Monthly Archives: December 2013

Launching a New Week, Part Two

My last post discussed how I use a “Weekly Launch” routine to prepare for a new week. Most of what I wrote yesterday wasn’t specific to my Filofax. Today, I will share how I sit down to set up my planner for the week.

I have three paper calendars or agendas, in addition to the dry erase weekly calendar I shared yesterday. Each serves a distinct purpose.

  1. Stapled monthly calendar – This calendar holds every event I need to track for our family. It’s thin, so I can carry it with me easily. Since this is the family calendar, the large size of each calendar square works perfectly for me. I use color to distinguish who does what…
  2. My A5 “Week on 2 Pages” layout – The WO2P tracks my personal schedule for each day. It gives me a chronological plan, and I omit activities that don’t impact what I’m doing or where I need to be. For example, if my husband is taking my daughter to swimming, I don’t include it in my personal schedule; it goes on the family calendar, though. I also include time-specific tasks. In between the two-page spread, I use a piece of lined paper for tasks that can be done at any time during the week. For 2014, I’m trying the layout with boxes, rather than the vertical lined days. Fingers crossed!
  3. My A5 “Month on 2 Pages” layout – I use the MO2P calendar to track my writing tasks for each day. I’m basically my own boss when it comes to working on my dissertation proposal, which is good, but I tend to run into trouble staying on track if I haven’t identified a purpose for my writing sessions. On Sunday, I set different goals for each day of the week to ensure I keep forward momentum. I wrote about this in detail in an earlier post.
  4. The weekly dry erase calendar – This calendar is not really for planning. It’s a communication tool. My husband, kids, and sitter refer to it to see what the day looks like for everyone. While my Filofax and calendar are personal, this is for the family. Plus, when I fill it out with my husband, we note scheduling conflicts and resolve them on Sunday by adjusting plans as needed. There are no unfortunate surprises like me having a late meeting and my husband being at the dentist when one of us needs to take our son to soccer, only to realize it the day of…

On Sunday, I manually “sync” them before I coordinate schedules with my husband or meal plan. It’s important to have a sense of the week before meal planning, because some days are more hectic than others. I plan the easiest meals for those days. Also, if we’ll be out for the evening, I know I don’t need to have food prepared that night.

I begin by making a cup of Jasmine Silver Needle white tea and laying out everything I need. This week, I have to mail a birthday card , so I pulled out my greeting card organizer and stamps as well.

Getting settled

My monthly calendar, A5 Malden, card organizer with stamps and Washi tape, laptop, paper supplies, and tea

Once I’ve hunkered down, I refer to my monthly calendar so I can complete my WO2P personal schedule for the week. I pull out events that need to be done each morning and afternoon/evening. Then I generate a list of tasks for the week that can be done at anytime. I also check my e-mail for any follow-up tasks that I should put on my calendar or task list.

Each night, I review my schedule before bed, making any changes as needed…including tasks that pop into my head. That’s my final “brain dump” (or in GTD terms: “mind sweep”) for the day. Establishing this routine helped eliminate my insomnia, because I no longer have a mental list scrolling through my head once I turn the lights out. I can rest easy because I’ve written down what needs to be done, and I can let it go until tomorrow. I put my Malden on my nightstand and refer to it every morning before I’m even out of bed.

I should mention that this week is pretty light for me since the children and my university are still on break. My son, however, has several projects that are due when he returns next Monday, so I added a Post-It to remind myself to nag him a bit 🙂 In the “this week” section, I’ve also added a few personal goals I’d like to keep front and center.

Once I finish with my daily schedule, I move to planning my academic writing on my MO2P. I don’t have a sitter this week, so it won’t be as productive as when my children are in school.

Jan1 writing

My writing schedule…I only plan one week ahead for this calendar. This allows me to be flexible.

Once I’m done scheduling my week, I’m ready to plan meals and coordinate schedules on the weekly white board I described in Pt. 1). If I am very concerned about remembering an appointment, I may add a reminder into my phone.

All told, this process takes me about an hour. I consider it an investment in the week ahead. It’s not just an exercise on paper; I’m mentally rehearsing for the week ahead. The Sunday routine allows me to strategize how to make the most of my time, and I no longer forget appointments or tasks.

What about you? Do you have a Weekly Review or Routine?

More End of Year Goodness – Links Version (Updated)

Image courtesy of photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not a big New Year’s Eve fan…though I am enjoying several posts about reflecting on 2013 and moving into 2014. These don’t happen to be Filofax related, but several include ideas that can be journaled or included in your planner if you wish.

Here are some of my favorites:

20 Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection, by Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple

Want to reflect in your journal or have some good conversations with loved ones this NYE? Oxenreider even includes 10 questions for children in this great post. Her questions are also available for download in PDF format. Enjoy!

12 Changes for 2014, by Leo Babauta of zen habits

Monthly changes you can adopt for 2014 or which might inspire your own plan. Babauta is doing a subscription plan/course, but you might find insight simply from the 12 habits he has listed.

Want to Know 6 Secret Weapons in the Battle Against Unhealthy Habits?, by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project

Many folks make resolutions to shed bad habits in the new year. While others think resolutions are a waste of energy, I find reading about habit formation and elimination fascinating. In fact, one of my favorite books is The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Maybe you don’t want to read a whole book, but Rubin’s post provides some great food for thought.

8 Ways to Encourage a Meaningful New Year, by Courtney Carver of Be More with Less

Carver’s suggestions for encouraging a meaningful year sound similar to resolutions, but I think they capture some important insights about reflecting on what we “more of” in life. New Year’s isn’t about creating an entirely new personality, body, or identity. I’d argue it’s like an annual check-up, when we make time to consider what we truly value.

3 Things to Discuss This Time of Year…About Money, by Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple

Oxenreider again! I think the new year is a great time to step back and review your finances. I especially love that her first question is about mindful giving. This doesn’t simply have to be about money, however. Christians often speak about giving “time, talent, and treasure.” Some years you can give more of one than another. All should be given mindfully, and my own belief is that is should be given freely…without expectation or resentment. Do it with love or don’t do it at all.

***Edited to include one more linkThe New Year’s Resolutions Most Likely to Fail, and What to Do Instead, by Eric Ravenscraft via Lifehacker

People who like planning are suckers for posts with practical goal-setting tips. Well, maybe that’s an overgeneralization. *I* am a sucker for planning…and goal-setting tips. For those of you considering resolutions for 2014, this post includes important tips for avoiding common pitfalls. I especially appreciated Ravenscraft’s comment about why resolutions are not all about January 1st: “If you get right down to it, the cynical truth is that there’s nothing special about New Year’s. We all collectively agree to take a look back at the past and get excited about writing the wrong year on all of our paperwork for the next month. While this is a great excuse to self-assess, the truth is that changing your ways is a year-long process and if you fail your resolution by February, you can try again in March.”

 

Launching a New Week, Part One

I know some people consider Sunday a day of rest, but for me, it is the day to prepare for a new week. That translate to a busy day, but the effort pays dividends all week long. In this post, I’ll explain how my Sunday routine includes several tasks that prepare our family for a smooth(ish) week. Part One is about the routine itself. On Tuesday, Part Two will focus specifically on my Filofax.

WL1

The first half of my list for the Weekly Launch routine

My Sunday mornings are basically reserved for church and getting the kids to choir practice/youth group (all at different times). Once church and associated activities wrap up, I dive headfirst into planning the week and completing several tasks. I call this my “Weekly Launch” routine. I begin with a list stored on OmniFocus (a task management app). I don’t put the list in my Filofax because they’re set on repeat with reminders in my phone. Personal preference, mainly. I took two screenshots, because the list doesn’t fit all in one screen. 

I don’t necessarily do the list in the order you see. I usually empty my e-mail inboxes while I’m watching TV in the evening. By doing this, I have been able to avoid returning to a ridiculously cluttered inbox (One I remember vividly…who wants to open their e-mail to see the number 1,487 next to their Inbox folder?). I mark messages that have info relevant to my calendar and refer to them as I work with my Filo and calendar later in the day. If I neglected to reply to an e-mail, I take care of it then and there. I also tidy my office, refill my vitamin dispenser, plan meals, and create a shopping list. I post the menu on a dry erase weekly calendar posted on the fridge so the kids know what to expect and Brian can help prep if he gets home before I do.

I write the weekly meal plan on the fridge so that our kids know what's for dinner.  By the way, if you're wondering about the "statistically significant" magnet, it was a gift the professor gave the students at the end of our required stats course. Math humor.

I write the weekly meal plan on the fridge so that our kids know what’s for dinner. If we are eating out or attending a party, I’ll note that on the board, too. By the way, if you’re wondering about the “statistically significant” magnet, it was a gift my professor gave the students at the end of our required stats course. Math humor can be terrible, but I thought the sentiment was sweet…plus, it’s a reminder that I survived grad school stats after not having taken a math course for over fifteen years! 

The calendar review with my husband is very important for our whole family. It doesn’t help to have a great schedule worked out in my Filofax if other people in the family don’t have access to it, so I posted a dry erase weekly calendar in the kitchen above the phone/charger shelf. The central location means we pass by it several times a day. On Sunday, my husband and I pull out our individual calendars (his is on his iPhone, mine on good ol’ paper) and we fill out the board together. The real value of this routine is the conversation we have. If we notice conflicting appointments or meetings that affect childcare, I make a note to tell our sitter or we make other arrangements. We also know when to reschedule appointments. In the past, we used to catch the schedule conflicts halfway through the day of the events, which meant a mad scramble to adjust.

Weekly Calendar

As you can see, I don’t bother color-coding here. I have room for writing things out, and it takes less time to use one color. While I post appointments for my schedule, my husband only posts activities that might affect the family (e.g., early/late meetings or days off).

The second half of my "Weekly Launch" task list.

The second half of my “Weekly Launch” task list.

Other Weekly Launch tasks include cleaning out the car and filling up the gas tank. While I’m out, I’ll stop by the ATM if I need any cash for the week. I try to write one letter to a family member while I’m waiting for my kids at choir practice and/or youth group. This summer, I began writing to nieces and nephews after finding some old letters from my grandmother and realizing how much my kids enjoyed receiving mail at camp. Now that I think about it, doing this on Sunday is a lovely way to reflect on what is happening in our family’s life, as well as connecting with people I care about…Snail mail is a beautiful thing! 

That about wraps up Part One. Part Two – a post about setting up my Filofax for a new week – will be Tuesday.

My Weekly Launch routine brings me a lot of comfort. I’ve been doing this for over a year, and I’d say this is a key component of my organization system. When I go to sleep on Sunday night, I feel better knowing I’ve set our family up for success. Rather than flying by the seat of our pants, we all have a sense of the week ahead. There’s gas in the car, I have empty inboxes, and my husband and I are on the same page. Naturally, we have to make adjustments when the unexpected occurs –as it always does — but this is something that truly works for our whole family. If only my routine for dealing with incoming paperwork ran as smoothly!

 

A NON-Filo Post on Organization – The “Plan to Eat” Menu Planner

As I’ve mentioned in a few posts, our son’s health issues prompted our family to attempt eliminating gluten and dairy from our diets. It’s still too early to say whether this will be effective, but it took a lot of energy to track down meals that would work for our family. I decided to try the 30-day free trial of Plan to Eat, a menu planning website. Since I was starting from scratch, I have only entered recipes that are gluten and dairy free.

Many of the people who use paper planners like organization tips/planning tips in general, so I thought I’d share my experience with a new way of planning our family’s meals. You don’t need to be trying a special diet to make use of this site. Anyone can benefit from meal planning.

I love this site! Its drag-and-drop menu planner is fabulous! I appreciate the ability to create custom grocery lists (including adding/removing additional ingredients and selecting the time frame) and quickly import recipes from websites. I’ve been using this for over two weeks, and I will be subscribing. The “cooking view” for individual recipes was an unexpected bonus, and the tags for recipes are a lovely feature. Sometimes the web importer has difficulty, but it’s a relatively simple process to correct using copy and paste. Because I don’t want to violate author’s copyrights, I mark recipes as “private” when I transfer them from a cookbook I own.

If you’re looking for a good menu planner that is digital rather than in your paper system, you may want to check out Plan to Eat. The video on their site gives a good overview of the features.

*Edited to add: Just used it again to do my weekly shopping…and I was surprised to realize that I can assign different items on my lists to different stores (e.g., Trader Joe’s, Costco, etc.). What a cool feature!

*Note: I am not affiliated with the folks at Plan to Eat, other than as a new user…and I was not asked to post about the site or compensated in any way.

Prepping for 2014

Belly full of leftovers from our first gluten-free/dairy-free Christmas…time to think about 2014! To be honest, I haven’t given much thought to the new year or the transition to a new planner refill. My life has be consumed by the quest to find as many delicious and healthy food options as possible. We even managed to have my in-laws over for Christmas dinner without anyone feeling like gluten/dairy free holiday meals are “less than” our traditional meals.

Now that we pulled it off and I have one “pajama day” under my belt, I’m ready to catch up on links from Philofaxy and start strategizing.

Some things will stay the same. I have a new 8×10 inch stapled monthly calendar ready to go. This is where I write all family events, appointments, and due dates — color-coded, of course. This year, I bought one with a plastic cover. It’s not the luxury of a leather-bound planner – nor does it tuck inside my A5 – but I love the size of each day’s square. It works for my handwriting and our family’s life, plus it is very slim! I will also stay with the A5 binder. My final experiment with the personal size reminded me not to mess with what works for me. The month on 2 pages (MO2P) format will continue to serve for my writing schedule in a separate section. This has been a lifesaver for my grad school productivity. Finally, I will continue to place a sheet of paper in the middle of my week on 2 pages (WO2P) calendar; this section holds my personal daily schedule and to-do lists. It sounds like a lot of duplication, but each piece has a different function, and it is easy for me to track when I do my Sunday “weekly launch” routine.

Speaking of my Sunday routine, that particular ritual is something I’m not going to tinker with…it’s the heart of my organization system. I plan to write about it this weekend, since it’s a crucial part of what I do.

There are a few changes I’m considering:

  1. Moving away from the lined WO2P layout. I’m thinking that with the larger, blank blocks for each day, I’ll treat them as if they have two columns: AM and PM. As with my earlier layout, these will only include time-specific tasks/appointments. The lined sheet I’ll insert in between the two halves of the week will be tasks without a specific day/time.
  2. Setting monthly goals that I’ll keep on a sticky note on my Today ruler. Tomorrow, I think I’ll brew some Jasmine Silver Needle tea, find a piece of dark chocolate, and think about what I’d like to accomplish in 2014. I’m sure I’ll find some inspiration for this on-line. My fellow paper-planners have written great posts on this annual ritual in the past.
  3. Revisiting how I use the financial section of my planner. I haven’t ever settled on an effective system for tracking finances in my planner. There are some pieces that work, but other parts are a waste of space.
  4. Revisiting how I track health-related info. I’d like to track exercise, but I’m not thrilled with my system. I think I’ll be using the 2014 Vertical Full Year Planner. Maybe track minutes/type of exercise for each day?

I am also considering if there is something I want to do to “pretty up” my planner. I’m definitely not in a position to spend much time on this, but some personalized dividers and a few pieces of artwork might go a long way. It’s too bad most of the people on Etsy who make dividers only do so for the smaller binders.

Now I’m off to visit blogs with people’s year-end/new year posts. If you have some that you’d recommend — including your own — please post a link in the comments below!

Weekly Layout

I decided to tackle my weekly review early this weekend. I’m a little anxious about meal-planning since we are going gluten/dairy-free for the next few weeks (my husband would note here something about my penchant for understatement) . Plus, I had a little time this morning since the kids are with their grandparents.

Immediately after trying to use the Personal size, I realized it won’t work for me. I left it at home. Didn’t look at it once after filling out the weekly overview. I just love the A5 size. I should heed my own advice about not being tempted to try other peoples’ systems when my system is working fine!

Below is my weekly layout. The difference between this layout and my monthly calendar is that I only include items that relate to my responsibilities. My monthly calendar lists all family events and appointments. This allows me to focus on what I should be doing throughout the day. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a separate section that details what I work on during “writing” time slots.

Image

I list my to-dos for the week on a lined page in between the two halves of the week. I add to this list as things occur to me, but this will get me started. When actions are time-specific, I write them on the day/time I plan to complete them. Wednesday night, I’ll turn the page and move any unfinished items to the back side of the lined page. That method serves as an additional productivity check, reminding myself of what still needs to be accomplished and allowing me to think about when I will get to the tasks.

My color-coding scheme is the same as in my monthly calendar: purple for me, green for my son, blue for my daughter, and pink for family. I write dinner plans at the bottom of the page. Major reminders go at the top.

FYI, I use the fine point FriXion pens for my Filofax. The erasable ink doesn’t show up on the other side of the paper as much as the other pens I’ve tried, and I often have to move events around as the week unfolds.

Carrying My A5

There are a lot of Filofax users who swear by the Personal size, declaring the A5 too big to lug around when they’re out and about. I’m an A5 girl at heart, so I thought I’d share how I manage to carry my Malden around with very little fuss.

I suppose that “too big” is a matter of perspective. Be warned, I’ve been a mom for over 14 years and was a teacher before that. Carrying around monstrous totes — or even crates of paper and books for lesson planning and grading – makes my current purse seem almost dainty. I’m sure if you’re 20 and not used to carrying around diaper bags and other parental accessories, this may not qualify as a “small purse.”

Purse & Malden

Purse loaded

I had no idea when I purchased the Malden that it would go so beautifully with my purse (a find from a TJ Maxx). I’m not a matchy-matchy girl, but it’s actually a lovely combination. It works well if I’m at the university, having coffee with a friend, or running errands. Nice, but not fussy.

Now that my kids are older, I don’t have to carry around supplies as if I am a survivalist preparing for the apocalypse; it feels so liberating! It used to take 20 minutes of packing and 15 minutes of kid-wrangling to make a few errands.

Below are the contents of my purse for a typical trip around town. When I’m writing somewhere, I transfer these items over to a tote that holds my laptop. On the rare occasions I want a smaller load to carry, I can just use my separate calendar and my phone. If I’m really living on the edge, my phone case holds a few cards, so that’s as slimmed down a profile as I get. The mom in me would never go out without my ID, a credit/debit card, or my insurance card! All in all, I don’t find the A5  the least bit cumbersome as a planner, though sometimes I prefer to use just my monthly calendar.

Purse contents

My wallet, monthly calendar, travel tissue (a winter-only item), my A5 Malden, pen bag, polka dot makeup bag, lip balm (that’s the weird ball thing), and a reusable grocery bag for when I decide to stop by the store. The side pockets hold my keys and cell phone.