Keeping track of the things you want and need to do can be tough. Yes, you can write down meetings or upcoming quizzes in the middle of the other notes you are already are taking, but then it becomes words mixed among other words that may not relate to each other creating a huge mishmash. This makes it easy for some items to be overlooked. Day planners, on the other hand, help you keep all of these words organized by assigning them their own categories. Appointments are put in one place and tasks in another. This is an improvement, but they never did what I wanted them to do, though I could never quite pinpoint what I did want them to do. Then it hit me: I wanted flexibility.
I wanted to write down tasks that I needed to do in the future without having to assign them to a certain day right away. If I had a lot of tasks and a few appointments, then I wanted the task section for that day to expand and the appointment section to shrink. I wanted all the tasks having to do with one project in one place, so I could see everything that needs to be done and everything that has been done. If I didn’t get something done I wanted to be able to move it. If something got temporarily shelved, then I wanted to a place to keep it, so I wouldn’t forget about it. I got what I wanted with a monthly calendar, some blank pieces of paper and Post-It® notes.
The Basic Idea
The monthly calendar is for keeping track of anything that is fixed: deadlines, meetings and appointments, and important dates; such as holidays and birthdays. The calendar serves two purposes. The first is it lets you see what’s coming down the road, so you can plan accordingly. Second, you can see how committed you already are before adding more, so you don’t overload yourself with tasks creating unrealistic expectations. This can lead to disappointment and discouragement.
If a meeting gets cancelled or you do find that you have extra time on your hands, then you can always pull a task from another day and work on it. It’s all about flexibility.
Daily and/or Weekly Calendar
What you do here is really going to depend on your workload. If you only have a few things to track, then six days on one page will probably work for you. If you have a really heavy workload, then you might only want one day per page. You can use sticky flags for the headers or print it out.
Paper and Post-It®s
Think of the blank paper as a whiteboard. Whiteboards not only let you step back and look at the big picture, but because the writing is not permanent they are easy to manipulate and reusable. However, if you want to capture that information, then you have to transfer it someplace else more permanent. This is where the Post-It® notes come in. By writing it on a sticky you can easily transfer the information from the project page onto your calendar. The great thing about using paper is you can have as many whiteboards as you have pieces of paper.
Say you’re planning a birthday party. Pull out a blank piece of paper and your stickies. I find the 1/2″ by 1 3/4″ page markers work best for most things.
- The first note you will need is what that page is all about. In this case it’s a birthday party, so write that on the sticky and use this one as a page marker, so you can easily locate it in your binder.
- Next, write all the tasks you can think of on a separate sticky note and put it on your blank paper. I tend to start each task off with an imperative, so it I know what action I’m taking. For instance, Order cake, Buy invitations, Decide Venue, . . .
- If a task has a due date, then include that on the sticky.
That’s it. You have the tasks laid out that need to be done. Now it’s just a matter of doing it.
You don’t have to limit yourself to project planning. You can also add pages for places you want to go, movies you want to see, etc. I have a page for blog post ideas, books I want to purchase, and one for research questions.
How I use my planner
At the front I have the monthly calendar(s). I actually have two months at a time, so I can always see a month ahead. About mid-month is the time to print out the next month’s calendar. For dates that are fixed, such as certain holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries go ahead and type those in before you print, if you like. Printing out an Outlook or Google monthly calendar would be good for this.
Next comes the current week with two days per page. Each page is flagged with the dates for those days. Following that are some pages with six days. No dates on these. I don’t date them until I put something on them. No sense in having a bunch of blank pages that I don’t use.
Once a week, I make up stickies for the appointments and special days that I’ve marked on the monthly calendar and put them on the corresponding day. I don’t do this for due dates because that is already listed on the specific tasks and the monthly calendar.
Then I pull out my project sheets which have all of the sticky tasks and I start sticking them on the days that I plan on doing them. Then it’s simply a matter of completing the tasks for that day.
When I finish tasks I have a couple of ways that I deal with them:
- If it’s a repeatable task, (which I’ve notated on the task sticky), then I either leave it there, since I’ll be reusing the page next week or I’ll move it to the next day that I’ll be working on it. For instance, I try to write five days a week, so at the end of Monday that task gets moved to Tuesday. If it was something that I only do on Wednesdays, then I just leave it there.
- If it’s a one-time task and I don’t care about tracking it, then I just pull it off and throw it away. An example of this would be a task to buy a book that I’ve been meaning to read.
- If I want to keep a record of the task, then I put a little check mark on it. I then put it on a separate page I made for all the completed tasks on that project. This is in case I need to jog my memory on a particular task. It’s also a record of how much work I’ve accomplished.
And for those tasks that I didn’t get finished, those get moved to another day. At the end of the day you should be back to a blank slate ready to go for next week.
That’s pretty much it. It’s a simple, but very flexible system that you can design yourself to meet your specific needs. I hope it helps. If you do decide to give it a go, I would really like to hear back from you on how you liked it. Is it really awesome or is it just me?