Throwback… Friday?

Paul went through an old hard drive today and found pictures from when we lived in Tanzania. (We lived there the first two years we were married. We worked for an American university.)

We’d planned on climbing Kilimanjaro over a holiday but changed our plans last-minute when our boss asked us to scout out Malawi for a potential student trip.

It’s still one of my all-time favorite memories.

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This last shot was taken in Kitulo National Park. It was freezing cold. We were the only ones there apart from some wild horses. I really, really loved that trip.

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Planners, a couple of weeks in

The week started off normally and then bam!–my editor assigned me a big story with a quick turnaround Wednesday noon and I was basically buried in work until yesterday’s deadline.

At some point in there we spent an evening at urgent care because Anna had abdominal pain and nurses thought she might have appendicitis (which she does not, thankfully).

Anyway, all that to say–I had been faithfully keeping up with all THREE paper planners (and my Google calendar) up until Wednesday.

But when all hell broke loose, I didn’t touch them.

Sigh.

BUT–I don’t think that means the planners don’t work for me. I think it’s natural for routines to go out the window when all hell breaks loose. It also shows me the planners are particularly helpful in helping me gather my thoughts/focus my plans. When I’m crazy busy, I almost don’t need to do any planning–I just GO. (The only thing that I really had to do was make sure I recorded my appointments/interviews to make sure I didn’t double-book or, heaven forbid, miss anything.)

THAT SAID, I really regret not taking the few minutes each day to use my system. For example, I took copious notes during several phone interviews and instead of using the backside of my daily planner page as I had planned, I reverted to old bad habits and used scrap paper and Post-its. Now my desk is a disaster and I can’t find anything.

Overall observations:

I’m finding that my daily planner binder has been the most helpful, for the reasons stated above. It’s also really fun to use.

The weekly planner is theoretically nice, too–but I’m still too nervous not to also post appointments on my Google calendar (which I share with Paul). This makes the planner almost seem extraneous and thus, I’m not as great about updating it religiously since I don’t have to completely rely on it. I still like the idea of having a paper calendar that shows me what my entire week looks like. My Google calendar is AWESOME for coordinating schedules (we share multiple calendars at work, too), but I don’t like having to toggle various calendars on and off to get a feel for my week.

The daily journal, however, has probably felt the most “forced.” I’ve used it fairly diligently and enjoy having something to jot notes in, but it’s 1) too small to really write anything of substance and 2) sometimes overlaps with what I write elsewhere.

I still plan to keep up with all of the planners, though, at least for several more weeks before I reevaluate. For one thing, I’ve missed them the past couple of days.

Goals–big and small

I included a subtle sneak peek of this years’ goals in the image of my Moleskine journal, but I thought it would be a good exercise (for me) to expound on my goals in a separate post. Hopefully this will help keep me accountable, too!

GOALS FOR 2015:

  • Be more intentional at night
    This may sound a little vague/funny, but I just mean I want to plan ahead better in the evenings so my mornings aren’t as rushed or stressful. It’s always a challenge to get both kids dressed, fed, and out the door without frustration. One obvious solution is to plan ahead. Specifically, I’d like to have the kids’ and my clothes picked out the night before. I also want to have Anna’s lunch packed and ready to go. (Lucy’s preschool provides meals).
  • Map out my work day
    This goes right in line with the use of my Google spreadsheet and daily planner pages. I also think it might be smart to keep a time record at some point to help me figure out what I’m doing wrong (and hopefully what I’m doing right!).
  • Spend our tithe
    Paul and I budget money for giving every month but not all of it goes to specific people/places. So there have been many months where we just don’t use up the money and it essentially disappears into our general expenses. I hate that this happens! The joy of putting money aside is always having money available to give (and giving is such a joyful thing!). We plan to tackle this goal by taking non-designated money out in cash at the beginning of every month so it is accessible. And that way, we always know how much we have left–if anything remains at the end of the month we can donate it to a local charity or our church.
  • Practice hospitality
    This goal is basically summed up in my explanation about my word of the year (brunch). This means choosing to open up our home even if it is inconvenient. It means setting aside a regular time to spend with other people (Saturday mornings). It also means practicing good habits to make it easier to invite people over spontaneously (i.e., always have clean sheets available for the guest bed; have a quick go-to meal in my freezer; keep the living room area relatively tidy). We’ve been intentionally working towards this goal for a few months now and it’s made a big difference.

Planning ahead (part 2)

I mentioned previously that I haven’t used a paper system for organization and planning in recent years.

One thing I have used for planning this year is Google docs. When I started working full-time in April, I found myself frustrated when a day would go by and I didn’t have a way to measure my productivity.

We use Google spreadsheets extensively at work to track our stories and projects and it occurred to me that a personal spreadsheet might work well for me.

Here’s what I came up with (from earlier this week):

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 10.54.35 PMIt’s super simple. Each day of the week gets eight spaces (eight simply because it was the right spacing to fit neatly on my monitor–the important thing is not to have too many). I write down the key tasks of the day and cross them out when I complete the task. Sometimes I only have two things written down for the day. Other times I put things in after the fact.

Everything is really general. I’ll write stuff like “write first draft of _____ story” or “call B.P. for background info” or “transcribe interview.”

The point is it gives me a few real goals and also a sense of satisfaction when a day goes by and I can see that I have gotten things done.

At the end of the week, I move all the struck-through items to the bottom of the spreadsheet and assign uncompleted tasks to a day.

Super simple.

Planning ahead

I love this time of the year! I love fresh starts and stationery. I love the idea of a blank slate (and a blank calendar). Despite that, it’s been several years since I’ve used a planner or journal for recording and record-keeping.

This year, I decided to go ALL OUT. I’m trying multiple systems while my energy is high and we’ll see what sticks.

Weekly planner

When I have kept a planner in the past, I’ve mostly used a weekly set-up. I like the way you can see the whole week in one spread.

I picked up a very simple planner at Target for around $10 (for some reason, I can’t find a link to it).

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetI intend to carry it around with me to use for appointments and planning purposes.

Daily planner

I spent a lot of time perusing planner options online and stumbled upon the (apparently immensely popular) Day Designer. I wasn’t initially too interested because it seemed like overkill to me, but then I discovered that they offer a free printable and decided to give it a shot.

I LOVE IT.

Sometimes I have trouble staying focused at work (I’m still getting used to sitting at a desk for at least 9 hours a day!). I use a spreadsheet to track my daily to-do list (more about this here) and that helps to keep me productive, but I still struggle with staying on task.

It occurred to me that I might need some babysitting in the form of a detailed daily schedule–and this works really well for that.

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetI usually have several projects going on at once so I strategically break up my tasks to keep things interesting during the day. If I find my mind wandering, it’s as simple as looking up at the clock and then looking down at my schedule to remind myself what I should be working on.

I know it seems kind of overkill but even the exercise of writing out my day helps!

(Note: the Daily Designer is really similar to the sold-out Simplified Planner You can download a printable here.)

Edit: The printout is a full-sized sheet. I plan to just keep a couple of weeks’ worth of pages in a thin binder and file older pages. One happy accident–when I first printed out a batch of pages, I accidentally forgot to print double-sided. But the backside of each page is the perfect place to jot down notes at work, which are then automatically part of that day’s record. I used to take notes during phone calls and interviews on scrap pieces of paper or random notebooks and then I’d have a hard time finding the right slips of paper afterward. This solves that problem. 

Daily journal

When I was in college, I used to carry around a blank sketchbook that I used for EVERYTHING–journaling, note taking, doodling… I plan to use a pocket-sized daily Moleskine journal similarly.

Processed with VSCOcam with s1 presetI jot down a few lines every day about the things I did or stuff I’m thinking about. And it stays in my bag, so I can pull it out to write down notes or things like phone numbers. To be honest, the small size makes it less daunting because I simply can’t fit too much on a page.