Sunday, 19 December 2010

My new best friend

By Aurora from Island Dreaming

I have always had a thing for brand new stationery; indeed I was delighted, aged four, when I came down on Christmas morning to find an executive desk and chair set with all the (admittedly plastic and cartoon animal themed) accessories, filing drawers, blank papers and new pens a 4 year old could possibly want. I loved filing, I loved writing notes and memos, I loved taking telephone messages and writing to-do lists. I have retained my early love for stationery; but none of the organisational drive that keeps piles of paper and deadlines in check.

If my friends were to describe me I guarantee the first words out of their mouths would not be ‘punctual’, ‘organised’, ‘remembers birthdays’ or ‘excellent project management skills’. Whilst these are not the qualities I would necessarily want to be most remembered for; my ambivalence to planning and time management have probably slowed my progress towards to my simple living goals over the past few years. Last year, the garden had a separate journal all to itself which now sits on a shelf gathering dust.  At the same time I had a tiny pocket diary for appointments that spent most of its time at the back of a drawer; and a fistful of scrap paper with important dates and reminders stuffed at the bottom of my handbag and coat pockets.

The ability to survey your immediate and distant future and decide what you want from it is a useful skill in any walk of life. Being able to plan the steps to get there is half the battle of completing them. I am starting small; and more importantly immediately, as delaying until new years resolution time rolls around means I have lost a fortnight of planning time and will probably give up too easily. My approach in 2011 is going to be low tech - a week-to-view diary and a biro, carried everywhere I go. In addition I am carrying a pad of sticky notes for adding to do lists, shopping lists and other temporary reminders. This year, I am filling in my gardening plans before 2011 begins; and sowing dates will sit scrawled next to crafting deadlines, meal plans, financial goal deadlines, birthdays and appointments, all of which will be overlaid with shopping lists and important notes. 

This sounds chaotic, but as I need prompting to remember to do the most basic tasks (like putting the recycling out on the right day), a very crowded diary for a few months is a price I am willing to pay for a smoother running life. Gradually, as I prompt myself and these actions become habits, I hope the pages will be freed up for more interesting scribblings. A single 'bible' of all the information I need to go about my day is a simple enough system that I hope even I can keep on top of.

Do you struggle to organise your time and projects or does it come naturally? Do you plan your time carefully, or does an unscheduled life suit you best?


LG said...

You know, there are many more things to be remembered for than for being organised and a great planner etc, I agree. However life gets in our way of living sometimes I guess and then being a little bit better organised than what we actually are now, is a good 'goal' to aim for.

I too love stationery and that diary of yours looks lovely. I congratulate you on your intentions and wish you the best for 2011. You sound in many ways very similar to myself!! I have about 5 A5 notebooks lying around my room/library as every time I start reading a new book I 'make notes therefrom' and I like each new book to have a new notebook. Go figure. It's all to do with the joys of reading and writing or such stuff...One final tip if I may, and this comes from pure pure experience. I already have one a5 (preferably spiral bound just 'cos they easier to use for me) book that is my diary, notebook etc for my home and work all in one. No sticky notes. No second notebook /diary around the place for work or home. Just one a5 book that I write everything in. And it's thus more a notebook form than diary form 'cos if I need more than one page a day...In this book I have my monthly calendar in the front (of the month I'm about to start)(pasted in). Then my weekly calendar which I plan every say Sunday afternoon, pasted in. And then every evening I plan the next day. I open a new page for the next day, write the date etc, write an inspiring message to myself; 3-5 main important tasks that must get done, write all my appointments and times, and then leave a section (like half page) for any scribbles (that you perhaps use sticky notes for). Tel numbers, websites, reminders, things to buy as I think them out in the middle of the day or meeting or something etc etc all come here. Then that evening I go through the day's notes, rewrite whatever must go wherever (ie transfer to my weekly or monthly calendar if it's a meeting or task in the time to come) and I also have an ongoing monthly to do list at the back of this notebook, which I also add to if necessary. It sounds a bit of re-writing - it is - but hey. You and I like re-writing things! The concept that works here is everything is in one book. Even if you have your sticky notes at this stage, put them in your bk, not at the bottom of the handbag. Having just one book, fixing up my day's notes in the evening and planning for the next day, with a weekly/monthly plan review built in (ok 5 concepts) keep me pretty well organised with all my scraps in one place. You can get more here this woman is amazing I've tried a lot of time management systems - this one here works the best (described briefly above)

Apologies for the long long comment,just hoping to help you with one subtle difference - keep it all together...and good luck for 2011....

David said...

As I age the memory just isn't what it used to be. I forget things like putting out the trash and recyles on trash day. I have a system that works for me. Reoccuring long term events like birthdays go in MSN calendar with a week ahead reminder. Short term reminders go in the calendar on the cell phone. My todo list for anytime projects is part of the MSN calendar called agenda. All together they make someone to would probably forget everything look good. As you can see I'm very electronic oriented. However, I never leave home without my spiral journal. It's for all the miscellaneous things such as conference notes, sermon notes, interesting book references, or telephone numbers and email addresses.

It all seems to work for me.

Have a great organized 2011.

DramaMama said...

Goodness - you could have been describing me!! I started using an 'everything' notebook early this year and it has saved me so many times! I use it like a reference book, phone book, to do list, diary, grocery list, wish list, etc. When I can't remember something, I first go to the 'everything' book and 9 times out of 10, I have a note there to help me remember! I found a local woman on etsy who hand makes the books I love ( I am grateful to find others out there like me =)

Gina said...

Love this post! You could be describing me. I love to write things down and start grand plans but rarely follow through.

For the last several years I've been using a weekly planner. I really like the Time Keeper
It is just perfect for my life as a home maker. I love that I can keep all my plans, grocery list, menu plan - in one place.

One thing that helps me is to get several different color pens. At the beginning of the year I go through and mark birthdays in red, garden plans and seeding dates in green, etc. My mind just likes to see different types of information in their own color. I keep the pens handy next to my planner and, for example, jot down gardening information, like the first strawberry, with a green pen. This is one method that I've been able to keep up with instead of the neat garden journals I've attempted. At the end of the year I have a complete chronicle of our year.

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

I use a combination of a paper diary and an online to-do list (using

The latter is for recurring tasks because it saves me writing those things out multiple times but my main organising - events and to-dos - happens in my paper desk diary. I find it's more useful to be able to glance down at it casually rather than having to actively go check my RTM list or an online calendar.

Like LG and DramaMama, I also have an "everything notebook" - everything bar my diary events - because then I know all my notes are in one place and in reasonably chronological order.

Well, that's my organisational theory anyway - it's not always quite so well managed in practice!

Tiffany Jewelry said...

‘punctual’, ‘organised’, ‘remembers birthdays’ or ‘excellent project management skills’ are so excellent.

Aurora said...

Thank you all for your ideas and comments.

I do wonder now if I am goimg to need a thicker diary to hold all of my notes.

Gina - I am using different coloured pens and symbols to fill out gardening/housework/project deadlines. This is very handy if you are studying too, for different modules and types of activity.

Louisa - RememberTheMilk looks like it is worth exploring. I don't log on everyday so don't know how useful it would be to me, but I like the fact it can send reminders to my phone and email!