Photo: © iStockphoto
If your personal goal list is anything like mine, somewhere between "get back to what I weighed in high school" and "find happiness" is "get organized."
Unlike those other goals, though, getting organized only takes a few hours. What you need is a planning system. And at the center of it is the perfect planner. It will boil down all your scheduling chaos into two forms of information: appointments and to-dos-all in one handy place. The trick? Using it. Here's your guide to finding a system and planner that you'll use and love.
Which Planner is For You?
Do you prefer paper or electronic? Is it just for you or does your whole family need access? Once you decide, follow these tips. And to find out your planner personality, go to WomansDay.com/Planner and take our quiz.
I'm a Paper Gal
Go with: A sleek planner with a durable binder or cover. Simple and affordable.
Make sure that: It's lightweight and fits in your purse, and that you love it enough to use it a dozen times a day (that's more than 4,000 times a year).
We love: The Planner Pad Organizer, an ingenious slim planner that takes you from all your to-dos into a neatly planned seven-day schedule, in two pages per week ($24.99 to $26.99; PlannerPads.com). Photo courtesy of PlannerPads.com.
I'm an Electronic Gal
Go with: A calendar and task-management program that runs on both PD As and computers (most do), so that you can pull it up wherever, whenever. You can plan appointments, prioritize your to-dos and set reminder alarms.
Make sure that: It's set to sync to another device regularly, even if you don't use it-that way, you always have a full backup.
We love: Though it's maddeningly frustrating that the cheapest PD As now come with cell phone contracts, they are fantastic. We like the T-Mobile Sidekick LX, an organizational machine. It's not only a phone, but it also fully syncs with organizational programs, or lets you use many online organizers ($49 with a two-year contract or $199 without a plan; T-Mobile.com).
As for computer planner programs, there's a reason the business world uses Microsoft Outlook: Email, contacts and schedule are all in one place. ($140 at Store.Microsoft.com, but comes free with many PCs.) For fewer bells and whistles, we like Google Calendar, a free online organizer. Photo courtesy of SideKick.com.
Calendar, Planner or Organizer?
"Most planners are overbuilt to make them look like they're going to get you organized," says David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. "They build in too much structure that no one ever uses." The fewer minutes it takes you to learn it, the better! Ask yourself, What's my planner going to be used for?:
A. Just appointments. My daily routines are pretty obvious, and a basic calendar usually gets the job done.
B. Appointments and to-dos. I have far too many things to do, and like to break down projects, such as parties and family meals, into lots of small steps.
C. Everything. I like the idea of having a space to keep track of addresses, doctor's contact info, family medication info and shopping lists, as well as appointments and to-dos. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
If you answered:
A: You're a basic calendar kind of girl. Whether paper or electronic, you simply need one with enough space to write in each day's appointments.
B: You're a planner person. Planners are calendars plus task management systems, and come in both electronic and paper versions. Shop for something that says "task management" on it, with a clear system for prioritizing to-dos.
C: You need an organizer. Organizers include calendars, task management systems and space for storing all sorts of information. Look for a package that lists exactly what you need: workout tracking, allowance tracking, menu planners, etc.
And yes-looks matter! When it comes to PD As and paper planners, you'll use the thing a heck of a lot more if you like it. So make sure you enjoy looking at it and holding it, and that it fits your personality.
3 Steps to Getting Organized
Step 1: Plan out the week on Sunday. Twenty minutes of planning at the start of the week can revolutionize your life. First ask yourself: What bigpicture goals would I like to accomplish (such as looking for a new job)? Put these in first, because they're the sort of goals that get pushed aside for daily tasks. Next, schedule in any projects you need to do. Then put in the usual to-dos: laundry, carpool, etc. Last, figure out your exercising and social goals for the week.
Step 2: Take 5 minutes the night before. Before dinner or an hour or so before bedtime, look at the next day and take a few minutes to plot it out. You can clump your errands together and estimate how much time each will take you. When you plan, you won't have conflicts and you're less likely to run out of time.
Step 3: Conquer the three mails. Here's a new way to look at paper mail, voicemail and email: They simply contain pieces of information that you need to enter into your planner. So rather than holding on to all of it, write the relevant information into your planner, then get rid of the original mail. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
The Family Nerve Center
Now that your schedule is under control, it's time to get the whole family on board. Voilà, the kitchen nerve center!
What it is: A bulletin board and large twomonth calendar, such as the Horizontal Erasable Wall Planner from At-A-Glance ($24.95).
How it works: All of those adorable family members of yours are responsible for coming home, pulling notices out of their bags and pinning them to the board, as well as updating the calendar with their events, such as sports games and parent-teacher days.
What you need to do: The family calendar keeps everyone on the same page, but it is not your personal planning system. Copy down all those ever-changing events into your own planner, always. Feel free to colorcode: blue for the kids, black for you, red for priorities. Whatever works. Photo courtesy of AtaGlance.com.
Scheduling Tips from the Pros
Learn from your mistakes. The best predictor of future screw-ups? The past. The last time you arrived late for an event or missed it altogether, what was your mistake? "Most planning errors are systematic," says Peggy Duncan, a personal productivity expert in Atlanta. "Perhaps someone told you about an event, and you never wrote it down. Put measures in place to avoid the same mistake." For example, if you get caught without your planner, leave yourself a voicemail.
Alarm it. The great joy of electronic planners is that you can set alarms to automatically go off and remind you. Paper planner users can do this too by simply setting cell phone alarms. Electronic reminders are a great trick, and heavily underused!
Plan like your life depends on it. "When you feel like you're in control, the stress hormone levels in your body are lower," says Ronald Glaser, PhD, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University. Stress hormones bring on a world of health problems in women: lowered immunity, higher blood pressure, greater heart attack and stroke risk, and yes, more abdominal fat. So when you feel yourself losing control, take 10 minutes with your planner. It can't fix everything, but it may help you feel like you're doing the best you can do with the time you have. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.
Three Quirky Planners We Love
|Planner||use it if...||we love it because...|
|Cozi.com||Your family needs anywhere access to the calendar.||Appointments, to-dos and grocery lists are all in one place for the whole family. Syncs with Outlook and Internet calendars, so you can stick to your one-planner rule. (Signup is free.) Cozi.com|
|Whomi||You want a super-simple paper planner to keep track of lots of people.||The flat-lying spiral planner puts your life above the spiral, your kids' and spouse's color-coded schedule below, all in a durable case. $25 to $30; Whomi.com|
|Simplicity for Moms||You want a sleek paper planner that's versatile.||It has a weekly calendar with separate spaces for you and up to three kids, optional matching binders and purses. $24.95; FranklinPlanner.com|
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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