenging.  I was really struggling with keeping information at my fingertips.  I love binders, and for a while each project had a binder.  Problem was, I was frequently out or away from my office space and needed to be able to access some information.  As I began to build my new planner using Life is Crafted products I decided to add some business pages in the back.

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I have a tab for each business.  Behind each tab I keep a running Master To Do list.  I write down things I need to do to develop the business.  I can then determine week to week whether or not I have time to work on those tasks or just address the immediate clients/tasks.  Next, I have a set of monthly tabs.  I keep client intake sheets for my organizing business, hostess information for Mary & Martha, monthly promo sheets for Mary & Martha and any listing or selling agreements/info for my real estate.  I am in process of locating a monthly budget sheet that will help me track income and expenses for the three businesses.  I still keep separate binders for each business, but this allows me to have important data at my fingertips at all times (client names, contact info, listing info…).  The back pocket of the binder holds the current Mary & Martha catalog and brochures for my organizing business, Simplified- Organized- Styled (SOS).  I also keep post-it notes so I can flag items in my calendar, make notes, flag favorites/corrections in the catalog.

Life is crazy.  Things happen.  I can plan and plan, but at the end of the day life can only be lived one day at a time.  I love my planner.  I have no doubt it will continue to evolve and change as life evolves and changes.  I can minimize stress for myself by planning weekly and disciplining myself to write things down.  However, I am learning day by day to remember that God is in control.  I can’t run too for ahead with plans-my plans.  I want to be obedient and I want to be faithful.  I pray weekly and daily over my planner.  I want to do my best at what I have each day.  I want to be faithful.  I want to be ready for whatever he may have in store for me (like homeschooling).  My perfect planner helps me do that.  For it to really work I have to remember:

1.  My ways are not His ways.  I can never quit listening.  I listen best as I pray each morning over my plans.

2.  White space is imperative.  Life will either be full of interruptions (if I plan with no white space) OR it will be full of opportunities (those unexpected things I can do without stress when my calendar has built in white space.)

3.  Obedience to His calling gives peace.

4.  I can NOT do it all.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Today is about today.  Live well today and tomorrow holds opportunity.

5.  My planner is meant to guide me, not control me or confine me.

 

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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.

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/

Paper Planning as Day 31 Approaches

Let me start by saying I’ve managed to be a little more focused, well today I was a little more focused.  Yesterday, not so much.  Nothing on my list got done, but I realized (as we all need to do) when I am scattered I need to sit down with my beloved paper and refocus.  Yet another lesson in this seeking to manage time and thus our lives.  We must come to know ourselves.  We can’t work someone else’s system or plan.  I like paper, you may not.  I like paper and you may too, but you like room to doodle, stickers and large spaces in which to write.  I like compact, lines, and a few key tools to keep things in order.  So, yesterday I had to accept that I wasn’t going to get very far with my attempts to refocus until I gave myself permission to sit down with my paper planning system and re-group.  I even went so far as to give myself permission to go buy a few new tools, a couple of fun, pretty items to get me motivated.  I had a blast and the stress of feeling “out of sorts” and the frustration of feeling less than pleased with my performance began to melt away as I perused a few of my favorite stores.  It was a beautiful, crisp fall day.  I allowed myself time to look through all the scrapbook supplies (a great place for picking up organizing items to use with your calendars or planners), check out the new 2014 calendars, and play with the assortment of pens at Hobby Lobby and Office Depot.  While some might think me crazy, this is my outlet.  This is what can re-charge me.  Either playing with office products and organizing items or baking.  It’s me, and to stay focused, to continue on towards the goal set before me, I must embrace me.

I came home with just a few new supplies (under $30.00).  I came home refreshed and motivated.  Out it all came.  And in but a mere 45 minutes I had re-grouped, re-focused and had a clear plan of action for today!  The work table in the kitchen looked like this:  The iPhone for looking at the monthly calendar.  I keep all our major appointments and events on a shared monthly calendar (color coded for each family member).  The purple planner you have seen before.  It is a weekly planner I purchased at Barnes and Noble.   And yes, they have some new ones in stock!  I transfer my appointments and tasks here.  The big green binder (my favorite color) is my blog planner, monthly info catcher, goal setting planner etc…  It has tabs for each month, page protector behind each monthly tab to hold invitations, tickets, receipts and other items pertaining to events or tasks that month.  I found the cute plastic tab dividers at Hobby Lobby in the “Project Life” section.  LOVE!!!!

Planning in Progress
Planning in Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to add a few new tools and make certain I really new what was on my plate to be completed before my October 31 planning day.  (See previous post to learn about my 31st mini-retreats.)  I threw away a few items, went ahead and printed my 2014 blog planning pages, added some new pens and post-its.

 

"Project Life" plastic tabs for dividing sections.
“Project Life” plastic tabs for dividing sections.
Post It tabs, Post It notes, document holder, business card holder and new pens in pouch.
Post It tabs, Post It notes, document holder, business card holder and new pens in pouch. 

Scotch mounting tabs and document folder to adhere to inside planner cover, along with business card holder.
Scotch mounting tabs and document folder to adhere to inside planner cover, along with business card holder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the back of the weekly planner I have mounted another document packet and a small notepad on which to keep my running “to do list” for each project.  I only track current projects here.  Long term projects or goals stay in the green notebook until I hit a period when I am engaged weekly in the project.  This helps me keep up with tasks, gives me a place to take notes on any given project, and if I start flipping through too many pages I am reminded I need to re-evaluate how many things I have committed myself to.

Project List and Tracking
Project List and Tracking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was fun getting a little creative.  Most of all though, it was just a simple exercise in giving myself permission to breathe and re-group.  Once I had looked over my list, made certain the calendar (monthly and weekly) were up to date, crossed some items off, and ripped out a few completed project pages, I was ready to focus.  I felt “in control” again.  It was a little mini purge for my brain.   It was easy after that to create my to do list for the rest of the month.  It also gave me a little boost as I await my little mini-retreat on October 31st.

Today’s lesson:  Embrace you.  Be creative.  We all need a system, but just as we are each unique in our looks, personalities, talents and gifts, we can be unique in how we manage our time.  If like me, you have felt fractured, a little out of sorts, take a breath.  What re-energizes you?  Grant yourself permission to do it.  The tasks will still be waiting.  You’ll return refreshed and with new zeal.  This Second Season is kind of nice.  It’s nice to know myself.