Saturday, March 10, 2012

Choosing daily organizational tools

There are millions of organizational systems and tools available, and this is a good thing. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by all the choices you should see this as an opportunity to find something that is perfect for you.
The following is a list of resources that are applicable to different types of lifestyles. Take a look around and see what what is you think might fit your lifestyle. However, make a commitment right now to use these suggestions as a starting point rather than a definitive list. The most important part of being organized is adapting to the ever changing needs of your life, so commit from the very beginning of your organizing journey to always be looking for ways to update your system to better meet your needs. 

The White Board: An excellent tool for those who like a general overview of their day

There is something to be said for the simplicity of having a blank slate in a public place. For those who just like a general overview of their day or like a visual representation of their life, they can quickly map out a day or week with important dates and reminders. This is great for a to-do list for a stay at home mom or a reminder board for a busy family.

Below are 5 other ways you can utilize a white board posted in a public place: 1) Running grocery list: As you are flying around the kitchen trying to get dinner on the table you will probably remember something that you need to buy at the store. A white board on the fridge is a great place to keep this list. You can simply transfer it to a piece of paper or combine it with a list from your menu to take it with you when you are ready to shop.

2) Morning “get out the door” list: One of the things that stresses me out at night and keeps me from getting to bed early is worrying that I won’t remember everything I need to do the next morning. So on my white board in my bedroom I write what time I need to get up (since it often changes), what time I need to wake the baby up, a list of things I need to remember to pack in the morning, and any other tasks that I don’t want to forget. This way I can go to bed knowing that everything is in order for the morning and I can relax and go to sleep.

3) Communication board: Do you have family members that are always running around and don’t always see each other every day? Parents of teenagers or roommates can use a white board in a public place as a communication board for important information. It can also be a great place to write down things you need to remember to tell someone when yous see them because if you forget to tell them the board will tell them anyway. My board currently says: Beware! The baby now can reach the counter tops and pot handles. This also serves as a reminder to me as well.

4) Running budget: This is particularly helpful if you are sharing a checking account. Write an allotted total for whatever you want to keep track of and each party adds their deductions each day so you both know where you stand financially.

5) Inspiration: This is an idea that I have been meaning to implement. I had a teacher for a long time who used to put inspirational quotations on a huge white board hanging in her classroom. Think of it as a rotating motivational poster. Change it as frequently or as infrequently as you like, cover it in personal goals or famous words, or ask a friend to write you a message when they come to visit. Whatever type of inspiration helps motivate you can be displayed where it will encourage you the most.

Also try dividing a large white board into sections with masking tape to allocate space for more than one of these ideas.

A blank notebook: A great tool for those who like to have a lot of flexibility.
For a long time I used to use just a blank notebook and a small day planner.This worked well for me because I loved the flexibility and portability of being able to make each pages that ever I needed and have it all in the same place. I could write my menu and shopping list on two pages and then schedule a whole minute down to the minute on the next. This is also great for managing several projects at the same time. Between post-it notes and blank pages I could make it into whatever I wanted.

I switched from my small notebook to something larger so I could have even more space and so I could fit papers into my notebook.

The trusty planner: Portability and reliability
The standard many of us used while in school (and now impose on our children) is a regular $10 Target day planner. For a long time I had one that was half the size of a sheet of notebook printer, but recently that became too small. I upgraded to a planner that is the size of a full notebook and has both a monthly calendar and a weekly calendar.

I use a binder clip to hold the front cover and pages to the spot where I can open it directly to this month’s calendar and a paper clip to hold together the pages between the month and this week. I write my appointments in the book and some general reminders and then I use different size and color sticky notes for different lists to keep things concise and looking neat.

Below are 3 ways to help you more thoroughly utilize your day planner.
1) Use both a monthly and weekly calendar. Use the monthly calendar for general overall reminders, like spring break or days off school. Also write any appointments so that when you need to add another appointment you can look at the whole month to see when things will fit. Write more specific information like to-do lists and such on the weekly view.

2) Color code. Whether you highlight different children’s schedules in different colors or use a certain color pen to differentiate your personal life from your professional life, color coding helps create immediate overviews before you even need to read the text. You can also use different color sticky notes for different lists. In the picture above my green sticker on the left is my blog goals for the week and the orange on the right is my daily to-do list...which brings me to the next point:

3) Use sticky notes. Sticky notes help you color code but they also have many other added benefits. Because they are removable they really help with keeping your schedule looking neat. I don’t know about you but a cluttered and crammed schedule makes me feel stressed. When I can remove yesterday’s completed to-do list it gives me a sense of accomplishment as well as helps me feel like I have a less cluttered calendar.

Also, you can turn a sticky note sticky-side-up and attach it to the back of another note that is already stuck to give yourself more space. This is what I did with the orange notes on the right above.

The home management binder: Great for the stay-at-home mom or to separate home and work
I must admit that when I look at the numerous home management binder tutorials available online the only thing I can think is: That is WAY to big for my life. A large hard plastic binder just isn’t logical for me to carry my whole life around in. However, it is a great tool for a stay-at-home mom who gets to work and live at home. It is also a really good idea if you are trying to actively separate your home life from your work life: Just leave the binder at home and you can worry about everything that needs done at home only when you are at home.
I have come across several great looking home management binders. Follow the links below to explore and see what might work for you. Printable binder. Varies from $29.95-$30.00 depending on size, and then add material costs. Beautiful and totally worth the price. 

The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking gives a tour of her binder with a how-to and links to lots of printables. 

Squidoo gives a general tutorial on how to create home management binder and then gives TONS of links to printables.

Google Calendar: The ultimate smart phone tool
I keep a meticulous planner and I also keep a Google Calendar. This way no matter where I am, even if my planner gets left in the car at work or accidental gets left at home I at least know where I need to be when. I also really like the visual aspect of how it maps out my time.I also have it linked to my phone.

Also, I can link several calendars together. I have a calendar on the website for the classes I teach and for my speech team website and I can link these with my personal calendar and edit them from my home calendar. It makes managing several activities very seamless.  

Evernote: the ultimate portable tech tool
Evernote is a great tool for making notes with your phone or computer and then accessing them from anywhere with an Internet connection. Honestly, I don’t use it because I can’t pull out my phone in the middle of class and write myself a note. However, in a profession with less of a performance focus I’m sure it extremely useful.

Take some time to try different things. And remember, flexibility is the most important aspect of any organizational system, so don’t be afraid to adapt and update and change things around when something isn’t working.
What types of tools do you currently use? What types of tools do you think might be a good addition to your current system?

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