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Thinking out Loud: Planners and Planning

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Ah, organization - I could talk about this subject at great length. In fact, I have it very much on my mind these midsummer days as I prepare for the new year ahead. This week I'm devoting my spare time to analyzing and tweaking the system I use for planning and keeping up with our family life. I would also like to make a smidgen of sense at the conference, so I need to do some thinking. And since blogging helps me think, here I am thinking out loud. :)

Today I laid out some of my favorite resources as well as my main planning tools. I am planning out the fall season, and to do so, I like to look back through favorite books and old journals to remind myself of what's coming up and what we might do to celebrate - among other things - our Catholic faith, the nature we love, and our learning at home.

But, as I plan, I am trying to streamline my planning. Does that make sense? I tend to use more materials than I probably need - and I also have a thing about making my own stuff. Rarely do I find something commercially made that suits my needs to a T.

Above you see my workspace this morning - books, journals and files - and in the foreground you see, from left to right:

  • a month at a glance calendar I customize with color
  • a homemade planner I made up inexpensively
  • a humble journal where I capture my everyday thoughts

And now for a few notes ...

My month at a glance planner: I've shown you this one before, but I'm going to show it to you again. ;) It is a thin, spiral bound 14-month planner made by At-a-Glance. It's called the DayMinder, but it is virtually impossible to find a link online. Yet every year my local office supply store carries them, so I would think they wouldn't be hard to find.

The blocks are large and lined, the paper is comfortable for pen or pencil, and I find it very easy to write quite a bit inside each block. It is light and handy for taking along with me when we go places like speech therapy or the orthodontist or a homeschool group meeting - any place where I may need to see my upcoming schedule and find free time for a commitment.

As you can see from the other materials I have a thing for "gussying" up my planning tools with patterned paper but so far I have not found a way to spruce up this calendar on the outside. But something I have done on occasion is to make the insides a bit more colorful, shading the tops of each day's block with the liturgical color:

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It really isn't much work at all. I just grab a few of the kids' colored pencils and shade in the top portion of each block. First, though, I write in any feast days in ink so they stand out. It's subtle, and yet helpful I think when envisioning the big picture.

I write as much as I can in this planner - appointments, feast days, birthdays, full moons, things I want to Tivo, lol - and if I could, I would use this alone as my planner. It's the first thing I use when I go to plan out the the coming week. But I find there are things I need to write down I can't seem to fit on these pages. Like, if I am going to a meeting and I need to remember to bring a few things, I don't think I have room here to jot that note down. If I want to serve scallops on St. James Day - do I note it here, or write it down somewhere else? Perhaps I work these month-at-a-glance pages into a homemade planner somehow (see below)?

Hmmm ...

Homemade planner: Very much a work in progress, but I thought I'd mention it because it is a neat way to make up a notebook for yourself lickety-split and on the cheap. What I did was to take the pages I wanted in my planner (printed out at home), along with a piece of thick cardstock for the back (thin cardboard would have been better) and a sheet of scrapbook paper for the front, over to the office supply store and had them "wire-bind" it all together for me. They offered to put a clear plastic cover on it, but I declined. $3 later I had my notebook all ready to take home:

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I did this once before, a few years ago and I found it helpful. The key is deciding what should go in there - too much and it becomes cumbersome, not enough and it proves inefficient. And the reason why I don't use a binder for this (which has the advantage of pockets and sheet protectors etc.) is that I can't write comfortably in a binder. I need something that lies flat like a spiral-bound notebook. Of course once you've spiral bound something it's hard to add anything in ...

Hmmm ...

I should mention that in a previous post I showed you a daily planner I was using (Franklin it was; I had even added stickers to its front for pizazz) and it almost worked - except I really needed to see that daily task list. And the general layout was not what I needed - I don't have so many appointments and certainly not many (if any) daily business expenses.

I will post more about this homemade planner once I get it the way I want it. I just thought I'd throw the general idea out there in case anyone else has ever thought about making their own planners. You can wire-bind all kinds of things at the copy shop for very little money - great for home learning projects like work samples, unit studies and scrapbooks.

Daily journal: Oh, my beloved little journal - a humble 3-subject wirebound notebook (no perforated pages please!) in which I record all kinds of haphazard things - notes, reminiscenses, clippings from magazines. I use this all day long, and plug in news clippings, recipes, ticket stubs etc. I cover the front in scrapbook paper and add a small calendar sheet from the day I begin this new journal (I use a Mary Engelbreit Page-a-Day calendar). I used to use a standard size notebook, but now I use a smaller, more managable size. Since it's easier to tote around, I use it more - and the more I journal the more I remember and reflect.

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Looking back over the notes from the past week is one of the things I do as I plan out the new week. Often there is something written down in there I want to follow up on. Years later, I still look back through old journals to remember things that happen at certain times of the year. I find this particularly helpful around the holidays.

And finally, below is my tote bag which is kind of like my briefcase. I think it is a great idea for mums to have one bag where they keep all their planning tools and anything else they like to have at their fingertips daily. For me it's the Food section of the paper, a ziploc baggie that holds things to tape into my journal, along with a pair of scissors and tape, current magazines to read, my VBS leader manual, this week's folder and all the things I mentioned above:

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So, I'd best be off now to get supper going. Well be eating around the kitchen island tonight since I'm not moving all these resources off the dining table till I'm well and done! Who knows when that will be, though - I'll be tweaking for a few more weeks at least!

"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." ~ A.A. Milne

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