How Do You Organize Your Life?

Remember how I told you last week that I lost my planner?  I did, and it was ugly.  The worst part was that I lost it in the relatively carefree summertime, so at first I barely noticed I’d fallen out of the habit of using a planner.  But when fall started up and I continued to careen through my life without a reliable organization tool, I definitely noticed!  Did I already tell you it was ugly?  It was ugly.

Apparently some of you can relate, because I’ve gotten requests to share the details of the planner pack I put together.  Here they are!

When you realize you’ve lost your planner, the first thing you need to do is replace it, right?  Wrong. I’m a maximizer by nature, one of those annoying people for whom the perfect is the enemy of the good.  And I’ve not yet found the perfect planner, so I wasn’t really eager to rush out and buy an imperfect one in order to get my life in order.

I’m a firm believer in David Allen’s principle that your brain is freed to think better when you have a reliable organizational system in place, and I know that I like visual organizational tools best.  I want to be able to see everything at a glance.  (If someone could follow me around with a 5 foot by 10 foot whiteboard I’d be a happy camper.)

I decided to go with the tried-and-true method I’ve used in the past:  I put together a custom planner using Jessica’s Organizing Life as Mom ebook.  Her custom planner idea was a revelation to me:  print the pages you want, and have them spiral bound in a custom notebook.  Brilliant!  I used her system for the first time last year, and it worked pretty well.  Definitely well enough to try again, especially now that I’ve tried it and have a better idea of what does–and doesn’t–work for me.

The ebook is ginormous–it’s 173 pages.  You pick and choose what you like, and make your own custom planner.  Jessica’s templates are divided into a few main categories:

  1. Big-picture pages that address your priorities, goals, hopes and dreams;
  2. Nitty-gritty worksheets like daily and weekly checklists, printable calendars, meal planning templates, contact information fill-ins and budgeting worksheets;
  3. Family fun templates for party planning, travel information, outdoor adventures and emergency preparedness;
  4. Holiday planning worksheets.

I focused on the first two categories for my everyday planner.  I decided I wanted to make a notebook that would carry me through the end of the school year and well into the summer, and I put it together with that in mind.  Here’s what I printed to make my own custom planner:

  • 200 daily checklists (100 pages, front and back), because I knew I loved these and relied on them, even on the weekends.  I customized my checklist to include the things that I needed to do everyday.  (I think my best addition to Jessica’s checklist was to add “capture notes” to my daily to-do list, because I’m notorious for jotting items on tiny pieces of paper and leaving them lying about the house, never taking action on them.  I need to make sure these items actually make it onto my master to-do list!);
  • monthly calendars through next December, along with an “important dates to remember” page;
  • 40 meal planning templates, along with a “meals we like” worksheet, and my own “recipes to try” page;
  • 1 weekly checklist for household chores, because past experience taught me I only need 1 to refer to;
  • Worksheets for priorities and goals.  I took Jessica’s suggestion and printed 12: one for every month of the year.
  • Lots and lots of blank pages.

(I thought the planning pages for travel and birthday parties were excellent, and I loved all the holiday pages, but I didn’t want to tote those pages around as part of my versatile, everyday planner–especially because I thought it was plenty big enough as it was.  I’ve printed the party and travel templates for reference, and I plan on making a separate holiday planner when November rolls around.  I’ll probably 3-hole-punch that one and stash it in a binder to save myself 3.99 and a run to Kinko’s.)

I was afraid of making a gigantic ten-pound planner, but after printing all the pages and stacking them together with Avery tabbed dividers and pretty canary cardstock covers, it’s only a bit more than an inch thick.  Kinko’s bound it together for me for $3.99. and I feel like a new person now that I have a working planner.  I leave my homemade notebook open on my kitchen counter when I’m home, and carry it with me when I’m out.  I use it in conjunction with my trusty More Time Moms wall calendar.  This system has served my family well in the past, and I have high hopes that it will get the job done this year.

So that’s how I stay organized.  How do you stay organized? I’m a maximizer who’s always looking for ideas, so post yours to comments!

Disclosure:  I was provided with a complimentary review copy of the Organizing Life as Mom ebook.  My opinions are my own, and I printed and bound my planner at my own expense.

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Comments

  1. DFrazzled says

    I’m more of a free spirit, to say the least. I buy a monthly planner from the dollar store that’s small enough to fit in my purse, and we have a family wall calendar that hangs on the fridge. Together, these get noted with everything from pay days, what’s for lunch at school, special days, evening plans, after-school activities, swimming lessons, etc.

    I have given up my daily check list, chore list, and a large portion of menu planning because I find myself frustrated when it doesn’t all get accomplished, and my stay-at-home hubby is “in charge” of these things. I would handle it differently if I were the one at home–much differently. Our marriage suffers if I try to dictate these aspects of home life from the office, so I’ve stopped.

    Keep it all in perspective: “There will be years for cleanin’ and cookin’; your children grow up when you’re not lookin’.” (Author unknown)

  2. says

    What a cowinkadink! I just mentioned in one of my Friday takes that I want October to be the month for organization.

    So far things that help my life run somewhat smoothly:
    - Meal planning, I have a calendar on Google Calendars and a google doc full of recipes with notes and the “keepers” highlighted in purple
    - Baskets for bathroom cabinets and kitchen cabinets
    - Paper to do lists
    - a bag to put receipts of shared expenses between Alan and me
    - routines (laundry on weekends)

  3. says

    I’m a fan of the good old fashioned avery at-a glance #70-260 9 1/2 x 11 monthly planner. I keep all of my work and home appointments in there. Everything else (grocery lists, to do lists, meals plans) I write on post its and stick on the fridge. If I have a really busy day with a lot to do I swipe a big piece of DS’s paper and write it huge in crayon. It’s very satisfying for me to cross things off that way. If there’s something at work I’m afraid I’ll forget I program outlook to remind me of it every ½ hour. I also keep a to-do list broken down by client tucked inside of my calendar. I re-write it weekly.

  4. says

    I don’t. No joke . . . I’m not very organized. I do have a nice binder for my recipies. I do have a chores checklist on the fridge. I keep the kids school in toe with the online program. I keep our life in check with a calendar on the wall . . . notice how they’re all spead out. Hence, the – I don’t. Someday, maybe I’ll get organized. Or, more likely, I’ll continue to careen (I liked how you used that word) through life in my unorganized, haphazzard way. Sad, but true.

  5. says

    I’m very cheap: I do both my menu plan and my schedule on random paper that is blank on one side. (We have a crate into which we drop such paper as it arrives in junk mail, etc. I also have a folder of such paper in my file cabinet at work.) For the schedule, I fold a sheet in eighths, so there is one box for each day of the week and one for “next week.” In each box, I write events at specific times on the right and my to-do list on the left.

    I also have a wall calendar for appointments, birthdays, and various notations–for example, if a family member is sick or gets hurt, I note it on that date so I can look it up later if necessary. I have 20 years of calendars in the bookcase! They don’t take up much space and are fun to look back at.

    When I think of something that needs to be done at home while I’m at work, or vice versa, I write myself a note and stick it in my lunch bag. I take a moment when I arrive at work, and after getting home as soon as I have a moment when nobody needs my immediate attention, to look at the note(s) and either do the task right away or put the note someplace to remind me to do it later. For tasks that need to be done on the way home from work, I tape the note to my office door above my coat hook so I’ll see it on my way out–and if I’m feeling REALLY distracted, as I leave I tape it to the back of my hand so that it bothers me constantly and I can’t forget the errand! :-)

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