Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Recently a reader asked me "How do you manage to get everything you do - done"? She wondered if in the near future I would consider the question as a blog topic. Great idea!

I immediately wrote back to her (she is a busy mother of two) and revealed to her that many days, my best laid plans (that is to say, my list) doesn't always get everything crossed off of it. I also reminded her that my daughter is grown and away to school and now I have more time.

First and foremost, moms - give yourselves a break! Easy for me to say - right? Honestly, as I look back, there are a number of things I wish I had done differently when Kate was home. If you read my first blog entry you'll remember that I am not 'super-human', super-mom or super-woman! The main reason I started to write this blog was to share the many lessons I learned while raising a family (and I only had one child!). While many thought I seamlessly managed to 'get it all done' - I didn't!

That said - for me, it's my daily list that helps me keep all the balls in the air.

Here are a few tips on how I compile my daily, weekly and monthly lists.

• Before the end of the year, purchase a date book or planner. I don't always buy the same one, however I gravitate towards the options available from Moleskine. This year I purchased a medium-sized weekly planner.

• Keep your planner in a spot you see everyday and that's convenient. For me, it's the cookbook holder in my kitchen. I keep the planner open so I can see my entire week at a glance. I hook a pen right on the planner, making it easy to jot things down things that need to be done.

• Keep a notepad with the planner. This becomes my daily to-do list. For example; Sundays I tend to do my grocery shopping. Everything I'll need for the upcoming weeks menus is on that list, as well as other things I need to do that day like other errands, chores, bills that need to be paid, etc.

• I also customize my date book by adding these tabs that say; Daily, Weekly and Monthly. I move them around from day to day, week to week and month to month. The tabs make it easy for me to quickly find the dates and pages I need.

• I also add one of these pockets to the inside front cover to hold things like tickets, coupons, reservations, etc., and one to the inside back cover for items I know I'll need in the weeks ahead. 

• If I'm heading to a meeting or out for the day, I grab my datebook and my daily list and take them with me. As I work my way through the day, I check the list and cross things off as they get done.

• I try to prioritize my list as well. Often, by days end there are things that did not get done. I'll add them to the next days list and have a go at it again.

• Recently I added a narrow folder that I keep with my planner. I made 7 file folders, 1 for each day of the week. Inside each file folder I place bills that need to be paid, forms that need to be signed, cards that need to be mailed, etc. I look inside this folder first thing and handle everything I can before my day gets started.

My list is a visual cue to what needs to be done. I am a visual learner so this system works best for me. The addition of the folder keeps everything that needs to be done in one place.

There are lots of ways to keep our days organized. The most important thing is to develop a system and a routine that works best for you.

It's also good to remember that all systems can be made better. As you develop your organizational skills, you'll find yourself adjusting and readjusting to make things work better for you.

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