Tag Archives: Planning

The Point is the Doing

check list
Source: David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Between getting to the bottom of my son’s health issues, the holidays, and the fun of setting up my new planner, I haven’t actually been that productive in the last month. That’s not to say I didn’t accomplish important things — and they were truly important, because they were about family — but I’ve barely touched my dissertation proposal.

It’s time.

I began this morning by waking a bit early to journal why I’ve been reluctant to get in there and DO the work. It was an amazingly helpful exercise, because it shifted my perspective from feeling pressured to feeling privileged to have the ability to do what I do…and, even better, I feel a sense of purpose. I’m trying to support teachers who want to provide all students with equitable access to a quality education. As I wrote near the end of my journal entry:

This is a gift…my work is not a task to avoid because someone will judge me a failure if it’s not perfect. My dissertation allows me to explore big issues, and I believe my work will be of service to educators, and more importantly, children. The process itself is beautiful: Each day I work toward my dissertation, I am able to study what I want, how I want. What an amazing privilege! At the end of the day, I’ll know I am one step closer to putting my research in the hands of people who believe in providing better teaching and educational outcomes for children who deserve our best.

Guilt and shame don’t actually encourage me to do the work. While lists are helpful in breaking down a daunting task into manageable pieces, they are only effective if I do what’s on them. It helps to remember why I chose this path, and when I remember my purpose, I can draw upon renewed energy.

Now that I’ve reminded myself about my values and how lucky I am, I decided to post a few strategies to make my daily work life run smoothly. It’s right there in my Filofax:

  1. Write from 6-7am.
  2. No Internet until 9:30am.
  3. Use Facebook on Saturday only.
  4. Check e-mail three times per day: 9:30am, 2pm, and 5pm.
  5. No screens of any kind from 6-8pm.
  6. Run errands after the work day ends, not when the kids are in school. 
  7. Get 8 hours of sleep.

The writing time is because I want to start the day knowing I’ve accomplished something before distractions hit. My husband manages the early morning tasks with the kids, but once I leave my bedroom, the world intrudes on my mind. If I start working, I’ve won half the battle. The notes about the Internet, Facebook, and e-mail are tailored toward preserving my focus. Once I open my e-mail or read the news online, I tend to get derailed. If something is so urgent that it can’t wait until 9:30, 2, or 5, that person would likely call me.

I need to remember that because I work from home, I need to establish clear boundaries for my work and family life. I used to work outside of the home. I couldn’t run to the market during the middle of the day. I need to work while I have quiet time to focus. That’s when my kids are in school. I can always run an errand in the early evening with my children or on the weekend. Because I am home a lot, work can creep into my family time if I’m not mindful. No screens from 6-8pm. That’s time I reserve for my family, and they deserve my full attention. Period.

Finally, when I’m tired, I have a hard time focusing. Get sleep. How else will I write at 6am?

If the point of planning is doing, I need strategies that set me up for success. These personal guidelines have the potential to get me back on track with work. I am so glad I took time to think them through.

Updated (6 Jan 2013): Oh, these personal “rules” are the bombdiggity! I love getting something (an hour of writing) accomplished first thing, because the “small win” makes me want to keep on track. acebook is easy, because I’ve weaned myself off it since October. The rule about no screens from 6-8pm translates into more reading with/near my children. Honestly, the hardest thing is not compulsively checking my e-mail every time I pick up my cell phone or open my browser. I think one of the reasons I have been more productive so far, however, is because I’m not getting sidetracked by e-mail. Onward! [Actually, I need to get to bed. The 8 hours of sleep thing is a wee bit tough, too. G’night!

A Few Additional Dates for Your 2014 Calendar

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy New Year! While New Year’s Eve is not my favorite holiday, when I was little, I loved that my parents used to save several fireworks from the Fourth of July so that my best friend and I could launch a few at midnight. Now I live in a town that bans fireworks entirely, and I’d much prefer to get sleep than stay up until midnight. While my celebrations are far more reserved these days, I do like the fresh feeling of a new calendar.

By now, you’ve likely prepared your calendar for 2014. This, in fact, is a ritual I prefer to viewing the Times Square ball drop. Perhaps you input important holidays, travel plans, and birthdays. In this post, I’d like to share a few suggestions for more obscure items to add to your planner. There are a few additional things I like to add to my calendar at the start of a new year. Today I’m sitting down at my laptop and searching several key dates for 2014. Depending on where you live, some of these may not apply, but here are some items to consider adding to your calendar now:

Continue reading

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?

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!

 

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.