Get Organized: Tap the Power of Planners

Imagine a genie, a butler, a secret servant at your fingertips.

Someone who remembers everything: when your kindergartner got his last round of immunizations, the name and number of that other Mom in the soccer carpool, what your second cousin named her latest baby.

Every home manager needs this informational paragon, but no one has to scour deserted beaches for a jeweled bottle.

This secret servant is called a planner--and every home manager worth her gym socks needs to have one.

What is a planner? It's a collection of information, portable and accessible.

There are only two rules for planner use: use a single planner, and take it with you everywhere. No sticky notes, no stacks or scraps of paper, no notes on the back of the phone book. One planner, surgically attached to your body. Into it goes everything, every name, address, phone number, idea and list.

Form is not important. Some home managers use simple 3-ring notebooks with our printables, while others lay out big money for creamy leather binders and pretty pre-printed pages.

Tech-minded home managers tote a smart phone in a shirt pocket or rely on cloud-synced computers to keep them on track. All of these are planners--and all will serve as a stabilizing rudder in the maelstrom of a home manager's life.

What's in a planner? Every home manager has different needs, but these are the basic components of a planner:

Calendars

Calendars are the backbone of a planner. Most crucial is the date book or appointment calendar. Whether a month, a week, or a day at a time, the date book component gets you where you're going, and on time, too.

Note work schedules, children's activities, doctor appointments, class meetings, social events and the arrival of the dreaded workmen in the appointment calendar. One glance will tell you whether you can chaperone a field trip, or whether you'll be home waiting for the cable installer that day.

Annual calendars record recurring information. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be recorded once and remembered forever.

Annual calendars prevent scheduling disasters. Church deacons won't schedule the annual meeting for Superbowl Sunday and Cub Scout den leaders won't hold the Blue-and-Gold Banquet during Ski Week if they create and carry an annual calendar.

Finally, planning calendars track projects and guide goals. An ambitious home redecorating plan becomes possible when broken down into weekly goals and noted on the planning calendar.

Planning calendars prepare for vacation, carry out fall cleaning, and get ready for the holidays. It's a tool to track emphasis and direction at any one time.

To-Do Lists

If the calendars are the bones of a planner, to-do lists form the muscles: they get the work done. There are two kinds of to-do lists: a daily/weekly list, and a master to-do list.

Start with the master to-do list. This is a section in the planner devoted to slaying mind flies. Does your head ring with mind flies, those pesky little gotta-do thoughts? Kill them by writing them down on the master to-do list.

Order and priority aren't the issue; the function of the master to-do list is to get those buzzing thoughts pinned down where they can be dealt with.

A nifty side effect: once fixed in the master to-do list, mind flies no longer infest the brain. Peace and quiet rule the mental domain.

A sample master to-do list might look like this:

  • Get a new drivers' license
  • Make appointment for eye exam
  • Redecorate home office
  • Order new mattress
  • Wash car
  • Sign up for landscape design class
  • Learn French
  • Deliver computer donations to computer recyclers
  • Return serving trays to Jackie and Betty

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A good master to-do list is a mix of goals and aspirations, errands and minutia. It's Mind Fly Central, a place to put those buzzing reminders into concrete form--the first step toward reaching those goals!

Don't worry if your list stretches for pages and pages. You're killing flies! As time passes, you'll have a record of the good work you've accomplished. Looking back at all the crossed-off items boosts motivation like nothing else can.

From the master to-do list comes daily or weekly to-do lists. Frequency depends on the complexity of your life. Mothers of young children may find frequent interruptions and the demands of child care mandate a flexible weekly list. A working mom with teen children may need the more intense tracking of a daily list.

Either way, the method is the same. Use the planner's list section to record each daily or weekly list. Each list should contain the day's recurring chores--cleaning, shopping, errands--and one or more items from the Master To-Do List.

Check the master to-do list regularly, and try to slay one or more mind flies each day--and because homemaking can drown aspirations and goals, be sure to add one "next step to a goal" item to the day's list. Achieving progress toward goals can reassure that there is more to life than carpools and clean-ups!

Address Book

Next-most-useful tool of a planner is the address book component. Don't stop with mere names, addresses and phone numbers! Add personal information like babies' names, birthdays, and e-mail addresses.

Computerized planner users can print Christmas card lists and mailing labels, too--but all planner users have the sweet relief of being able to remember what Susan named her new baby. Think of the brownie points for asking an old friend, "And how is little Sarah? She must be close to 18 months old by now!"

Create a special section in the planner for personal Yellow Pages forms. Unless your family name is Young, the XYZ page is a natural for these entries. Make it a rule: each time you look up a number for pizza, plumbers or party supplies, write it down in the planner's yellow pages. Next time the Senior Girl Scout sleepover is at your house, you'll be glad to know exactly which pizza parlor delivers to your neighborhood.

Journal

Whether you journal for fun, for self-development or as a spiritual tool, the planner's journal section is for you. Tracking the days of your life can be fun--and most commercial planners incorporate a journal feature.

Information Pages

A home manager's planner can be a Mother Lode of information, pun intended. If you need to know it, "it" needs a planner page. Some sample pages might include:

  • Master shopping list
  • Menu planner
  • Family health record
  • Phone roster of volunteer organization
  • Babysitters' names and numbers
  • Home dec planner, with measurements and sketches
  • Travel packing checklist
  • Checkbook register
  • Party planning pages
  • Homeschool records
  • List of sewing patterns or floss numbers
  • Christmas card and gift lists
  • Online account usernames and passwords
  • Book lists
  • Videos to rent

Information pages can--and should--be highly individualistic. A mother of young children will have party ideas, play date planners, library book lists and sports informations in her planner. An empty-nest working grandmother could include book club schedules, industry contacts, or decor ideas.

Make your planner reflect you in all your individual glory!The goal is to have that magic genie at your fingertips. What information should travel with you wherever you go?

It's all grist for the planner--and the planner is the secret weapon of every organized home manager.

Whatever the form, savvy home managers harness the power of planners. After all, we have better things to do, like rear our children, love our husbands, and do our life's work.

A planner is the closest thing on earth to a magic genie. It does the dirty work, so we can focus on the important things: our families and our lives.

Don't leave home without one!

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