It’s January and time to start planning for 2008. And before resolutions can be made or kept it helps to have a solid time management system to organize your time. Mothers, especially, are faced with organizing:
- Kids’ schedules, meals, shopping, birthdays, activities and school
- Our own appointments, calls/emails to make, to do’s, shopping and errands
- Household to do’s, repairs, chores, décor
- Family finances, activities, entertainment and meals
- Business schedule and tasks, if working another job
My “desktop” used to be Microsoft Outlook and a notepad of to do’s. My life oriented around these two items, which organized my hourly, daily and weekly life quite well. I was grounded by this system, whether I viewed it on my handheld or at a desk. I always knew where to go to learn where I needed to go or what to do. Then, suddenly I’m on maternity leave. I can’t even begin to wrap my hands or head around the new items I should probably be organizing. And my old system doesn’t apply. Even back at work three months later, I can’t seem to combine household and baby-oriented tasks with work ones. My system fails. Eventually, I leave the job and return home to be with baby, rudderless. I need a new system. A mommy system.
Well, four years and another baby later, I think I’ve got it. Through trial and error I’ve developed my time management, sampling a few mommy organizers as I went. I still use Microsoft Outlook for my business organization and keep my laptop and this system locked away in my home office for when I work. (In my experience, trying to touch one key on a computer in the presence of two toddlers is asking for little hammering fingers and begging exuberance to damage any hopes of using this system in the home.)
So, paper it is and here are the two organizers I’ll praise:
Last year, I used Mom Agenda and raved about it to all my friends. This attractive vinyl calendar provides a weekly view with rows for multiple kids. If your kids are school age and up, this is especially helpful to keep track of all family members’ schedules in one place. (Since my children are younger, I tried to use each row for separate areas of my life but eventually they just became general to do’s.) What I also loved were handy colored pages in the back for listing favorite books, wines, movies and restaurants; recording gifts, organizing parties and vacations. It was great to have one place to record all these areas of my life. And what’s really neat, is the address book in the rear that is self-bound and can be removed for easy access in following years. The address book featured separate pages for recording family medical information and listing babysitters and household service provides. All in all, for $40 I felt pretty well organized throughout the year.
My one gripe, is that there wasn’t enough space for general to do’s: emails, phone calls, tasks, errands, and other items I need to do but not necessarily on a specific day. For example, when I listed them under Monday, I didn’t revisit that list later in the week and missed specific tasks left undone.
Which led me to revisit my calendar system for the start of 2008. Knowing I’d need a new Mom Agenda by January, I began looking this Fall. I seriously inventoried my organizing needs and sought a diary with more space for weekly to do’s. But, I thought, if I can’t find one that competes with the Mom Agenda overall, I may not change. I spent considerable time in the organizer aisle at Staples, flipping through weekly agendas including their new homegrown organizer for Moms. At $26 or so, it’s cheaper than others but had too little space for (in my sloppy handwriting) a To Do list.
And that’s where a Google search sent me to Truly Mom. Very attractive and on the expensive side (they start at $90) these organizers take a different approach than the Mom Agenda’s standard day organizer format. They are catchy looking foldout portfolios that organize:
- A monthly calendar
- A daily, well-organized To Do page
- Three notepads for shopping list, misc notes and other lists
- An Address book
Each insert is replaceable so while the initial price is steep, you don’t have to purchase an entire diary each year. Just the calendar insert.
This was it! Here’s why:
The My Day notepad is organized into Things to Do, Calls/Emails to make, Gifts to purchase, Don’t Forget, What’s for dinner, Kids’ activities and Just for Me. I don’t use one per day but start a new one when most items have been completed. And it turns out, I am very productive when I can separate my types of tasks to accomplish. After all, sometimes I don’t feel like reaching out and making calls so it’s nice to simply look down my list of To Do’s and organize my time or accomplish them immediately. I was worried that the monthly calendar wouldn’t provide enough space for me to jot down appointments, but my life is filled more with tasks than engagements so this has worked well so far. Plus I have a nice monthly window onto our family schedule. Finally, I love having three shopping lists or note areas all in the same location. I’m constantly thinking of grocery items we need and previously scoured the kitchen for my list even though my organizer was right at hand. Now, it’s easy to jot down items and create separate lists for grocery, pharmacy or superstore strips. Need to give my number or email to someone? A post it note is right there. Need to leave a note for hubby? Same thing. So, six weeks into my sharp pink “desktop” with the green stripe, I’m feeling the most organized yet.
Oh, by the way, both these organizers start mid-year in September so once I found Truly Mom, I started my new system in December.
Only you can determine how best to organize your family life and mommy schedule. Hopefully one of these organizers will help you do it or at least give you some ideas for how to get things done.