Trying to start out this year fresh, I knew that if I could get a hold of my desk and keep it squeaky clean and clutter-free at all times, organization for the rest of my life would flow from that.
I also knew that I wanted to try out using a daily planner for the first time, to see if that could also help me towards my organizational goals. What I didn’t predict was how the daily planner scheme and the desk scheme would work together to help me find time for the things I love.
I have also implemented one key secret while using my daily planner and approaching my desk that has freed up my time in a very liberating way.
By the way, A few weeks ago, dear reader Janet commented to the effect that she hoped I wouldn’t cover my daily planner with a brown bag. (As I mentioned, my dear little one got at the original cover with a pen, pretty effectively ruining its appeal.) Although I loved your suggestions, Janet, I have to admit that I took it as a “challenge accepted” moment.
The thing about a brown bag cover is that it’s so low-commitment! Also free. I just slapped it on, took out the marker and the acrylic paints, and went for it. If I did something I didn’t like, who cares? It’s just a brown bag!
On the other hand, if I did end up liking it, it would make me happy for the rest of the year, as I’d be using it on a daily basis (that is the idea, after all).
I do like it.
I liked it enough to get out my gilding paint and add a few golden details. The original cover had gold on teal (same teal as the other journal, below), which was lovely. But The Artist and I agree that we like this more.
So thanks for the creative push, Finnabee!
I just thought I’d share a little more about how I’m using it, because the topic came up (here and on our Facebook page) about how to manage to find more time for the things we love but don’t usually have time for – in my case, pysanky and other art and crafts.
This planner, and the method I’ve figured out with it, has been helping me find that time. It is, of course, only February… but I’m banking on the idea that sharing about this here will help keep me accountable for the rest of the year!
First off, I have to laugh at myself because I am using sticky notes after all, even though I protested a mere couple of weeks ago that I didn’t want to do the sticky-note method my mother talked about.
I have been adding stickies for two things:
1) for my grocery shopping list, because I use this planner for my meal planning as well as all other plans-planning. I sit down with it at the beginning of the week to think through my meal plan, and have a sticky inside where I write down needed groceries. I can carry it around with me, inside the planner, for a day or two while I mull it over, then pull it out when I’m ready to head to the store. I like to think through my grocery list in the context of the whole week’s plans. (My mom has a post detailing this method here.)
Here’s an example of me getting my week’s plan started and my grocery list started at the same time:
2) I’m using one sticky a week, currently, for the workout plan that Rosie, Suki and I have started (more on that later). Long story short, there’s a new set of workouts/goals for each week, and I needed a cheat sheet to remember what I’m supposed to do every day this week without having to look it up online each time.
Next week, I’ll turn the page and put in a new sticky for the workouts for that week.
Here’s how, specifically, I’m using the planner in a way that I think helps me make more time for getting to my artwork. I’m going to share my “secret” to what is making this whole planner thing really revolutionize my days.
I wrote up a fake (but plausible!) day (in the outdated space for December 22, 2015) to show you:
Here it is, broken down into the “zones” I use:
Zone 1: The obvious daily-planner-type-items. These are things that will be done with the kids or with the kids in tow. I try to keep it short as per my mom’s advice.
Zone 2: My plan for dinner, which I have put down at the beginning of the week. At the beginning of the day, I need to look up at that and make sure I remember what I’m planning on and take the steps to prep for that.
Zone 3: And this is my “secret” — My “online” zone. It’s the list of things that I will most likely do while they kids are napping/having quiet time or before they’re awake, because I prefer not to be on the computer while they’re around.
For me this is a breakthrough, because I have limited time online and even less time at the keyboard — and yet, it is the easiest time for me to waste! So often I’ll approach the computer thinking vaguely of the pressing agenda items, and then proceed to browse and scroll and click and read… and find myself at the end of an hour, the kids waking up, and having failed to write that certain email or check that certain site.
You know that feeling? Frustrating!
Later, I end up back online doing the same thing, still trying to get to those items. I would rather be drawing or painting or what have you, but I am instead reflexively scrolling down my newsfeed. Why?
So this is my solution: I have an online to-do list (on some days, just an “at-desk” or “on-computer” to-do list), there as part of my daily planner plan. Before I let myself browse or whatnot, I make sure I can cross those things off.
Then, if they’re crossed off, I feel more liberated to just get up and move away from the screen and on to more important and/or more rewarding uses of my time.
Zone 4: End of day prep. This is the zone where I write down the things I need to do in the evening in order to prepare well for the following day, particularly in the food department. You can see how it spills down into…
Zone 5 (to prep for zone 2): The meal plan for the next day. It all revolves around the food, n’est-ce pas?
Mainly, I find that using the planner is helping me to grant myself the times that I want to use for art, because I feel confident that I have indeed attended to the needs of my family and that taking time for recreation and/or creativity is appropriate.
Maybe sometimes we don’t allow ourselves the recreation because we think we’re too busy for it or there are more important things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we do those more important things instead. All too easily, for me, what I do instead is some non-essential activity online. At least for me, it helps to be very diligent about organizing this way, so that I can prioritize the first things and then know that I’ve crossed them off.
How does this connect to my desk?
I have also finally nailed down a filing system that makes sense for me in order to keep my desk clear. This took me quite some time.
I knew that I needed to move from a horizontal inbox (which just turns into a slightly-contained-stack-of-papers-and-things-disappearing-under-each-other) to some kind of upright system where I could see what is where. (I’m very visual, in case you hadn’t noticed.) So I got these letter stands and used them for a while. But they weren’t quite cutting it, because I couldn’t keep track of which slot was for what, so I was really just storing things in the stands and then allowing other piles to happen on the surface of the desk.
But really, the system needs to be one where no paper hits the desk to sit there — every paper that comes towards the desk immediately gets filed into its proper slot. Every item of mail gets opened immediately and, once read, put in its place.
Hence the ever so classy and elegant clothespin markers. If you have a better idea for me, hit me up. But as of now I am quite content! They do the job: I know what’s what and if an item doesn’t fit into one of these categories, it doesn’t stay in the desk area at all.
Every Friday, the top item in my Zone 3 (at desk/computer/online) is to go through my letter stands and take care of each slot. The things that need to be filed get filed away into my filing bin or letter boxes; I take a look at the “Action” items and see to those; I pay the bills that are in the “Pay” section, etc. If I am good with this system, I head into every weekend with a cleared desk — and clear head — ready to start out the next week fresh.
In summary, this is how I use my planner, by day:
Sunday evening/Monday morning:
Go through whole week and plan out meals for each day. Write down in Zone 2.
Write down any engagements down in Zone 1.
Look at next day’s entry.
Write down chores or other items that come to mind to do in Zone 1. Write down at-desk/online items in Zone 3.
Look at that day’s entry.
Update to-do list (Zone 1) and at-desk/online list (Zone 3).
Go through desk papers.
All days: cross off all items and then take advantage of some leisure time to make something beautiful!
I hope this was helpful to you! So far it’s working for me – here’s hoping I can keep it up…!