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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cheap Planner Refills #3: Processing Future Pages

In posts #1 and #2 of my Cheap Planner Refills series, I wrote about buying a cheap, undated Plan Ahead planner to provide inexpensive refills for your Franklin Covey compact planner (or as your new planner, if you don't mind fake leather) and about getting the undated pages ready to use.

Today, I'm going to focus on my process for processing my Future section of my planner onto the refills. The Future section is the part of the planner where I write anything coming up in the future, like my cousin's wedding in January 2015, before there is a calendar section for those future dates.

Normally, I process my Future section into my main Calendar section about once a month, keeping the past month, current month, and future month in the Calendar section.

But I make an exception for big upcoming months, like the first month of school (August) and the end of the year holiday season (October, November, and December), because things book up fast and ahead of time at those times of the year.

I use a Quo Vadis planner (cut up) with a yearly calendar to highlight scheduled future dates, while listing them on a blank sheet of planner paper, like so:

10/13 - Dentist 3 p.m.
10/20 - Party, Jean's house, 6 p.m. (bring gift)

10/13 will be written on the blank paper and the date will be highlighted on the yearly planner. That way, if someone calls me to substitute teach or go to a play on 10/13, I can glance and see whether I am available that day, instantly. Not highlighted? Yes, I am available. Highlighted? I need to turn to the written list and search for that date to see if I am available.

TIP: If you don't have a yearly planner, print a list of this and next year's dates off the internet and just cut down for your future planning. As you add a date to your blank future pages, highlight that date on the yearly.

Since it is currently September, I needed to process October - December future pages.

Also, if I want to make any changes in how I am setting up my weeklies/monthlies, when processing future pages is the right time to do that.

Indeed, as I copied (and subsequently scratched out) future dates onto my current pages, I made three critical changes.

1. I changed the way I write tasks from [context code] [task] to [check box] [superscript context code][task].

E Deposit check at bank...


O Deposit check at bank

This gives me a circle to check off a task or X to show that I moved or deleted it. I don't use a box because circles are more efficient to draw.

2. Since the Plan Ahead's highlight column is near the rings (unlike the Flourish, which always has the highlight column to the right), I changed the order of entries on the right side of the page.


DUE---Must Do---FYI/Should Do {RINGS} DUE---Must Do---FYI/Should Do


DUE---Must Do---FYI/Should Do {RINGS} FYI/Should Do---Must Do---DUE

As you can see, the all white area on the Plan Ahead is now due dates and must do tasks, while the grey highlighted area is only for if I get to those tasks.

3. In the monthly calendar, since Plan Ahead has a right hand blank column, I decided to use that column for notes that go along with a scheduled event (instead of putting the notes in the weeklies).

TIP: Put the notes on the column near the same week as the event that needs details. Details can include address, phone number of host, what to bring, or what to wear.

Once my future pages were done, I made another decision to fold the yearly highlighted future calendar, so I can easily peek at my blank future pages and their lists of dates. I simply folded and hole punched both sides of the yearly calendar.

You can see me in the process of highlighting the yearly calendar in the picture above. I suggest you do that AS you write new entries on the blank future pages, but I just started using a yearly calendar recently and had to catch up old entries.

TIP: If something happens yearly (like a birthday), recopy it to the Future section after it happens each year.

For me, birthday entries include a gift reminder about a week in advance (if they are getting a gift or card) and phone call reminder the day of the birthday.

ex. Alan's birthday, Jan. 22


O Buy gift

O Alan Bday

Don't be limited by the dates in your planner. Set yourself free to plan forever with a Future section.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cheap Planner Refills #2: Setting Up Undated Pages

Yesterday, I posted about Plan Ahead planner refills. Today, I wanted to show you how to use the undated refills to plan your life.

The refills comes with a lot of extras, like a page marker, information pages, tabs, and blank pages.

They also come with a year's worth of planner pages, tabbed by month.

The weekly set-up is a lot like the Flourish inserts that you've seen before on my blog.

The biggest differences between Flourish and Plan Ahead inserts are 1) more color in the Flourish inserts and 2) on the Flourish, the highlight area is ALWAYS to the right, while on the Plan Ahead inserts, the highlight area is gray and always to the inside, near the rings.

I like the Flourish highlight area better, since it is more difficult to write near the rings anyway and I use the highlight area only for "should do" tasks.

There are pages between each month, including a graph page (good for tracking goals and household tasks) and a monthly to do list.

To set up the pages, first fill in the dates.

I like to cover unused monthly squares with washi tape.

I just line the tape up with the box and estimate where to cut it.

TIP: Better to cover a bit of the lines than make the piece of tape too short. It will look visually neater.

Note that I use a bit of washi tape to highlight blocked out days with upcoming travel.

Weekly updates will also need to be updated.

I use only black Frixion pens to fill in dates.

TIP: Don't use black for anything else. That way, the dates look more like part of the planner.

If two months will appear in one week (like September 29th and 30th in the picture below, with October 1st through the end of the first week of October), cross out the unused weekly spread and write all dates on the week with the majority of the dates. (In this case, the first week of October should include the two September dates.)

Staple the unused month right at the very edge to keep you from accidentally using that useless weekly spread.

Or, plan ahead and remove one page in the middle of the weekly spread for the carry-over month.

Tomorrow, I'll let you peek at my processing of my Future pages into the new Plan Ahead inserts.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Cheap Planner Refills #1: Plan Ahead Planners

People are always asking me about my planner budget. They assume I spend oodles on planners and accessories every year. A series on setting up a planner on a budget is long overdue!

Simply subscribe to Giftie Etcetera in the sidebar via e-mail to receive updates as I post each part of this three-part series.

Back to budget planners with a confession...I don't spend much on planners and planning supplies at all! 

My husband is a fiscal/budget analyst by trade, and y'all, he is cheap. Plus, we hope to be debt free in a couple of years. And although I have three part-time jobs (lawyer, substitute teacher, and blogger), I definitely don't make what full-time working moms can make in a year.

Though I certainly believe that planners and their insides are an important investment in my life (and in tracking my budget, something that saves enough each week that I practically consider it a fourth job), I try to be budget-conscious when buying planner stuff.

(I make an exception for Frixion pens. I love them. Coffee, chocolate, and Frixion pens are my vices.)

Some of my budget tricks include:

*printing my own blank pages with graph paper only on the back of the page (using refilled ink cartridges and paper bought in bulk),

*buying fun stuff like washi tape on clearance only and using it just for specific reasons (not for decorating),

*asking for anything fancy as gifts (like my Boston planner last Christmas), and,

*getting cheap undated planner refills from cheaper brand planners to fill up my Franklin Covey Boston compact planner.

In the past, I've suggested the Franklin Covey Flourish as a starter planner. For under $25, a new plannerd gets an attractive planner complete with a year's worth of tabs, undated monthly and weekly refills, and some great extras.

But I already own a Flourish (a beautiful non-leather planner) and my Boston (leather and a soft blue color), so I wanted to pay less.

I found these wonderful Plan Ahead Planners that fit Franklin Covey compact planners perfectly, follow the same general design as Flourish refills (just with less color), and are about $12 per planner. (I actually found these, two years ago, at Walgreens for about $6. But I haven't seen them that cheap since!)

TIP: The Plan Ahead planner covers, once the refills are removed to use in your fancier planner, are a cheap way to archive previous years' planner pages neatly.

Flourish planners are only available in compact.

But Plan Ahead planners are available in compact...

...and in a larger size (though reportedly with only three rings).

At $12, a Plan Ahead planner makes more sense for me as a way to order planner refills than most printables, especially since everything is already cut and hole-punched and paper and ink are already included and paid for. My Frixion pens do not bleed through the planner. And since they are undated pages, the planner pages can start anytime.

TIP: These planners also make great Christmas gifts for people new to planning or preteens and teens. They include everything a new planner needs to get started.

If you are a weekly/monthly planner like I am, consider the Plan Ahead for surprisingly good quality refills. Tomorrow, I'll show you how I use the refills.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Routine Clean-up Tricks That Even Work In Chaos

Last night, we had seven kids over for a slumber party. This morning, parents are starting to do pickup and gather up the kiddos, and I am trying to function, pre-coffee and on barely any sleep.

But the house looks okay.

*Clean before each transition.

Sure, the kids took out toys. But we warned them, in advance, that they would have to clean up before taking more out. Then, at each transition (before cake, before movie, etc.) we made sure they cleaned up. My kids will have some little things to straighten up later, but it's not bad.

*Train others to clean up.

My boys were able to guide the other kids in the clean-up - "no, light sabers go there" - because they helped us assign homes for all the toys in advance and are expected, with our guidance, to clean up regularly. Sure, it means that not everything is in it's perfect spot. But I don't have to do it and the kids now have organizational skills that they will take with them as adults.

It's possible that your spouse's claim that he/she doesn't know WHAT to do is true. It's okay to kindly explain what works and work together to find systems that help both of you live in a peaceful, organized environment. But, just as with kids, nobody can expect perfection or force everyone to live by one person's rule.

Note that my kids helped us find homes for their things. They made the decisions, not me. I don't always like their decisions, but by empowering them to make the decisions, I get them on board with cleaning.

*Provide incentives.

My kids know they cannot play with the new birthday gifts until they clean up.

*Always carry something from room to room.

As I walk from room to room, helping kids with hairbrushes or breakfast, I carry stuff that is out of place (like empty cups) to the next room. It doesn't really take any extra effort, since I was walking there anyway.

*Clean as you go.

I spend a few minutes cleaning before my own transitions. Maybe I gather all the empty paper plates for the trash can or put away the sundae toppings before making breakfast or after blogging.

*Clean high impact areas first.

This trick is perhaps the least well know, but it really does help. I clean areas that are most easily seen, most used, and most bothersome first.

For example, I always clean the island in the kitchen (which I use for guests to sit at, for cooking, for putting out bowls of food at parties, for folding laundry, and for many other on-going activities) first. An empty island gives me a place to sort out-of-place items to go to their homes, set up breakfast plates for seven slumber party kids with donuts and milk, and place all sleeping bags and pillows for parent pick-up.

I hope at least one of these rules helps you keep your home livable. To discuss planners, organizing, and finding order in your life, join our conversation on Facebook.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Planning For A Flexible Schedule

Plenty of people have "normal" schedules during the week.

Monday through Friday, they start work at 8 a.m. and leave work at 4:30 p.m. They have staff meetings every Tuesday at 9 a.m. and weekly reports due on Thursdays.

Then there's the rest of us! Some of us, like me, work ever-changing and flexible hours. Others work normal hours, but the set-up of their day is always changing.

Time management people have known for a long time that having a plan, or a schedule, helps us to get things accomplished. But how to make that plan, when your schedule really does vary from day to day?

TIP: Do your schedule for the next day as part of the end of your workday or as part of your nightly prep. That way, you can use it to pack your lunches, totes, gym bags, or whatever else you need for the next day.

1. Put in anchors.

Anchors are those times that pretty much stay the same every week and are difficult to reschedule.

For me, carpool happens every morning (assuming there is school). Even though it's a regular, repetitive event, it goes on my schedule because I can't schedule anything else at morning carpool time unless I find a substitute driver.

My husband arrives home with the kids (from afternoon carpool) at the same time four days a week. (On the fifth day, they stay for an after school activity.) His arrival home (when I take over supervision of homework and chores and start cooking supper) marks another anchor.

So far, a typical day looks like this:

6:45 a.m. Carpool
4 p.m. {DH Home}/Homework/Chores

I draw those squiggly lines around someone else's event that affects my day.

TIP: If you use two-colors to plan, the highlight color could be used instead of the squiggly lines.

2. Fill in nonflexibles.

Nonflexibles (yes, I made up that word :) ) are things that MUST happen today AND must happen at a certain time.

Today, for me, that means a walking date with the moms from my kids' school. I also have to know about my kid's karate class, because that means I need to be home with the younger child while the older one goes to karate with dad.

Updated schedule:

6:45 a.m. - 7:45 a.m. Carpool
7:45 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. Mercy Moms Walking Group
4 p.m. {DH Home}/Homework/Chores
6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. {Karate}

3. Fill in flexibles.

Flexibles are those things that are important or must be done today, but the times can vary.

Today, I need to work (at my paid job) for three hours and I must grocery shop. I will work first because the walking group is near the library and it's a beautiful day to work in the library, with its huge, sunny windows. After work, I'll grocery shop. That way, I can go straight home and put away the ice cream.

This is my office today, at a library near the kids' school:

(Yes, that is my coffee cup. In honor of Gilmore Girls hitting Netflix this week, it seems appropriate, don't you think?)

Updated schedule:

6:45 a.m. - 7:45 a.m. Carpool
7:45 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. Mercy Moms Walking Group
8:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Work
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Groceries
4 p.m. {DH Home}/Homework/Chores
6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. {Karate}

4. Fill in VITs (very important tasks).

Obviously, at this point, you already know when you need to be places and about how much free time you will have to accomplish your actual to do list or tasks. Looking at my schedule, and accounting for the fact that I rarely accomplish anything once the kids get home, I have about three hours (1 p.m. until 4 p.m.) to get my task list done.

At this point, I reassess my task list. Is it too long? Too short? Do I need to delete, defer, or delegate any tasks?

Sometimes, though, there are time critical tasks that need to be fit into the schedule. My youngest kid has a birthday this weekend, so one of those critical things is to go to the bakery and order a cake. Today is my last chance to do it before the party on Saturday.

It's a Very Important Task and merits going on my schedule, instead of the task list below the schedule.

Updated schedule:

6:45 a.m. - 7:45 a.m. Carpool
7:45 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. Mercy Moms Walking Group
8:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Work
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Groceries

O E Order cake
4 p.m. {DH Home}/Homework/Chores
6:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. {Karate}

Note that the task is still written like a task, with a check box (I use circles), a context code (E for errand), and the description.

5. Toss the schedule.

Unless there is a reason to archive (for example, if I get in a wreck on the way home and need to save the page for insurance purposes), I toss the daily schedules. I archive my monthly pages (timed events) and my weekly pages (tasks), but this daily schedule is simply a working document to help me achieve my goals.

TIP: Holiday or weekend? Don't bother with a daily schedule unless you have a big party or a bunch of time sensitive stuff!

I hope this helps you to set up your daily schedule. Remember, anchors, nonflexibles, flexibles, VITs, and toss!


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Planning Exercise: A Weight Loss Update

A couple of weeks ago, I made a weight loss project section. It's working really well (and I'm already down 2.6 pounds), but I am trying to focus more on the exercise portion of the project lately, since I have food pretty much under control (except on Saturdays).

The key to working out most days a week, for me, requires four planning steps.

1. On my monthly calendar pages, I schedule a week's worth of workouts.

I schedule weekly workouts on my monthly calendar at the beginning of each week. The reason I do this is because my monthly calendar holds all appointments, so I can truly determine which days have time slots when I can workout and I can make sure that I get at least four workouts (though six is the real goal) each week.

Right now, I am scheduling next week's workouts.

A glance at my calendar shows me three workouts that are already planned. I am walking with the moms group that I started on Facebook with some moms from my kids' school on two days. On the third day, a Saturday, I scheduled a virtual 5K with one actual other person in town and my friends from across the country who are in my weight loss group.

That means I need two or three more workouts. I'll rest on Sunday (right after my kid's Saturday night slumber party), do yoga at the Y on Monday and Friday (two different classes, to account for differences in my schedule), and do a step and tone class at the Y on Wednesday.

TIP: Vary your workouts to keep it interesting and challenging and to avoid injury.

I do aerobic/dance type workouts, stair climbers, treadmills, weights/sculpt classes, pilates/yoga classes, and family walks in the park. I sometimes workout alone, sometimes with a class, and sometimes just with a friend.

2. The night before, I make a schedule for the next day that includes my workout along with a packing list.

(I know my task list for today is intimidating. It's actually a bunch of quick stuff, so it's not as bad as it looks.)

I write out my actual schedule and packing list the night before. In the example above, I'm working out at noon at the Y and packing water, fruit, nuts, and my workout bag.

Workout Bag Contents: (listed, of course, in the project section of my planner under Weight Loss project)

*change of clothes (if needed)
*flip flops (if needed)

*soap/shampoo (if needed)
*yoga towel (sticky on one side to use with mats at the Y)
*water bottle (just empty in case I forget mine)
*workout wallet with Y pass, lock, and earbuds

I only bring the "if needed" stuff when I have a meeting after working out. The separate wallet is so that I can bring just earbuds and water bottle with me when I use machines.

3. I log my workouts in my project section.

4. I keep resources in my planner listing things like times when the gym is open and lists of classes in my project section for easy scheduling.

So four steps: monthly scheduling, day before schedule/prep, day of logging, and resources for scheduling.

As you can see from my log, I'm doing a great job of working out. I am losing weight, fitting my clothes better, and feeling MUCH better emotionally. I'm also sleeping pretty well.

Who know that something as simple as using my planner would make this doable?


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Planner Season: The FranklinPlanner Catalog

This arrived in the mail last week.

I have no time or money (especially the money part) to even browse the newest FranklinPlanner catalog, but that didn't stop me. I must have paged through it at least 10 times. I treated it like a child of the 80s treated the Sears catalog at Christmas time. I plan to trash it, but before I do, some complaints whines ...ahem, insights...as we approach the new year, or as I like to call it, Planner Season.

Let the judgment commence. (Now would be the time to grab some popcorn.)

*The layout of the FC Studio bound planners is fabulous, but why can't they offer something similar in ring bound? And in a compact size?

It's a horizontal weekly layout on the left side with days/dates of the month along the top. To the right, it offers ample space for notes, weekly to dos, and memories/journaling. It comes in some great colors and truly uses the maximum space on the page. (One thing I hate about FC is when they color in otherwise usable space with greens or blues.)

*There are more options for "One Page Per Day" layouts for compact FC planners, including colorful designs like Sweet Life, Serenity, and Retropop, along with the more traditional Monticello and Originals, but they still insist on either ZERO color or such bold designs that part of the page is wasted.

I'm sticking with my Quo Vadis daily inserts for now. That sucks, since those need to be cut and hole punched. I'd pay for the convenience, if FC just designed something like Blooms in compact size.

*There are tons of planner accessories in the new FC catalog, but most are not visually pleasing.

Take the pen loops, for example...

...or the hole punch.

*FranklinPlanner has upped the game with some fabulous binders (comparable, in my opinion, to Filofax), but they are incredibly expensive and the ring sizes tend to be 1" instead of the far superior 1.25". Also, the rings no longer appear to be interchangeable.

My favorites are the Color Nobelessa Open Binder (compact, 1" rings) in navy, orange, pink, or purple for 87 dollars...

...and the Lizard Embossed Binder (compact, 1.25") in charcoal (also available in orange) for 158 dollars.

Now, you know I love me some planners, and I'd be drooling and celebrating if the Lizard one arrived in my hands. But, seriously, I will NEVER spend 158 dollars on a planner. So I sit in judgment and hope to win the lottery.

*There are bags that I covet, but they are also out of a reasonable price range, considering the quality issues that I've had with Franklin bags in the past. Without one in hand, I have no way to check if the quality issues continue today.

*There are some interesting organizing gadgets available on the website, but only a handful of those are featured in the catalog.

Ultimately, I am still a FranklinPlanner/FC fan. I think they made some long overdue improvements in the product selection, but may have priced themselves out of the market. That would be a sad day.

I figure the best thing for them to do at this point is to hire me as a consultant, don't you? ;)


Monday, September 8, 2014

Places Where I Don't Carry My Planner

I try to always buy purses that fit my Franklin Covey compact planner (similar to a Filofax personal size).

But there are some places where I don't take my planner.


'Cause yuck!


But I do leave it nearby, in case a staple ingredient is running low and needs to go on a shopping list. It stays away from cooking surfaces to protect it.


I leave my planner in the car while I workout.

TIP: Put it on the driver side seat of your car. That way, when leaving the gym, you are reminded to write down your workout AND schedule your next one.

*Formal Events

TIP: Put one piece of paper and a small pen in your handbag in case you meet someone and need to note a phone number.


I do bring books and my Nook in there, though!

Yes, I bring my planner to church (sometimes, they make announcements and I note them in my planner), to campgrounds (great for killing time when you get up before everyone else and for packing lists and menus), and on dates (my husband ALWAYS wants to talk about kids' Christmas gifts on dates...man of ROMANCE :/ ).


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Making Morning Routines Work

Mornings suck. It's just unfair that the alarm clock goes off right as I am warm and cuddly under the blankets. And then, before I can marathon Scandal or the Duggars on Netflix, I have to get the kids to school, workout, run errands, and work. It's quite the downer.

(Don't judge. One person can like both 19 Kids and a naughty political drama.)

Since I only like mornings that come with a steaming cup of coffee, a blanket, and a sunrise over a lake, and since most mornings do not fulfill that particular fantasy, I needed a way to make them run smoother and suck less. Here are some of the things that help make mornings better for me and my family.

*Have a schedule.

If there is one thing that NEEDS to be scheduled, it's your morning.

(In the picture, today's schedule is at the very top left hand corner. I usually don't duplicate stuff, but the "getting ready" schedule for the kids is on the fridge so they can see that breakfast is served at 6:30 sharp.)

My schedule varies a great deal, but basically it includes 40 minutes to get myself ready and feed the kids, a 30 minute commute, a 45 minute workout, and then the drive from the workout to the office. Fortunately, I work from home (or the library or a coffee shop), so I don't need to shower after the workout or put on make-up.

*Have a routine.

I try to do everything in the mornings in the same exact order, so that I learn it and don't have to think about it. (At first, I post the routine somewhere.)

TIP: Use a dry erase marker to post the routine or a reminder of what to wear on your mirror in your bathroom.

My routine is pretty simple.

Wake kids.
Make breakfast.
Fill water bottles.
Pack snacks/lunches.
Pack everything else (on a list in my planner - see the first blue section in the pic above - and stacked in a designated launch spot).
Lock door on the way out.

*Don't wake up early if you don't have a kid who is tiny or has special needs.

Why should mom or dad always have to wake up first?


*Train other members of the household to follow their own routines.

Note that my morning schedule only lists when I have to do things. At 6:45 this morning, I had to leave for carpool. (Even that varies, depending on whether I am substitute teaching or my husband's work schedule.) How could I do that while getting up at 6:15?

The answer is three-fold. First, I don't work in an office. I do wake 15 minutes earlier when I have to be presentable. Second, I have a "uniform" that I usually wear. On workout days, it's shorts and yoga pants and t-shirt. No work or workout? Jeans or tailored shorts. Third, my kids don't need me to supervise their routines because they are well trained.

The kids, ages 8 and almost 6, get themselves ready. At first, I woke up and got ready early, then oversaw their routine. That lasted about two weeks. I would point out the routine chart (hanging in their bedrooms). It was simple, like my routine.

Get dressed.

After two weeks, I gave incentives if they "beat the clock." For example, they might get to bring Kindle Fires in the car for the commute. Or we'd listen to a book on CD (checked out from the library) on the way to school. Or they could pick their own snack instead of mom picking for them. Finally, on week five, once they were well trained, they faced consequences if they were not timely (such as losing electronics time or telling the principal themselves why they were late for school).

Of course, things happen. Breakfast gets spilled on the uniform and someone has to change. Or somebody runs out of toothpaste. The kids know that as long as they tell me politely and ask for help, they will not be in trouble for a legitimate delay.

*Pack/list the night before.

All of the leading organizing books will tell you to put out your clothing and pack the night before. But that is not always feasible. I added a list to the packing routines, and it has solved the issue of not having room for everything leaving the house with me or forgetting things from the fridge.

Instead, I put my purse in my launch spot (for outgoing stuff that is leaving with me the next time I leave the house) all the time at home. Other stuff, like my work bag, go there only if the stuff is leaving the house with me. But my clothes stay hanging, unwrinkled, in the closet, and simply get moved to a special spot in the closet. Things like lunches, which are difficult to pack early, go on the list in the first blue spot on my daily planner, to leave the house with me. After all, a list works just as well as stacking everything in a pile.

TIP: Simplify your list by writing "Launch Spot" (or "LS) and anything else you need that is NOT in the Launch Spot. For me, that is often my cell (elsewhere on a charger) and my water bottle (needs ice).

TIP: If you bring the same things every single day, make a sticker with the list on it for your planner.

TIP: Don't put clothes on your list unless it is something special, like a raincoat. You'll probably remember not to leave the house naked without writing it down. (Unless you won't remember, in which case, by all means, write down "clothes.")

TIP: Have two launch spots - one for stuff leaving the next time you leave the house, like your purse and cell phone, and one for stuff that will leave eventually, like the toy that needs to be returned to your sister or a gift for Saturday's birthday party.

*Have a time for others in the household to pack the night before, too.

Give your kids a time to prep for the next day as part of their afternoon or evening routine. Set up launch spots for your roommate, spouse, or children.

For my kids, prep is in the afternoon. They do homework, prep for the next day (my husband takes care of clothing, but they put library books and water bottles and such in their schoolbags), chores, then free play. Evening routine is limited to bath, teeth, and prayer.

Their launch spots are in the hall closet. They each have a shelf.

If you incorporate this stuff into your morning routine, it will work. I promise.

Okay, I promise it will make you morning less stressful. I don't promise a Doctor Who marathon on the beach with a mimosa. We have to be realistic, after all.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Naked Organizer

A friend asked me to post a picture of my desk after yesterday's blog entry about Organizing Work Space.

I felt a bit dirty (hence the title of this post), but here it is, for everyone to see. My desk, untouched, with today's piles in all their glory.

And now you know that even a person who blogs about organizing has imperfections. Feel better about your own mess?


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ordering Work Space

Sometimes, I work from home. The rest of the time, I work in a library or coffee shop. But no matter where I work, I have a flexible but established system for setting up the "desk area" (in the picture below, a table at CCs Coffeehouse). Working remotely does not excuse me from needing an organized work space in order to accomplish as much as possible.

I set up my laptop in the middle of the table and whatever I am writing on (a document, in this case, but sometimes my planner) goes to the left (as I am left-handed). 

Here's what the layout looks like...

Back of table (away from me and behind laptop):

Left - purse contents/Right - trash

Front of table near me:

Left - writing area/Right - laptop

Tote bag:

Everything not in use or to return home

TIP: Right-handed folks might want to reverse the set-up.

And the details...

Trash (old notes to be discarded, empty coffee cups, anything to toss) goes behind the laptop to the right. I used to not have a trash area. I kept mixing trash with stuff to hold on to and accidentally throwing away the wrong thing.

Items for my purse, such as my glasses, water bottle, watch, or cell phone (if any of that needs to be out while I am working) goes to my left, behind the laptop. My planner goes here if I am not currently making notes in the planner. I used to keep the planner in the writing area, but sometimes I'm working with a document and the planner gets in the way.

Overflow documents (maybe source books or a chart) go to the right of the laptop.

Writing goes where it is most comfortable to take notes or draft by hand.

TIP: Make up your own consistent set-up and jot it in the Notes section of your planner until you learn it. 

Consistency will keep you organized. The idea of teaching yourself a working set-up might sound silly, but it means you waste tons less time packing away your desk (even if you work at the same desk everyday) and you get to stop shuffling piles around just to get work done.

I do the same sort of thing in my kitchen, when prepping dinner. I have a consistent set-up and it makes cooking a neat, no-brainer task. Maybe I'll take pictures and tell you about that sometime soon.

In the meantime, click below if you want to join the conversation on Facebook about bringing order to our lives. I look forward to chatting with you.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Top Ten Steps For Organizing Library Books

As part of my decluttering process, I basically gave up buying books.

Yes, it hurt. Yes, I might have cried a little.

I love the smell and feel of paper. Collecting stories is an incredibly, healthy high. But space and money are at a premium, so the decision to cut out owning books was reluctantly made. (My kids still each have a small collection).

Other than my Harry Potter collection, displayed on my fireplace mantle, I just don't have room in my tiny house for bookshelves. (The collection includes Harry Potter bookends and a time turner. The time turner doesn't work. I tried. Maybe it doesn't work because I'm a muggle?)

The local library came to my rescue.

By checking out library books instead of buying the books, I save tons of money. I can also get music for in the car, CD books for the kids, and DVD movies. I can even check out books for my Nook from the library. Those digital books return themselves, so I'm just going to explain how I manage my hard copy library books and other physical checked out items in this post.

1. ALWAYS write a reminder in your planner to return the items on the last day that returning the item is convenient.

For example, if the items are due on the 17th, the reminder is written on the 16th.

This assumes, of course, that there is time to return them on the 16th. If not, the 15th might be more appropriate. This is important, because if you wait until the actual due date to turn in the book, you might get sidetracked and miss the deadline.

2. Include the actual due date in the return reminder in your planner.

That way, you can reassess your trip to the library if something comes up. Or, you can see that you will not be done by the due date and recheck the items on-line.

TIP: If you have rechecked a book, note that next to the reminder. At my library, we get three three week renewals per item. I note it like this: 1x (rechecked 1 time), 2x (rechecked 2 times).

3. Include the number of items checked out in your planner.

This number includes all DVDs and CDs and other items, as well as books.

4. Include locations of book returns in the reminder entry, if those vary.

In my case, my parish (a Louisiana version of a county) and the neighboring parish, where my kids attend school, have reciprocal card holder agreements. This means that I can check out the books from either parish, but they must be returned to the correct parish's library.

TIP: Within a given county or parish, many library systems allow returns to any other branch in the same system. Check out books from one place and return it to another place, if that is convenient for you.

5. Keep the receipt listing items checked out and due dates in your planner until items are returned, unless tracking that on-line is easier for you.

This saves so much time when you can't figure out what book #15 might be, and you realized it's the CD in your car stereo.

6. Have a folded up tote bag in your purse or tote bag for unexpected library visits.

What, you don't find yourself browsing in the library to kill time while the pharmacy filled your prescription? You should change that! It's cheaper than shopping and much more satisfying!

7. Have two dedicated library totes (or more, if your kids each have one in their bedrooms)

One tote is for bringing home unread books. Another is for putting already read books in so that you know you are ready to return them to the library.

8. The only book not in the totes should be the one you are currently reading.

I keep that one next to my bed on the side table or in my purse.

9. Have a dedicated home for your library totes.

TIP: Consider using the trunk of your car if your weather is moderate and not humid.

Except when it is extremely hot in Louisiana summers, my dedicated location is in the trunk of my car. (Okay, Louisiana summers last most of the year. But in November, December, and January, I'm rocking those books in my trunk.) I park right outside my living room and am very motivated to grab a book out of the car. Because the books are already in my car, returns are simple when I am driving by the library anyway.

10. Create a Notes, File, or ABC File entry for library policies

In that entry, note important things that are good to reference while not at home, such as the numerical limit on check-outs, the number of magazines or new books the library allows, and the name of your favorite librarian.

Happy reading.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Planning Project Weight Loss

I was sitting in front of cafe au lait and beignets with a friend yesterday, talking about weight loss. She has lost a ton of weight (under medical supervision) and not only looks amazing, but so much healthier.

On the other hand, I feel frumpy and am outgrowing my clothes.

(For the record, I don't actually eat beignets. I do actually eat all the other famous New Orleans food that you've heard about. THAT is the problem.)

In addition to my real world reality check, a blogger posted this fitness plan that she created in her planner. Her post was perfect timing, and, beyond that, it spoke to the way that I think and plan.

So I did something that I have definitely done before. I created a weight loss project in my planner. I'm almost scared to blog about it, in case I fail at this again. But it's a really good project set-up, and people have been asking to see a project actually set-up, versus just what is a project is (an active, multi-step action) or how I arrange the projects in my planner.

So, here it is. My Weight project...

Many of the very best details all come from the blogger mentioned above, so go visit her link, too. But some of them are my ideas.

Some of the best details:

*The food log is easy to fill out and gives guidance on how many calories I can consume.

I don't need the specifics of which food I ate. I know what I ate. I do need to know how many calories I have left to consume and that I am eating enough healthy, real food. So I have a system of noting the number of calories that are the goal for each meal, a running total of calories consumed, and a total of fruits and vegetables eaten.

*A list of calories that are in frequently eaten foods are listed in the planner.

This affords me the opportunity to avoid looking up calorie counts for every single meal. It makes logging convenient. And let's face it. If it's not convenient, I'm not doing it.

*The exercise log is simple but revealing.

TIP: Never hide appointments and tasks in the Project section of the planner
Schedule the exercise on your calendar. That schedule does not belong in HIDDEN project pages. Make logging food and exercise part of your weekly/daily task list.

*Hide weight and measurements tracking in the Project section.

People constantly see my planner. They do not need to see my weight.

*Set out small goals, like weight loss goals, in a very visual way.

*Plan rewards.

*Make general notes of the plan and stick to it.

*Have backup plans available, like a list of exercises to do anywhere, anytime. Put the list of class options at the local YMCA in the planner. List the go to low calorie foods.

My husband said yesterday that he gets that I am a planner. He understands that this is MY only option for weight loss.

It is, you know. If it's not in my planner, it's not happening.


P.S. I fixed the broken link.