Saturday, July 25, 2015

Planner Love

When I was in high school, I learned to use a day planner. If I remember correctly, my mom got me a nice Day Runner set up and taught me how to use it. Organization (of time, space, or other) has never come naturally to me, so I have had to depend on tools to help me keep track of everything. My planner was the tool that helped me keep my very busy academic, extracurricular, and social lives in order, all in one place. In college, it became even more important. My friends referred to my planner as my "brain" and knew I couldn't go anywhere without it. It was my schedule, assignment tracker, journal... everything.

As an adult, I fell out of the habit of using a planner. I no longer had assignments to turn in, and life became more routine with work and life. I was home more, so I started using a magnetic calendar on the fridge, just like my mom did. After years of frustration with that system I started looking for others. I tried wall calendars, Google calendar, Cozi, blank planners, printed planners, free printables, purchased printables, custom planners... I couldn't find anything that worked well for me. So a few years ago I decided to design my own planner and I LOVE it!

As it turns out, I need a planner as much now as I did in high school and college. Between school functions, my daughter's activities, doctor appointments, social engagements, family trips, and a host of other things, I need to keep track of everything in a reliable way. And, I'm a paper person. So here's how my planner works for me:

I use a disc bound system for my planner. I love the flexibility it offers, and I love being able to change covers and discs on a whim. These discs (gold with heart cut outs) I got at Hobby Lobby this summer in the scrapbooking section. Other discs I have used I've gotten at Staples through the Martha Stewart line or the Arc line at Staples. I have several sizes in several colors, but I tend to need the largest discs for my planner, but use smaller ones for other projects. 

I make the covers for the planner myself and have quite a stash from a couple years ago when I was making custom planners for other people. This cover was made from some placemats from Ikea, if I remember correctly. The red makes me happy. :)

Inside the cover of my planner I have a bad habit of shoving papers I need to look at but haven't gotten to yet. I also keep a binder pocket with the highlighters and pens I use on my weekly calendar. 

My monthly calendar looks something like this. Each month is tabbed (I'll show you what the tabs look like in a minute.) and is where I record appointments, events, etc. as they are scheduled. I tend to write with erasable pen (I love Frixion pens!) on the monthly calendar in case things change. If there's a multi-day event (like my daughter's summer camps) I use washi tape. I keep a bookmark in this month so it's easy to find, and I keep a 4x6 journal card in each month so I can jot down memorable events as we go. These go in the scrapbook at the end of the year so we have a good idea of what happened in life! If I get around to scrapbooking pictures, great, but if not at least I have some record of things!

Between the monthly pages I have weekly plan sheets. I learned to use these in Mary Kay and have found them to be an excellent tool for me! Each Sunday evening I sit down and plan my week. I look at my husband's calendar online to see if there are any important things I should be aware of. I look at my monthly calendar, and I look at any other schedules that might impact my week. 

At the top of each day column I have a blank space for my daily to-do list. These are items that need to be done that day, but don't necessarily have a specific time associated with them. (I have a different system for my running to-do list, but I'll have to share that some other time.) 

At the bottom of each day column I have a half-hourly schedule where I put down specific things that are scheduled throughout the day. Right now it's summer, so I don't have a whole lot going on, but during the school year this keeps me from double booking myself. 

On the side of the page I have a place for notes so I can jot things down for next week if needed. 

Each monthly tab has a pocket on the back with a quote on it. The tabs are laminated so I can write on them with a dry erase, wet erase, or Sharpie marker if needed. In September I have to have some lab work done, so I have my paperwork in the September pocket, ready to go. At the beginning of each calendar month I have a page for birthdays and anniversaries. Honestly, I don't use this a whole lot, but sometimes it is nice to have at a glance. (I don't use this, because I have finally found a solution that works for me to keep up with birthday and anniversary cards! I guess I'll have to share more on that later, too.)

After the calendar section of my planner I have a household section. Like the months, this includes a laminated tab, with a pocket on the back. 

I put coupons in the pocket, because I can never think far enough ahead to remember to bring coupons with me, and these are for the kinds of places / items I come across at random. It's hard to remember to bring coupons if you're not actually planning on going to those places.

I also keep all my coffee cards, punch cards, store cards, membership cards, etc, in this section of my notebook. I have three pages of these card holders, so I always have them if I need them. I don't use them frequently, so I don't carry them in my wallet. 

After the household section, I have a section for notes. I really just have paper in this section, but I take sermon notes, jot down notes at the doctor's office, write random thoughts, etc, and then later scan them into Evernote as I work to #TameThePaperDragon. Then I throw the paper note away. :)

I have a laminated envelope I keep in the back of my planner. Originally I thought I would use it for cash, a la Dave Ramsey. As it turns out, I don't really use cash. And when I do, it's in my wallet. And we don't do Dave Ramsey and don't have any debt, so I don't see us going that route in the future. So... I put my checkbook in that pocket. I don't need to write checks very often, but when I do it's nice to have my checkbook accessible (instead of lost in the bottom of my giant purse somewhere). 

I also have a pocket in the back of my planner where I can put paperwork I'm in the middle of filling out, or papers I need to read over. This is a nicer solution than stuffing the papers inside the cover. 

Speaking of my giant purse, one of my requirements for a planner is that it fit in my purse. Now, my purse is big. BUT it is not so big that an 8.5x11 planner will fit in it. This planner fits right in the center section of my purse organizer (which actually works for me!) along with whatever book I'm currently reading and my iPad (not shown). 

So... that's my planner. I call it the Metamorphosis Life Planner, because it helps me plan my life and it changes as I need it to. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Taming the Paper Dragon

The Paper Dragon
It's summer again, which means I have surfaced from my school-year tunnel vision and realized just how much the paper dragon has laid waste to my domain. And by paper dragon, I don't mean fanciful origami. I mean the paper clutter that lurks in every corner, threatening to overwhelm me with each glance. It looks like this:

and this... 

and this...

and this... 

and THIS!

Fortunately for me, I've discovered Evernote. At first, Evernote was just a fun distraction, one of the many free productivity apps I have played with in the attempt to feel like using productivity apps is the same as actually being productive. HINT: It's not. But as it turns out, Evernote is the first app I've ever used that has actually given me hope that a moderately paperless society could be in my future. And when I say that, you should understand the weight that my statement carries. Let me put it this way:


And Evernote makes me feel like I could part with the paper. At least a lot of it. So, that's saying something. Also, I like and use Evernote enough  that I opted to pay for the premium service. And I don't think that has EVER happened with an app before. So... I might love Evernote more than I love paper. It's a tight call. 

Processing Paper
I started using Evernote for to do lists, and quickly moved on to using it for journaling (pictures and comments from events, notes about the day, etc.), as a way to track my progress on my summer goals, as a place to store ideas that I want to implement next year, AND as a place to record information that I have written down. I can either summarize notes and type them in (if I'm feeling summative) OR just take a picture of the notes and put it in Evernote to reference later. Then? I GET TO THROW THE PAPER NOTES AWAY!! Wheeeee! I've done this with meeting notes, thoughts I jotted down, sketches I've made for ideas I've had, notes from doctor appointments, all sorts of things! And because I put the notes in virtual notebooks, but then can tag them for cross reference, finding them again is pretty easy, no matter how many random thoughts and notes I enter.

Skipping the Paper
Last month I went to a conference, and I started taking notes in the handy-dandy notebook the kind conference people provided. At some point during the sessions, I switched over to my iPad and started taking notes in Evernote. For the majority of the conference, I skipped the paper altogether. What made it so brilliant was not that I could type notes in. I can do that on just about any app. What was fantastic is that I could take notes, periodically take pictures as needed and insert them into my notes, and audio record the session at the same time. I CAN'T do that with paper. At the end of the day I took pictures of the few pages of notes I took by hand, and inserted them into the appropriate digital note. DONE! 

Evernote doesn't pay me; in fact, I paid them. 
I am not one of those fancy pants bloggers who is fortunate as to get compensation for endorsing products, or compensation for anything, really. I am, however, someone who has been thoroughly excited to find a solution for my own paper clutter. Some pieces of paper are important. The nice government people won't accept an Evernote version of my passport if I want to travel. But there is an awful lot of paper that I have in my house that simply doesn't have to be in paper form. The information is important; the textile delivery system is not. As I spend time this summer re-systematizing (as is my estival habit) I am excited to create leaner filing systems. I am excited to have less clutter in my life. And I'm excited to be able to access the information when I want it, not just when I'm near that particular piece of paper. Even better is that it works across all three platforms I use (android phone, iPad, and Windows computer) and automatically syncs so I don't have to put any thought into retrieval when I want the information. 

I doubt I will ever be able to function in a truly paperless world. My paper dragon will never be slain. However, I am in the process of taming the paper dragon, which I find an admirable and attainable goal. As I make progress, I'm using the hashtag #TamingThePaperDragon. Feel free to join me on the adventure!