Monday, January 28, 2008

The planner

I should be reading to Joseph but he's looking at books and singing the Gloria and I sort of don't have the heart to interrupt him. Failing the read-aloud time I should be making him his new fleece "take-a-nap bag" but Margaret is sleeping on my back and I have felt so very aware lately of her fleeting smallness and babyness that I just don't have the heart to desnuggle her and banish her to the bedroom. Besides, that would probably wake her up and Margaret needs all the sleep she can get--so would you if you did what she does while awake.

So, due to the overwhelming demand (though I'm pretty sure Robyn doesn't actually care about my planner per se but just doesn't want me to get into another anti-blog funk) I'm going to write about my planner.

For those of you who just can't get enough of this sort of thing, there was a recent Simply Lovely Fair devoted to the topic of planning. I was actually pretty excited about that blog fair but when I started to skim the entries I realized that these moms are in a different universe with regard to planning. At the time of that blog fair I did not even have a planner because I knew, on some level, that a planner would ask me, by its mere presence, to actually be responsible. And once I had a planner I'd have to stop shopping for planners and where's the fun in that? But don't feel bad if you just love to plan and love even more to read about other people and their plan-making because, really, enough people love it to inspire this blog fair.

I used to be a digital planner person. I had a nifty iPaq that did lots of things I'd never heard of and it was really fun and got me through a lot of boring meetings back in my going-to-meeting days. When my husband took over the job requiring meeting attendance I gave him the iPaq and I think I did buy myself a little paper calendar then but it didn't get used very faithfully. My life really isn't all that complicated. Then Eric read Getting Things Done by David Allan last summer and we both were able to more or less adopt a new system for getting things done and staying organized. Though I've never really implemented the system as fully as I'd like, I think I've tried it enough to know that it works for me. There are planner sites where you can buy your own planner forms based on David Allan's book but, really, my life isn't all that complicated. Someday I may write "David Allan for Moms" where I note things like, "A mom's inbox needs to be the size of a laundry basket," and other such tips.

Anyway . . . after much more debate than the matter deserved I settled on a Catholic Woman's Daily Planner. I like supporting a fellow home-schooling mom and I like the format of this planner. A two-page spread for each week with room for notes each day and a two-page spread for each month. I really wanted my calendar to include feast days and daily Mass readings and I briefly considered doing it all myself on the computer but I'm not very good at that sort of thing and I finally decided to let someone do it for me. This planner has some fun extras like the Holy Father's prayer intentions, nice quotes from the Church Fathers, liturgical information, common prayers. But it doesn't have a lot of typical planner stuff that I don't need like a map of timezones and a list of birthstones. I sprang for the menu planning pages because I'd been making my own on little scraps of paper anyway and I thought having a year's worth of menu plans in one spot would be an interesting study. Each page has a tear-off column for the grocery list--a feature I also needed.

I got a hole-punched version of the planner because I wanted to incorporate the inbox/list-making approach in David Allan's book but I wanted it to be infinitely flexible and customizable. This task proved difficult. It is really hard to find three-ring notebooks to fit 5.5 x 8.5 paper. I had a homemade recipe book this size and the recipes never got used so I dumped them and refilled the book. I got some gridded paper from the Day Timer company and some post-it index tabs to place on the pages. I also included a zip pouch to hold extra tabs, the Sacred Planner Pen, and a calculator when I get around to buying one.

How do I use it? The monthly calendar pages are used for month-at-a-glance questions, "What day of the week is Christmas?" and also to record when something last happened. For example I have noted in January when I last went to confession and when we changed the hallway lightbulbs (that is a separate, long story).

The weekly pages are used to record appointments. Anything that happens less often than every day qualifies as an appointment for me. I don't know why it is that in college, when I had a very busy life, I could keep track of everything in my head and now I can't. I really don't want to believe that being a mom makes one stupider but sometimes I start to wonder . . . In the notes section for each day I write any task that has to be done that day but not at any particular time.

I menu plan for a week at at time, make a shopping list as I go, go shopping and then see how much longer than a week I can make everything last. It's a lot of fun. I'm looking at going at least four days over this time around which should get us to Ash Wednesday.

My tabs are for my various lists and records. Right now I have the following sections:
Projects: where I have a list of, well, projects. Basically anything that requires more than one step to complete.
Next Actions: where I list the next step--and only the next step--for every project on my list.
Computer: anything I want to write about, research, order online.
Letters: people I need or want to write to.
Shopping: anything that needs to be bought other than groceries (when I run out of a staple grocery item it gets written down immediately on the next shopping list.
CHUC: one of my food co-ops.
Quail Cove: another food co-op.
Budget: this is a tool for encouragement where I record any decision or new find that saves money.
NFP: the extensive CCL chart was a bit much for our needs these days so I just make basic notes here to keep an eye on my "cycles."

Each of these sections is currently only a two-page spread so the tabs might seem excessive but it makes it all much more user-friendly. I can add or delete sections any time I want. This planner only works for me if is open in my new permanent planner station at all times. Every time a plan is made it gets written down. Every time I think of something that needs attention I write it down. I need to keep things out of my head and get them down on paper. Then I can look at that paper as much as I need to in order to make it all happen--but I don't need to keep reminding myself to order brown sugar this month.


Robyn said...

Susan! I loved reading this and I'm not merely flattering you. You know how you like to read books on housekeeping and organization and's the same thing. I'm sure you will love reading about the fabric in Andrew's quilt on 3Peas...;)

This is what I liked about it.
I liked that you include menus and shopping lists in your planner. I think that is a great idea! I might try to incorporate that in my next year's system. I love the idea of looking back to see what fed us.

I also love that you have a spot for keeping track of your cycles. It seems like that little book has so much info!

Does it fit in your purse? Is it something you would take with you places?

Does it have a section for addresses?

Am I on your list for people you need to write a letter to?
Why not?

Susan said...

1. I just added the NFP section last night. I'm thinking about a price book section, too, which I have on my computer, now, but I want to go as analog as possible. The idea is to have everything I organize in one spot.

2. It does fit in my purse but, no, I don't take it with me places. I have an inexpensive bound book in my purse that I use for notes while out, ideas, rough drafts of stuff, appointments that I need to check against the calendar at home, addresses someone gives me, etc. I check it and input stuff at home as needed.

3. I have never understood putting addresses in a planner because then you have to recopy them every year. With this looseleaf system that is less true but we have a huge database of addresses on our computer, so I think I'll stick with that.

4. You are now on my list of people to write a letter to.

Robyn said...

What do you mean by a price book section?

I like having my addresses in my planner because I like having one book for both things and usually when I mail things, I mail many things and I prefer sitting on the couch for the envelope addressing than sitting at the computer. Funny, I know, but I guess important enough to motivate me to recopy the addresses every year.

Susan said...

Well, I'll have to think about that. I just noticed that the calendar did come with a few address pages. Maybe I could write down the addresses I use for correspondence. I also prefer not to have to wait for the computer to be free before mailing a letter.

I'll do a separate price book post . . .

residentmuse said...

I got the Catholic Women's Daily Planner last year; this is the first time I'm just going to go ahead and order another of the same, rather than scouring catalogs and the 'net for new options! I love the cleanness of it.

Thanks for feeding my "planner posts" need! :)