Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting on Schedule

While I embrace certain aspects of our technological age (computers, the Internet, smart phones), other aspects leave me feeling distinctly annoyed.

Take electronic organizers.

Please. I don't want them in my life anymore.

For years, I happily used a mid-size DayPlanner that worked just great. After I had children, however, it seemed a bit cumbersome and weighed down the diaper bag, so I abandoned it except as an address book.

Mothers of infants and small children do not need DayPlanners. They only serve to remind the mothers of how out-of-control their lives are. Some mornings, it takes three hours just to get yourself and the kids dressed, fed, and out the door, what with the diaper blow-outs, spit-ups, tantrums, and loads of unexpected laundry to be started.

Five or six years ago, George gave me a Palm Pilot. He had noticed how cumbersome my DayPlanner was as an address book, so he thought a Palm would be handy. I welcomed the chance to get organized again since my baby wasn't a baby anymore. Perhaps my life could move back to its previously organized state.

At first, I thought I merely resisted change from a written planner to an electronic one, since I'm pretty much a Luddite at heart. Like Daisy encountering her first truck parked on the side of the road, I approached my Palm Pilot cautiously and woofed my unease at its tiny alien presence in my purse. Unlike Daisy, who now no longer balks at strange cars parked on our walking route, my Palm never felt natural as a scheduler.

It worked--and still works--great as an address book, though.

Then, I tried Windows' Email Scheduler, thinking I would check it every morning when I turned on my computer. Instead, I got annoyed when it popped up stuff that I had to click to dismiss. Clicking to get the calendar out of my way when I hadn't done the stuff on it seemed pointless and unhelpful. My computer doesn't go with me through the day, and being reminded about something in the morning still gave me ample opportunity to forget it.

And forget it I did. Since I started trying to get organized again, I have become convinced that childbirth sucked all the organization skills out of my brain, and with the start of perimenopause, that lack of organization got worse. The same woman who used to juggle dozens of projects at a time and even finished ahead of schedule on many of them suddenly couldn't remember her weekly volunteer schedule at the school library.

I had to do something to get control, and if a Palm and Windows couldn't help, perhaps a cell phone would. George and I bought smart phones in December, and the phone seemed a more sensible location for an organizer since I carry it with me most of the time and can reference it whenever I feel like it. I approached this organizer with optimism and enthusiasm.

Instead, I once again grew annoyed at having to dismiss stuff that I remembered, and despite the fact that the phone is with me most of the time, I simply couldn't remember to check it regularly throughout the day. Surely there is an app that works better than the one already on the phone--for instance, one that plays the theme from Rocky fifteen minutes before each scheduled appointment.  But it feels like a gigantic waste of time to go looking for such an app when I already resent the phone as an organizer.

Every year, I buy an old-fashioned weekly planner at Barnes and Noble in early January. This planner sits with a pen by my bed, and each night I write down things that I want to remember about that day...funny stuff the boys say, milestone events, things I am grateful for. At the end of the year, I put the planner with all the memorabilia that I have collected for the year to scrapbook. It's a huge asset for scrapbook journaling because I can look up the exact date that we went to the Columbus Zoo or that Jack tasted a pancake without throwing up.

Problem is, I haven't done much scrapbooking in the past three years. In fact, I've done none, which means that I've slacked on filling those planners for the last year. This year's has very little written in it so far...which made me realize that it would be a perfect organizer.

That is, until my husband shared his organizational method with me, which is even better than my weekly planner and allows me to leave the weekly planner by my bed, thus sustaining the illusion that I'll get back to scrapbooking. Eventually.

Let me pause to share how surprised I was by his enthusiasm for helping me organize myself. You see, this is a man who's main organizational method seems to be "cover every flat surface you can find with your stuff so you can see everything and simultaneously drive your spouse insane." Remember this post

George saw me putting information in the weekly planner and said, with enthusiasm, "Let me show you what I do!" He pulled out a monthly planner that has nice, big squares for each day of a month, as well as a bunch of blank lined pages following the calendar for notes, lists, and such. It's brilliant. A month at a glance. One place to keep a running to-do list. I embraced the simplicity of his method immediately.

He took me to Office Max yesterday to purchase one. My only complaint is that the only really good monthly planners--the ones without a bunch of superfluous and distracting stuff--are gray and boring. I've already stamped the cover of mine to make it a little less institutional looking. Stamping on plastic is a challenge, but at least George won't mistake his planner for mine.

I'm optimistic that this will work, that I will regain at least a modicum of control and not let so much slip through the cracks of my life. Time will tell if this method of organization will help me feel less scattered-brained and forgetful. I'll keep you posted.

Now it's your turn. What method do you use (if any!) to stay organized and on schedule?


  1. Well, believe it or not, I use the Palm. I can color code (red for boys schedule, green for work, pink for my personal stuff....yellow for for youngest....yadda, yadda yadda) and at a glance, at the month see what color is taking up the day. Then I can check each individual day to see if I can fit something else in the schedule.
    But once DH started coaching and oldest added middle school varisity games, DH and I needed to be on the same page. We tried the google calendar (which would update to our smart phones when data was entered).

    Guess what? I HATE Google calendar! It is beyond my comprehension that there is not a way to color code events for the day. In order so see what my week looks like, I have to click on each and every individual day to see what is scheduled. HATE IT. Quit updating.

    I still imput into my palm. And have discovered that I now have to text DH multiple times in the day to see if our schedules are coordinating.

    Google....are you listening?!!

  2. I used to use that exact month-at-a-glance planner. But it was really hard to carry around with me and I have a very tiny purse (the better to keep other people's crap from being carried by me!!). Then I got a MacBook for Christmas and now use iCal. It syncs thru MobileMe with my iphone and now when I add something in one device it automatically gets put on the other one. AND (and!!!) I can set alarms to remind me to pick up my child from play practice or when it's time to get my oil changed.

    P.S. I'm totally convinced that the placenta is actually made up of maternal brain tissue so when it's delivered at the end POOF there goes half of your brain....the half containing the ability to remember things and do simple math!

  3. Organized and on schedule?!? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

    Thanks for the laugh, I needed it. :)

  4. I use paper. I print each month on a single page and keep them in a manila folder on my desk, sort of like a desk pad, only inside the folder so it is protected. I don't carry it with me all the time, only if I am going to a meeting. But I don't have kids, with all their attendant sports practices and doctor appointments, so my life is fairly simple compared to many people's. Every Sunday night, I get it fixed in my head what our schedule for the week is like. When each month ends, I take that page out of my desktop folder and put it in a file in my desk. I have been using this system since 1990 and have my stack of calendar pages since then. I like this system because there is no extraneous paper.

  5. Vital to me is a diary - I feel utterly lost without it. Usually 1 or 2 days to a page so that extra notes can be filled in. On our kitchen cupboard is a weekly planner page, near the phone, so I can see easily who has what on that week (but really so my husband can't say that he didn't know he was doing the morning run to school).

  6. I use a "DayMinder" much like your monthly planner only mine has a week at a glance with a "column" for each day. I've gotten to the age that if I don't write something down, forget it. I've used these for many years. Started with them when I still worked and had lots of scheduling. Works for me so don't plan to give it up.

  7. Google Calendar - it's free. You can get email alerts a few minutes or a day before the scheduled "event". It works for me though I tend to check email often thruout the day.

  8. Paper all the way for me. I have the Weekly Minder and everything I need to do goes on it. If I don't write it down I forget. There are some things that do not get done and they have to be moved to the following week. It has to fit in my purse - it has to go with me everywhere I go - never know when I have to write something down.

  9. A dear friend got me a leather compact Daytimer about 15+ years ago and I've faithfully bought the inserts every year since then. That organizer is with me everywhere I go - I am amazed at how different the entries are as my family has arrived and grown - used to be only work entries, meetings scheduled, flight arrangements, then it morphed to my SAHM things - doctor appointments, story time at the library, etc. Now there are school functions, work days (I'm back to work part-time) and other flotsam and jetsam of family life. Those planners have helped me to track the travels/travails of our journey better than any electronic device ever could!! That's the same part of me that would never trade an actual book over a Nook - I need to feel the heft of the pages and the experience that you can only get from actually holding a tome in your hands!! Don't get me wrong - I love technology - I'd have never been exposed to you and so many other talented women without it but it certainly isn't the solution to everything!

  10. I went to a meeting a few months ago and all the under 30 group pulled out their phones to check their calenders when we started talking about what dates would work. The older folks, those over forty pulled out dayrunners. I do have to say those of us with old fashion dayrunners were able to see at a glance which dates we had open without having to flick through several screen. The down side was we old folks could not email our calendar with everyone else in the room.
    Yes, I still like using and carrying a paper dayrunner. I guess taking pen to paper really dates you but it still feel more natural to me.

  11. Being organised is overrated. The perfect organiser is a myth. The menopausal process is the perfect opportunity to slow down, reorganise your priorities and re-evaluate your life; you’ll never get a better chance. With a pared down schedule you may only need the simplest of organisers, to ensure you get to important appointments on time. No one ever died because they couldn’t change a library book. It’s frustrating when you start to forget things, but getting stressed out about it only makes things worse. You are not a machine, don’t let society fool you into thinking that you must do as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Take time to enjoy the process of life, you don’t have to justify yourself, stop worrying about being organised, be spontaneous, if you get a reputation for being a bit forgetful or a bit dippy, then people won’t expect so much from you and you’ll have more time to do things that really make you happy. It’s good to help others, but it must be in your time, on your terms to get the best out of you, otherwise it becomes a duty and doesn’t work for either party. No one on their death beds ever wishes that they worked harder or for longer. It’s not a matter of being selfish, it’s more a matter of quality, being discerning when doling out your time is far better than having to rush about and not give enough time to each person/project, and that includes yourself.

  12. your story is like mine and I struggle to stay organised - there are cracks in the system.

    I print-out 2 months (current and next) and post on the fridge. It pre-contains known things like birthdays, anniversaries and regular after-school activities like dance, swimming and Scouts. I've trained the family to add their stuff in like excursions, party invitations, etc. Low tech but it works and we've been doing these for years. I file these away as mementos and memory-joggers. We tried Google Calendar but it's blocked in my daughter's school laptop and she's the one with lots of events so we gave that up.

    This year, we've implemented a Celebration Book. It's just a small notebook where we all write in good things or things worth celebrating. Even things like cooking a delicious meal everyone liked makes it there.

    I'm an intermittent scrapbooker and my memory is not good enough to hold everything I want to remember. These 2 'systems' shares the load. I've given up (very early on) chronological scrapbooking. I scrap what inspires when inspired which unfortunately is not as often as I should to accomplish my scrapping goals.

    Finally, one system that really helped me get organised when I worked full time last year is to have a Dinner Menu Plan for the week. It helped with shopping and I didn't have to agonise on what to cook every night. Even better, the kids (I have 2) stopped pestering me as they could just read.

    Good luck on your new planner.

    thinkinkcreative (at)

  13. Many thanks to everyone who's shared their sytstems, thoughts and feelings on organizers! Lots of cool stuff to think about!

    Sue, you're preachin' to the choir. Amen! The organizer I have now is the very basic type, just a place to write things down so I don't forget. I am an advocate for avoiding the rat race all-together. Our kids don't do twenty activities at once (in fact, at the moment, they have NO organized activities other than Jack's speech therapy, which isn't optional).

    Being who I am, however, it's very upsetting to me to forget an obligation. I simply don't have that many obligations and feel it's ridiculous that I occasionally drop the ball. My finishing Stephen Ministry training really motivated me to get organized (seriously, it didn't take long!) because I will definitely have important obligations when I have a care receiver.

  14. Glad to hear it, so quit worrying about it, you're wonderful just as you are. You are entering a new phase of your life, you are not and don't need to be the well organised person you once were, you just don't know it yet. Best wishes. Sue

  15. I use a large month-at-a-glance calendar next to the phone in the kitchen. Have for thirty years. It worked for raising four children (limit: 2 activities each), a husband who traveled about 2 wks per month, appointments and volunteer activities. EVERYTHING went on it, including baby "firsts." I've saved them all and they are a great reference tool. Now that DH is retired, it still works, but I've had to add a purse-sized duplicate for scheduling doctors apppointments while at his office, because I can't keep it in my head as well as I used to do. At the beginning of the year, I write in all birthdays, anniversaries, etc. plus recurring meetings and classes, and use colored stickers to remind us to pay quarterly taxes. I add appointments, theater tickets, promises to baybsit grandkids and travel plans, as they come up. I think the main advantage is having all the old calendars when I need to look back, especially for medical history. The other advantage is that DH and I work from the same calendar. It's old school, but so are we!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!