Happy New Year, my friends! I cannot believe it is August! And, yes, I’m wishing each of you a Happy New Year! If I could throw confetti and pop a party popper, I would! As a student for what comes to about 20 years (including elementary, middle, high school, college and graduate school – ahem – two attempts at that one) and then a teacher for almost 10, naturally my body and mind equate new year not with snowflakes and egg nog, but with colorful new school supplies and the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. My heart skips a beat and a slow smile creeps across my face as I walk into Staples or even if I walk by a school supply aisle.
So, today, in the spirit of the New Year, I’m starting a short series designed to encourage you to view the upcoming school year as a Happy New Year! My hope is to post once each week in August, so be on the look-out (and if you see me, feel free to offer some encouragement – especially since my goal was to write more this summer and it has ended up being only once each month!) 🙂
A bi-product of this August-New-Year nuance is that I like for my calendar or planner to run from August to July and my goals usually include something to do before next summer instead of the next holiday season. It is your lucky day, my friends, because today we are talking calendar, planner and time management (or, for me, life organizationJ). In Lysa Terkeurst’s book, The Best Yes, she reminds her readers that each of us have the same number of hours each week – 168. We have to account for things we must do – sleep, work, eat – but what we do with the remainder of our time reflects our priorities. Last year, after reading that I began to look more closely at my calendar. There were blocks of time that I wasn’t accomplishing as much as I wanted. I needed that reminder that each hour is precious, both to get done what needs to be done and to make my family a priority when we were together. This idea coincided nicely with a truly defining conversation with Jerry about my professional goals, but that is a story for another day.
I have always loved a good calendar and a good to-do list, but when I began to implement this new system, I was able to devote more time to my family. I was able to get things done when they were gone during the day and that in turn opened up more family time. Here is an overview of my system. I hope you are able to pull a nugget or two from this post to make your New Year feel more productive.
The system begins with a paper calendar (archaic, I know). I truly believe, with every ounce of my being, that I function at a higher level when I write things down. And when the lists are organized in one place and divided into sections, well, I’m getting excited as I type about it! Recently, I posted on Facebook about my quest for the “perfect” calendar. I spent an afternoon online searching through all of the wonderful suggestions my friends gave me, several hours at several stores looking through everything they had in stock, and pining over the colorful beauty of some of them. However, I came to the sad conclusion that my perfect calendar didn’t exist, so I set about to make my own – actually to advance what I created to use last year. You see, what I REALLY wanted was a to-do list, plus calendar all in one. The young woman at Staples who helped me was a gem – I don’t think she rolled her eyes even once as we tweaked it to look just like I wanted.
Once you have your paper calendar, take the time to use it! Now, before I stumbled into this system, it made me batty to have two calendars because inevitably one of them was not up to date. So, this is the system that works for me. First, I still use the electronic calendar on my phone to input all our family appointments, sports schedules, travel dates, etc. On Sunday evening (or Monday morning) I sit down with my phone in hand and transfer all the dates and appointments into the upcoming week. I use a highlighter to mark the time that is not “free” (work days or scheduled volunteer time). I also use a different color highlighter to mark time I’ve blocked off for writing. Once that is done, I start my list of things I need to accomplish during the week. I put it all in there – grocery shopping, pick-up dry cleaning, sending a card to a friend, etc. I’ve also been known to put into my calendar when a coupon expires if it is a really good one, so I don’t forget to use it! Taking the time to think through the week the night before it starts gives me a great sense of how I will get it all in.
Since it is a paper calendar, I also use it to keep up with project notes, calls that need to be made, etc. They can all be paper clipped to the back cover.
As I work through the week, I mark things off, add, and rearrange. It becomes more of a working document. When I get to the end of the week, if something hasn’t been completed, I can simply move it to the next week. Sometimes, things are ongoing projects, so they may appear from week to week. But, the feeling of satisfaction I get from marking something off my to-do list is wonderful, as is the feeling of a fresh week when I turn the page!
**Disclaimer: I DO forget things and this isn’t always fail-proof, but it does give me a place to start. **
Since this project began, I’ve had several friends ask me about making their own calendar like this. If you are interested in receiving a .pdf of the calendar to make your own, leave me a note in the comments, or send me an email. Also, if you would like a personalized calendar, let me know and we can work on making that happen. I would love to hear from you and I would love to know how you plan to stay organized in the New Year!
Many Blessings, Bethany 🙂