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Last year, I read Shondra Rhymes “The Year of Yes” . . . It’s a wonderful book about courage and doing hard things and chasing your dreams, even if they scare you. The last year has been big and scary for me. I don’t know if I ever would have imagined being the person I am, and living the life I do a couple years ago.
Today, I am a homeschooling mom. I have four beautiful children. I work full time (from home) on the communications team at a national non-profit. I am a graduate student at a very good college. I run this website and produce all the content for it. I am busy. Not just a little busy… very busy. Not a free second, whirlwind days, madly in love with life. . . busy.
The easy answer for my kind of busy is to stop. I am told all the time that there is too much on my plate. I hear all the time that people “don’t know how I do it.” But . . . here is the thing about me (and, a million people like me).
Busy isn’t bad. Busy isn’t hurting me or my family. I don’t want to stop any of the things I am doing. I LOVE my job. I love homeschooling. I love my life. I am HAPPY. I am busy and happy and it works for me.
I really want people to understand this about me. I may have days when I am overwhelmed. I may have weeks where I feel like I am drowning. Every once in a while, I may wake up in the middle of the night thinking about my to-do list. But I don’t need fixed. I am surviving (and thriving).
I think I am able to make it work because I am 1. a planner and 2. a resourceful person. I believe in tools to make things work. I believe in systems and programs that are set up in such a way to make things easier. I believe in lists, and pens and paper and being very organized.
For example, I have an online editorial calendar. I have a task-management system for this website. I have a subscription to a meal planning service and a chore system. I use automation services whenever possible. I shop online. But, my number one tool to keep my sanity and everything running smoothly is my pen and paper planner.
That’s right. Paper. Good, old fashioned, smooth, clean paper.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t go anywhere without my planner or my cherished pens. Not only do I write everything in my planner, I decorate it, and spend time creating pretty planner spreads that make me happy, and keep me organized.
Every Sunday, I bring out my box of washi tape and stickers. I am a fan of functional stickers- icons and tabs and boxes that help me see at a glance the things that I need to do. I also have a collection of fun and funny quotes and sayings to cheer me up, and pretty stickers that can cheer up even the busiest day.
I have a planner that has customizable sections- mine has seven boxes per day. Today (appointments and meetings), To-Do (my top three to-dos), Work (more to-dos), Blog (posts to write), Home (homeschool, chores, kids), School (my college classes/homework), Tonight (places to be and activities). I love that this format keeps things in order, so I can work down the page during the day. I always do my traditional work first, then blogging work, then course work. It also leaves room for home and kid activities, like appointments and evening commitments.
Now, a paper planner is wonderful, but because I like to decorate my spread each week, I don’t like to write in the planner too far in advance. I use my phone to keep track of upcoming meetings, events, and appointments- I plug everything into the app as I go along, so when I sit down to plan for the week, I can pull up the calendar to see my obligations, and then add them to the planner. My app saves all re-occuring appointments, like weekly staff meetings and Bug’s online classes and Doodle’s therapy appointments, so I never forget anything.
When I sit down to plan, I do it with my phone in front of me. I look at the list of appointments for the day, and I place the stickers for them first, and decide where I want them all to go before adding the pen.
I prefer using a black pen, because I do use so many colorful stickers and tapes- I feel like the black makes them “pop” on the page and it never clashes with the colors I chose for the week. My favorite pens are Pilot G2 Pens, the write clearly without shadowing on the following page, and don’t smear on my stickers. I love using a gel pen (because no one likes scratchy pens!) and they last a really, really long time.
After all the appointments and deadlines have been filled in for the week, I add Monday’s to-do list. I don’t fill in every single section on every page on Sundays- just the general framework for the week. I like to leave room (especially in the work and school sections) for me to add to my to-do list as time goes on. It’s unlikely that it will play out the way I think it will and I need my planner to work for me, not make me feel bad about the things I didn’t get done.
When I write everything down and keep a tidy plan for the week, I am more relaxed and feel in control of my situation. When I am not organized, I do struggle with feeling overwhelmed and unsure about what to do next. It’s helpful to be able to see my week at a glance. When everything is on the calendar, I am less likely to forget obligations, or over schedule myself. It helps me stay realistic about what is possible, and what I should save for another day.
There is only so much room available to write in the planner, which means when the box is full, I am *done* planning things for the day. If you are feeling overwhelmed, I suggest picking up a planner for you and giving it a try. It’s okay to be an overachiever. It’s okay to be busy and have a full schedule. You don’t need to give up on your daydream, you just need to plan a way to make it all work for you!
Pick up some Pilot G2 Pens for yourself at my favorite aisle in Target. They have tons of colors and point sizes for you to choose from, everything from my standard black pens to multicolored and metallic pens. You won’t be disappointed with America’s #1 selling pen brand!