Any professional painter will tell you that what makes a great paint job is using the proper tools and prepping the surfaces to be painted. Likewise, there are several simple tools and systems that are absolutely essential for anyone trying to get organized. Over the next couple of weeks we will talk about each one of them in detail. Getting these tools in place will enable you to get the best result for your organizing efforts.
As you start getting organized you will find many little pieces of annoying paper that have tidbits of information you need or want to keep. These little pieces of paper cumulatively take up all kinds of room and add significantly to the clutter in our homes or on our desks. They also tend to eat up all kinds of time when you are hunting for a specific piece of information. Usually that information can be transferred to a calendar or a special notebook and the little piece of paper can be discarded.
Today I want to talk about calendars. There are many different types of calendars available – simple paper calendars, agendas, software programs, white boards. Any calendar will do as long as you do use it. If you find yourself not using the one you have, try another. Find one that works well for you.
Some Specific Recommendations (Updated):
This is a quick list of the ones that I think are the best of the best in their category.
- My new favorite by far is Google Calendar. It is a free online application. Once you set up an account, Google offers many free utilities that integrate very well with one another. I am now using most of them to some degree. The best part about Google Calendar for me is the new connectivity I am able to have with Hubby. Over the last year he has really taken to texting and other forms of digital communication. Now, regardless of where we are, we can sign on to any computer or connect by using our cells to update and sync up our calendars.
- If you are looking for another alternative, Daily Home Planner is a little program that does all that any paper planner will do and then some. It is multifunctional and dynamic. The site gives more detail better than I ever could. They have their original software which is loaded directly on your home computer. It is extremely reasonably priced and they let you try before you buy for a full month. They have also developed an online version with a monthly fee for access.
Best Agendas. I have several favorite paper agendas:
- Franklin Covey has many reasonably priced versions to choose from. They always stay high on my list because their calendar pages include specific places for notes and to do lists as well as appointments. Each of their standard offerings have a specialty focus such as the Classic Simplicity for Moms Wire-bound Weekly Planner – Jul 09 – Jun 10 which has additional blocks that could be used for kids activities or to separate and keep track of your own different activities, or the Jean Chatzsky line for financial focus. You can follow the provided link and look at all they offer under the Planners tab or to build your own customized planner.
- momAgenda has an amazing agenda that is geared specifically to, you guessed it, Moms. I like the more simple feminine designs that go with the functionality. Each of their pages also include the additional separate space for the kids or your other activities, month and week at a glance sections, plus you can have your agenda personalized. The calendars are seventeen months running from August through December a year from now, available in several formats and sizes.
- The Busy Body Book. The weekly-grid paper agenda has columns for each family member. You can also chose between the normal Jan to Dec format or the school year format.
Best Dry Erase Options:
- Best Dry Erase – Monthly Wall Calendar – Magnetic Dry Erase Board. An average sized board, not too small, not too big with solid corners.
- Dry-Erase Calendar Magnets,w/ Dry Erase Marker,14-1/2″x14″ – Revolving magnets for your refrigerator (I wish they were more sturdy, but the perpetual factor keeps this one on my list).
Best Wall Calendar:
- Again, momAgenda. The wall calendar (under best sellers if it is not on the home page) has the multi-block features of their agendas.
- Mom’s Plan-It 2009 Magnetic Mount Wall Calendar. Great big block calendar with pockets and several extras.
Some General Recommendations
There are some things to keep in mind when picking your calendar. If you have kids, their schedules can get pretty busy quickly. Trying to coordinate extra curricular activities while making sure that they still get fed and have their homework done can be difficult. Juggling the schedules of several family members takes space. There will not be enough room on a monthly calendar to properly plan and something will get missed.
Look for agenda style calendars where you can schedule specific times throughout the day. Go one step better; try to find an agenda style calendar like the ones mentioned above that will show each family member’s agenda side by side. You can use the columns not only for family members, but also to track various activities.
You need to place the calendar in a place where you will stumble upon it several times a day.
If you do choose a monthly calendar, try to find one that has large squares with plenty of room to write down things for each day.
What Do I Use?
I actually keep two calendars. For the first one I need a super multifunctional mega calendar that shows everything in great detail. In it I list special days, appointments that are fairly far in the future, and dates that I want to pencil in i.e. vacations or projects. I set up routines for cleaning, for the kids, and for anything else that comes up. I use it to set up goals with milestone dates along the way. And most importantly amongst all the busy chaos, I plan specific play time and down time for each of us. We are a very project oriented family and usually have several personal and family projects going all at once.
Because I have lots of reoccurring events and need a really dynamic calendar for the many schedule changes we always have, it only makes sense for me to use a software program. I have used several. My favorite in the past was Lotus Agenda, but for a long time now, it has not been developed or supported. Others worked, but didn’t really compare.
We have now fully adopted the online Google Calendar mentioned above and the integrating applications they have available. There have been many things I have tried in the past that I thought were prettier and offered a specific functionality I really liked. But with what I call the ‘Google Suite’, each member of the family can choose various different add on applications of their own to customize to the way they work AND sync up with each other, too. For free. There just are not many other choices out there able compete with that.
The second is a large preprinted dry-erase calendar that I use for the current month. When I started using it I had no other intentions other than it being a temporary backup when we last upgraded our family computer while I would not have access to the desktop software I was using at the time. Within two days, my kids and my husband took it upon themselves to write in their own dates and have continued to do so ever since. Without any prompting, begging, nagging, or cajoling from me! Even the little guy. We will continue to use this one for a long time even if it is now mostly for him. Besides, it is always good to have an up to date back up just in case.
I must warn you, I am now on my third board. The first had corner joints that easily separated and kept falling apart. I only suggest boards with tight mitered corners. On the second one the adhesive on the magnets that kept it so neatly attached to my refrigerator eventually gave out. All of a sudden the calendar preferred to spend most of its time in the floor. I now have one that is about 2.5′ x 2′ with a picture frame type border that hangs not so discreetly on the wall. Each day’s square is about two inches across and tall. I know that sounds huge, but it really has worked that well for us.
What Do You Use?
I would love to know what you use. Let us know what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you. Tell us you calendar stories. Please take a minute to share in the comments.