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The Practically Perfect Planner: Determining the Right Planner(s) for You

10 Jan


For more years than I care to count, I had the messiest planner on the planet. (That achievement did not earn me a single award, however—unless you count ongoing confusion.) I had arrows and scratch outs, pieces of paper stuffed in every corner, schedules taped in the back and reminder notices clipped to pages. It was no wonder I really couldn’t find anything when I needed it or that I ended up missing appointments and other important deadlines.

Then, suddenly, I realized something. I played many roles in my life: wife, mother and daughter, full-time freelance writer and author, friend, and volunteer. Why in the world did I think that I could keep all of the details that went with each of these in the same planner? I needed separate planners! Since then, I have developed four that I use on a daily basis:

  • Family: This planner has large pages for the month as a whole, plus individual pages for the days of the month. I use separate columns for everyone in my family. I put their names at the top of each column and under them; I keep track of appointments, class and job schedules, and upcoming plans. I keep a schedule of current classes taped in back so I don’t forget which child needs to be in which class on which day and time. Other important papers go in folders as well, such as tickets, invitations, and appointment cards for upcoming dentist or doctor’s visits.
  • Work: My work planner is much different. I use it to keep track of upcoming deadlines on articles, steps involved in writing books, interviews that I am either giving or receiving and more. The days are broken down into individual hours so I can map out each portion of my work day. The back area is used for editors’ contact information,
  • Purse: I keep a small planner in my purse with the bare bones of info in it, such as emergency numbers and major activities coming up. This way, when I run into friends at the local thrift store and they say, “HEY! Let’s have coffee on Friday,” I can quickly check my planner to see if that day is free and if so, what time.
  • Me: I also have a personal ME planner that is designed to be more like a diary or journal than anything else. This is for concerns, questions, worries, reminders—and just thoughts I don’t want to lose.

Along with these planners, I also encourage each of my kids to use an academic planner to help keep track of their own assignments and plans.

Wait a minute. What did I just hear? Oh, that was you. Something muttered under your breath about, “Who has the time … ”  or “Four planners means four times more effort” … (You thought I couldn’t hear you, didn’t you?)

I completely understand your concerns, but what you will find, after a little period of trial and error, is that these planners will actually save you time, rather than take it. By keeping all of your relevant information in a central location, you don’t spent minutes scrambling to find papers, contact information, dates, times or other always-seems-hard-to-put-your-finger-on details. You don’t drive to the wrong place at the wrong time. You don’t miss an appointment and then have to find another open time period to reschedule it. Best of all, you simply won’t FORGET stuff—and that is one of the biggest time wasters of all.

What is the practically perfect planner for you? Consider the fact that it simply may be more than one.  Take a moment to write down what qualities you want in a planner and then start searching for the one that fits that list best. If you’re like me, you may find that multiple planners will keep you more organized than you ever thought possible!

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 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.

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Foolproof Tips for Organizing Large Projects in Your Planner

25 Oct

My planner is my lifeline. I bet you feel the same about yours, too. Without diligence, though, it can become a mess: over-stuffed with sticky notes, lists and meeting notes jotted on random pages; receipts stuffed in the front cover; phone numbers scrawled across the margins.

Get Organized with EuropeanPaper.comPlanners should keep us on track, but our planners can derail our best intentions simply because we’re not using them effectively. You use your planner to set goals, budget your time, and schedule to-dos. For bigger projects, a planner allows you to map the tasks associated with the successful completion of those projects. Yet, when it comes to those bigger projects, many of us make one mistake with our planners that can cause last-minute scrambles or even missed deadlines.

Whether you use a daily, weekly, or monthly format, there is a simple fix to this common error: Schedule backwards. With this process, you can focus on a strategic action plan rather than a seemingly endless list of to-dos.

You receive an assignment, so you mark the due date in your planner. It seems logical, right? But if you continue to plan for projects to run smoothly and on time, you are setting yourself up for failure by only putting in the deadline date.

Let’s say your boss gives you two weeks to put together a sales presentation. On the day it was assigned or on a separate sheet of paper:

  • Break the project down into all the individual tasks associated with completing that project (gather numbers from team, create slide deck, meet with accounting, write talking points, etc.).
  • Batch similar tasks together to conserve time where possible.
  • Number the tasks (or batches) in the order in which they need to be completed.
  • Next to each task, write down the amount of time you estimate that the project will take.

Flip to the day before the due date. Write on that early date that the project is due. That way, if snags or problems occur, you’ll have some padding built in, and if all goes well, you’ve given yourself an extra day to run through your talk. And if you’re working on a project with other people, it’s smart to plan for an additional padded day just in case you have to pick up slack for team members.

With the list of tasks, schedule backwards. Place the last of the numbered items on your calendar, moving backwards in time. Pad each task by a few hours or even a day, if your schedule allows. This also helps define priorities in your planner, so when you come across scheduling a task on a day you have another project or event, you can move the task ahead or star it as a high priority.

Bonus: Because you pad the deadlines for each project or task that comes in, when things do run smoothly, you’ll find yourself with pockets of empty, unscheduled time. Use those moments to clean out and organize your planner so that you start your next project with a clean slate.

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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