Online calendars are lifesavers—we all moved over to them for good reason. My husband and I can both see the family calendar on our computers and phones. I can automatically add the next appointment while I’m at the orthodontist with my son. Pings from my work calendar keep me from getting immersed in something and forgetting to dial into a meeting or conference call.
What these calendars fail to do—for me at least—is show me my week as a whole, flag conflicts, and help me figure out how to most productively fill the spaces in between calendar entries. For that, nothing beats pen and paper.
Planning the Week With Calendar Pad
My mother bought me this brilliant Calendar Pad from 11 Magnolia Lane because she noticed I often had multiple schedules and lists posted about the house to keep kids and life organized. You can download their online template, order the pad itself, or create something similar on a blank sheet of paper, white board, or chalk board.
I spend some time with it at the beginning of each week planning for the days ahead. Then it sits on the kitchen counter. That allows everyone in the family to see who needs to be where and how the day is going to flow. It shows me when I have a chunk of time to run an errand or get some chores done. It also highlights possible issues for me before they become “oh crap!” moments. What day is my husband traveling for work? Do I need to ask the sitter to stay late or leave her a car? Do I need to find a ride for one kid when activities overlap? Does that long-ago-scheduled dentist appointment now conflict with a can’t miss meeting? What can I cook for dinner that comes together quickly so I can feed my 6th grader before she goes to basketball until 8:00 p.m.
In fact, planning dinner on this pad in coordination with our family schedule helps me map out a strategy to make this most daunting but important task workable most nights. Seeing our schedule leading up to dinner time helps me plan a meal that will actually get made. And having a dinner plan helps you shop more efficiently and less expensively.
The Bullet Journal To-Do List
The one section I don’t use on the calendar pad is the to-do section. This is a beast unto itself, and I have finally come up with a system that works. If you haven’t heard of a bullet journal, there is so much information about them online it’s like slipping down a slide that never hits ground. This is a good place to start for a simple introduction. People are obsessive about these things and create beautiful, detailed, elaborate pages (right image; simple example on the left). My bullet journal is not one of the pretty ones. Ruler in hand, I struggle to draw a straight line.
And at first glance, I thought these were a crazy pants waste of time. When a friend of mine taught an introductory class I went because I like her so much. She also happens to be supremely wise so I was willing to give it a chance. Sort of. I really went in pretty smug in my own systems.
What I realized during the class is that a bullet journal offered two things that I was not able to accomplish with anything else I had going: accountability and consolidation. Accountability because unlike the 72 item to-do lists I would often write, scratch off a few things from, and then lose, throw away or never look at again, this made me confront the tasks that I kept writing down but never got done.
Because you bullet journal everyday, you have to bring any task that you didn’t get done, onto the next day’s list. By the 15th time I had written, “pick out tile for basement bathroom,” I figured it was time to actually make it a priority and get it done. Sorting out priorities is another bonus of this system. Busy and productive are two different things. I’m good at busy, but an abject failure at productive many days.
Consolidation is another perk of this system. In addition to keeping track of goals and to-dos, you can use a page of the journal for anything, so all of those random notes and lists you once kept shoved in a hundred different places are all in one place. An awesome leap on the path to Bright Blue Weather.
I have notes from a recent family trip saved in my journal so I can pass along hikes and hotels to all of the people who have asked for details. I keep a list of books I want to read so I’m not jotting them in the notes section of my phone or sending emails to myself. All of the measurements and notes for that bathroom renovation are there, too, so I have one less excuse to get to the tile store.
Together, these two things keep me afloat and often in a pretty good flow.