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Life is busy, especially when you’re a parent! Mom life can be one of the most stressful (albeit rewarding) jobs on the planet. People just seem to expect moms to have it all together. Social media doesn’t help since everyone looks perfect there! It leaves us feeling like we’re somehow not measuring up. But this isn’t a post about the evils of social media or learning to deal with others’ expectations of us. Instead, I want to talk to you about one tool you can use to help you feel more like you do have it all together (at least sometimes)!
If you haven’t already, check out my post on the 3 essentials to manage your family efficiently. In it, I share 3 excellent tools to help you get it together. Here, I’m going to focus on one – the planner.
What should a planner have?
I’ve used a few different planners over the years. I’ve bought cheap ones from department stores and more expensive ones from online retailers. In my experience, there are a few elements a planner should have in order for it to be useful and worth the cost.
- Monthly calendar pages
- Weekly spreads
- Goal planning
- Year at a glance
- Note space
In order for these elements to be of any use, though, you have to actually put pen to paper. Write stuff in your planner! But some of you may wonder, what do I write . . . and where do I write it? Great question! Let me break down how I use my planner, and of course, you can tweak the system for your needs.
I use my monthly calendar pages to record appointments, birthdays, holidays, and events, mostly. This way I can see what I have coming up without having to flip through several pages. Most monthly spreads have a space for notes, too, if you need to jot down something important. This space usually isn’t very big, but it could work for writing down small lists or notes.
Weekly spreads are the bread and butter of the planner. This is where you’re going to keep track of all the details. A good planner will have a two-page weekly spread that has plenty of room for daily planning, notes, your top 3 priorities, and bonus if there’s space for meal planning. Almost all of the planners I’ve used have space for all of these things, and sometimes more.
Some people, myself included, like having daily planning pages. Often there is space to plan out your entire day by the hour or even half hour. There may also be space for a to-do list, top 3, or other things. It’s up to you whether you find daily pages useful or not. For some, it’s helpful to use these pages for writing out daily routines. For others, it’s just a wasted page. Many planners have excellent weekly spreads that have all the same benefits as a daily page.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I’ve said that before and this is no different. When you set out to plan your month, week, or day, how do you measure whether it is successful or not? If you’re not setting goals, then there’s no way to measure it. The simple truth is, goals help you get where you want to go. If you want to make any kind of change in your life – be it weight loss, financial goals, reading more, whatever – you’ll never get there if you don’t have solid goals to guide you.
We are nearing the end of 2018, so now is a perfect time to start planning your 2019 goals! I’m not talking about new year’s resolutions that you make and then promptly break before the Christmas tree is even down. I’m talking about sitting down and purposefully writing all the things you want to accomplish in the next year and then breaking those things down into actionable steps that you can take each day, week, or month to move you closer to those goals.
Planners with good goal setting sections will help you make and keep those stellar goals.
Year at a glance
This section is usually one or two pages and found near the front of your planner. It has the entire year’s calendar all in one place, and usually one to two years in the future as well. This is a GREAT place to keep track of events that happen over multiple days. Some people use this section to track school events and breaks, vacations, and even your menstrual cycle (hey, we ladies gotta keep track of these things). It’s also really helpful if you need to look at several months at the same time for planning purposes. It gives you a nice overview.
Any planner worth a hill of beans will have some note space. Most planners I’ve used have space on each page plus a separate section for notes. Many planners also have individual notes pages throughout too. These pages can be basically anything you need them to be. If you don’t have enough space on a planning page, use your notes. When you need to actually take notes, use those pages. Is there a type of page (let’s say a habit tracker) that your planner doesn’t have but you want? Use a notes page. There’s literally no limit to how you can use the notes space.
Other helpful tips
This is probably one of the easiest and most fun ways to liven up your planner! You can use color however it best suits you, but here are some ideas:
- Give each member of your family a different color
- Choose different colors for work, school, home, etc
- Use a different color to match each task/event to a specific goal
Once you’ve chosen your colors, you can start working on making your planner super pretty! You can either use colored pens or write everything in black or blue ink and then highlight in different colors. Using one ink color is more convenient if you carry your planner around with you and often need to write things down on the go. But if you keep your planner at home and have the time, using colored pens can be really fun!
Planner stickers just add another level of fun! Who doesn’t love a planner decorated with color and stickers?! You can usually find some pretty cool planner stickers at office supply stores and many planners come with some. Planner dots are perhaps some of the most useful. They are little round stickers with pictures on them to represent things like doctor, dentist, working out, bills due, etc. There are also stickers for birthdays, hair appointments, parties, pretty much anything you might need. And then, of course, you can add fun stickers to help decorate your planner and make it reflect your personality.
Make sure you set aside at least 30 minutes every week to plan the following week. You’ll need to make sure all of your appointments, to-dos, and important tasks make it onto your weekly spread (and/or daily if you use them). Taking this half hour once a week will save you lots of stress throughout the week. This is also your opportunity to plan out exactly how you would like each day to go. You can assign tasks to specific days and even times if you need to. This is how you stick to those goals you set!
Sticky notes are super convenient for writing down shopping lists that you’ll need to take with you to the store. It’s a lot easier to grab a sticky note than to carry a bulky planner around with you. Each week stick a big note to your weekly page and throughout the week write down anything you see needs to be purchased. At the end of the week, you’ll have a list you can take to the store and you won’t forget anything!
This can also work for other things. For instance, I would find it useful to keep a running list of blog post ideas. Then each week I could just move the list to the following week. No having to flip back and forth to find where I might have written down that great idea I can no longer remember…
You could also keep track of gift ideas, chores that need to be done, or even a weekly meal planning template (think meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, etc.).
Finally, and most importantly, remember to be flexible. It’s always good to be prepared and plan ahead. But don’t let it become a law that adds stress when things get off track. The most important rule of planning is to remember that plans can change. Learn to roll with the punches and make adjustments as needed. Having everything written down will make this step all the easier.
You don’t have to be a really creative person or have a Pinterest perfect planner, you just have to make your planner work for you! Planning out your days, weeks, months, and even years can save you loads of time not having to worry. Keeping everything written in one place helps to keep you organized so that you never miss the important moments and you can achieve your goals.
Here’s to happy planning!
Planners pictured above: