Lists and Calendars and Google- Oh My!

So for all my bluster about being anti-resolution, I have started, or I should say restarted, some things that make my days go more smoothly. I get a bit out of control every December. No matter how hard I try and how many vows I make not to do it again, I still lose a bit of consciousness after Thanksgiving and switch into auto-pilot. What that means is that I’m left on New Year’s Eve sitting amongst the trash and ruin (not to mention extra pounds) of four to six weeks’ worth of going through the motions instead of proactively planning and doing.
In January, I get back on track. Out come the budget worksheets and the menu plans and grocery lists. Once again I crack open a shiny new day planner and start filling it with lists and color-coded appointments for everyone in this house. It’s daunting at first, but I find when I sit down to do it all, I quite enjoy the order and sense of accomplishment that comes from getting my life back on track.
I’ve gotten good over the years at tweaking my systems to work for me. After all, what’s a system if you can’t adhere to it? Two things new I’m doing this year are syncing all the written planner information with my Google calendar on my phone and organizing my to-do list into categories. As for the Google calendar, I have had a PDA for years and have used the calendar on the go, but because I haven’t  planned in time to sync my paper day planner (that I can’t totally let go of) and my PDA, I inevitably get caught without key dates on both. This year, I’m setting aside time every week to make sure I have the proper notices on each so that I’m never without my schedule. My phone alerts me when appointments come up, which keeps me on track during the day. (You can only ignore that “ding, time to exercise/cook/run carpool” so may times before you give in.) So far, this has kept me on time and in the right place more than I care to admit and it’s only 3 days into the new year.
The to-do list trick I picked up from a book by M.F. Chapman called Take the Cake. It’s a great little book of ideas for organizing the craziness that comes from being a working mom. I was pleased to see that I was doing some of the key things. (Like planning IN play time to my day so my kids aren’t always competing with my laptop and I get some guilt free puzzle or book time with them away from email etc.) As a list lover, one tip I loved was to put my to-dos into categories like home, job, volunteer etc. and then pick from each category for a days’ list. For me, I use each category and make a long brain-purge list that includes everything from answer email to paint kids’ dressers. Then I go through and pick my top two or three from each to get done for the week. Then I put them into my calendar. It sounds like a lot, but I’m telling you the extra ten minutes of planning keep me from losing my mind and that is worth every second of time.
It is nearly impossible to survive raising kids without some sort of plan. Of course, you have to allow that everything may end up in the toilet by day’s end, so you can’t be too much of a stickler. But for me at least, having on paper (or smart phone) the description of a perfect day, makes it that much easier to settle for a survived day.

* I received a copy of Take the Cake as a member of the From Left to Write Book Club. All opinions are mine and they are my honest assessment of what I found in the book. For more inspired posts, you can check out The FL to R website. Happy organizing!

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  1. Brenda Bartella Peterson says

    I can totally relate, ladies. At one time I was the young overwhelmed mother juggling too many balls in the air. I wish I had known then the time managment principles that I know now. So I am shamelessly promoting my Last Time Management Course You Will Ever Need to all my mom-bloggers. It is an online course arriving during January on my website. Stop by, take the course. You will be glad you did!

  2. Amy says

    Can you come give me a lesson in being a fun, put-together mom of three? I'm already way behind with two, but I plan to take your advice here. I need to sync those calendars so I stop remembering important events on the actual day. Thanks for the ongoing inspiration!