I have several notebooks that I keep handy that work as planners and idea books for different occasions, seasons, and topics. Without them, I would not know whether to “scratch my watch or wind my butt” (from Dolly Parton’s line in the movie Steel Magnolias).
I do not know if it is a Mommy thing, a busy woman thing, or if it is just me. What I do know is that they have simplified my life immensely. Each item I add to those notebooks is one less thing I have to worry or think about and each year the repeated tasks continue to get even easier.
Recently we talked about one of those planner notebooks and some of the tasks in them. Today I just want to talk about the actual notebook and some of the supplies I use in them.
For all of my homemade planners I prefer three ring notebooks. I can easily add, update and rearrange the pages as the need or whim occurs. I have always liked the ones with the clear pockets on the outside covers and spine. It makes it more fun to personalize each notebook inside and out. But I have also been known to take last years school cast off and cover it with fabric and notions.
For each one I also utilize:
- Wide Tabbed Dividers – Several sets either bought or made. They offer plenty of room to easily label each section.
- Simple notebook paper. For lists, notes, schedules, etc. Over the years I have replaced the majority of the written sheets with printed pages, but I continue to keep extra sheets of paper just for notes or to develop new pages when needed. Scrap booking paper can add more personality than printer paper once you have fine tuned the pages.
- Sheet protectors with three sides sealed or the bottoms taped closed. If I put checklists in them, I can use a dry-erase marker to check off items as they are completed. You can type up full recipes to be used while in the protectors, then any food splashes can be wiped off without losing a single word or measure. They are also great places to add pictures and tidbits I find in magazines or on the internet into little inspiration collages.
- A sturdy clear zipper bag meant for pencils. I make sure to keep pens, pencils, and dry-erase markers in them. This time of year I have several specific colors I am always looking for to do cards/crafts depending on the nearest occasion. I try to start with a full set from the beginning. I toss in a few stamps, paperclips and rubber bands simply because I’ve learned that each year I will need them. In project notebooks, they are also great to hold paint chip boards, swatches, and notions of the current project while finalizing the details.
- Two envelopes in the notebook’s front cover pocket. One for coupons or any gift cards, the other for receipts.
Other supplies vary, but those are the essentials.
I am wary of mentioning the sections in too much detail, because whenever I see another person talking about their notebook sections, I know it is counterproductive to the way that I think. Why should my descriptions be any different for you?
For those reading as I write, just start a notebook and we will add information for Thanksgiving and Christmas with items we will talk about over the next few months. You can set them up and arrange them in a way that makes sense to you. You can add or not as you find the different articles do or not pertain to you. Quit reading now.
But for anyone finding this article later, you are probably looking for exactly that information. So, instead of specific sections, let me talk about the reasoning or questions I asked myself to determine what was needed for our family. Then you can ask the same questions for your family.
I do not follow any particular rule for labeling the sections. Because I have separate planners instead of one big notebook I make it up as I go depending on the purpose of the book. So the first question should be – What is the purpose of the planner?
Even if you intend to make one household book instead of several, define the main purposes you would like to explore. Many home notebooks keep schedules for frequent cleaning chores, menu plans, grocery lists, and such. (I handle those items a little differently which I will explain in other articles over the next several weeks. You can find them later under the Organizing Basics category in the sidebar or by using the search box.) The tasks I had trouble keeping track of were the infrequent chores, so I started with seasonal books for Fall and Spring when so many things needed to be done.
For my seasonal maintenance planners I started by just making random notes for the things that needed to be done or prepared for the upcoming seasons. Everything seemed to be covered by four main categories:
- The Family- (It sounded nicer than “people”.) Includes the four of us, then friends and extended family, and then Community
- Inside Tasks
- Outside Tasks
- Projects and Events
In fall, outside tasks are done first and come before the inside section. But in the Spring they are reversed. Work with the weather and other environment constraints while making your schedule and setting priorities.
Holiday and Events
The Projects and Events sections quickly became notebooks of their own. I have one for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then one for all of the misc holidays including Birthdays. They are all done similarly. In addition to the categories above, the tabs are either arranged by weeks, by gathering, by ideas or some combination. In looking through them, there are mostly two sets of main questions that all of the pages answer.
- For each gathering/event – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- For decor – Sight? Sound? Scent? Taste? Touch? Cover all of the senses!
I also have notebooks for for DIY House Projects and for craft projects. (For anyone trying to learn GTD methods (Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen) doing some DIY is a great way to learn how to apply the methodology.) For each project we answer several questions. Because all of the projects vary in scale, I may make one or many sheets. Some bigger projects actually end up being a series of smaller projects. Each project includes:
- The process – We list each step of the process from start to finish. For an example, if you look at any tutorial or in any how to book it will show step one, step two, … We break every project down as much as possible.
- The supplies and budget- Depending on the scale of the project, we list supplies for the entire project or for each step. We use this list to gather supplies on hand and to determine a shopping list. This is great for determining if a project will meet our budget or need to be saved for. And if any tool frequently shows up on the list it help us decide to buy instead of rent.
- A timetable – We have gotten a little better at this, but if you are just starting double or even quadruple the estimated time you think each step/project will need. As you gain experience, you will not only get better at judging time needed, you will need less time to accomplish the same tasks.
If you are just starting, you may have a tab for each project. If your list is big, sort them out by similar topic and make appropriate sections.
Not Getting Burned Out
Just remember that I am still adding to my planners even after having them for many years. The notebook will never be perfect. Be happy with it being better than your current process. Do not waste time now trying to make it be perfect. You will only burn yourself out and will end up not making any of the accomplishments you are trying so hard to be efficient at doing. Just pick one topic that you are working on and do your best to answer these questions. More questions will come to you. Write them down and answer them. Then close the book and go do something. Spend time doing the activities, not making the planners.
An Absolutely Essential Piece – The Follow Up
Make a follow up sheet where you make note of things that did work, things that did not, and any ideas of things to try next time. Write down what tools you did use and make note of ones that might make the job easier. Fill the follow up sheet out as soon as possible then add them to the planner. Over time these combined sheets will help you to fine tune all of the occasional tasks and events to take less time, take less effort, and make less of an impact on your overall budget.
P.S. That is not me in the picture and I do not have quite that many notebooks.
photo credit: 42-18285800 by gcoldironjr2003