Appointments on your phone are great, and I used to do that; but I found having EVERYTHING in one place helps my everyday productivity tremendously. I decided to buy myself an annual planner. I use Emily Ley’s simplified planner. I bought it keeping in mind it is going to get messy, but it’s a way to organize my life around the things that matter most!
I learned a wonderful tip from Emily Ley:
there needs to be plenty of white space in your planner.
I use to think the fuller my day looked, the busier I was, which meant the harder I worked, the more successful I was becoming. I was wrong. Our intention every day should be to carve out as much white space in our planner as possible, leaving room for the good stuff.
How I plan a year - PERSONALLY:
I spoke about this in the Make Your Work Hours Count newsletter, but November is my planning month, not only for my business, but also for my family. Brian and I dedicate one day in November to sit down together with our planners without distractions.
Before I sit down with Brian, I do a little prep of my own: I rely heavily on the current planner for the upcoming year: I transfer all birthdays, anniversaries, etc. After I’ve filled in everything I can on my own, we meet together:
We choose the kids’ birthday party dates. We also discuss what we would like to do for their birthdays. The theme can always change, but where and when are we having it can be decided right then.
Annual trips: we love snow skiing and going to the beach. We also try to make it a priority to spend one little weekend getaway with each kid individually, for some quality one-on-one time. We try to go ahead and choose dates for these things. These are really important to us and we want to make sure we do them. I find if they are on the calendar, then we make them happen.
Determining all of these dates well in advance and putting them in my planner is my big reminder that I will not take on work when I already have these parties or trips on my schedule. Even if I was not working in the event industry, I would still plan out these personal activities in my planner because I love having everything planned out well in advance. Our entire year will run much more smoothly just because of this one day of planning.
After we are done, one of us will send an email out to our parents notifying them of the dates making sure everyone we love and really want to be in attendance can be. In addition to birthdays and annual trips, we also notify them if Brian and I are going out of town without the kids, making sure that at least one set of the grandparents are able to take care of the children while we are gone.
I also go through the year and plan a specific day (usually the last Friday of the month) to go over the following month in more detail.
During that one day in November when Brian and sit down together with our planners, we go through each month individually. I love the simplified planner because it has a full calendar for each month and also on that same page, a column to the side for notes. We may not know all the specific dates and all the specific things we want to do each month, but we definitely have ideas.
While on the April calendar I knew to fill in specific dates like: a work retreat, easter, etc. The side column looks a little something like this because I know I want to create these memories, but in November, I don’t know the specifics yet:
Dye Easter eggs with the kids
Plan an Easter egg hunt
Do something fun with kids
How I plan a month - PERSONALLY:
Friday, March 31, 2017 is the last Friday of this month, and I have on my calendar to review my upcoming April calendar. When I turn to the April calendar in my planner, I’m not starting from scratch. This is so helpful! There is already a list for me. So let’s look at that same list and how I make it a little more specific:
Every month on the notes page has this list:
And then each month has its own individual list for example, April:
Dye Easter eggs with the kids (Saturday, April 8th)
Plan an Easter egg hunt (Saturday, April 15th)
Do something fun with kids (Friday, April 7th - invite Stella’s friends over to decorate Easter cookies)
Purchase Mother’s Day gifts + cards (Brian will take care of cards / I will purchase gifts - hard deadline: April 22nd)
So now, we can plug those specific dates in the calendar.
(I always try to be a month ahead on holiday type stuff. The month of march, I gather everything for Easter baskets and order Easter clothes for kids. This way, I have a better selection and I’m not stressed during the actual month of the holiday. I’ve got it taken care of. It’s done.)
How I plan a week - PERSONALLY:
Sunday, Brian and I sit down while the kids are napping and we discuss the upcoming week. It has helped our relationship in so many ways. It takes about 5-10 minutes, but that short amount of time answers so many questions or misunderstandings that could potentially creep up during the week.
Our Sunday conversation goes something like this:
“Here’s what my week, professionally, looks like. What about yours?” specific meetings or anything out of town or anything that might keep us out late
“Let’s talk dinner:
Tuesday: Stella’s dance night = pizza night
Wednesday: life group at church and we eat there
Thursday: Blue apron
Friday: Blue apron
Saturday: we have church Saturday night so something easy for dinner?
Sunday: Blue apron
So let’s think of something for Monday dinner and Saturday dinner:
Monday - baked potatoes
Saturday - let’s do chicken strips + fries
OK - let’s talk breakfasts. We have a planned menu for each day (Mondays are eggs and bacon, and Tuesdays are blueberry muffins, etc.).
What do we need for the kids’ lunches this week? They need a protein, carb, dairy, and fruit included in each lunch, so we just have to determine the what we want those items to be for this week.
After reviewing the week's menu and what we are low on in our fridge and pantry, all those items we just discussed become our grocery list
We look at the kids schedules and see if there is anything we need specific for that week:
It’s parent teacher conference on Wednesday at 2:30pm. Can we both make it?
This Saturday, Stella has Grace’s birthday party at 11am. It’s at the movie theater. The boys aren’t big enough to sit through a movie so one of us needs to stay home with them and one take Stella to the party. Who wants to do what? Who is in charge of getting the gift?
Who is taking Stella to dance this week?
Who is taking Sophie (our dog) to the groomer this week?
So, because of this short, 10 minute conversation, we can have our entire week planned without any confusion on who is responsible for taking Stella to dance or needing to take last minute trips to the grocery store.
How I plan a day - PERSONALLY:
I try to be up and dressed by 6 am so that I can have an hour to myself before the kids wake up. During this time, I also prepare breakfast
7:00 - 7:20 I wake up the family, and we all eat breakfast.
7:20 - 7:40 Everyone brushes their teeth, and the kids get dressed
We leave by 7:45 to take the kids to school
The night before, we have backpacks and lunches packed so that we just have to gab them and go in the mornings.
I try to be at work by 8:15.
9:00 is blocked off for any team meetings
10:00 - 12:00 is blocked off for client meetings
I schedule in my lunch at noon, otherwise I will not eat.
1 - 1:30 This time is blocked off for me to focus on my email.
1:30 - 3 I wrap up the work day
3:00 I leave to go pick up the kids
Other than Tuesday dance class and Wednesday evening church, I try to keep white space in my planner so that I am free to go to the park or do any other activity with my family.
PS - I learned all of the following tips from Emily Ley herself so these tips are her words, not mine.
Washi Tape: use it for blocking off long sections of time, or multiple days in the monthly view. Rather than writing the same thing five days in a row, throw a piece of washi tape over the days and just write it once! It gives us a visual of trips and other commitments, so it’s easier to organize the rest of our lives around those important dates. Instead of cluttering up our planners with extra words, a simple pop of color (or a fun pattern!) keeps us organized and on task.
How to organize loose papers within your planner: Remember those thank you notes that you never sent out, or that annual pass that didn’t get renewed in time? Life gets busy, and even when we have the very best intentions to send out thank-you notes the very next day, use our coupons before they expire, and RSVP to that birthday party a week early, sometimes those good intentions just aren’t enough. It’s way too easy to pick something up out of the mailbox and immediately put it on the back burner– until we frantically start looking for it again the day AFTER it’s too late. Sound familiar? Most of the time, though, we just need little reminders to give us a little kick in the pants to get those things done! Our favorite way to leave ourselves little reminders to get these things done is just by clipping those invites or coupons right into our planner on the day (or week, for those weekly planner users!) we need to remember them. You could also use your favorite washi tape to stick them right to the top of the page. This way all of the information we need is right there, including any addresses or important websites. So easy. So simple. And SO helpful. No more forgetting where we put them or missing the deadline! We hope this helps you simplify your planning routine and stay on top of all those little deadlines that pile up throughout the year!
Those are all great tips, but the key here is not to go spend a fortune on planners and all the accessories that you can add on - the point is to create a system.
Find one that works best for you, for your family and stick to it.
And above all, don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to check something off one day. Simply find the next available day you think you can achieve it and move it there. Look at all the things you HAVE accomplished so far - don’t focus on the one thing you didn’t.
I focused on personal planning for this blog post, but I will discuss how I plan my professional day, week, month, and year in a future post!
My kids are out of school for two weeks during Christmastime, and there was one year when I had not planned out any activities. I kept thinking, "I want to be sure we go see the Christmas lights. I want to make cookies with the kids for Santa." But because I had not planned out these activities, we went the entire vacation and kept putting them off until it was too late.