7 Ways to Manage the First Day Mania

By the end of summer break most of us are ready for the steady cadence of school. We’ve improvised long enough. However, we also realize that we’ll miss the relaxed routine where even our scheduled events have room to slip. School and its associated activities have a much tighter grip on our time.

So we look forward to the first day of school with eager anticipation and more than a flicker of anxiety. As we watch them climb onto the bus, we’re already planning how we’ll use our quiet time at home, yet we realize that school has tightened its grip on us as well. To a large degree, their schedule is our schedule, their homework is our homework, and no matter how good or bad their teachers are, their report cards reflect our effort.

That means that buying more time in the morning and finding pieces of time throughout the day can be the difference between a harried life and an orderly routine. You can do that from day one.

  1. Try to reduce the anxiety of the unknown by visiting the school a few days early. Let your kids find their lockers, classrooms, lunchroom, library, and the office so they aren’t stressing about that on the first day.
  2. Collect any necessary school forms, make sure you’ve read and signed them, and be sure your students know where they are so they can turn them in on time.
  3. School mornings are often rushed. Reduce the hectic pace by packing backpacks the night before, ensuring homework, school projects, and gym clothes arrive at school with your kids.
  4. Fill your fridge with lunch foods so that preparing their lunch is quick, easy, and healthy.
  5. Pick out an outfit the night before. They have plenty of things to be anxious about already, the last thing they want to do is fret over their clothes. Teach them to reduce that stress by planning ahead.
  6. Fill your car with gas. If you drive your kids to school, you don’t want to stop for gas in the morning and make them late. If you’re sending your kids to school for the first time you’ll want enough fuel in your car to follow the school bus and watch your little ones walk through the door. (Don’t tell us you don’t want to.)
  7. On that note, be sure your camera and video camera are charged and that you have plenty of room on your memory cards. The first day of school is a great photo opportunity.

Once you’ve made the effort and you’re ready for the big day, all you’ll have to do is stand ready and listen for the drum. You should have no problem staying in step. Welcome back, school routine.

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Meal Planning Around the School Schedule

We’ve all seen people stopping by the grocery store on their way home from work to purchase the items they’ll need for dinner. There’s nothing wrong with that—we’ve all done that at some point. But you have to admit; last minute shopping gives you even less time to prepare your meal, and less time with the kids. We can make mealtime a bit more relaxing by simply planning ahead.

After all, the few hours of family time you have between the end of your workday and bedtime are crammed. You have sporting events to watch, play practice, dance lessons, piano lessons, and art classes to taxi, and community meetings to attend. We haven’t even mentioned the yard work and house cleaning you hope to finish before you fall into bed. Finding time to prepare a meal among the chaos can be a real challenge. Making healthy meals you and your family will love can be even harder. So what do you do?

Plan to plan. Meal planning is easier said than done. You need to schedule it into your week before it will happen. Designate a time each day to look through the coming week. Take note of after-school events and evening activities on your schedule. Those events will determine the meals you prepare. Busier days might require a simple meal, or something that you could prepare ahead and keep in a slow cooker. The days that are more open might allow you time to get really creative.

Meal plan when you’re hungry. It’s hard to think of food when your stomach is full, so plan meals when you’re feeling a little hungry. That hunger will keep your mind open to several meal options and help you keep variety in your plans. Write down your meals for each day and a list of ingredients you’ll need to buy. Try to think of everything so you can get it all in one trip.

Shop when you’re full. Plan to shop after a meal, for example: Saturday after breakfast, or Thursday after dinner. Shopping on a full stomach helps you resist impulse items and loading up on unhealthy snacks. Get everything you’ll need for the week (or even two), so you aren’t running back and forth to the store. Fewer trips to the store will give you more time with your family.

Don’t forget school lunches. Planning out lunches or snacks at the beginning of the week makes it easier to know what to throw into their lunch sacks.

Use a meal planner to sort out options for the week. Preparing healthy meals every day is a challenge. It can 1405025 GOMenuPrintable_Finalbe tough to provide healthy foods that you know your family will eat. Once you’ve determined meals that fit that bill, try to keep things interesting by avoiding repetition. Our free, printable meal-planning sheet can help you keep your meals interesting, nutritious, and diverse.

Take requests. If you feel like you’re stuck in a meal prep rut, ask your family for suggestions. Sometimes knowing you’re fixing someone’s favorite food is all it takes to keep you excited about dinner.

Create your food budget. If you haven’t already, take some time to assess your finances and decide what you should reasonably spend on food. If you’re really serious about it, you can keep all your receipts from grocery shopping to fast food and determine what you spend each month. Then you can decide if you need to cut back. Often the fastest way to cut down your food expenses is to eat fewer meals that are prepared outside your home. Of course, that makes meal planning even more important.

The best-laid plans are bound to fall apart, evenings will turn crazy, and your amazing kids and grandkids will keep you running from one event to the next. Knowing what’s for dinner can give you a sense of calm in the storm. Of course, even then, you will find days when you simply need to pull out sandwich fixings or grab takeout, but now those days will be an exception rather than the rule.

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Choosing The Right Planner For A Successful School Year

Choosing a planner that will get you through the rigors of the school year is a personal decision. What works for one person will definitely not work for another. We won’t begin to prescribe the perfect planner for you. Some people find a planner that works for them and they stick with it religiously, while others like to shake things up a bit. If you’re wondering what planner will work best for you, consider your schedule and your workload, then take a look at these great options:

Academic Planners

Planner by Grade

Calendars – July Start Date

FranklinCovey Planners – July Start Date

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7 Ways to Help Your Kids Transition to Their School Routine

Summer is a great respite for your kids. It gives them an opportunity to do their own thing on their own time frame. But too much freedom can make it difficult to adjust when the new school year begins. Here are some ways you can help your children transition smoothly into their school routine.

1. Stay busy.

Sign your kids up for summer activities—dance lessons, swimming lessons, piano lessons, art class, soccer, or baseball games. Giving your kids fun activities will require them to maintain a schedule. It won’t be as busy as school, but at least they won’t stop activity completely. School activities demand a lot of their time, keeping your kids active during the summer will prepare them to comply with those demands.

2. Assign daily chores.

Daily chores may not be fun for the kids, but it gives them something to do, and helps them learn the value of stewardship. Encourage them to set an alarm so they can get an early start on their chores and have more time to enjoy themselves.

3. Maintain a weekly planning session.

Even though their schedules may be lighter during the summer, maintain a weekly planning session with your kids to address their schedules and the activities they hope to accomplish before school begins. Doing this will encourage and motivate your children to do more with the time that they have.

4. Spend time teaching your kids.

Set aside a time each day to teach your kids something new. Read with them, listen to their reading, give them writing and penmanship assignments, and create math problems for them to complete. Students lose about two months of math computational skills and a significant portion of reading and spelling ability if they are left to do nothing during the summer break. But studies show that when parents take an active role during summer the loss is greatly reduced, if it happens at all.

5. Attend the public library.

Visit the library and check out some new books. Set a goal for the number of books each child will read over the summer. Ask questions as they read to make sure they comprehend the meaning of the stories. Assign a small written report or project about one or two of the books they read. Don’t simply ask them to paraphrase the book, but encourage them to write how they felt while reading the book, how they would change the ending if they could, or have them explain the characteristics they liked most about one of the characters and why.

6. Read a book and compare the movie.

Find a movie that is based on a book and read the book with your children. When you finish reading, watch the movie together and compare the things they discovered in the movie that differ from the book. Have them explain what they like best about the book and what they liked best about the movie.

7. Help them celebrate summer.

Give them an assignment to write a narrative, shoot a video, or create a visual arts project that addresses their favorite part of summer. Give them an opportunity to share their work with the family.

Doing these small activities throughout the summer, and ramping them up as you draw nearer to the start of the school year, will make the transition back into the school routine significantly easier for your kids. Their study habits will be stronger and they will be able to start the school year running.

We hope these suggestions have sparked some ideas of your own. If so, we’d love to see them in the comments below.

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Help Your Child Discover Their Planning Style

Planning is a simple skill with enormous benefits. The sooner a person develops the habit of planning, the better they’ll perform in school and in life. Show your kids how you use your planner. Teach them some basic time-management skills to help them see the importance of taking charge of their choices. Determine together what sort of planning style your children prefer and help them pick out their own planner based on how they plan, schedule homework deadlines, and take notes. Include your children in your personal planning sessions during the summer so they can see how you plan. Help them recognize the benefits you find from planning. During the school year, treat their planning sessions like you would treat their homework. Help them become masters of their own fate.

Click here to view our 2017-2018 Academic Planners.

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Planner Inspiration from Fellow Planners

Sometimes we need a refresher on how to use our planner or could use some new ideas to improve our personal planning systems. Other planner users can provide some of the best inspiration. View this slideshow and see how other’s from Instagram use their FranklinPlanner.

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8 Activities to Make the Most of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is intended as a way to remember our brave neighbors, friends, and family who gave everything they had to ensure our freedoms and to help maintain freedom for others. Because it’s a Federal holiday, many of us have the day off work so we can devote time to celebrating and remembering.

How we celebrate varies. It’s personal. Some people aren’t comfortable with cemeteries, so they spend time outdoors with their families. That’s a great opportunity to remind your children that the freedom to go where you want and enjoy time together came at a high price.

If you are looking for simple ways to celebrate the holiday and to help instill a stronger sense of patriotism in your family, here are a few ideas that might help.

1. Put a flag in your yard. That simple act serves as a great reminder of the sacrifices that have been paid for our freedom.

2. If your community holds a parade or fireworks, go and enjoy the sights.

3. Hold an outdoor barbeque and invite your neighbors. Make homemade ice cream.

memorial-day-1569293-1279x9274. If you have relatives who are veterans, call them on the phone and say thanks or send them a thank you card.

5. Visit the graves of veterans and other family members with your children.

6. Go on a picnic with your family.

7. Read about a military conflict, study the historical events that lead up to it, and discuss with your family what happened as a result of the war.

8. Find a story about one of your ancestors, veteran or not, and share it with your children. Even if your ancestors didn’t serve in the military, they still sacrificed to provide for their families. Sharing their stories helps us celebrate their challenges and successes with our loved ones.

However you choose to celebrate and enjoy the time away from work, be safe and have fun. With a little planning, the time you spend with your family and friends will be memorable and enjoyable.

Happy Memorial Day!

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How to Choose Your Big Rocks

It’s a classic object lesson: you can’t fit big rocks into a jar full of sand, but put the big rocks in first, and you can fill up the space around them. Keep this principle in mind as you commit tasks to your planner pages. At this point, you have your Master Task List and Weekly Compass Tasks ready to schedule. Once those are in, you can plan your other important and fulfilling activities to round out your week.

But how do you choose what’s a Big Rock and what matters less? As you plan your week, ask yourself this question:

What is the most important thing I can do in this role this week?

Big Rocks come from:

  • Conscience
  • Mission
  • Goals
  • Key projects

Big Rocks can be:

  • Tasks
  • Appointments
  • Areas of focus

As you develop strong weekly planning sessions, your life will have a new sense of perspective. A good weekly plan helps you see past the daily grind to where life’s milestones await. And that perspective makes all the difference.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6m9WnNdpSw

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Meal Planning with Your Planner

Use this helpful step-by-step process to integrate meal planning into your planning system. Make it easier with the Menu Planner and Shopping List forms.

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21-Day Planner Challenge

It takes at least 21 days to form a habit, and this specialized tool makes it easier than ever to develop the habit of planning.

WHAT: The 21-Day Planner Challenge – This planner contains 21 days (3 weeks) of planning pages in both weekly and daily format, a Master Task List, Monthly Index, and a Monthly Calendar—along with explanations of how to use them. Plus, it teaches why and how to use your Prioritized Task List, reveals the secret of the Time Matrix, and gives a brief explanation of the Productivity Pyramid.

HOW: Click here to get yours today! 

WHY: There are lots of reasons to try it out! Here are a few:

  • If you’ve ever said a paper planner is not for you, try it out before you turn it down.
  • Do you have a friend that you think would like using a planner? Give them one!
  • Maybe you’re already an avid planner user, but would like to try a different format – this 21-day planner has 21 days worth of BOTH weekly and daily formats.
  • Perfect your system before you commit to a certain format! Learn the FranklinPlanner system (all the details are included in this 21-Day Planner) and practice it for 21 days!
  • Turn a goal a habit – try it out, track your progress, and hold yourself accountable – 21 days is a good place to start.

THE CHALLENGE: Try it for 21 days, and see how your life begins to change! Once you’ve done that and had an experience you’d like to share, send us a video, pictures, or a simply a story to 21days@franklinplanner.com.

WATCH: COMING SOON! Meet Becca and James! They are two new users that have never tried a FranklinPlanner before. Watch their experience with a planner and check back for updates on their planner journey.

Week 1: Meet Becca and James

Week 2: Using the FranklinPlanner

Week 3: Making a Difference with the FranklinPlanner

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How to Use Your Planner to Prioritize

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How to Assemble Your FranklinPlanner

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6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Writing a Personal Mission Statement

So it’s February.

By now, some of your New Year’s resolutions may be trying to flake off. That’s OK; we’re sure you’ve benefited from the effort you’ve made toward them already. But there’s no need to give up on any of your goals—the year is still young. Instead, pick them up, adjust them, and apply a bit more stick-to-it-iveness. You’ve got this!

One way to help your goals stick, is to align them with the things that matter most to you. Weigh your goals against your personal mission statement to ensure they are in line with your core values.

If you don’t have a personal mission statement, now is the perfect time to create one. It sounds complicated, but it’s easier than you might think. All good things start with questions and introspection. The right questions lead to the best solutions. The following six questions will help you create a mission statement that will reflect who you are and who you want to become—a foundation for your goals that will stick.

  1. What are my greatest moments of happiness and fulfillment?
  1. What are the activities of most worth to me in my personal life?
  1. What are the activities of most worth to me in my professional life?
  1. What are my natural gifts, talents, strengths, and abilities?
  1. What am I motivated by, fascinated with, and passionate about?
  1. How can I best contribute to my community?

Take your time with these questions and provide as complete an answer to each as you can. Once you’ve answered the questions, you’ll notice a core list of values, talents, and interests that continue to arise. Circle those and include them in four or five sentences that describe you.

Read your paragraph out loud and adjust it until you feel comfortable with the person your paragraph describes. Then write, “My personal mission is to:” and consider how you might re-arrange the sentences to create a mantra for your life. It’s fine if this process takes more than a day.

If you take the time you need to create your mission statement, you’ll be surprised at how much of what you write today will last throughout your life. Your mission statement will act as a reminder to plan worthwhile activities that bring happiness and fulfillment to your life. It will guide you into the joy of meaningful service, and allow you to improve upon your strengths while helping others around you. Best of all, it will inform your decisions and influence your goals—so you’ll be more likely to see them through to completion.

Take some time now, while the year is still young, and develop your personal mission statement. It may be the perfect dose of stick-to-it-iveness you need to reach your goals.

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How to Accessorize Your Planner

You get out of your planner what you put into it. With the right accessories, you’ll be surprised at what you can get  from your plans. Here are a few examples!

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How to Choose the Planner for You

Every FranklinPlanner is designed to help organize your life, but they’re also designed with different personalities and planning styles in mind. To get the most out of your planning sessions, it pays to have the planner best suited for you. So, how do you do that? Consider the following four elements of a planner:

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4 Reasons to Review Your 2016 Planner

We can learn a lot from data. From our browsing history to Fitbit stats, we’re recording and analyzing more information than ever before, and using it to shape the future. As you move into 2017, it’s time to review your own data—the information contained in last year’s FranklinPlanner. A quick way to do that is to use your Monthly Index pages.

Your Monthly Index is designed to act as a reference page for your monthly events. If you’re planning a big event, have an important assignment at work, or want to note the day your child took his or her first step, simply list that event in your Monthly Index along with the date. This makes it much easier to find the information you kept regarding that event when you need it later. Looking through each Monthly Index will remind you of how much you accomplished during the year, and prompt you to pick up any tasks that may have slipped. Here are some other ways your 2016 data will be helpful next year:

Scheduling: What weekends worked well for your summer vacation last year? How long has it been since your last dental appointment? Reviewing your appointments and calendar entries from last year can help inform your current plans—ensuring this year’s plans go as well or better than last year’s. A quick review will also remind you when to schedule doctor check-ups, vaccinations, and dental visits.

Brainstorming: We can never flesh out every good idea from a productive meeting. Take the results of last year’s work meetings further. The notes you recorded in your planner can be a valuable source of inspiration for projects in 2017. For convenience, you might consider storing work notes in a separate Storage Case, so that you’re not flipping through weeks’ worth of pages to find the notes you need.

Learning from Failure: It’s natural (and mentally healthy) to move on when you make a mistake. But failures often teach us more than successes do. Take a moment to look back through 2016. If you let one of your goals slip, find the week where it happened and conduct your own analysis. Why did you fall off the wagon? Now that the pain of failure is insulated in the past, you’ll have a valuable resource to help you avoid pitfalls on this year’s goals.

Celebrating Your Success: On the other side of the coin, reviewing your 2016 planner can also help you see how far you’ve come. There’s a psychological phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome brings intense feelings of inadequacy, leading you to feel like you’re bluffing your way through life, that your accomplishments only come by luck, or that you’re taking credit where it isn’t due. If you’re facing Imposter Syndrome, use your planner to review your past processes, struggles, and achievements. Your planner is solid evidence of your contributions to career and family. It’s proof that your efforts have taken you in the right direction, proof that you’ve shaped your own destiny—that you truly are making progress toward your goals.

As you advance through 2017, the valuable insights from your 2016 FranklinPlanner can give you the data you need to succeed.

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What to look for when purchasing your 2017 Planner

The best way to ensure you realize your dreams and reach your goals has always been to plan for them. And the best way to plan is with a pen and paper. Writing your goals in your planner ensures you see them regularly—motivating you to make them happen. Even with our amazing electronic devices, more and more people are returning to their tried and true planners to keep their personal dreams on track.

So what should you look for to ensure you have the best planner for you? Each person is different, so we’ve produced a beautiful Gift Guide with suggestions that could fit a number of different people, from the artist in your life to the traveler.

You can decide if you need a daily or weekly planner—whether you want it structured for tasks, notes and goals, or open and freeform—or if you want a planner designed for embellishments and creative personalization. The best planner for you is the planner you enjoy using—the planner that helps you focus on what matters most.

So visit our Gift Guide and discover your ideal planer along with some great tools for writing, travel, and together time. With just a few minutes you’ll not only find great solutions for yourself, but also quality gifts for those you love.

Check out our online Gift Guide here.

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3 Ways to Improve Your Plans with Your Master Task List

If you’re like most of us, you have a list of things you hope to get to someday. Perhaps your list includes a dream vacation, learning to play the guitar, spending one-on-one time with your children, or finally cleaning out and organizing your garage. These things are important to you, but for some reason they keep getting crowded out by higher-priority events, or you simply don’t plan ahead enough to make them happen.

Your Franklin Planner has always had the perfect solution to this problem, but many planner users don’t realize what it is or how to use it. Your Planner has several wonderful tools built in to the design that people often overlook as “extra paper.” One of those is your Master Task List, and you’ll find it in your planner at the beginning of each month.

This simple sheet is the ideal place to forecast what you hope to accomplish each month. Once you’ve written a goal or a task on paper where you can see it often, it’s much more difficult to put it off. Sometimes we need to let our goals nag at us, and the Master Task List is the ideal place to let them do just that. Here are a few ways your Master Task List can improve your plans:

Stop Putting Things Off

Look through your daily or weekly planning pages and see if there are any tasks that keep getting forwarded, skipped, or forgotten. Write these tasks on your monthly Master Task List (Some of our planners simply call it a Monthly To Do List). Once your list is complete decide if your task is time-specific or if it is time-flexible. Note time-specific goals and tasks on your monthly calendar tabs and schedule them on your daily task list so you can be sure you don’t miss an important deadline.

When it comes to putting things off, your time-flexible tasks tend to be a bigger problem. Because they only have ‘someday’ as a due date, these tasks are easily ignored until tomorrow. But what if your ‘someday’ tasks include saving for retirement or creating an emergency 72-hour kit? Eventually someday will arrive, and you may find yourself woefully unprepared.

Reviewing your Master Task List each week and re-writing it each month is the prefect reminder to schedule your tasks that aren’t time-specific. Set a date when you will meet with your financial planner, organize a 72-hour kit, or focus on a corner of your garage. During each weekly planning session, review your monthly Master Task list to ensure you’re including those things that you would otherwise put off.

Add Direction to Your Goals

Review your list of long-term goals and determine which steps you can work on each month. Write those steps on your Master Task List. Review your list each week as you plan and schedule the steps on your daily pages. Keeping a running, active list of your goals and the progress you’re making toward them is one of the most powerful ways to ensure you realize them.

Improve Relationships

Your Master Task list is a great place to focus on your relationships. If you hope to have monthly one-on-one time with your children, you can write their names here and list activities they enjoy. This will make it easy to plan a fun activity and schedule it in your planner. Now that wish to be with your kids is no longer a wish, but an actual scheduled event!

It works great for planning a breakfast getaway with your neighbor, a special date with your spouse, or planning a special anniversary event for your parents. Because you started planning it at the first of the month and took time to consider specifics, this together time will be more tailored to the people you are with.

The next time you plan, spend a few minutes with your Master Task List and start forecasting the events that will make the coming month even better. Good luck, and happy planning.

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The 3 Planning Perspectives

It doesn’t take long for any of us to think of projects we’d like to finish, new skills we’d like to try, or talents we’d like to increase. Living a fulfilling life is all about creating new and meaningful experiences. These things require planning—they won’t just happen on their own. But sometimes we’re so buried in the stress of today that we can’t see tomorrow. Sometimes we get caught in the survival rut struggling to tread water, and although we often imagine and dream about forward progress, we can’t seem to get around to doing it.

Our vision is off—our perspective is skewed, and all we can see is the task at hand.

This happens to all of us at various times in our lives. First-time parents often talk about losing a piece of their identity when their children are born because they don’t have the time to enjoy the things they used to do before the baby came. New managers find themselves staying later at work finishing projects and reports or planning for tomorrow—things they hadn’t had to do before—leaving them with less time with their families. Sometimes our perspective needs to narrow so we can hone in on what matters most, but we can’t make that a habit at the expense of our other priorities. That’s why we need to plan from three vantage points.

Long-range Perspective

Schedule regular planning sessions throughout the year to focus on your long-range goals. Where do you want to be in five years? What do you want to accomplish by the end of the year—in six months—by the end of this month? Write your goals in your planner along with the steps necessary to reach them. For example: Perhaps you’d like to write, illustrate, and self-publish a children’s book. Set dates when you’ll have the copy written, give yourself a deadline for each image you plan to create, and set a time when you plan to publish your piece. Each of these steps are long-range goals, so break each of these goals into smaller pieces that you can work on regularly, and schedule them in your planner.

Your Monthly Master Task List is an ideal place for goals that don’t yet have a set timeframe. List your long-range goals in this section of your planner so you can refer to them during your weekly planning sessions.

Weekly Perspective

During your weekly planning sessions, look through your Monthly Calendar Tabs and schedule any events you have listed for the week. Then refer to your list of long-range goals on your Master Task List to determine which steps you can accomplish this week. Then schedule those tasks throughout your week and prioritize them to ensure they get the time they need.

Daily Perspective

Spend a few minutes each day looking over your planner. Are there tasks hanging over from yesterday that need to be placed on today’s task list? What appointments do you have today, and how much time will they give you to focus on personal goals? Once you’ve determined these things, jot down any tasks you’d like to complete today. Don’t worry about any order; just get them onto your list.

Once your list is written, prioritize your tasks by urgency and importance A, B, and C. Then order all of your ‘A’ tasks 1, 2, 3. Do the same with your ‘B’ and ‘C’ tasks until they’ve all been prioritized. Work on your ‘A’ tasks first, starting with A1, and see how far you can go. This process takes just a short time, but it will save you time and frustration by ensuring you’re working on the most important things first each day.

You can see that all of these three perspectives are connected. Each one builds on the next. Long-range plans lead to weekly plans, which lead to your daily plans. Often we’re tempted to view our goals from all three perspectives at once, but that can be overwhelming.

Here’s an example: If you hope to start a small in-home business to supplement your income, it’s easy to see the goal from all three perspectives at once and decide it’s too complex. You may ask, “When will I have time in my day to do that? How will I finance my expenses? What do I hope to gain from this experience? How can I be sure I’ll make any money or find any clients? Do I really have the skillset to make this work?”

Asking those questions is a necessary part of establishing your business, but remember that each question will be answered from a different point of view. You may not have all the skills you’ll need today, but you can create a long-range goal to establish those skills. You may not see a way to carve out the time in your day to work on your business right now, but during your weekly planning sessions, you’ll begin to see opportunities you don’t see today. You may not be sure how you’ll find clients, but during your daily planning you’ll realize you have time to create a flier, or work on your website.

With time, your fears and doubts will subside as you separate your goals into pieces that you can view from these three different perspectives. Before long you’ll realize that you’re moving forward and making progress where you once thought you would never find success.

Viewing your plans with a Long-range perspective, a weekly perspective, and a daily perspective is the secret to confidently reaching your goals without overwhelming yourself and those around you.

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When Productivity Meets What Matters Most

Have you noticed how being busy is not equal to being productive? We’ve all had frustrating days when we’ve felt incredibly busy but had nothing to show for it. Equally frustrating are the days when we’re caught up in urgent matters and accomplish a lot, only to realize that we’d spent our day in meaningless pursuits. Urgent does not always equal important.

We all have things we want to accomplish for others, and ourselves—but when we cut out time for work, appointments, and other interruptions, the precious time we have remaining is scarce. Valuable.

Time is our most sacred commodity. How we use it determines our destiny. So it’s extremely important that we focus our efforts. Hyrum W. Smith has said, “When we align our choices with what matters most, we significantly increase our productivity and sense of inner peace.” We all want to be productive with our time, and we want that productivity be centered on what’s most important to us. Here are a few ways to do that.

Discover the values that govern your actions.

The things that matter most to you may not be the things that matter most to someone else. Your motivation is derived from deep within. There are things you value that move you to act, and other things that don’t interest you at all. That’s part of what makes each of us unique.

Benjamin Franklin had a list of 13 virtues that he tried to improve throughout his life. Late in his life he noted that he had done quite well with the first 12, but struggled with number 13, Humility. It’s interesting to note that ‘humility’ had been suggested to Ben by a friend after he had read Franklin’s original twelve. Although he understood the importance of humility, that virtue wasn’t rooted in Franklin’s governing values, so it made it difficult to truly aspire to it and work toward it.

What are your governing values? Before you get too far into your plans for the future, take some time to seriously ponder the things that matter most to you—the principles that motivate you to action, and write them in your planner for easy reference. It will change everything.

Determine the Roles that Matter Most to You.

A major part of improving your productivity is to understand the roles you play each day. Your planner is an ideal place to write down your roles—Mother/Father, employee, neighbor, athlete, etc. As you note the various roles you play, consider who is relying on you to act in those roles and what you might do to improve your performance. Incorporate those steps into your daily planning, and you’ll begin to see the growth you’re looking for.

Become familiar with the Time Matrix.

We spend each moment of each day doing something, but all tasks are not created equal. Stephen R. Covey found that our tasks could be categorized in a Time Matrix with two variables: Importance and Urgency. All of our activities fall into one of four quadrants depending on how important and urgent they are.

Quadrant One is Necessity. Because the tasks in this quadrant are both important and urgent, they drive us to complete them. When they’re finally finished we feel a sense of accomplishment, but we also feel anxious, exhausted, and emotionally drained. We want to drive our projects, not be driven by them.

Quadrant Two is Productivity and Balance. The tasks in this quadrant are important but not yet urgent. Working on important projects before they become urgent allows us to develop quality work, build our skill set, and grow confidence. It’s great working when we’re in control.

Quadrant Three is Deception. These tasks feel huge, but they don’t make a lot of difference in our lives. They are unimportant tasks masquerading as meaningful and urgent—but they don’t move us toward our goals. These tasks leave us feeling stressed without any sense of meaningful accomplishment.

Quadrant Four is Waste. It comes in the form of procrastination, searching the web for a prolonged amount of time, social media excursions, or video games. The list goes on forever, right? We all know our weak points. Proper planning can ensure we aren’t missing out on amazing experiences by allowing waste to creep into our day.

For more information about the Time Matrix, click here.

Set and Keep Goals.

A goal is only a wish until it’s written down and scheduled for completion. One of the greatest strengths of your planner is the power it gives you to list your goals and schedule them throughout your year. Once written, they’re always in front of you reminding you of the desire that drove you to set the goals in the first place, and encouraging you to move further toward your dreams than ever before. If you haven’t recently, set aside some time to consider where you’d like to be next month, next year, and five years from now, and create a list of goals you can schedule in your planner. It’s time to assign some deadlines to your dreams.

Prioritize Your Tasks.

Most of our planners include a Prioritized Daily or Weekly Task List. This powerful tool makes it easy to determine what you need to accomplish first each day. It’s the secret to keeping your most important matters at the center of your life.

Each day, simply write every task that you’d like to accomplish on your list, then read through your list and sort your tasks by urgency and importance with A, B, or C. Then sort all of your ‘A’ tasks by priority—1, 2, 3 etc. Do the same with your lists of B and C tasks. This powerful activity will help ensure you’re working on the tasks most closely related to your values and goals, and help you keep things in proper perspective.

Even if your planner isn’t designed with a Prioritized Daily Task List, you can incorporate the practice into your planning sessions with any of our planners by creating your own list of tasks and assigning them a priority for completion.

These steps sound simple and basic, but few people actually do them. It’s the little things consistently completed that make all the difference. Take a few minutes to seriously consider the values that govern your actions, the roles you play each day, and the importance and urgency of the tasks you perform. Then set goals that will move you to where you want to be and schedule your daily tasks to ensure you get there.

These small details can be easily overlooked each day, but they’re the secret to meaningful productivity. We feel most productive and fulfilled when we are involved in, significant, intentional activities, and not simply checking unimportant things off a list. Why not start incorporating the things that matter most to you into more of your daily activities—starting now?

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How to Integrate Roles into Your Tasks

artistAn old Gaelic phrase often attributed to William Shakespeare states, “What e’er thou art, act well thy part.” It’s good advice—to do your best in all your endeavors. But in order to fully follow this sage advice, you must first know what you are.

You are much more than what you do. If you’re an accountant, you are a financial manager—but you’re more than that. You may also be an athlete, a musician, an outdoor enthusiast, a son or daughter, a husband or wife, a father or mother, a friend, a teacher, a gardener, a caretaker, or an aspiring artist. In fact, you likely play many of those roles and more each day.

Most of us aren’t perfect actors in any of the roles we play—even the areas where we feel strong have room for improvement. None of us would dare say we’ve mastered the roles that are most important to us. There is no perfect communicator, no perfect friend, no perfect artist, and certainly no perfect parent. Yet, we can act well by simply pressing forward and doing all we can within our abilities.

Now and then we all have a day where things seem to click for us. We have a productive day at work, we connect with our parents, we send a sibling a thoughtful card, we help prepare a wonderful meal, and have a meaningful talk with our teenager. Those are the days when we fall into bed tired and satisfied. We may still have a few dishes in the sink, but we can rest easily knowing that we had a meaningful impact on the things that mattered most to us. Those are good days. You can create more of those good days by simply focusing on the roles that matter most to you.

Make a List

Take some time today and write down all the roles you play. You’ll be surprised at how long your list will become. Keep that list in your planner so you can add to it and refer to it often.

Determine Which Roles are Most Important

Read through your list and decide which of those roles matter the very most to you. Mark these roles with an asterisk, a star, or even with an ‘A.’ You’ll find that those ‘A’ roles make up the core of who and what you are.

Include Your Roles in Your Planning

As you plan each week, consider the roles you play and add tasks to your Prioritized Daily Task Lists that allow you to act well within those roles. Over time, you’ll define not only your roles, but also your part within each of them.

Use a Weekly Compass® Card

Your Starter Pack includes a set of Weekly Compass® Cards that fit perfectly inside your Pouch Pagefinder. You’ll notice that these cards include a place for you to note the roles you wish to focus on each week with room to write goals and tasks associated with each. This powerful tool allows you to focus on what you are and enables you to act your parts well, even while the world around you is crazy and hectic.

None of us are perfect, even with the best tools. But taking time regularly to focus on the roles you play will help keep you moving in the right direction. You’ll have a much better idea as to who and what you are, and you’ll sharpen your focus on those things. After all, the joy you feel today will have little to do with the circumstances you face, and everything to do with the focus you give to the things that matter most to you.

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3 Ways to Use Your Planner for Holiday Budgeting

bella holiday spread

The holidays are coming, and you’re probably starting to look forward to celebrating with family and friends. You’re probably not looking forward to paying for these celebrations, however. It’s hard enough to make it through Halloween in the (orange and) black, and then the biggest gift-giving season ramps up. Here are three ways your FranklinPlanner can help keep your budget healthy:

Individualized Gift Budget Tracker

Take a moment today and write out a list of everyone you plan on giving gifts to this holiday season. You can include your family members, extended family members, neighbors, coworkers, teachers, caregivers, and others who serve you, such as your letter carrier and hairstylist. When you’ve listed everyone, write the dollar amount that you want to spend on each person. Tally up these figures to find your total holiday budget.

As you shop holiday sales and buy gifts at a discount, deduct the retail price of your gifts from your gift budget rather than the sale price. Your loved ones will still get all the value you planned on giving, and you won’t be as tempted to buy extra gifts to meet your original limit. You can also use some of the extra budget to buy small gifts, like tins of cocoa or boxes of chocolate. Then when someone unexpected gives you a surprise gift, you’ll have a gift on hand to reciprocate.

Sale Date Tracker

From now until the end of the year, most of the gifts on your list will be on sale at one point or another. The challenge comes in weaving limited-time sale opportunities into a busy holiday schedule. Use your planner to make the process more transparent. As you browse through the mailing lists from your favorite retailers, mark down the promotional dates and amounts in your planner. When everything’s down on the page, you can see the big picture, letting you hit the best sales while taking fewer last-minute trips.

Shipping Deadline Reminder

Ben Franklin said it best: “Haste makes waste.” Many sites list holiday shipping deadlines, their recommended ordering date for delivery by December 24. Take a look at these deadlines and mark these dates in your planner. Then you won’t be left hovering over the mailbox, or doubling the price of your gift for overnight shipping.

This is also a good practice if you participate in free shipping programs, such as ShopRunner. Give your orders a head start, and they won’t get caught in the crowd of the procrastinators’ orders.

The biggest key to any budget is mindfulness. With daily and weekly planning sessions, your FranklinPlanner can ensure that you make it through the holiday season with peace of mind as you celebrate what matters most.

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How to Pick a Planner for 2017

With two months left to go in 2016, it’s time to order a new planner for 2017. It’s easy to stick with the same planner you used this year, but now and then it’s fun to change things up a bit. At FranklinPlanner.com, we’re always developing new ways to plan, from the free-form Dot Grid Planner to the fun and relaxing Living Color Planner.

Which planning system is right for you? Here are a few things to consider:

Format

Consider your needs when you make your decision. How often do you use your planner? A two-page-per day planner is ideal if you have several meetings and appointments each day. They offer a page for notes, and plenty of room for your daily tasks.

A one-page-per-day planner has the planning features of a two-page-per-day planner, but the layout is smaller, with a half page for notes.

If your schedule revolves around projects and you have fewer tasks to track each day, a weekly planner is the perfect solution. You can see the whole week at a glance and track progress on each of your projects.

Some of our planners have a very structured layout—providing space for your Prioritized Daily Task List, Appointments, Notes, and a Daily Tracker. Other planners are more open, allowing you to decide what you want to focus on each day. While browsing your planner options, consider how much structure you require to be effective each day and choose a planner that fits your lifestyle.

If you let your personality, your planning habits, and your schedule influence your decision, you’ll end up with the ideal planner format.

Size

We’ve written several posts regarding the appropriate size of your planner. If you are wondering which size is best for you, just consider: 1) how portable you would like your planner to be, and 2) the amount of space you will need for writing.

  • Pocket-sized planners are our most portable planners, measuring 3.5” x 6”. While lightweight and convenient, they don’t have as much writing space as our other planners.
  • Compact-sized planners come in many different designs, and coordinate with some of our most luxurious binders. Compact planners measure 4.25” W x 6.75” H.
  • Classic-sized planners come in our full range of designs, including favorites like
    5 Choices and Flora. Classic planners measure 5.5” W x 8.5” H.
  • Monarch-sized planners are our largest format, measuring 8.5” W x 11” H. Available in several of our long-time favorite designs, they’re great for those who like to write large and require a lot of space.

Wire-bound or Ring-bound

Your planner’s binding makes a difference. Ring-bound planners require a binder and wire-bound planners do not. The wire-bound planner is self-contained, letting you grab it and go. However, we also offer a variety of covers for wire-bound planners, letting you personalize and enhance your organization no matter which binding you choose.

Ring-bound planners offer a greater level of personalization. You can insert forms wherever you’d like, add additional notes pages, or simply hole-punch an item and place it in your planner. Because ring-bound planners require a binder, you also enjoy the added benefits of a binder; pen loops, a notebook slot, pockets, and a cardholder.

Discover New Planning Coordination

The planning lifestyle doesn’t end with planners. Pair a Wanderlust Planner with a set of inspiring Wanderlust Prints.  Grab a new Textures Pagefinder to match the new format and photography of your Textures Ring-bound Weekly Planner. Color-code your planner storage with our new selection of Storage Sleeves, designed to match our colored Storage Cases.

Whether you expand your horizons or stick with the tried and tested, one thing is certain: the first step to a successful 2017 is starting out with a Franklin Planner.

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How to Build Momentum to Accomplish Your Tasks

Have you been feeling unmotivated lately? Does it seem like the tasks in your life are too large, too many, and too daunting to attempt? You’re not alone: in a 2014 national survey*, 73% of respondents said that they don’t feel “completely balanced,” and need to find ways to counteract crammed schedules. This same survey found that, among those who would pay money for an extra hour in each day, 58% would gladly pay $2,725 for the privilege.

to-do-listYes, there are days when you feel like you’d pay $3,000 just to accomplish something, anything. If you’re staring at your Prioritized Daily Task List and feeling overwhelmed with your day, take a moment to reconsider.

First, check the priorities on your tasks. Think of the classic object lesson of trying to fit big rocks and little rocks in the same jar. Are there small rocks masquerading as big rocks? Sometimes the desire to cram activity into a single day seriously lessens the actual amount of what gets done. If there are things that you can reschedule, take a moment and do so. Your friends and family will understand, and hopefully you’ll offer them the same courtesy with their scheduling conflicts.

Of course, that leaves the items on your list that must be done today. To give yourself more breathing room, grab a separate piece of paper and list subtasks for each task. Then, on the appropriate days in your planner, you can note the subtasks you need to achieve your goal. For example, if your main goal is “Buy/Make Halloween Costumes”, then you can schedule time with your family two weeks before Halloween to research costume ideas. Once everyone has selected their costume, schedule time one and a half weeks before Halloween to shop for supplies. One week out, plan on making the costumes. And then two days before, you can make final adjustments and pick up any final accessories.

Life is full of minutiae that you just can’t anticipate. There will be days when potty training works less well, when your son empties the cereal box onto the kitchen floor, or when your sister gives your kids red Kool-Aid right before family pictures. Whether you squeeze many of your subtasks in between life’s urgencies, or whether you find yourself writing “water the plants” on your list, just so you can say that you accomplished something, remember that any day is just that: 24 hours of your life. With your plans broken out step by step, there’s nothing to say that you won’t get much further with the next 24.

*2014 Survey from Zico Coconut Water

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10 Quotes That Will Make You Rethink About Time

We all wish we had a little more time. There is always so much we need to do, so many things we’d like to learn, so many experiences we’d like to have—and never enough time to do them all. The trouble is, everything we do costs time, so we can’t say yes to everything we’d like to do—or even everything we need to do most of the time. Time, or the lack thereof, seems to be our greatest limiting factor in life.

Our days are too short.watch2

But what if time didn’t really exist? What if time was just something we invented ourselves? What if we all had the exact same amount of time each day? Actually, all of those things are true. Albert Einstein said, “Time is an illusion.” He’s right. So how do we manage our time if time is an illusion? What are we really managing, then? Is it not our actions—the things we choose to do while our eyes are open? Benjamin Franklin is famous for stating, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

So often we think of the stuff time is made of—seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years—and we forget that all of those things are man-made inventions used to track our existence. We spend a few minutes each day planning our events and managing our time, but time is life. What if we gave up on the whole notion of time management and focused, instead, on life management. After all, we can’t manage time—we can’t save it for later, it doesn’t keep. All we can do with time is spend it. And we do. Each second we receive is instantly spent.

So here are a few quotes that might make you think differently about time:

  1. “All great achievements require time.”  —Maya Angelou
  2. “Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.” – Albert Einstein;
  3. “Time is not measured by the passing of years but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.” —Jawaharlal Nehru
  4. “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”  —William Shakespeare
  5. “Valuing other people’s time starts with valuing your own.” —Robert Braathe
  6. “Time is merely the order of events, not an entity itself.” – Gottfried Leibniz.
  7.  “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”  —Carl Sandburg
  8.  “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”  —Bertrand Russell
  9. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” —Steve Jobs
  10. “One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” —Paulo Coelho

So, if we change how we see time—acknowledge that we can’t manage it or save it—we may realize that we aren’t slaves to the clock, but rather time is a tool to achieve what matters most to us in life. Then we can stop chasing schedules, and start managing our life. That’s when planning becomes something more like event control. “What happens next,” and “Now what,” become more prominent questions in our life. And the answers to those questions will be filled with more enthusiasm. Yes, time will continue to fly by, but we’ll be too busy living the life we’ve chosen to notice it.

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Make the Most of Your Daily Notes Page

The question comes up again and again: why use paper in a world where all the information on the Internet is just a click away? You can find practically any fact you’re looking for with the right search engine, and recording information with a keyboard works very quickly.

textures-notepad2If life were only about storing and processing information, then we would already be bowing to our technological overlords. But life is more than just data in, data out. It’s about making connections and drawing conclusions, sometimes taking leaps of intuition from one point to the next.

Handwriting on paper is the optimal way to strengthen these mental connections. Studies have shown that the handwriting process creates a stronger impression of the material in your mind and leads to greater recall of what you’ve written.

So whether you’re heading to a lecture in your biology course or preparing for your next quarterly meeting, using your daily notes page will help you succeed in capturing information, making connections, and retrieving what you’ve learned when you need it.

Capturing Information

As with your daily planning sessions, the more preparation you put into your note taking, the more you’re likely to get from the experience. Before attending class or heading to a meeting, review the information you have on the subject that will be discussed. Many courses have outlines available, and effective work meetings will have subject matter available beforehand. You can also research important information and start to fill out the details before the meeting happens.

If, for example, you were responsible for equipment setup when your company gives a presentation at a convention center, then your past experience would help you know how to prepare. On your notes page, you would write down headings such as Schedule, Speaker List, and Equipment List. You might research the size of the venue, the maximum number of attendees available, and whether the room has built-in sound equipment. Then you could list these pieces of information under your headings, leaving space for the other information you’re about to learn.

Making Connections

Once the meeting starts, your notes page helps you piece together how your responsibilities fit in with the bigger picture. As points come up in the meeting, you can list them under your headings, each with their own bullet. You can also draw lines between different bullets, making the connections between ideas clear and easy to see.

Recall

When the meeting or class is finished, make a note on your Monthly Notes page with the date and the subject of your notes. Then when you’re ready to pack your gear for the conference or study for the final, you’ll know where to look without flipping through two months’ worth of pages. With the important points and connections listed, you’ll have everything you need to accomplish the task at hand.

Make more of your notes than a simple storage of facts. Actively connect your brain to the planning process through your notes page.

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3 Keys to Using the FranklinPlanner

We can’t control how much time we have, but we can control how we use our time. Think about what matters most to you in your life and fill in the blank:

“Effectively managing my time, gives me _______ in my life.”

Whatever this may be, you can use a Franklin Planner to achieve that. Here are 3 keys to using your planner effectively.

3-keys

Key 1: Only use one personal management system. Your planner can only be as effective if you use and integrate it with the rest of your life. Whether you use a planner, a calendar, or an app to manage your contacts, notes, appointments, and tasks, integrate them to be one system that works to support you.

Key 2: Keep the planner with you always. Regardless of where we are, information is coming at us constantly. One of the main purposes of a planner is to capture information. Keep your planner with you to capture the data, and relieve your brain from having to remember it later. When it’s not appropriate to have your planner on you, consider using the Satellite version.

Key 3: Eliminate floating paper. Floating paper is any piece of information you have written down that you cannot have at your fingertips within 10 seconds. According to one study, we spend as much as 28 minutes a day looking for pieces of paper. The message here is to have a place for everything, and everything in its place.

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How to Apply the ABC123 System to the Clutter Around You

The FranklinPlanner method of task management is to prioritize your tasks with the ABC 123 method—setting apart the things of greatest importance to help ensure you are putting your greatest efforts toward the things that matter most to you. A version of this method will also work wonders for your work space. Here’s how.

Just as we sort our tasks by priority: A—Critical, B—Important, and C—low value, we can arrange our work space with the same principles in mind.

desk organizingOrganizing our work space is much easier if we keep the four quadrants of the Time Matrix in mind. Quadrant One is the time we spend working on tasks that are urgent and important. It’s a stressful way to work because important matters require our best attention, but the urgency of the moment makes it incredibly difficult to slow down and focus on details. In quadrant one, a minor set back can feel like a disaster.

Quadrant two is the time we spend on important tasks that aren’t yet urgent. That is where we’d like to spend most of our time. Working on important tasks before they become urgent allows time for set backs without the angst. In this quadrant, we can focus on details and create our best work.

Quadrant three is the time we spend working on urgent tasks that aren’t important. We do this more often than we think—each time we drop what we’re doing to answer a text message, step away from our work to listen to a co-worker rant about their weekend, or slip out the door to help a neighbor with a project. These tasks are often good, but they aren’t urgent to us. They are urgent and important to someone else. We can never eliminate these interruptions because relationships matter, but often we can postpone them until a more convenient or appropriate time.

Quadrant four is the time that we squander or waste. Don’t confuse this with entertainment and recreation. All of us need time to relax, in fact, recreation is important. But things like aimlessly flipping through television channels, surfing the web, mindless distractions, and procrastination all find their way into quadrant four when they devour too much of our time. We all have our favorite distractions. But we need to decide how much of our lives we are going to sacrifice to them.

The time matrix makes it easier to prioritize the tasks we work on each day. We’ll schedule our A, B, and C tasks, and try to avoid spending too much time in D-istractions.

With that refresher in mind, let’s tackle our work space.

We all have varying degrees of acceptable clutter in our work space, but we can all agree that clutter makes life difficult. Clutter is like static that makes it hard to focus on what is most important. If we’re searching through clutter to find an important paper, we’re wasting valuable time and energy, and increasing our stress levels. So the solution is to organize your space by priority.

You are the most important part of your work space, so the most important tools, tasks, and projects—you’re A-priority stuff—should be closest to you. Less important items should be placed in concentric circles around and beyond that point. Place your B items at arms length and in side drawers, C items beyond that, and your D items, of course, end up in the trash or filed away for safekeeping. Be sure, however, that you aren’t filing away waste.

The first step to organizing your space is to gather all the paper that is cluttering your work space and stack it in your “A” space. Then sort through all those loose papers and create four stacks labeled A, B, C, and D.

A = Must be done—Critical

B = Should be done—Important

C = Could be done—low value

D = Waste—No value

Keep your “A” papers in your “A” space and sort them by priority, 1, 2, 3, etc. Organize the rest outward from there. File your D stack in the trash can or recycle bin. You may even consider using separate paper trays for each priority. As you work, try to keep your Critical tray empty so you have time to focus on those items that are Important but not urgent. Paperwork will keep coming. If you organize each paper as it arrives, you could find yourself constantly interrupted. Instead, set aside time each day to review and organize your papers. It will only take a minute or two, and you’ll keep your work space clutter free.

Keeping a priority-based system of organization in your work space helps ensure that each time you handle a paper, you’ll do something important with it. That’s how tasks get accomplished in an orderly and timely manner without cluttering your space.

It doesn’t take long to see the intrinsic value of the Franklin Planning System. It can be applied to almost anything we do from scheduling our tasks within our day, to organizing our work space, and even project management and workflow. If we always keep the main thing the main thing, and plan accordingly, we’ll find that we draw closer to our goals in each aspect of our lives.

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The Top 3 Reasons Why You Procrastinate

IMG_2872“It’s WORK! How I hate it! I’d much rather play!”

– Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg

Can you remember when you were younger, when time seemed to move slower and moments seemed to last longer? With fewer hours, days, and weeks for comparison, nothing mattered more than the immediate present. It took years of experience to train yourself to look past the now, to make goals for the future, and to learn how to achieve more than short-term happiness.

But even now, when you’ve learned the importance of delayed gratification, there are still moments when the comfort of the immediate present takes precedence over your important goals. It’s easy to understand the concept of delayed gratification; it’s much harder to resist delaying irritation.

Procrastination. When it comes down to it, you tend to procrastinate when you face events that are uninteresting, complex, or unpleasant. Boredom, uncertainty, and fear can make an hour seem like an eternity when you remember it, and these emotions tempt you to put off certain tasks. Thankfully, with a little practice and a shift in your mindset, you can conquer each of these three sources of procrastination.

1. Boredom

You might not remember it, but your parents surely do. At least once in your life, they asked you to do a small chore, only to have you complain, “But it’s BORING!” The inevitable argument then lasted much longer than the time it would take to complete the task.

Your mind is drawn toward the novel, the new, the exciting. It wants to expand, to make connections, and to realize your important personal values. But achieving these ends often involves tedium: a million taps of a keyboard to write an epic novel, callouses built over months of playing before you master the bass line of your band’s newest song, night after night of tweaking marketing and sending out email blasts before your home business takes off.

The key to success in long-term efforts is to align your activities with your most important values, or as Stephen R. Covey taught, “Begin with the end in mind.” And because the world isn’t just about you, this involves relying on the strength of other values when your life is lacking in certain areas. For example, you might not have the perfectly fulfilling, world-saving career you pictured when entering adulthood, but knowing that it supports your family and social values can make up some of the difference and make it easier to work toward a better situation.

2. Uncertainty

Your mind is wired to learn from its mistakes. When something is both important and complex, you know how important it is to get it right the first time. Sometimes, it feels like there’s nothing worse than spending time and energy on a task, then finding out you have to rethink and rework what you’ve been doing. Taking the third trip to Home Depot in three hours to finally fix the sprinkler or getting your recent proposal back covered in red ink provide memorable life lessons in preparation.

But like any other principle, mental preparation can also be taken to extremes. When faced with a complex situation, it’s easy to want to sit back and wait for a change: more information, a better thought, a newer strategy. This brand of procrastination has a fun, rhyming name: analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis takes time away from progress on a complex task and replaces it with circular thinking, usually, ironically, on how to be more efficient. Analysis paralysis has a secret goal: if you think about it long enough, an external force will simplify the task for you, whether it’s the muse of inspiration, a helpful co-worker, or just the quittin’ time whistle.

Of course, once you understand the truth about analysis paralysis, you can take the initiative to solve your situation. Write down your brainstorm sessions in your planner notes section instead of thinking things twice or three times. Add delegation and communication to your planning strategies instead of waiting for others to develop telepathy. And if the task really isn’t as urgent as it seems, you can defer it for a time when resources and collaboration are more available.

As you do what you can, ask for the help and resources you need, and analyze while acting, complex problems break down into a series of manageable steps.

3. Fear

In a perfectly rational world, everyone would follow the previous advice, working personally and together to achieve great things. Unfortunately, your mind also has one other ingredient that gets in the way: fear. It might have evolved, going from fear of getting eaten to fear of disappointing your parents to fear of economic consequences, but the message is the same: scary things are bad, and you shouldn’t let them happen.

While extra caution is certainly warranted in a survival situation on the African savannah, most of the time, the fear you associate with small, unpleasant things is blown out of proportion. It can be tempting to take a single failure and magnify it to fatalistic proportions, as young people do sometimes. If life is overwhelming and you’ve ruined it forever, the thinking goes, you’re justified in retreating, in giving up.

Your planner gives you a daily space to ask yourself these important questions:

  • What will happen if I put off this task?
  • How will I feel about putting off this task?
  • Will this task nag at me? Will I regret not doing it?
  • Do I work well under pressure?
  • Is my procrastination habit feeding into a negative cycle that affects my life and my relationships?

The only antidote for fear is experience. In this regard, your planner is an excellent tool to conquer your fear-based procrastination. Not only does it have the space you need to prepare and plan, but it also provides you with a record of your non-fatal failures. As you review them, you’ll discover that the pain associated with even the worst of them pales in comparison to your regrets—your thoughts about the things you didn’t do and the opportunities you missed through inaction.

But as you continue toward your goals, your planner is also a record of your success. It acts as a milestone marker that helps you keep track of your progress while helping you retain your perspective.

Everyone procrastinates, and for a wide variety of reasons. Understanding your own personal procrastination blend is the first step to overcoming it and starting on the journey toward achieving what truly matters most to you.

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Why Write a Personal Mission Statement?

Do you have a personal mission statement?

Most of us think of mission statements in corporate terms. Large corporations, non-profit organizations, universities, and philanthropies have mission statements. These messages are usually directed toward the people involved in the organization as well as the person who would buy their product, enroll in their school, or donate to their cause.

academic planners3They tell you where your money is going. They explain why—why they exist, why they want your money, why they do the things they do, and how they hope to accomplish more with your help.

Could such a statement help you? Might your actions improve if you based your decisions on a set of solid core values?

The strongest mission statements are simple. Nordstrom’s mission statement for example states: “At Nordstrom, our goal is to provide outstanding service every day, one customer at a time.”

When you shop at Nordstrom, more often than not, you experience that mission statement firsthand. That’s why people shop there again and again. It certainly isn’t because their prices are the lowest, it’s because they feel valued when they are there. The experience is worth the price. Similarly, many fine restaurants are more devoted to the ambiance and courteous service than they are to their food, because they recognize that you can cook your own great food. It’s the total experience that you pay for.

But what about us, personally—could we benefit in the same way? Could it be possible for people to know us simply by the way they feel when we were around them, or by the quality of our work?

Mission statements work because they give direction to every action that organizations, like Nordstrom, take. Successful organizations base their company standards on their mission statement. The mission statement molds company culture and affects the way employees treat each other and their customers. Because of that, you could blindfold a person and place them in the center of Nordstrom, and within moments they would know where they were. You could do the same at Wal-Mart.

A mission statement that we believe in will change us for the better. But that’s the key—we need to believe in it. At some places, like high-end fashion boutiques, the experience is worth the price—at others, such as big box warehouse supermarkets, the price is worth the experience.

Here’s the thing, perception is reality. We create our own reality by the way we, ourselves, and others perceive us. A personal mission statement is one more tool to help us ensure that our actions are in tune with what matters most to us. Although we can’t completely control how others perceive us, we can control the way we choose to act and the things we choose to do with our time. We can work to ensure that our actions support the way we perceive who we are and who we want to become. As we align our actions with our personal mission statements we become who we hope to be. Over time, those intentional daily decisions will affect the way others feel about us and the way we feel about ourselves.

Your personal mission statement is usually derived from your list of core values. As you spend time focused on those values that matter most to you, you’ll begin to see a few common themes woven through them. Those common themes will become the basis of your personal mission statement. Perhaps your themes are self-improvement and serving others. Maybe you’ll find that you want to improve your personal traits and skills so you can serve your family and friends more completely. (We’ll talk more about how to write a personal mission statement in a later post.)

Can you imagine how your planning sessions might improve if you had your own personal mission statement—a center post that supported all your actions and motivated your daily decisions?

In the olden days of film photography there was a term called a latent image. A latent image is the image burned into film or photo paper from the light exposed to it. That image came alive in the darkroom with the proper application of developer, stop bath, and rinse water. For a photographer, there are few experiences more thrilling and enlightening than watching that latent image appear.

We’re guessing you have a latent personal mission statement that has been formed by the things you’ve been exposed to throughout your life. That silent theme motivates the things you do. Not everything you’ve experienced has been joyful—some of it has been hard, even painful. Yet, this exposure to your world has given you your own unique perspective. Your perspective, the way you see yourself, others, and the world around you—and the way you hope to see them, shapes your dreams. Your personal mission statement gives those dreams direction, and it will be an even greater force in your life as soon as you develop it and bring it into the light.

So take a minute today and seriously consider what truly matters most to you—and why. As you do, you’ll discover your own mission statement and add greater purpose to your actions.

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The Two Most Basic Planner Functions

captureMemory could be defined as our ability to capture information and retrieve it when we need it. How many of us can do that?

Our brains have almost limitless capacity to retain information, but the challenge comes when we want to retrieve that information during the chaos of the day. Even if we believe we can, none of us can focus on more than one thing at a time. If we have several things on our minds, our brain is rapidly switching from item to item, event to event, or brush fire to brush fire. So when we have a busy schedule at work followed by a frenetic schedule at home, we have the perfect recipe for absent-minded mistakes. In the rush of the day, it’s easy to forget something important.

Oddly, we can have similar experiences when we aren’t busy enough. Have you ever had a time when your workload was light and you started to drift mentally? Our brains are never at rest—they love stimuli. So if we aren’t busy in reality, our minds become busy with fantasy. Our minds seek entertainment. Sometimes these episodes of mental drift can get the better of us and we’ll forget something truly important. Just consider the last time you checked your email or Facebook page and found that you were still online an hour later.

So how do we make the most of our amazing brains? Like any other organ in our body, our minds require maintenance and conscious effort to make them strong. One of the best ways to improve memory is to write, and if your memory is important to you, the best place to write is in your planner.

Your planner’s basic functions are to Capture and Retrieve, which means your planner can track anything you choose to keep in it. It may sound fanciful, but you really can capture your dreams, you can act on your aspirations, you can set higher standards for your life, and achieve greater goals.

On a smaller scale, your planner ensures that you won’t forget to take your daughter to dance class—you’ll remember to pick up cheese on your way home from work—and you’ll remember to make dinner reservations, even after a crazy day at the office.

The truth is, our brains function better with help.

1. Capture.

Like any other filing system, physical or digital, an orderly capture system is vital. Where and how you store your information is critical to how easy it is to use later. Plans are easier to reach if you start with a long-term outlook and then work back to the present, breaking your plans into small pieces that you accomplish a day at a time. Capturing your plans is no different. Start with a long-term vision, and capture your plans, ideas, notes, and goals with retrieval in mind.

2. Retrieve.

We’ve heard the argument that writing something down is pointless if you can’t find what you wrote when you need it. In order for the retrieval process to work fluidly, you’ll want to ask three basic questions: What do I need? When do I need it? And, Where can I find it? Your planner is designed to make retrieval easy if you begin planning with this in mind.

Any time you write something in your planner that you know you will need to refer to later, simply place a number next to your note in your Notes section. Then turn to your Monthly Index Page and write a quick reference to that note, such as: Company party caterer—April 23, Note 3. Now a simple glance at your monthly index page will lead you directly to all the information you need to know about your caterer. The concept works perfectly for any number of things. And that’s just the beginning.

You can also keep a progressive task list in your pagefinder listing the everyday items that easily slip through the cracks, a Weekly Compass Card to ensure you are focusing on your most important items first each day, goal planning forms that enable you to set big goals and break them into small, manageable segments, and so much more.

If you haven’t lately, take another look through your planner and see how many helpful tools you can discover to ensure you capture your goals, accomplish your tasks, and retrieve your dreams.

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6 Excuses Why We Don’t Plan, and How to Overcome Them

excusesBefore we start talking about excuses, we need to understand that “excuses” is the proper term—not “reasons.” Reasons are perhaps the most important part of what makes us tick. They’re based in our values—the underlying principles upon which we base all of our actions. Reasons are the why of our actions, and the why is the beginning step of all that we do. Why is the motivation that propels us forward.

Reasons are beautiful: “I couldn’t attend your wedding because my daughter was having our first grandchild.”

“I worked overtime and missed the neighborhood barbecue because I’m saving money for my son’s science camp. He’s determined to become a top astronaut.”

Excuses aren’t any of those things. Excuses are based in doubt, fear, and uncertainty. They’re motivated by a desire to justify our weaknesses rather than by a sense of accountability to improve upon them. Excuses are dangerous because, if we don’t see them for what they are, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

The term self-fulfilling prophecy was coined in 1948 by sociologist Robert K. Merton. He defines it this way:

The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior, which makes the original false conception come true.

The trouble is, once this happens, we often look at the fact that our ‘prophecy’ came true as justification that we were right all along. However, if we take a close look at the top six excuses why people don’t plan, we can easily see that all of them are false statements—false statements that many of us have come to believe to be true. If we aren’t careful, we’ll act on these beliefs, and ensure that they do, in fact, come true.

1. “I don’t have time to plan.”

This excuse is probably the most obvious false statement we make. We all have the exact same amount of time—all of it. The issue isn’t about how much time we have, but what we’re choosing to do with it. If we feel like we don’t have enough time, chances are, we aren’t taking enough control of our actions. Rather than choosing what we are going to do, we’re allowing situations, interruptions, habits, and procrastination to steal our time from us.

If you don’t have time to plan, the remedy is to act. Set your alarm clock to ring 15 minutes earlier and plan before you do anything else. Each week, think through the coming events and decide which items need to happen when. Schedule those items into each day of your week. Then go over those items each morning and determine when you will do them. You’ll be surprised at how much time you free up when you give your most important things their own space in the day. Soon you’ll realize that you are accomplishing much more than you were with the same 168 hours each week.

2. “I’m too busy firefighting to plan ahead—I’m constantly in crisis mode.”

Crises are real. Sometimes big, unexpected events dominate our lives. These moments tend to be temporary, but their effects sometimes linger for a lifetime. During these strenuous times, it’s wise to slow down, focus on the present, and carefully navigate through each day. But careful navigation goes much more smoothly when we take time to assess our situation and make a plan to address it. That doesn’t mean that the course of the day will cooperate with the plans we make each morning, but simply thinking through the events of the day and preparing for them will give us a touch more strength to push through, even when things get chaotic.

Here’s the cool part. As we keep planning even when all we can do is put out fires, we’ll improve our ability to put out those fires. We’ll find ourselves anticipating the next flare-up and preparing for it. Over time, we will work through the chaos period of our crisis situation, the smoke will begin to clear, and we’ll start to see farther ahead. That’s when all that frenetic planning will begin to pay off. Because we kept planning even when we couldn’t see a clear picture of the future, we were able to stay somewhat on top of our world. Now that we can see better through the haze, we can move ahead without feeling buried in the debris of the crisis.

If we stop planning because we can only run from flame to flame, we either burn out, or end up buried in ash. Then even after the crisis has passed, we’ll find we’re too buried to move. Perhaps that’s you now. Your world got turned on its ear and even though you have accepted your new normal, you can’t yet move ahead because you’re still dealing with the immediate changes. What do you do? The only thing you can do—you plan.

Start today with a weekly planning session. List the things you need to address the most, break them into manageable pieces, and schedule them throughout your week. Then look at today’s list of things to do, prioritize them, and start working on what matters most. Keep at it until it becomes a habit. The sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is almost immediate. You’ll begin to feel more on top of your world as early as tonight.

3. “I don’t know how to plan.”

It’s OK if you don’t know how to plan. Planning is something we all need to learn, and even skilled planners can find ways to improve.

The best plans start on the inside. Before you get too far into planning your time, first assess what matters most to you. This exercise is vital if you are going to be truly successful. List the things you value most and why. Then as you look through the tasks that dominate your day, ask yourself if the things you’re working on align with your values.

Benjamin Franklin called this list his 13 Virtues, and it may be the most famous list of personal values ever. As he worked each week toward improving those virtues and aligning his actions with his values, he became one of the most successful people in history.

Now, with your list of governing values in hand, write another list of the roles you play each day: Mother/Father, Sister/Brother, Daughter/Son, Neighbor, Friend, Artist, Employee, Musician, Athlete, etc. This list can get quite long, so be sure that the things you list are in line with your values.

Now, with our list of daily or weekly roles in hand, set a goal for each role. What would you like to do to improve as a parent—as an artist—as a friend—as a co-worker—as a neighbor, and so on. If these goals are big, break them down into small steps. Then schedule these goals into your weekly plans, setting aside time each day to work on some aspect of these goals.

Now you aren’t just making a list of things to do. Planning is much more than that. Now you are literally taking control of your hopes, your aspirations, your dreams—your life.

4. “Planning limits my spontaneity.”

Spontaneity takes time. If you don’t plan, you won’t have time to be spontaneous because you’ll be too busy putting out fires, procrastinating, or allowing the events of the day to dictate your actions. If you hope to be spontaneous, you need to take control of a situation and act with certainty. If we’re truthful, the best spontaneous moments happened with at least some forethought.

Planning ensures you have your most important things in line each day so you have time to be spontaneous. And if spontaneity is something you value, proper planning will ensure that you are working to be more spontaneous, not less so.

5. “I hate it when I don’t meet my plan.”

This statement implies that without a plan you’ll somehow avoid the guilt of not reaching your goals. Here’s the truth. We all have hopes for the future. We all have things we want to do better. If we don’t write these things down and plan to accomplish them, we aren’t going to like our result at the end of the day. Whether our goals are staring at us in black and white from our planner pages or gnawing at the back of our mind, we still won’t feel fully satisfied.

The beauty of planning is that we can see the things we didn’t finish and we can move them ahead to the next day. As we continue to do this, we’ll soon realize that those uncompleted plans that bothered us are done.

6. “Planning limits my freedom—plans are too restricting.”

Plans are only restricting when they are based on someone else’s values. Nobody likes working toward someone else’s goals. If your plans are founded in your motivating values and based on the roles that matter most to you, you’ll find that they lift and lighten your life. You’ll develop a sense of accomplishment that is unmatched by any other sensation. Before you realize it you will be accomplishing more than you thought you could. You will find yourself free to do so much more than you were doing. Your talents will improve, your marketable skillset will increase, your budget will grow, your vacations will be better planned and executed. Is not this freedom?

This is the reason FranklinPlanner exists. This is our why. We’re here to provide the tools and teaching you need to accomplish the things that matter most to you—so you can have greater freedom to do and become who you dream of becoming.

So stop with the excuses and start making plans!

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5 Steps to a Successful Weekly Planning Session

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You’ve heard sayings like “The best offense is a good defense”, right? Here’s a new one to add to the list: “The best daily plans come from weekly planning.”

To achieve any significant goal, you need to look beyond the day-to-day cycle of actions and reactions and make a larger plan. These five steps will help you get more out of your weekly planning sessions, and then extend the benefits to your daily life:

  1. Review What Matters Most

Your life should include the things you value. Time with family and friends, developing your hobbies and interests, and building your career to support it all—these actions succeed when they draw on your deepest motivations. Tasks imposed from outside this core set of values are the tasks you’re most likely to delay or ignore. As you begin your weekly planning session, take a moment to review what matters most to you.

  1. Evaluate Last Week

Evaluate the balance between each area of your life, how you’re spending time on work, relationships, and personal development. Did you take on too much this week? How could last week have been more successful? Do you need to delegate more tasks? These questions and others like them let you shape your task lists for the coming week.

  1. Check the Master Task List

Take a look at any goals you’re tracking on your Master Task List, and review the results from last week. Your Master Task List should have all your recurring tasks for the week listed, such as your carpool schedule or routine weekly work meetings. With all these written down, you won’t double-book yourself when drafting your daily plans.

  1. Complete Your Weekly Compass Card

Completing a Weekly Compass Card is a great way to focus on what matters most.

Each card has a space for you to list all the roles in your life, from friend to parent, from co-worker to volunteer. Beneath each role, there is space to list out the goals and tasks you need to accomplish this week in that role. As the name implies, completing the Weekly Compass Card helps keep outside demands and personal distractions from pulling you off course as you work toward your goals.

  1. Schedule the “Big Rocks”

It’s a classic object lesson: you can’t fit big rocks into a jar full of sand, but put the big rocks in first, and you can fill up the space around them. Keep this principle in mind as you commit tasks to your planner pages. At this point, you have your Master Task List and Weekly Compass Tasks ready to schedule. Once those are in, you can plan your other important and fulfilling activities to round out your week.

As you develop strong weekly planning sessions, your life will have a new sense of perspective. A good weekly plan helps you see past the daily grind to where life’s milestones await. And that perspective makes all the difference.

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The Importance of Using One Planning System

“No man is an island, entire of itself” – John Donne

The most effective planners know how to coordinate their personal planning system with the rhythms of those around them, whether it’s sending a student back to school or spearheading a project at work. From setting up meeting appointments on the company’s Google account to checking the calendar in the kitchen at home, they know how to connect their plans with the real world around them.

IMG_2811If you’ve found that your important plans keep getting blindsided by unexpected tasks and appointments, it’s time to consider developing a habit of syncing the planning systems in your life.

Before you can sync up your personal planning system, you must identify the other systems that are part of your life. How do you interact with your family? Do you get Honey Do calls throughout the day, adding after-work tasks to your list? Do your kids tell you what’s going on in school well in advance, or at 8:59 pm the night before a due date?  Does each of your children’s teachers use a different app to communicate, when they don’t just send home a crumpled permission slip in the bottom of a backpack? When you enter an appointment in your computer, does it automatically transfer to your phone? Or do you need to make a separate entry for each?

Answering these and other similar questions will help you find the disconnects in your own planning system. Then you can communicate with those around you and take action to improve your interactions.

  • Perhaps your kids can write assignments on the wall calendar for you to check during your weekly planning session. You could help them develop their own planning routine, teaching them the importance of personal planning and accountability.
  • Maybe you open up your Google Calendar each Sunday evening and copy down the meetings for the coming week into your planner. Then, while you’re planning out the rest of the week, you’ll know which blocks of time are already filled, letting you plan thought- and time-intensive projects without surprise interruptions.
  • It could be that you discuss the day with your significant other before heading out to work. You could go over a shared list of tasks that need to be done each day, dividing out who goes where and does what. You can also decide together if there are times when calling just doesn’t work, and set a priority level for interrupting with new tasks.
  • As with everything else, planning works best when you take care of the important things before they become urgent. Deciding together what matters most takes the friction out of your small daily communications.

No plan is an island. The most meaningful plans require communication to execute properly. Do what it takes to sync the planning systems in your life, and enjoy the results of shared and personal success.

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The Top 3 Time Robbers and How to Overcome Them

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For some of us, time is a constant, plodding taskmaster—demanding our attention and dictating our actions. For others it’s a welcome adventure—a powerful tool that we use to make the most of our skills, sharpen our talents, dabble in hobbies, and work toward goals.

What’s the difference? It isn’t time. Time is unchanging and beyond our control. The difference lies in how we manage our actions within the time constraints we face each day.

Have you ever noticed how easily we lose time? We’ll glance at the clock at 10:00 a.m., believing we have plenty of time to prepare for our 1:00 p.m. meeting, only to find ourselves rushing to finish at the last second.

How did that happen? Where did the time go? If you’re anything like the rest of us, we’re guessing you stole it. The top three ‘time robbers’ are: interruptions, procrastination, and poor planning. All of us are guilty of time theft. So what can we do about it?

1. Interruptions

Interruptions are somewhat out of our control. They are sometimes emergencies resulting from another person’s poor planning, but not always. They could be as simple as the constant hum of your cellphone notifying you of incoming text messages, a child’s urgent tug on your sleeve as she asks you to finger paint with her, or a change in direction from your boss. On rare occasions those close to us actually face true emergencies, and we shift our priorities to share our time with them.

Interruptions are relationship-based. Because relationships are important to us, we are willing to give our time for them. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reduce interruptions. We can silence our phone when we are working on a project, or spending time with family. We can place a do not disturb sign on our office door while we hone in on our work. We can share our schedule with those close to us so they know when to avoid interrupting us.

Interruptions can be classified into three categories: necessary and vital, necessary but untimely, and necessary and untimely. Of course, those things that are necessary and vital will get your immediate attention, but the others can be scheduled or ignored.

Interruptions often feel urgent, but they aren’t always important. Ask yourself: Is this truly urgent or does it only feel that way right now? Is it important? It may not be important to me, but is it important to the person who interrupted me? Can it wait? If you are able to distinguish between urgency and importance, you’ll find that you can often maintain a balance between other people’s priorities and your own.

2. Procrastination

If you ever feel frustrated because you can’t find time for your most important activities, stop and think through your day. We’re betting you’ll discover that even with your busy schedule, you found time for procrastination. Why is that?

We procrastinate when:

  • We lack a clear deadline
  • We have inadequate resources (information, time, money, etc.)
  • We fear potential negative consequences or failure
  • The activity doesn’t link adequately with our governing values
  • The task feels overwhelming or uninteresting

Usually we procrastinate the things we’d rather not do. Writing a term paper, for example, is a killjoy. Many of us would rather get a root canal than regurgitate all the facts and figures we learned in our History of Civilization class. So we do. We fritter away our time on other things that may or may not be important until we’re staring at the deadline and have no other choice but to push through it.

And then something unexpected happens. Pushing against a deadline gives us an adrenaline rush. The task that couldn’t interest us at all before is suddenly the only thing we can focus on. Food and sleep can wait. The sense of urgency we feel adds an air of importance to the work we’re doing, which only builds our sense of self-importance. And then, several hours past our bedtime, we breathe a sigh of relief and bask in our accomplishment. We did it! Sure we’re tired, but that only adds to the intensity—it’s another great detail we get to share with our friends. And you can bet we’ll share this story. It’s a big deal! This was a huge thing we did in just one night! What a rush!

Oh no! Did you see what happened there? Our brains actually reward this negative behavior with a chemical rush. It’s related to our fight or flight reflex. We run away as long as we can, but when we’re finally cornered against a deadline, our adrenaline kicks in and we fight. Could it be that some of us are addicted to procrastination? Could that be our MO? What happens when we wait too long, and we simply can’t finish it the way we wanted to, (or worse yet, the way our boss wanted us to)?

The ability we have to push through and finish important projects is a vital part of being human, but we shouldn’t find ourselves working in that mode all the time. It isn’t healthy. Procrastination creates stress, not only for ourselves, but also for those close to us. Added stress plays a significant role in several health ailments from diabetes and heart disease to anxiety.

Here’s another problem. Our life goals don’t always have deadlines. If one of our goals is to create order in our garage, we need to get a handle on procrastination. After all, not many of us wake up each morning eager to sort through the mess in our garage. Without a deadline, it’ll never happen. Here are a few other life goals to consider: Eat Healthier, Exercise, Drink More Water, and Spend Time with Mom. Procrastination destroys our ability to accomplish our open-ended goals.

3. Poor Planning

All this talk of procrastination leads us to our third time robber: Poor Planning. The first thing we can do to improve our poor planning habits is to create deadlines for our goals. For example: I will create order in the garage before our Labor Day Barbeque. This allows us time to procrastinate and cram, but we can do even better.

Focus on your values. If you value order—if you thrive best when you can quickly put your hand on the tool you need, then organizing the garage is a task that is important to you. If you’re comfortable in chaos, it will be more difficult for you to stay motivated to complete this task.

Now that we have a goal with a deadline, we can break that goal down into smaller tasks that are easier to finish. Examples may include: Build storage shelves above the garage door, Learn how to make a folding workbench, or create a fasteners organizer.

Write this list of projects on your Monthly Task List, and schedule each of these tasks to be completed throughout the summer. As you plan each week select a task from your monthly task list to work on through the week.

During your daily planning break the task into manageable pieces and add them to your daily task list. Prioritize your tasks by importance: A, B, C—and by order 1, 2, 3, and work through your tasks a day at a time.

Before you know it, Labor Day will arrive and your garage will be the envy of the neighborhood. What’s more, you’ll have actually enjoyed the process, learned new skills, and accomplished much more than simply creating order in your garage.

Living the life you want to live requires creativity and proactive planning, but it also requires an honest assessment of the way you spend your time. Are you running away from the hard or mundane tasks until you have no other choice but to force your way through them, or are you facing them early and developing a plan to achieve even more?

Your FranklinPlanner is the ultimate tool to guide your activities and ensure they are in line with the values that matter most in your life. With daily and weekly planning you may not completely eliminate these three time robbers from your life, but you’ll give yourself much more control over the way you spend your time, and ensure that you are achieving what matters most to you.

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5 Planner Accessories You Didn’t Know You Needed

Have you ever had a moment that changed you? We can probably all think of events in our lives that acted as hinges for our life’s direction—pivot points that altered the course of our lives forever. The day she said yes, the birth of our children, the death of a loved one—all of these big events can have a lasting impact on our lives. But if we look closer, we can see even smaller events that shape our actions.

The same thing applies to our planning systems. Once we realize how effective they can be in our lives, it’s hard for us to imagine starting our day without them. Sure planning takes 10 minutes out of our morning, but it gives us the direction we need to make the most of our day. It’s absolutely worth it.

Here are five simple accessories that will enhance your plans and make you wonder how you ever got along without them:

1. Cutaway Daily Notes Pages

Some days are filled with important meetings, project planning sessions, and personal events that we don’t want to forget. For times like this, one page of notes in our planner just isn’t enough. That’s when Cutaway Daily Notes Pages come in handy. They allow you to keep on writing when your regular Daily Notes page is full. Even better, the top is cut away so your date remains visible at a glance. Now you can keep all your notes for your busy day in their proper place.

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2. Tabbed Divider Pockets

Need to categorize miscellaneous Planner Pages? Would you like a little more storage space in your binder? These multicolored top-tabbed divider pages complement your existing side-tabbed pages and feature dual pockets for receipts, sticky notes, stamps, and more—adding dimension to your plans and making it easy to find just about anything.

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3. Progressive Task List

Eliminate the hassle of writing a repeating task on your Prioritized Daily Task Lists with our convenient Progressive Task List. With a layout similar to the Prioritized Daily Task List found in our Planner Pages, and in a size to fit our Pouch Pagefinders, this durable list moves easily from day to day—keeping your daily tasks or extended activities right in front of you for easy recall.

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4. Classic Sheet Protector

If you’re involved with a big event, such as a wedding, you’ll find that you return again and again to the same page in your planner—making notes or double-checking details. Repeated use can begin to wrinkle and damage your page, but this see-through vinyl cover will protect your pages from getting dirty or wrinkled. They’re also a great way to show off a family photo, store an important paper from your planning meeting, or hold your receipts for reimbursement.

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5. Washi Tape

Add borders to your planning pages, divide your work and home-related tasks, attach pictures, or make elaborate designs in your planner with our distinctive washi tape. It’s also a great way to cover up mistakes. It’s easy to write on and stays where you put it—yet you can remove it without leaving any residue. Our five-pack of Washi tape features five distinctive designs in various widths, many with gold foil accents.

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Give these timeless accessories a try, and you’ll soon find that you’d rather not plan without them. These simple tools make your plans more complete, so you can better achieve what matters most to you.

Technology is a great servant but a horrible master. We have all the time there is…and we have to spend it all every day. (We can’t save it for later.) We can’t manage time; we can only manage ourselves. Control is within us. We need to make a distinction between urgent and important. Remember the TIME MATRIX!!

When we spend a lot of our day in Quadrant One, we feel anxious, stressed out, angry, exhausted, emotionally drained, but we also feel the satisfaction of accomplishment and progress toward what matters most to us.

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8 Ways Using a Planner Reduces Stress

binder spines

As with all successful efforts, it takes some initiative to use a planner. But when you look at the alternatives, using a planner eliminates many stressful situations from your life. Here are eight examples.

1. Avoid double-booking

If you’ve ever accidentally double-booked your schedule, you know how stressful it can be when you get a reminder call for an important appointment while preparing for highly-anticipated time with friends and family. Writing your appointments in your planner lets you check your availability before planning another, even if months pass in the meantime.

2. Track long-term projects

Modern navigation systems make it easy to find your way: Google an address, and your phone will tell you every turn you need to make. Your planner performs a similar function for long-term projects, letting you lay out each step to help you keep on track and meet all upcoming deadlines.

3. Capture and retrieve information

While sticky notes are wonderful, they’re also hard to find if the bottom of your purse is covered with old papers. Stick your important information in your planner, and it will be there when you need it.

4. Feel the peace of a routine

Most days, your brain gets a serious workout, making important decisions and constantly moving from one task to another. The last thing it wants is to think about the small, routine details—but this leaves you with anxiety that you’re missing something. Following a routine set in your planner can help with decision fatigue.

5. Anticipate upcoming events

Your planner also helps you prepare for the days that fall outside of your routine. With weekly planning sessions, you can look ahead to birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other important occasions, and plan well in advance to make them even better.

6. Rest with a clear mind

When you have important tasks to think about, your brain will try and make connections, no matter what time it is. Writing ideas down in your planner gives your thoughts closure, and you’ll sleep better knowing that you’ve got a plan.

7. Recover your passwords

There’s no place like a planner to write down the things you only reference occasionally. Use it to store passwords for less-frequented websites, phone numbers for takeout, model numbers of appliances, prescription numbers, etc.

8. Experience the Joy of Completion

Instead of mental uncertainty, there’s a satisfaction that comes when you check tasks off your list and clear it from your mind.

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Your Whole Life in One Planner

IMG_0225This may sound strange coming from FranklinPlanner, but the truth is, time management is an oxymoron. We have no control over time itself—it moves at the same rate continually, whether we keep up with it or not. That means, of course, that you can’t save time either. It isn’t something we can keep in a box for later use. We must spend every second of our time every day. None of us has more or less time than anyone else—this is all the time we’ll ever have. Yet, most of us can think of things we’d love to do someday—when we have more time.

Since we can’t save or manage time, we must instead manage ourselves, and proactively decide what we’ll do with the time we have. The best way to do this is through planning—not planning our time, but planning our activities within it, and ensuring that those activities are aligned with our values, our hopes, and our dreams. It’s lifelong quest that requires thoughtful effort and self-awareness, yet the tools that have proven best suited for the task are simple—pen and paper.

The act of writing—focusing our thoughts into words and phrases, holding a pen, moving our hands to form the symbols that represent our thoughts, and reading them as we go—is a kinesthetic and repetitive activity that embeds information and ideas more firmly in our minds. That’s why so many people use a planner, and it’s why so many people who have tried other time-management devices for a season, find themselves returning to the tried and true paper and pen.

In order for your planning system to work to its fullest potential, it must be personal, easy to manage, and portable. It’s best if you keep your planner with you at all times, to act as a reminder of the things you are working toward, and to help you plan ahead as situations arise. We recommend you use the same planner for every aspect of your life. Keeping your work-related tasks and appointments beside your home and family activities makes it easy to avoid scheduling conflicts, and provides great perspective as you prioritize your daily tasks.

Some people worry that holding all that varied information in one place will create clutter in their planner, but the beauty of Franklin Planners is their organization. When used as designed, they are always orderly and easy to follow. Still, many of us like to set apart our work-related tasks from other tasks and appointments we have. Doing so makes it easy to see at a glance what areas of our life are getting the most attention and which could benefit from more of our time.

How you distinguish the tasks related to one area of your life from those related to another is up to you. Our friends here in the office use several different methods. Some simply leave a blank line in their Prioritized Daily Task List between their list of work-related tasks and their home and family activities. Others use different colored pens to represent the different roles they plan each day—black for work, green for family activities, blue for hobbies, etc. The same idea will work if you’re keeping track of different people’s schedules—Blue for Nate, Green for Emily, etc. Still others use colored tabs or page flags in their planners to sort their activities.

A more recent trend we’ve adopted here in the office is using colorful washi tape to split the daily tasks section into different segments. We also find it’s a fun way to segment our notes pages to keep track of the different things that come up throughout the day.

However you choose to sort your daily activities, remember that keeping your planning system personal is most important. You want your planner to represent you and what makes you unique. The more you can blend your life and your personality into your planner, the more likely you are to open it and use it. And that is the key to success.

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8 Activities to Make the Most of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is intended as a way to remember our brave neighbors, friends, and family who gave everything they had to ensure our freedoms and to help maintain freedom for others. Because it’s a Federal holiday, many of us have the day off work so we can devote time to celebrating and remembering.

How we celebrate varies. It’s personal. Some people aren’t comfortable with cemeteries, so they spend time outdoors with their families. That’s a great opportunity to remind your children that the freedom to go where you want and enjoy time together came at a high price.

If you are looking for simple ways to celebrate the holiday and to help instill a stronger sense of patriotism in your family, here are a few ideas that might help.

1. Put a flag in your yard. That simple act serves as a great reminder of the sacrifices that have been paid for our freedom.

2. If your community holds a parade or fireworks, go and enjoy the sights.

3. Hold an outdoor barbeque and invite your neighbors. Make homemade ice cream.

memorial-day-1569293-1279x9274. If you have relatives who are veterans, call them on the phone and say thanks or send them a thank you card.

5. Visit the graves of veterans and other family members with your children.

6. Go on a picnic with your family.

7. Read about a military conflict, study the historical events that lead up to it, and discuss with your family what happened as a result of the war.

8. Find a story about one of your ancestors, veteran or not, and share it with your children. Even if your ancestors didn’t serve in the military, they still sacrificed to provide for their families. Sharing their stories helps us celebrate their challenges and successes with our loved ones.

However you choose to celebrate and enjoy the time away from work, be safe and have fun. With a little planning, the time you spend with your family and friends will be memorable and enjoyable.

Happy Memorial Day!

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How a Planner Can Help You Get a Job After Graduation

graduationBefore spring is over, universities everywhere will hold their commencement ceremonies, celebrating their students’ years of academic achievement. By this point, these students will have had close to 16 years of structured days, each naturally flowing toward the next. After throwing their caps in the air, however, their future will become their own responsibility.

If you’re graduating this spring, the big wide world might seem like a daunting prospect. Thankfully, the planning habits that made all the difference during these school years will help you structure each stage of your future career, no matter where your path takes you.

Daily Planning

Daily planning keeps you focused on success. When you have an intentional plan for each day, you know that you won’t lose days of your life binge watching TV series on Netflix while your career search withers. So how should you spend your time? Finding a job isn’t as simple as signing up for another semester of classes.

Finding a Job

The biggest first step is getting an employer’s attention from the middle of the crowd of résumés submitted. That means having an updated résumé, for starters, one that lists your academic and professional achievements to date.

If you can’t think of academic achievements or experiences off the top of your head, you can always review your old planner pages. Your relevant notes and tasks can be a great reminder of relevant items to list when applying for an internship or a permanent position.

Use Your Planner to Help

Your planner also helps you in your career networking efforts as a great space to quickly write down contact information and other notes about the companies you research and connect with. Not only is it faster than typing a note on your phone, but it also lets you collect business cards from your career fair without losing them in your pocket or your purse, or stuffing them into a bursting wallet.

And when the pavement pounding and online applications have paid off and you’re facing your prospective employer in an interview, your planner becomes an incredible asset. Not only can you jot down notes about the company you made while doing your research, but you can also prepare responses for common interview questions (and questions you want to ask) to serve as a reminder when you’re in the hot seat. Plus, using a planner instead of a mobile device sends the right impression: that you’re an individual who can focus on the task at hand and make long-term plans for success.

So wherever your future takes you after graduation, discover a new level of success with your planner and your hard-won organizational skills. You’ll be on your way to a productive, fulfilling life!

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6 Planning Tips for a Successful Workout

We all want to improve or maintain our health, and we know that the best way to do that is through exercise. So why is exercise so hard to fit into our lives? Here are some things we can do to help ensure we have a successful workout.

Use Your Planner

Planning ahead will make your workout more successful. Often the hardest part of a workout is starting. It’s easy to find reasons not to exercise, but if you take a minute to schedule it into your week you’ll find that you have fewer excuses. Look through your schedule and decide what times will work best for you and make sure nothing else gets in the way. A good workout only takes a short time. Certainly other things can wait.

Set Yourself Up For SuccessSherpani-Wisdon-Yoga-Tote-2

Set out everything you need the night before. Stuff your duffle bag with towels, a water bottle, work out clothes, and any other items you’ll use for your exercise routine. Set as many alarms as you need. Set your alarm clock so you can get out before the kids wake up, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop at the gym on the way home.

Be Self-Aware

Recognize your habits—know what time is best for you and what you will actually do with that time. Recognize the times when your family’s needs tend to pull you away from your workout routine and find ways to work around those events. Be conscious of your diet and the things you’re eating between meals. Your planner is a great way to track your diet and your daily workout routine.

Find A Tracking System That Works For You

The daily tracker in your planner is a great way to stay on top of your workout. You can also add the Health and Fitness Tracker to your planner for a complete look at your progress toward your healthy goals. There are many creative apps for your phone or tablet that let you monitor your health and your daily exercise. Tracking bracelets can be a fun way to track the activities you do each day and compare how they relate to your health.

Strengthen Your Resolve with External Motivation

When you can’t find it within yourself to get to the gym or go for a run, reach out for support. Find a buddy to workout with who will help hold you accountable. This way you always have someone pushing you along, and someone you can help as well. With that kind of motivation, you’ll be less likely to dodge your workout.

Don’t Give Up

Making time for yourself can be a challenge. Some people even feel guilty. They feel like they are turning their backs on other responsibilities when they focus on their fitness needs. But remember that improving your health will improve your abilities to perform in the other aspects of your life. Stick to it until working out becomes a natural part of your everyday routine.

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How to Turn Your Commute Time into You Time

Most of us would love it if we could eliminate the time it takes to get to and from work. It would be nice to walk out of our office and be instantly on our own time, running our own errands, catching little league games, or helping prepare dinner. But we can’t—we have to spend 30 minutes in traffic or on the train first. Or can we?

commuteAccording to the US Census Bureau, the average commute time across the nation is 25 minutes, but many of us spend much more time than that. It can feel like a giant waste. Losing an hour or more each day to your commute translates to roughly 250 hours each year. That’s ten and one half days lost.

We receive no compensation for the time we spend on the road, so it’s up to us to make it worth our while. But here’s the good news—making your commute time productive is simple and even fun. Here are some great ways to turn your commute time into you time.

If you drive, make your car comfortable.

Schedule regular vehicle cleanings in your planner so you’re never buried in clutter. It simply feels better to drive a clean car. Plan regular oil changes and tune-ups to keep your car in the best condition possible. Keep those appointments in your planner so you don’t forget. Your vehicle registration is due at the same time each year, but it’s easy to put it off until the last minute. Write a reminder in your planner so you can be sure your safety inspection and registration never expire.

Now for the fun part

Make a list of books you’d like to read and see if you can find audio versions online or at your local library. Spending time with a good book is almost always rewarding.

If you have errands to run, schedule the stops along your way. It may increase your commute time, but you’ll be doing things you want to do for yourself, so your commute will be swallowed up in personal time.

If you take the train or bus, your commute is the ideal time to plan. Planning on the road can free up time at home and help you arrive at work ready to jump into your day.

Clean out your bag so you don’t have to rummage for the things you need. Load it up with your planner, a good book, headphones, charging cords, and a laptop so you can take full advantage of your time on the bus.

Open up a conversation with the person sitting beside you. You’ll find that learning about others is a very rewarding way to spend your time.

With just a little planning, you can increase your productivity and find yourself enjoying your time on the road. And your commute can be as short as the walk from your office to your car or bus stop. From there on, it’s all about you.

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Using Your Planner as a Gratitude Journal

It’s strange how easy it can be to find discontent in your life. You might be looking at your neighbor’s green grass on the other side of the fence, or peering out from your cubicle at the walled office next to you.  It can be tempting to compare yourself unfavorably to those around you, highlighting the differences between your life and theirs and finding your life wanting.

Of course, your neighbor wishes he could grow tomatoes as tasty as yours, and your co-worker in the corner office is wishing she could sit out in the open where the air conditioning worked properly.

Wanting something better is a completely normal and universal human emotion. But your level of happiness during the time you identify a desire and the time you achieve it depends on how you choose to think, and what you choose to remember.

Keeping a gratitude journal helps in both of these areas.

When you develop a practice of writing down something you’re grateful for each day, no matter how small, it gives you a chance to be honest with yourself about the good parts of your life. Your FranklinPlanner is a great place to develop this habit, with the planning process giving you time to reflect and space to write.

On the worst of days, you might simply be grateful that the day is over. But over time, your journal will prove that your worst days aren’t every day. You’ll discover that life isn’t always good or always bad, and that the obstacles you face are simply moments in time – whether you succeed or fail, your life continues.

The only truly helpful comparison you can make is to your previous self. Your gratitude journal will give you an accurate record of your life and your feelings, without the influence of your current mental state.

Of course, a beautiful, productive life doesn’t come without effort. You need to identify who you are now and then make a plan for who you want to be. When you track your goals with your FranklinPlanner, the process makes it easier to ignore life’s small jealousies along the way. Knowing where you are on the path to your goal helps keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak, and not imaging competitors around you taking away an imagined supply of limited happiness.

Your happiness is only limited to your capacity to see it. With smart personal management and an attitude of gratitude, you’ll build a successful, satisfying life.

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4 Planner Secrets to Spring Cleaning

sponge-1168423-1919x1207Your planner is a great way to manage your daily tasks, but it’s much more than that. A planner is a tool to help strengthen your identity, sort out the values that matter most to you, create a personal mission statement, and to set and reach both short- and long-term goals. Managing simple daily tasks is something you can often do with your phone—but to ensure you live a rich and fulfilling life, you need a more adequate tool. Your planner is the ideal place to sort your dreams and set in motion the actions necessary to reach them.

Among your short-term goals is the annual deep cleaning you do each spring. This is a great way to clear the air in your home, remove the dust bunnies, stir up any spider webs, and get the grime off your kitchen cabinets. The trouble is, your life is just as busy as it’s always been. With end-of-year school activities, filing your taxes, a hectic work schedule, and the itch to get out in the yard, making time for deep cleaning is a challenge.

The ideal solution, of course, is right in your hand. Your planner will help ensure you have time for this important annual task. Whether you do your deep cleaning in one or two days, or sort the tasks out and complete them over a matter of weeks, using your planner will help you finish without interruptions.

1. Motivate yourself with a pen

Write each item you plan to do, no matter how small, in your planner and check them off as you finish. Marking things off your list actually has a positive biological effect. Our brains create chemicals that make us feel good each time we mark an item off our list, and that encourages us to do more. That’s why, when we complete a task that isn’t on our list, we write it in our planners anyway, and immediately cross it off. It feels good and it gets us in the mood to do more.

2. Divide it up

Divide your tasks up by room, closet, or space. This helps ensure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re working in a bedroom, your list could include your chest of drawers, closet, and under the bed as separate items to sort and organize. That way you can finish each task in a short time, cross it off your list, and move ahead. You’d do the same in other rooms: Kitchen sink, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, pantry, and so forth. Doing this can help keep you enthusiastically moving toward your end goal, and before you know it, you’ll realize you’re nearly finished.

 3. Focus

As you work toward your goal of deep cleaning your home, tackle one project at a time. If we flit from task to task without finishing one completely, we run a huge risk of burning out. We need that motivation and satisfaction of completing a task to keep us going. Stick with one task and finish it, so you can cross it off your list and get the boost you need to tackle the next task.

4. Sort and donate

As you go through your closets and set aside items to donate to a non-profit organization or thrift store, note the items in your planner along with their value. Next year, as you file your taxes, you’ll have a complete record of your donations.

Your planner can play such a crucial role in your life if you choose to use it to its fullest potential. This list is just the beginning and is only intended to help spark ideas of your own. If you have some great ways that you use your planner while you deep clean each spring, we’d love to hear them.

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Our Top 5 Eco-Friendly Products

As we celebrate Earth Day this week, take the time to think about your place on this planet we call home. With many different challenges to overcome, it can be tempting to think that your individual effort doesn’t mean much. While you can’t offset the emissions of an entire highway or replant a rain forest all on your own, you can take small but meaningful steps to make the world a better place, starting right now.

Here are our top five eco-friendly products to help you get there:

100% Recycled Original Planner65730_lrgcase

At FranklinPlanner.com, we make each planner with a minimum of 30% recycled content, helping to preserve trees and keep paper out of landfills or incinerators. Our 100% Recycled planner takes it a step further, with our landmark planning system printed on 100% post-consumer material in vegetable-based ink.

Trip Wallet66093_lrgcase

No animals were harmed in the making of this wallet. Crafted from vegan leather, this zip-around wallet is made from the highest quality sustainable materials. It features 14 credit card slots, three bill compartments, a passport slot, a checkbook slot, and a zippered coin pouch.

Baxter Handbag by Matt & Nat

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Not only do Matt & Nat products protect animals, but they also feature 100% recycled nylon lining, helping to keep non-biodegradable plastics out of landfills. The Baxter Handbag combines versatility with animal-friendly materials to create a fun, functional, and fashionable handbag. Wear it open like a tote, or fold down the top for a new look. Features a magnetic snap closure, an internal zipper pocket, 100% recycled nylon lining, an internal slit pocket, and an external slit pocket. You can also wear it crossbody with a removable strap.

Good Lunch Snack Sack

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Replace your disposable plastic baggies with this set of reusable, environmentally friendly snack sacks. The set includes two machine-washable fabric pouches with stain-resistant nylon lining and one see-through snack pouch made from FDA-approved EVA. This set is great for teaching your kids about conservation, or for a more environmentally-friendly brown bag lunch at work.

Karen Powered Handbag

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Did you know that your phone charger continues to use power as long as your phone is plugged in, even if your phone has finished charging? Unless you get your electricity from renewable sources, your phone charger can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. With an internal battery pack that holds up to 10 days of partial charges, or enough to fully charge two devices, the Karen Powered Handbag features flap-over pockets for your small essentials and a removable zippered gear bag to store the included charger cord. When you charge this bag overnight, you’ll know that none of the electricity is going to waste.

No matter which conservation style you choose, there are plenty of ways to make the earth a better place. Get out there and make a difference this Earth Day.

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5 Ways to Use Your Planner to Get Your Taxes in Order

taxesFiling taxes can be a real mess—literally. Before we’re done, most of us have rummaged through our medical bills, home improvement expenses, business costs, pay stubs, receipts, charitable donation slips, and anything else we can find that might help reduce our year-end tax bill, or possibly add to our return, if we’re getting one.

Sorting through all that paperwork takes time and leaves us with stacks of paper on the counter, desk, or even the floor. But what if we sorted these papers as they came into our home? What if we had a designated place for all things tax related that could make filing taxes easier?

Guess what—you already do.

1. Use your daily planner pages.

Your planner is the ideal place to track your tax-related activities. Mark in your planner when you give charitable donations, pay medical bills, purchase items for your business, or spend money on energy-saving home improvements. As you mark these items in your planner, note the value of your donations, or the price you paid.

2. Add a Financial Plans Supplement

None of us like surprises at tax time. There are few things more stress inducing that being blindsided by your accountant asking for a year’s worth of expense reports or the depreciation amount of your rental property. It may be even more chaotic if you’re filing your taxes without the aid of an accountant, and suddenly realize you need information you haven’t gathered.

The Financial Plans Supplement helps remove those surprises with a comprehensive package of financial forms from Monthly Expense Trackers and Monthly Budget Worksheets, to a Yearly Income and Expense Tracker. You’ll also find forms for Financial Accounts, a Home Project Record, Bill Tracker, Personal Property Record, Yearly Investment Tracker, and several others. You may not need all of these forms, but chances are, you’ll find the ideal tools to track what matters most to you for your financial peace of mind.

3. Coordinate your filing cabinet with your planner.

Here’s another suggestion. Set aside a drawer in your filing cabinet for your tax related paperwork. Create folders for each item you report for tax purposes, whether it’s medical expenses, property expenses, income statements, or investment receipts. In front of each of these folders keep a paper with a running total of the income, expenses, and donations you are making throughout the year. As you pay bills, give donations, or incur business expenses, mark these expenditures in your planner, file the paperwork away in your filing system, and note it on the paper in front of the folder.

Use your Prioritized Daily Task List to remind you of these steps, so you don’t fall behind. The next time you file your taxes, it will be a simple matter of opening your file drawer and entering the number at the bottom of the page in front of each folder.

4. Use Page Flags

Use page flags in your planner for a quick reference of information you may need when filing your taxes. Color-coordinate your page flags for different expenses. For example: use blue for medical, red for business, green for home improvements, yellow for donations, etc.

5. Keep track on your Monthly Index Pages

Keep a list on each monthly index page of tax related activities that occur during the month and the date that they happened. This will make finding any additional information related to your income or expenses quick and easy later, if necessary. Simply turn to your Monthly Indexes, find the date the event occurred, turn to the page when that event happened, and you’ll be able to read the notes you took regarding that event and recall the other activities of the day.

None of us want to face an audit, but if we used our planners to their fullest potential, we would be able to manage any sort of scrutiny related to our income, expenses, and our standing regarding our taxes.

If this year’s tax deadline is looming and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, remember that next year can be a lot easier. Start easing your tax burden today.

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FranklinPlanner’s Founders – How It All Began

ben

Picture source: Wikipedia

The year was 1726. A young man named Benjamin Franklin was returning from London to his home in Philadelphia, an 80-day voyage. During the journey, he contemplated the direction he wanted his life to take. He wrote down his values in a small black book he carried with him, listing thirteen virtues he wanted to develop:

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.
  1. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.
  1. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.
  1. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
  1. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.
  1. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.
  1. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  1. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  1. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  1. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.
  1. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  1. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  1. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

For the rest of his life, Benjamin Franklin worked on one of these virtues every week, making incremental improvements in his personal character. The results showed in his historic life, where he is now revered as a philosopher, inventor, and statesman.

More than two-and-a-half centuries later, in 1981, Hyrum W. Smith read Benjamin Franklin’s biography, and was struck by Franklin’s impressive self-improvement and time-management systems. Smith moved to create a system of motivational seminars based on these revolutionary ideas.

The goal of these seminars was simple: help clients identify what they really want to accomplish, do the right things for the right reasons, and stay motivated until they complete their goals. Smith targeted these seminars to corporate groups and business executives, and focused on building relationships rather than direct marketing efforts.

Word of mouth spread, and by 1983, Smith teamed up with Dick Winwood, Dennis Webb, and Lynn Webb to form the Franklin Institute. During this time, Smith accepted every opportunity to speak, logging more than four and a half years traveling on business between 1983 and 1990. He taught effective planning, even when he expected a group of 30 or more and only three or four showed up.

Smith introduced the Franklin Day Planner in 1984 to help his seminar participants put values-based time management into practice. As time went on, the success of values-based planning helped the Franklin Institute grow into an international business. From mall-based stores in the US to UK to Australia to Hong Kong, Franklin Quest spread the art of planning worldwide.

Meanwhile, Stephen R. Covey, author of the best-selling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, built his own professional training organization, based on his landmark ideas of personal growth and professional cooperation. In 1997, Franklin Quest merged with the Covey Leadership Institute to become FranklinCovey.

290 years after Benjamin Franklin first wrote in his book, and more than 30 years after the creation of the Franklin Day Planner, the practice of value-based planning still changes lives. At FranklinPlanner.com, we’re looking forward to helping you achieve what matters most to you.

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The 4 Dimensions Of Renewal And How They Can Affect You

In Stephen R. Covey’s timeless book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he emphasizes the importance of renewal. His seventh habit, Sharpen the Saw, is all about renewal. It’s a vital element of a productive life.

chainsaws-in-action-1-1239327He begins with an analogy of a man who is working feverishly to cut down a tree. He’s been at it for over 5 hours. However, when asked if he should take a few minutes to sharpen the saw, he replies, “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw, I’m too busy sawing.”

Sharpening our saw takes time. It requires us to analyze what we need to improve to help our lives run more smoothly—better tools, better training, more practice, more study—and then we need to set aside time to ensure it all happens. It’s an investment in ourselves—the single most important investment we can ever make. It enables us to approach each day renewed and prepared for whatever it may bring.

We can track the four dimensions of personal renewal in our planners and make sure we address each area regularly.

Physical

How often have you arrived home from work tired only to find a house full of people eager to share their day with you? At times like these we wish we had just a bit more stamina. As we set goals to exercise regularly we will find that we have added strength and energy. As we age, we notice that we can’t do as much as we would like to do because we tire too quickly before the end of the day. Some of this is normal, but it can be improved with consistent exercise. Just a few hours of total exercise each week can lead to several hours of renewed stamina, so we can focus our time doing what matters most. As you plan, set aside time throughout the week to exercise, whether it’s walking, hiking, jogging, or strength training.

Mental

Our minds need the same sort of exercise as our muscles. We need to stretch and expand our minds. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. has said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Make time to dive into a good book, look up tutorials on YouTube, develop a hobby, and simply visualize your future. Planning is a great mental exercise that allows you to visualize events and sequence the steps required to accomplish them.

Spiritual

What makes you tick? How strong is your moral compass? Are the values that motivate your actions sufficiently strong? These are all good things to consider as you plan to renew your spiritual dimension. This happens in different ways for different people. Some spend time in nature, others in church. Some read scriptures, others read poetry. Some go to confession, while others write their challenges in the sand and wait for the tide to wash them away. All of these things can help us renew ourselves spiritually. Find what works for you and schedule it often.

Social/Emotional

The social and emotional dimension of renewal doesn’t require us to set aside time, but it still requires effort. It requires that we listen with empathy, that we work together to find solutions to problems that all parties involved can agree upon, and it requires us to check ourselves. The way we relate to others has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves. The way we feel about ourselves often comes back to how true we are living to our internal values.

As you take time to sharpen your saw, be sure to focus on all four dimensions of renewal, because they are all interrelated and dependent on each other. And don’t let the cares of the day prevent you from improving and strengthening your skill set. After all, YOU are your greatest asset.

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5 Planner Locations for Tracking Goals from Start to Finish

We all want something in life. We want to become better people. We want to have nice possessions. We want to experience new things. The art of setting goals helps us get from where we are now to where life’s prizes wait.

Like other art forms, however, achieving a goal takes effort, practice, technique, and the right equipment.  Your FranklinPlanner has several sections to help support your goals, from the first desire for change to the victory lap.

1. Dashboard: Define Yourself

If goals are desires fulfilled, then it follows that the first step to achieving a goal is to identify your desires, or your values. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to have?
  • What do I want to do?
  • Who do I want to be?

The answers to these questions are the first step toward creating a framework for your goals, a schematic for your life. As you answer these questions, you can combine your reflective insights into a personal mission statement. Once you have developed this personal mission statement, write it down and keep it at the front of your planner. Many FranklinPlanner users decorate a Dashboard (Link to Planner Love Dashboard) with their mission statements, and place it so that it’s the first page they see when they open their binder.

2. Goal Planning Sheet: Develop the Details

Once you’ve defined your values, you can use a Goal Planning Form to map out the steps needed for each of your goals. Each Goal Planning Form gives you space to set deadlines for each step along the way, whether you’re improving your running times for a marathon, reaching word count milestones in your novel, or executing a new marketing strategy.

3. Future Planning Pages: Get the Big Picture

legacy monthSometimes it’s hard to see beyond next week, let alone plan for next year. However, many of life’s most enriching goals, like developing musical talent or becoming a better parent, require consistency for weeks, months, and years at a time.

As you set your goals, use your Future Planning Pages in the back of your planner to mark off long-term milestones related to your goal. Whether you’re marking each color of belt on your journey to black belt or planning a live performance for 2017, understanding the big picture gives perspective to the daily grind.

4. Daily Tracker: Form Your Habits

The loftiest dreams will never come true without daily effort.  Whether it’s practicing the piano, eating healthy, or spending less, small changes each day can add up to big improvement. Many planners have a Daily Tracker section to remind you of these small steps, but even if you simply record it in your list of daily tasks, the act of writing it down and crossing it off each day helps solidify your focus on your goals.

5. Monthly Index: Accountability Check

At the end of each month, review the progress that you’ve made. In your Monthly Index, give yourself a score for the things that you’re tracking daily, and identify what happened on the days when you slipped up. A monthly accountability check is a great time to fine-tune your goals, and prepare for the next month.

Your planner is a means unto an end: growth and development in your personal, professional, and social life. Take advantage of all the tools it has to offer, and you’ll make lasting positive changes in your life.

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What Actually Matters Most

Have you ever had a racetrack day—a day where you spend a lot of time moving but don’t get anywhere? It’s so easy to putter busily through your day and even check things off your list, and still feel dissatisfied with how you spent your time. That dissatisfaction often comes because we have things we’d like to do that truly matter to us, but somehow less-important activities supersede those things. We often talk about spending time on the things that matter most, but how do we ensure that happens? Here is one way:

Discover

Most people haven’t taken the time to truly discover what matters most to them. It’s an exercise in reflection that takes time, but is really worth it.

matters mostWrite a list of the various roles you play each week. That list would probably start with your titles: your profession, husband/wife, son/daughter, parent, coach, church member, aspiring photographer, neighbor, and friend. Then, begin to list other things that matter to you such as: artist, athlete, gardener, homemaker, student, traveler, and outdoorsman. That’s a lot of roles. You probably aren’t an expert in all of your roles, but you’ve just listed the areas of your life where you’d like to spend your time.

Now that you know how you spend your time, take a few minutes and write why those roles are important to you. As you do this, you’ll start to discover more about who you are at your core.

Everything we do stems from one or several of our core values. As you read through your list of why your roles are important, you’ll start to see trends in your answer. For example: perhaps one of the reasons your job is important to you is because it allows you to express some creativity while you provide for the needs of your family. You’ll also discover that you have a similar reason for your role as an aspiring photographer. You’ll then realize that you value creativity in your life. It’s important, then, that you regularly spend time in creative pursuits if you want a sense of fulfillment.

As you work through this exercise, you’ll find that you have several powerful core values that motivate your actions. Some of them may surprise you. These values make us who we are, and should ideally, act as the foundation for all of our decisions. They can help us get back on track when activities pop into our schedules that don’t align with our core values.

Reflect

Now that you have a list of values or priorities, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my biggest priorities? (Of all the values I’ve listed, which of them matter most to me?)
  • Do my day-to-day tasks reflect those priorities?
  • How do I spend the majority of my time?
  • Am I doing the things I truly want to be doing?
  • Is what matters most to me evident by how I spend my time?
  • Can I do more of the things that matter most?
  • What activities can I cut from my life to ensure I have the time for my top priorities?

This activity is a lot like deep cleaning. Before we can truly organize a room, we need to take everything off the shelf, wash it down, and carefully replace only the items that matter most to us. The rest end up getting recycled or thrown out. We need to consistently do the same with our activities, because our time is at least as limited as our space. We don’t shouldn’t waste it on actions that are inconstant with our core values.

Pursue

Now that you have your list of values, choose one or two that you’d like to strengthen and set goals related to it. Sticking with photography as our example, perhaps you’d like to learn more about ambient and artificial lighting as a way of increasing your creativity. Or perhaps you value strong family ties and choose to focus on that value by setting a goal to spend more individual time with your spouse or children.

Break your goals into small actions and schedule them in your daily planner. Because these tasks are based on your goals and rooted in your values, they will always take high priority on your schedule. This will ensure that they actually happen. If you find that you need to reschedule one of these tasks make sure it is being replaced by an even higher priority. As you do this, you will find that you have rooted out the activities that kill time and replaced them with activities that strengthen your core.

Now you aren’t just spinning your wheels—you’re actually going where you want to go.

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3 Things Worth Documenting in Your Planner

Most of the time, you use your planner for daily personal benefit. You’re not likely to open it up to a certain page and show off your schedule and notes to family or co-workers. But there are certain times in your life when the information you’ve written in your planner can provide vitally important data to reference later.

Your Written Words against Theirs

documentationWhether you are dealing with business clients, service providers, or organizations, the level of honesty and open communication determines whether you have a good experience or not. Unfortunately, no matter how you plan, you can’t control the honesty and ethics of others. Keeping records in your planner strengthens your case when conflicts arise, making it more than your word against theirs.

For instance, imagine that you’re calling customer service to cancel your gym membership. After a few questions and a few minutes, the representative tells you that your membership is canceled. Imagine your surprise, next month, when the membership fee is once again charged to your credit card.

Now let’s take this scenario and add in some preparation with your planner. Imagine that you’d written down the details of what was said, the promises made, and the name of the representative calling, all on the page for the date you made the call. Then when you called again, you would have all the information you need to escalate your complaint to the gym management. Then if the erroneous charges continued, you could also present the information to your credit card company.

It’s All in the Details

In many situations, you need to capture details quickly. If you’re involved in an auto accident, for example, recording more details may help close insurance loopholes that could work against you.  One FranklinPlanner user sent in an account of how, after a two-car crash, he recorded the time, the persons involved, and a detailed description of the damage on each car in his planner. When the case went to court, the written record was the main factor for the judge deciding in his favor.

The adrenaline burst after an accident, emergency, or crime fades quickly, taking with it your focus on the details. Without a written record, the memories can fade as well, especially when you have feelings of distress or pain. Another FranklinPlanner user recounts a time before he started using a planner. A car accident out-of-state left him with three cracked ribs and a totaled vehicle. The insurance company for the driver at fault called him a few days later, when he was out of the hospital and recovering with painkillers. Despite trying to remember the details, the answers he gave led the insurance company to deny his claim based on the laws of the state where the accident occurred. “If I’d have known better,” he writes, “I would have had the information written and ready, and I would have been more proactive in contacting someone about how to present it.”

Proof of Excellence

You strive to live an excellent life, using your planner to help you set goals and meet them. When outside events call your performance into question, the information you record in your planner can make all the difference to your reputation, your financial standing, and your career. When facing customer accusations or an interoffice dispute, your planner can help the truth come to light.

Hopefully, all of these scenarios remain purely hypothetical in your life. But if the worst does happen, recording essential documentation in your planner can help keep you on the path to success.

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Using Your Planner to Stay on Top of Your Chores

We all have household chores, but they vary to some degree depending on our living space, our stage of life, and what we value most. For example: In the early stages of marriage a husband and wife can plan and schedule weekly cleaning days and crank cleaningthrough the apartment quite quickly—leaving plenty of time to enjoy the weekend.

As children are added to the mix and our homes expand, the chores start to feel a lot more like chores. Toddlers aren’t great cleaners, but they are amazing mess makers—sometimes defying us to keep up. Eventually they grow older and become part of our team—taking on chores appropriate for their ages, until keeping the house orderly is a whole family affair. Then one day we realize our nest is empty, but the chores still need to be done. Interestingly, it’s the smallest things that take up most of our time and are often the hardest to manage each day.

Clearly, how you plan your everyday chores is in constant flux. However, some aspects of planning can remain the same. Here are a few of our suggestions:

Step 1 – Brain dump.

When life gets busy we often put off certain household chores in favor of the more noticeable jobs. For example: vacuuming the floor makes such a sudden difference, that if we’re in a rush we’ll vacuum but leave the bathtubs for another day. During exceptionally crazy months we may realize that our bathtubs have gone a bit too long without a good scouring.

One way to avoid this issue is to create a master list of all the chores you accomplish regularly. Include everything from daily to-dos to seasonal chores.

Step 2 – Categorize your chores.

Once you’ve made your master list, separate them into smaller lists according to frequency – daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal. Seasonal chore lists will need to be broken down into daily chunks. Remember as you do this that you still have daily chores that are going to dominate some of your time. We recommend adding a tab in your planner to keep all of these lists so you aren’t spending valuable time writing them again and again. When spring rolls around, simply pull out your spring list and get started.

Step 3 – Divide and conquer.

Before you jump into your chores, divide your lists again into segments that you can accomplish in short spurts of time. You’ll also want to create lists for family members, so the chores can be finished as quickly as possible.

Step 4 – Make it happen.

Now you’re ready to get started. Be sure to incorporate your weekly and monthly chores into your daily plans each morning, so you don’t fall behind.

As you work through your daily chores, you’re sure to have interruptions or find that some chores are bigger than you first thought. Be flexible and willing to move items to another day rather than burning out.

If you are looking for a place to keep your lists of chronic chores, consider using a page finder that moves with you day to day or create a stamp so you don’t have to rewrite them over and over.

Daily tasks fit nicely into your Prioritized Daily Task List in your daily planner, and among your to-dos in your weekly planner. They are also ideal for a Progressive Task List, or the back of your Weekly Compass® Card. Keeping track of your daily chores will help you move more efficiently through your day and give you more time for the activities you enjoy.

Everyday circumstances will alter our chore lists. Important events in our home, such as holiday get-togethers will require that we increase our housework in order to present a clean home before the party—and sometimes you’ll do even more work after the party is over. On the other hand, after school activities for our children will eliminate some of the time we have to work on chores and we’ll need to decide what is necessary and what can wait for another day.

However you plan and work through your daily chores, we appreciate you bringing your Franklin Planner along.

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Sync Your Planner with Technology

February checklistThere are two essential parts to accomplishing any goal. First comes the planning phase, where you:

  • Define the steps you need to take
  • Develop a strategy for accomplishing them
  • Schedule a timeline to complete them

Once the plan is in place, it’s up to you to handle the execution of your plan, making sure that you:

  • Take action
  • Meet deadlines
  • Coordinate with any other people involved in your project

Both planning and execution are essential to accomplishing your goal. Today, you have more options than ever to help you, from online calendars to virtual meeting rooms. These advancements give you great new options for executing your plans. When you combine the power of paper planning with electronic execution tools, you make powerful progress towards results.

Planning with a paper planner gives you some space in your own head, away from notifications and other online distractions. It also gives you space on paper, letting you gather information, make connections, and look to the future and the past.

Is five minutes enough time to prepare for a meeting? How about thirty? Electronic reminders certainly help you get to meetings on time, but it’s up to you to prepare well before the alarm goes off.

Planning out your day with a paper planner helps you stay mindful of what you need to accomplish with your time. You can identify the steps you need to take to make your meetings constructive, and plan out chunks of time to put them into action. Then, when your automatic calendar notification brings everyone involved together, you’re prepared to contribute.

Syncing your planner with your electronic calendar also gives you an edge in coordinating with co-workers, family members, and others. A shared calendar lets you see the schedule of each person in your group, letting you schedule collaborative tasks for times that work for everyone involved.

As you set dates and times for meetings, make sure to add information in your planner to remind you of additional details. There is only so much space in a notification title, after all.  HOA Meeting – March, for example, may have vastly different concerns than HOA Meeting – February.

To keep your life in sync with your goals, make your plan on paper, and execute it with the right tools.

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Finding a Healthy Balance Between Life and Work

Photographers and landscape painters have a term they call golden hour. It’s that time near sundown when the sun’s light is at the perfect angle to show striking contrast and definition in the things they’re shooting or painting. Because of the angle of the sun to the earth, and the amount of atmosphere the light passes through at that time of day, the light takes on a softer, golden look, casts yellow-orange highlights on faces and walls, and turns long blades of grass into shafts of light. This beautiful light is so fleeting that artists work frantically to capture as many images as they can, chasing the light until it’s gone.

In a way, each one of us is a photographer. We also IMG_2810have a golden hour—a time so precious that we rarely want to interrupt it—when we, too, scramble to absorb as much life as we can. It’s a daily struggle.

The term for this struggle is an idyllic phrase called “work/life balance.” It’s this idea that we should find some way to give as much or more to those we love as we do to those who pay our bills—the hope that, after all the time we’ve spent away from home, we’ll still find time to tinker on our hobbies, meditate or even exercise.

The truth is, workdays don’t offer much balance in our lives. We spend far more of our waking hours away from home than we spend doing the things we’d prefer to do. Still, one of the reasons we work is to enable us to do the things we truly love with those who matter most. That’s what makes those few hours after we arrive at home and before we go to bed so precious. The rest of our day is a marathon that we carefully pace, but those few fleeting hours become a desperate sprint.

That is the time we spend absorbing life and capturing moments. It’s when we share a dinner, listen to the events of the day, help with homework, attend recitals, watch soccer games, read stories, share a treat, and tuck children into bed. It’s our golden hour—and each day we urgently chase it until it’s gone.

This frenetic race against time is what motivated Benjamin Franklin to plan daily in his little black book, and it’s the reason most of our daily planners have our signature Prioritized Daily Task List. Because we don’t have much time after work, we need to prioritize the tasks we hope to accomplish within the time we have.

Your Prioritized Daily Task List makes it much easier to get the most out of your day. As you plan each morning, write everything you’ll need to do for work that day on your task list. Then leave a space and write everything you need to do at home. Don’t worry about any particular order; just get it out of your head and onto paper. Once your tasks have been written down, decide which items are priority A, B, or C. Then sort each segment by urgency—1, 2, 3, and so forth. Now start with A-1, and move through them all. Prioritizing your tasks in this manner ensures that, even if you can’t finish your list, you will always work on your most important items daily.

Nothing you want in life just happens. Everything comes at the cost of time and effort. The few minutes it takes each day to plan and prioritize your efforts is vitally important to your success.

After all, your golden hour only lasts so long each day. Make the most of it.

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5 Questions to Answer to Get You Out of Your Planning Rut

file4801310649783Everyone experiences periods of life when life events make it harder to keep up with your plans. At times like these, you may feel like your daily planning sessions have become less effective, that you’re stuck in a planning rut.

The key to getting back on track with your planning is to analyze what’s working for you, and to change what isn’t.  Just because a certain planning style has served you well in the past doesn’t mean that it will continue to do so. Your life changes constantly, and your planning system should keep up.

If you feel like you’re stuck in a planning rut, the solution may be to try a different planner format. Ask yourself these six questions to see how your current planner is meeting your needs:

  1. What are your planning priorities?

Are you using your planner primarily for business? Are you a busy parent, or an active member of your community? Or does your life include all of these aspects? Maybe you’re moving into a more creative role at work and need more space to connect your tasks and your notes. Or perhaps you’ve retired and your schedule has new space for different goals. Your planner needs to adapt to your new goals.

  1. When do you plan?

With your schedule, how much time and effort do you spend on planning? The honest answer is likely “as little as possible,” as the point of planning is to increase your efficiency in accomplishing your other goals. Select your daily or weekly planning format accordingly. If you’re consistently running out of space in your weekly planner, or leaving blank pages in your two-pages-per-day planner, then it’s time to consider switching.

  1. How do systems beyond your control (work schedule, coordinating schedules with others, etc) affect your plans?

Perhaps your younger kids are becoming more involved in extracurricular activities, filling January 2016 with more appointments than any three months in 2015, and you need more space to schedule them all. A more traditional design like Leadership might give you the structure to keep the parental chauffeur service up and running.

  1. How do you track your progress toward your goals?

You can’t accomplish a goal that you can’t measure. If you’re working toward goals with specific values, like increasing your savings or counting calories, a planner with a Daily Tracker section gives you a great tool for capturing your progress in an easy-to-reference place.

  1. What are the end results of my planning sessions?

If you’re seeing your goals become reality, then you know that your planning system is working. If you find that you’re giving up on certain goals, however, then it’s worth investigating a new planner format.

If your life is in a period of transition, or if you’re unsure of the best format for you, consider the Dot Grid Planner. With each day a blank canvas of dots, you can craft a plan for your changing needs. Draw more appointments on a busy Saturday, or highlight an important task in the center of Monday morning to hit your workweek running.

While everyone gets stuck in a planning rut now and then, thankfully, you don’t have to stay there when you do. When you select the right planner format, you’re already on your way to accomplishing your goals.

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4 Reasons to Revisit Your 2015 Planner

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Data is now a big business. From browsing history to Fitbit stats, we’re recording and analyzing more data than ever before, and using it to shape the future. As you continue into 2016, it’s time to mine your own data—the information contained in last year’s FranklinPlanner. Here are some helpful data categories you may find useful in 2016:

Scheduling: What weekends worked well for your summer vacation last year? How long has it been since your last dental appointment? Reviewing your appointments and calendar entries from last year can help inform your current plans, and make sure you stay healthy.

Brainstorming: Take the results of last year’s work meetings further. The notes you recorded in your planner can be a valuable source of inspiration for projects in 2016. For convenience, you should consider storing work notes in a separate Storage Case, so that you’re not flipping through weeks’ worth of pages to find the notes you need.

Learning from Failure: It’s natural (and mentally healthy) to move on when you make a mistake. But failures often teach us more than successes do. Take a moment to look back through 2015. If you let one of your goals slip, find the week where it happened and conduct your own analysis. Why did you fall off the wagon? Now that the pain of failure is insulated in the past, you’ll have a valuable resource to help you avoid pitfalls on this year’s goals.

Celebrating Your Success: On the other side of the coin, reviewing your 2015 planner can also help you see how far you’ve come. There’s a psychological phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome brings intense feelings of inadequacy, leading you to feel like you’re bluffing your way through life, that your accomplishments only come by luck, or that you’re taking credit where it isn’t due. If you’re facing Imposter Syndrome, use your planner to review your past processes, struggles, and achievements. Your planner is solid evidence of your contributions to career and family. It’s proof that your efforts have taken you in the right direction, proof that you’ve shaped your own destiny.

As you advance through 2016, the valuable insights in your 2015 FranklinPlanner give you the data you need to succeed.

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3 Reasons Why It’s Worth Tracking Your Life

IMG_3133Those of us who use a planner understand that it’s important to take more control of our lives. As we plan, we find ways to fit the things we need to do into the time we have each day. But a planner doesn’t just help us schedule our present and our future; over time it also creates a valuable record of our past. This record can have a profound effect on others and ourselves.

Our planners offer space to write about our day, our ideas, and our hopes and dreams. They become a journal of sorts. Journaling and recording our lives provides several benefits, but we’ll only mention a few here.

1.Clarity and stress relief

Life is stressful. It helps to talk about it. Sometimes it’s even more helpful to write about it. Writing is therapeutic. It acts as a relief valve for the stresses of the day. As you record your day in your journal or planner, you give yourself a safe place to relive and rethink each event. Writing about the activities of the day and noting your thoughts and feelings increases your clarity. It allows you time to gain a deeper perspective on the unfolding events of your life and the lives of those you love.

We spend most of our effort on the fire lines of life—rushing from flare up to flare up. As we journal and assess the events taking place in our life, we start to see the bigger picture. We remember the neighbor who shoveled our walk, the sister who called to check in with us, or the driver who slowed down to allow us to merge onto the freeway. There is so much data supporting the mental and emotional benefits of journaling that counselors, social workers, and therapists regularly encourage their patients to do it.

2. Improving our internal banter

Whether we realize it or not, most of us take mental notes at the end of the day and assess our accomplishments. We’re usually harder on ourselves than we ought to be. We often note all the things we weren’t able to get to, or the things we didn’t quite finish. Because we have high expectations for ourselves, even our accomplishments can appear to fall short.

Having high expectations and being a little demanding of our performance is ok. It can lead to better results down the road—but it can also lead to negative self-talk. If we aren’t careful we can fall into a habit of being overly critical of ourselves.

The trouble with these end-of-day mental notes is that they are incomplete. If they’re all we have to go by, we’re going to paint an inadequate image of our lives. We rarely give ourselves enough credit for the mundane things we do—those daily chores that somehow undo themselves by the end of the day.

By the time we’re wrapping up our day we’ve stopped focusing on the laundry we sorted, the homework we did or helped our children finish, the meals we prepared, the time we spent talking with a child or friend about their concerns, the grass we cut or snow we shoveled. Instead, we fall into bed exhausted and feeling anxious because we still have a mess on the counter or a sink full of dirty dishes. We wonder if we’ll ever catch up.

Your planner may be the best tool you have to prevent negative self-talk. It’s readily available and loaded with your accomplishments, goals, and dreams. If you are feeling inadequate as your day winds down, look through your planner and remember what you’ve accomplished. Then take a minute to write a few of the things you did that weren’t written down. Sometimes we need a morale boost, and you can often find yours right there in your planner. Our lives are busy and we usually accomplish far more than we realize.

3. Establish Identity

As you track your life you’ll start to notice patterns. You’ll realize what you like to do and what you’d rather not do. You’ll see how you handle stress and adversity. You’ll learn things from past events that can help you with your present situation. Over time, you’ll develop a greater sense of self, and these recorded events will empower you for the future.

Not only will tracking your life improve your own sense of self, but it will also add to your children’s identity. For example: My mother is now 75 years old. She has kept a journal her whole life. She has volumes of journals. From that vault of life events come several stories that changed me.

When my mother was 10 years old, her father was killed in a mining accident. Her mother was expecting baby number 6 at the time. Just a few weeks after her father died, her grandfather passed away as well. My mother has recorded these events in her journal along with several inspirational stories of how these two widows worked through their challenges to support and raise their families. As I’ve read these stories, I’ve realized how amazing my mother is and how strong her mother and grandmother were. They had to reach deep within themselves to find the fortitude to carry on through difficult times in their lives.

During tough times in my own life, I have often thought of those women and have known that I can do hard things too. Although I was not there when they were struggling through their challenges, I still feel like those experiences are a part of who I am. They shaped my mother and she shaped me—and I feel like a stronger person because of it.

Certainly you have experiences of your own that have strengthened your identity and helped you through hard times. Stories are powerful. They can lift and encourage us to do more and to try harder. You never know which event you record in your planner will become a source of hope and inspiration to your family and friends.

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8 Ways Your Planner Can Help You Manage Your Health

Have you ever noticed that unhealthy habits are woven easily and naturally into the fabric of our lives? Getting out of shape takes no effort at all—it can happen in our sleep, while we’re sitting on the couch, or even while we’re working at our desks. But it seems to take an almost superhuman effort to develop healthy habits that root the bad habits out of our routine. Sometimes it feels like our feeble efforts are pointless.

planner workout2If that describes you, don’t give up. Remember that the efforts you do make have a positive effect on your life, and that small, seemingly simple things can add up to significant improvement over time. Here are a few ways your planner can help you develop habits that become a permanent part of your healthy life.

1. Schedule Time For Fitness

Use your appointment column to schedule your fitness training and keep the appointment. If we simply write ‘exercise’ on our task list, we still need to make time for the workout. But if we set aside a specific time for our workout during our morning planning session, we’ve given our workout a higher priority, and we’re more likely to stick to our goals.

2. Schedule Sleep

Most of the world is sleep deprived. Studies show that consistent sleep improves our health in countless ways. It improves our mental health, our focus, our weight and metabolism, and our ability to fight off illness. It is important that we wake at a consistent time each morning, even on weekends and holidays. That means that it is imperative that we retire to bed at an appropriate time each night. As you schedule time for an evening routine with your family and settle into bed at a consistent time each day, you’ll find that more than just your physical health will improve. You’ll notice a difference in nearly every facet of your life from your weight to your relationships.

3. Track Your Water Intake

We all know that water is essential to life and that getting enough of it makes a huge difference in every aspect of our health. Most of us live in areas where access to clean, fresh drinking water is simple, yet studies show that the majority of us are dehydrated. Getting enough water has positive effects on your weight, your skin, your ability to fight off illness, and even your mental health.

Here’s a simple way to ensure you’re drinking the amount of water you should each day. Draw water cups on your planner pages and fill them in as you drink throughout the day. If you’re a few glasses away from where you’d like to be by dinnertime, increase your water intake.

4. Track What You Eat

Sometimes it’s tough to recall everything we’ve eaten during the day. If you are serious about measuring your caloric intake, it will help to track what you’re currently eating. Your planner makes it easy. Simply write down the foods and snacks you eat in your planner. If you use your appointment time slot for this list, you can easily track what you eat and when you are eating. This can lead to important changes down the road.

5. Schedule Time For Meals and Meal Preparation

It may seem simple, but scheduling your mealtimes helps ensure that you are eating a healthy meal at an appropriate and consistent time each day. This is essential for health. Eating meals at irregular intervals disturbs your body’s ability to metabolize energy. As you schedule your meals, be sure to set aside time to prepare your food. Typically, home cooked food is healthier than frozen meals or foods eaten on the go, but good food takes time. Plan that time into your day and your nutrition will improve.

6. Plan Your Weekly Menu

Create a space in your planner for a weekly menu where you plan what you’ll prepare. Add any essential items to your shopping list to ensure you have what you need for the week. Great meals begin with great ingredients. A little planning will ensure you have those items on hand.

7. Consider our Health and Fitness Tracker

The Health and Fitness Tracker form helps you track your nutrition intake as well as your exercise sessions. Each week, you can monitor the food you eat and the nutritional value of each meal, such as how many grams of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins you consume.

There is ample room to track your workouts, along with summary sheets so you can measure your improvement over time. It also includes a resource of helpful hints and detailed forms that simplify goal setting, planning programs, and ways to track your results.

8. Consider Your Emotional State

Physical health affects our mental and emotional health, but the reverse is also true. There are several ways to improve our emotional wellbeing, from taking part in service for others, to spending time on our hobbies, enjoying time with our families, and time alone. Be sure to schedule these activities in your planner and guard them. Don’t allow other events of the day to crowd them out, because these events are a vital part of your identity.

Noticing a trend? Good health takes time, and there is no better way to ensure you have the time for your health than by using a planner.

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How to Pick a Planner in 2016

It’s time to order a new planner for 2016. Being creatures of habit, most of the time we order what we’ve been using—but now and then it’s fun to change things up a bit. If you’re in the mood for something different this year, here are a few things to consider.

Format

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Consider your needs when you make your decision. How often do you reference your planner each day? For example: years ago I used a two-page-per day planner. They’re ideal for those of us who have several daily meetings and appointments. They offer a page for notes, and plenty of room for your tasks. But after a while I realized that most of my pages were empty. I didn’t need two pages of paper to manage my day.

Later, I tried a one-page-per-day planner. They have everything you can find in a two-page-per-day planner, but the layout is smaller. Instead of a whole page for notes, you have a half page. It was a great alternative for me, but I realized that for my personality, I needed to see an even bigger picture of my schedule.

For the past few years, I’ve been using the beautiful Textures Weekly Planner. My job doesn’t include high-end executive decisions or a lot of daily meetings. My work is project-based. For me, weekly planners are the perfect solution. I can open my planner to the week and keep it there. I can see my whole week at a glance and see the progress I’m making on each of my projects. I know many people in situations like mine who plan much more than I do. But for my personality, a weekly planner seems to work best.

If you let your personality, your planning habits, and your schedule influence your decision, you’ll end up with the ideal planner format for you.

Size

If you are wondering which size is best for you, just consider: 1) how portable you would like your planner to be, and 2) the amount of space you will need for writing. Monarch planners are our largest size, measuring 8.5” W x 11” H. They’re great for those who like to write large and need a lot of space but they aren’t nearly as portable as our Pocket planner, measuring 3.5” W x 6” H. Of course, with a Pocket planner, you trade your room to write for convenient portability. Let your life dictate your needs.

Between those two extremes lie our two most popular planner sizes: Classic, 5.5”W x 8.5” H and Compact, 4.25”W x 6.75” H. These sizes offer both portability and functionality. You simply need to decide which size fits your lifestyle best. Because they’re our most popular sizes, you’ll find our greatest variety of designs in these two sizes.

Structured or Unstructured Layout

Some of our planners have a very structured layout—providing space for your Prioritized Daily Task List, Appointments, Notes, and a Daily Tracker. Other planners are more open allowing you to decide what you want to focus on each day. As you browse your planner options, consider how much structure you require to be effective each day and choose a planner the fits your lifestyle.

Wire-bound or Ring-bound

Your planner’s binding makes a difference. Ring-bound planners require a binder and wire-bound planners don’t. Because the wire-bound planner is self-contained you can grab it and go without any other expenses. That’s great until you want to add something to your planner.

Ring-bound planners offer greater personalization. You can add forms wherever you’d like, add additional notes pages, or simply hole-punch an item and place it in your planner. Because ring-bound planners require a binder, you also have the added benefits of a binder; pen loops, a notebook slot, pockets, and a cardholder. Luckily, we have covers for your wire-bound planner that offer the same features as our binders.


Design

It helps if you enjoy what you find when you open your planner. You’ll find a range of designs in our planner selections from simple to ornate. Some offer photographs or whimsical paintings on the pages while others display graphic designs, patterns, drawings, or daily comics. Still others offer clean, simple lines. Your personal tastes will play a large part in the selection of your planner.

Some people like to do a little designing of their own. We offer planners that give you room and freedom to embellish them however you wish. Your planner is a personal decision, and since no two people are alike, we offer a wide range of planners for any personality.

Discover the Planner That’s Best for You

Hopefully these basic suggestions have been helpful. In the end, you simply want to find the planner that fits your lifestyle.

While you’re browsing our site for your next planner, take a moment to look at our newest planners and binders. We also have beautiful new storage cases in five creative colors along with our traditional black and burgundy. Now you can store your planner pages in a style that matches your personality.

Good luck and happy shopping!

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Simplifying December

toronto-in-winter-1144905-1279x1705December is a month to spend with family. Sometimes though, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important, reacting to holiday parties, school concerts, classroom treat days, and cultural expectations instead of planning a meaningful holiday season. Here are five tips to help you simplify your December and reclaim some quality time with your family.

1. Organize Your Holiday Gift List

Helping Santa get the things on everyone’s wish list can be quite a chore. You can simplify this with a list in your planner. List the names of your family members, the gifts they want, where you want to buy it, the cost, and a running total on your budget. Then, when you’re going through the holiday ads and find a great deal, you can write it next to the item on your list, saving you the trouble of bringing pages’ worth of mailers with you on your shopping trip.

2. Track Your Family Events

As your kids bring their school schedules home, take the time to mark their events on the calendar in your planner, and on your family calendar. Putting events up ahead of time can help you resolve scheduling conflicts with a minimum of hurt feelings.

3. Prepare for House Guests

If you’re planning on having family or friends stay with you for the holidays, or even just inviting people over for a party of your own, you will want to present a clean and organized house. If you have any organization projects that you’ve been putting off, it’s better to tackle them well before your guests arrive. Identify the tasks that need to be done, and then mark those tasks on the days leading up to your event, so you’re not rushing to clean at the last minute.

4. Make Room For Traditions

With all the holiday fun going on outside your home, make sure to make time for your own family’s holiday traditions. Whether it’s decorating the house, baking pies, dipping chocolate, or watching your family’s favorite holiday movie (“Stink! Stank! Stunk!”), don’t let the holiday rush crowd them out.

5. Schedule Down Time

Most importantly, as you look at your holiday calendar, make sure to schedule some down time. With many family members to visit, and all of them expecting a visit on the holiday itself, it’s easy for a series of celebrations to feel like a set of errands. Scheduling out visits on days other than the actual holiday can help make your holiday together time more enjoyable.

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10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving This Holiday Season

By Patty Gardner

Thriving-During-Holiday-Season-515x386The holidays can be tricky for people who are already on a tight budget with their time, money and stress level.  I know I already have more to do than I can possibly do and the holidays just about push me over the edge.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are things we can do to survive and even thrive during this holiday season.

1.       There are SO many things you could do during the holidays, and most likely, your schedule will not allow you to do all of them.  So before you get started, CHOOSE what activities are most important to you and schedule them in.  Decide which activities are the LEAST important and mark them off the list.  You can’t do everything so decide ahead of time what you will do.

2.       Skip what you can.  Just because you’re invited to something doesn’t mean you have to go.  Since there are more than enough activities to choose from, skip what you can so you can focus on the things you really want to do.

3.       If you like shopping for Christmas presents at the stores, then schedule shopping time.  If you don’t, do as much shopping as possible on-line.  But do it soon so you’ll be sure to get your gifts on time.

4.       If you’re attending or hosting parties, don’t be ashamed to buy food pre-made.  Yes, homemade is usually better but you can only do what you can do.  So if you’re short on time and energy, buy it at the store!  There’s no shame in that.

5.       Do the minimum on the house.  Yes, I actually said skip the housecleaning – but not all of it!  Straighten, vacuum, keep the bathroom(s) clean and clean the kitchen as you go.  If you spill something, clean it immediately.  If you get something out, put it away.  But if time is short, don’t worry about a lot of cleaning.  Just do the minimum.  You can catch up when the holidays are over.

6.       Cook easy meals.  Use your crock pot whenever you can.

7.       Don’t pack your activities in too tight.  If you already have an event for one evening, don’t try to plan something else that day, too.  It’s tempting to schedule events back to back, but don’t do it.  That will definitely stress you out.

8.       Allow down time.  You want to get through the holidays with your sanity so schedule some time to just relax.  It might be hard to fit it in, but it’s important.  It can be time for just you or time with the family.  But don’t go, go, go – unless that’s what you like.

9.       Don’t start something new!  If you’re thinking about making big changes to one of your systems (planner, cleaning schedule, etc.)DON’T.  Wait until January when things are slower.  Even if your life is busy all the time, January will still be slower than December.

10.     Don’t skip the things that are important in an effort to save time.  I’m talking about basics like your spiritual life, your sleep, good food, time with family, exercise.  You think you’ll save time by skipping these but in the end they cost you much more than you gained.

So which of these do you need to put into practice in order to thrive this holiday season?

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5 Tips for the Holiday Host

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The holidays are all about togetherness. When you host gatherings at your home, though, you become responsible for the holiday experience of your guests. The two keys to successful holiday hosting are clear communication and impeccable organization, and your FranklinPlanner can help you with both. Here are six tips for successful holiday hosting.

1. Plan Early

A successful get-together is all about the details. You’ll need to coordinate the date, time, location, and activities with your guests. If you’re planning on serving food, you’ll need a menu and a shopping list. Before you reach out to finalize your invitations, sit down with your planner and brainstorm as many details as you can. Then when you call your guests, you’ll be prepared to confirm or adapt your plans as needed.

2. Delegation Invitation

As you call your guests, feel free to discuss ways that they can help with your plans. Whether it’s bringing a dish to a dinner or spending a fun evening with the kids so you can have a holiday date, with the possibilities laid out in your planner, you can give them a straight answer when they ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

3. Plan B

Even the best plans can still be sidetracked. Winter weather, seasonal illness, and other factors can delay your guests, or keep them from coming altogether. If you’ve delegated important tasks to your guests, be sure to keep a backup plan on hand. Then if your plans need to change, neither you nor your guests will feel guilty.

4. Freshen Up

If you’re planning on hosting guests for an extended stay, then you’ll want spruce up the guest bedroom. Make a note in your planner two or three days before they arrive to remind you to vacuum the floor, change the bed sheets, and relocate anything you’re storing in the guest room to give your guests space for their luggage. And whether you’re hosting for an extended period or having guests over for the evening, it’s always a good idea to make sure the guest bathroom has fresh towels and a clean tub, toilet, sink, and counter.

5. Plan Time Together

With all of your plans, make sure to include time together. If you spend all your time making perfecting touches on your meals or decorations, you’ll miss the chance to connect with your guests. Your careful plans should be geared toward creating memorable experiences with your guests, with your plans now giving you more time to enjoy together. If you have music, the smell of delicious food, holiday lights, and conversation with your family and friends, you’ll have enough for a great holiday.

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Reasons To Be Thankful For Your Planner

Scott And Kim 2013

With Thanksgiving just days away you’re likely taking mental notes of the things that are important to you—things that you can’t imagine living without—your spouse, your children, dear friends, your faith, a washing machine, dishwasher, microwave…your planner. You would include your planner on that list, wouldn’t you? After all, there are all sorts of reasons to be thankful for your planner.

Your planner helps you to be more accountable for the way you spend your time. It’s your appointment keeper, your daily reminder, and your goal tracker. In a way, it’s your secretary for life. It helps you stay on top of your schedule, manage your time, and spend more time doing what you want to be doing. It makes you dependable and reliable.

As you check off your tasks and track your daily progress, your planner becomes a great source of motivation. After all, who doesn’t like to cross things off their lists as they complete them?

Speaking of lists, isn’t it nice to write a list and know exactly where it is? Before your planner, how many times did you write a grocery list and lose it before you actually went shopping? Not any more. Now your planner can be your grocery list shelter, your password protector, and your library book due-date reminder. It can help you keep track of the movies you’d like to see, the books you’d like to read, and the recipes you want to sample for dinner. All of those lists are safely protected in your planner.

Your planner keeps you grounded. It helps you view your life from the ultimate zoom lens—allowing for a broad perspective of the big picture and an up-close view of the slightest details necessary to make it all happen. It’s the ideal place to track your long-term goals, aspirations, and dreams, as well as the daily action items to ensure you reach them—from planting seeds to drinking enough water to even budgeting your lunch expenses.

In that same vein, your planner can help you keep tabs on each of your life roles: spouse, child, sibling, parent, employee, friend, and more. You can quickly assess where you are spending most of your time and effort and where you need to improve. But it doesn’t stop there. Once you have that information, your planner is the perfect tool to walk you through that process step by step—so you can find more balance in your life and feel greater peace.

Your planner is your personal assistant, helping you make the most of your time and energy. It’s ready to be your idea organizer, your project coordinator, and your budget monitor. It makes the perfect networking list, on-the-go directory, and coupon organizer. Imagine the time you’d lose if you had to keep all that information in separate places!

Your planner is your secret keeper— an ideal location for birthday and anniversary reminders, holiday shopping lists, and the phone number for your favorite floral shop. There is nothing quite so rewarding as seeing a surprise come neatly together. That’s the power of a planner.

Your planner can keep you a half step ahead of the chaos of life as you manage doctor and dentist appointments, parent-teacher conferences, and your children’s vaccinations. It’s where you’ll plan vacations and schedule time for soccer games and music recitals. Planning keeps you where you want to be and ensures you spend time with the people who matter most, no matter how crazy your world becomes.

It’s your idea vault—the perfect place to store favorite quotes, doodles, and interesting tidbits you hear throughout the day. That way it becomes a great source of creativity for your next project or presentation.

It’s a great way to avoid debt. Your planner is the perfect place to monitor your budget and track your finances so you can enjoy more financial freedom.

All that said, a planner is a great way to tell your life story. Imagine your grandchildren thumbing through your planner one day. What would they learn about you? They may marvel at the cost of gasoline, or the things that occupied your time, but most likely they’ll realize the sort of person you were striving to be, and the good you were working to accomplish. In that way, your planner is the ideal embellishment for your life story, and should you choose, you can even add some planner embellishments of your own to keep it all interesting.

This holiday season as we focus on the gifts we enjoy each day, let’s take a minute to consider how lucky we are to have and use a planner—because our time is precious and our planners help us make the most of it.

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Have a Happy Thanksgiving

With only four days until the big day, it’s time to make some shopping lists. Whether you’re hosting the whole family or making your favorite dish to share, you’ll want to make an organized grocery list. Sort the items on your list into sections: produce, meat, dairy, etc., to help you complete your shopping trip in a single lap. And with Black Friday only days away, now is a great time to note any special deals you have your eye on and map out your shopping plan. Most importantly, though, be sure to make enjoying time with your family more important than any other item on your list.

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5 Weeks to Christmas Countdown

There are less than six weeks left until Christmas. For the kids in your life, that seems like forever. For you, though, it doesn’t leave much time to get ready. Here are some suggestions to help you beat the holiday rush, starting now:

Five Weeks Out: Affix Postage Here

Greeting cards are a fun tradition for many families, and a chance for a more personal and tangible connection than a birthday reminder on Facebook. If you send out cards, now is the time to get everything ready. If you don’t already have a list of contacts, use some Address/Phone Tabs and create one that you can use year after year. Print out your photos, buy envelopes and postage, draft your yearly letter if that’s your thing, and set aside a night to get everything ready to mail. This will give your friends the chance to enjoy your season’s greeting during the season itself.

Four Weeks Out: Lock In Your Menu

From special dinners with family and friends to seasonal treats to ubiquitous chocolates, food takes center stage in many holiday traditions. Whether you’re planning on hosting a social gathering worthy of Martha Stewart or just attending a few smaller get-togethers, take the time to plan out your food contributions. Make a list of all the important meals you plan on serving this holiday season, and then list the ingredients you’ll need on a Menu Planner-Shopping List. As you’re out shopping for Thanksgiving, check for non-perishable or storable ingredients for your December meals, like cans of pumpkin, piecrusts, biscuit dough, or sale-priced turkeys for your deep freeze. You’ll still need to make shopping trips in December, but preparing now will help cut the time you spend on each trip.

Three Weeks Out: Get Things Wrapped

When you were a kid, you never knew that Santa was such a hard worker. It takes time and the right supplies to create a well-wrapped holiday gift, and choosing to take that time on Christmas Eve after your family festivities will likely see you wrapping into the wee hours of Christmas morning. Start the wrapping process this week with the gifts you’ve already purchased, and Santa can get some well-deserved shuteye on December 24.

Two Weeks Out: Remember Your Neighbors

Sharing a thoughtful gift with your neighbor is a great way to get in the spirit of the season. Some fun and thoughtful gifts include a box of tissues with a fun poem, or the traditional Hawaiian gift of a pineapple. As you plan out gifts for your neighbors, use the contact pages in your planner to set the scope of your gift list, and then write down a task on the day or days you plan on delivering. Then try to get these gifts out before the craziness of the last week of the holidays. You can also keep a couple of extras for the neighbors who aren’t on the list that stop by with a gift for you.

One Week Out: Enjoy

By December 20, you’ll have holiday cards displayed on your mantle, cookies smelling great in the oven, and everything wrapped and ready for Santa to come. Start with a plan, and you’ll have the mental space to enjoy the season with those you love.

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Holiday 2015 Gift List

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Whether you have or not, give yourself some peace of mind by having your gift giving organized and in one place. Download this Holiday Gift List and track who you’re giving the gift to, what it is, how much it cost, and its wrapping status!

Holiday Gift List

 

Holiday 2015 Gift List – Classic

Holiday 2015 Gift List – Compact

Holiday 2015 Gift List – Monarch

Holiday 2015 Gift List – Pocket

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Using Your Planner to Focus on What Matters Most

binder spines

Time is precious—once spent we can never earn it back. With all that we have going on in our lives, it’s easy to spend days spinning our wheels but going nowhere, and that’s so frustrating.

To one degree or another, all of us could improve our focus, and a planner is a powerful tool to make that happen. Used properly, your planner can be more than just a place to manage your lists of appointments and things to do; it can completely change your life. Here are some things your planner can help you do better than anything else:

Determine the Roles that Matter Most to You

A planner is an ideal place to write down each role that you play during your day—Mother/Father, employee, neighbor, athlete, etc. Keeping track of the various roles you play helps you remember who is relying on you to act in those roles. Your planner gives you an opportunity to focus on each role and set goals associated with each aspect of your life.

Set and Keep Goals

One of the greatest strengths of your planner is its power to help you remember and motivate you toward your goals. Once written, they’re always in front of you reminding you of the desire that drove you to set the goals in the first place. Memory is powerful, and simply looking at the list on a regular basis can give you the encouragement you need to finish.

As you break your goals down to bite-sized bits and schedule them into your daily and weekly activities, you’ll soon find yourself farther along than you could ever be if you were relying on your memory and internal motivation alone.

Prioritize Your Daily Tasks

Many of our planners include a Prioritized Daily Task List. This powerful tool makes it easy to determine what you need to accomplish first each day. It’s the secret to keeping your most important matters at the center of your life.

Each day, simply write every task that you’d like to accomplish on your list, then read through your list and sort your tasks by priority or role with A, B, or C. Then sort all of your A tasks by priority—1, 2, 3 etc. Do the same with your lists of B and C tasks. This will help ensure you’re working on the tasks most closely related to your values and goals. It’s a great way to keep things in proper perspective. It may be one of the most powerful activities you do each day.

Even if your planner doesn’t have a Prioritized Daily Task List, you can create your own list of tasks and incorporate the same idea into your planning with any of our planners.

Keep a Daily Record

Your planner gives you a place to record your successes and failures. If your chosen planner format includes a Daily Tracker, you can note your efforts toward certain goals each day. Knowing you will need to report on your efforts, if only on paper, is a great motivator to encourage you to do your best work. Even without a Daily Tracker, you can always designate a place in your planner to report your efforts toward your goals. Track the number of glasses of water you drank, the distance you ran, or the time you spent improving a talent.

Report Often

If you still struggle to manage your time, even with all of your tasks and appointments at your fingertips, you aren’t alone. These amazing lists of tasks and goals do little for us if we forget to look at them. Set reminders on your phone to check your planner often throughout the day. Set your smartphone to vibrate or alarm every half-hour and then jot down whatever you were doing when the alarm rang on your notes page. This is an incredibly powerful way to develop stronger habits and improve your focus.

With a plan and a little daily effort, you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish in a short time. Now take courage and your planner and start making the most of your time.

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Bella Leather Binder

Add a new shade to your wardrobe this season. This soft, nappa leather binder comes in some of our softest pastels yet, exploring new areas of our binder palette with Blush Pink and Arctic Blue. With gold details on the magnetic strap closure and gold hardware to match, this binder gives you two pen loops, card slots, an ID window, and a notepad slot. It also features a large side pocket, a secretarial pocket, a gusseted zipper pocket, and an interior pocket.

Compact measures 6” W x 7.75” H x 2.25” D, Ring Size 1.25”

Classic measures 7” W 9.5” H x 2.5” D, Ring Size 1.5”

IMG_0627

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3 Ways to Use Your Planner for Holiday Budgeting

bella holiday spread

The holidays are coming, and you’re probably starting to look forward to celebrating with family and friends. You’re probably not looking forward to paying for these celebrations, however. It’s hard enough to make it through Halloween in the (orange and) black, and then the biggest gift-giving season ramps up. Here are three ways your FranklinPlanner can help keep your budget healthy:

Individualized Gift Budget Tracker

Take a moment today and write out a list of everyone you plan on giving gifts to this holiday season. You can include your family members, extended family members, neighbors, coworkers, teachers, caregivers, and others who serve you, such as your letter carrier and hairstylist. When you’ve listed everyone, write the dollar amount that you want to spend on each person. Tally up these figures to find your total holiday budget.

As you shop holiday sales and buy gifts at a discount, deduct the retail price of your gifts from your gift budget rather than the sale price. Your loved ones will still get all the value you planned on giving, and you won’t be as tempted to buy extra gifts to meet your original limit. You can also use some of the extra budget to buy small gifts, like tins of cocoa or boxes of chocolate. Then when someone unexpected gives you a surprise gift, you’ll have a gift on hand to reciprocate.

Sale Date Tracker

From now until the end of the year, most of the gifts on your list will be on sale at one point or another. The challenge comes in weaving limited-time sale opportunities into a busy holiday schedule. Use your planner to make the process more transparent. As you browse through the mailing lists from your favorite retailers, mark down the promotional dates and amounts in your planner. When everything’s down on the page, you can see the big picture, letting you hit the best sales while taking fewer last-minute trips.

Shipping Deadline Reminder

Ben Franklin said it best: “Haste makes waste.” Many sites list holiday shipping deadlines, their recommended ordering date for delivery by December 24. Take a look at these deadlines and mark these dates in your planner. Then you won’t be left hovering over the mailbox, or doubling the price of your gift for overnight shipping.

This is also a good practice if you participate in free shipping programs, such as ShopRunner. Give your orders a head start, and they won’t get caught in the crowd of the procrastinators’ orders.

The biggest key to any budget is mindfulness. With daily and weekly planning sessions, your FranklinPlanner can ensure that you make it through the holiday season with peace of mind as you celebrate what matters most.

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5 Ways to Use Your Planner for Holiday Shopping

The season of giving is a wonderful time to share with family and friends. It’s a great opportunity to remind others how much they mean to you. Extravagance is not necessary—a thoughtful note, a meaningful card, or a small gift can mean a lot. The trick is finding the right gifts for the right people all while staying within your budget. That’s what makes your planner so powerful.

1. Establish your holiday budget.

Look at your finances now and decide what is a reasonable amount to spend on holiday shopping. Create budget segments in your planner for décor, party expenses, meal planning, and gifts, and determine how much you can afford to devote to each. Our Financial Plans Supplement can help you determine a reasonable amount for your holiday budget (and so much more).

2. Devote a notes page in your planner for shopping lists.

If you’re worried about prying eyes, find an empty notes page in an inconspicuous location—June, for instance. List the items you’re considering for each family member below their name. Research the items and place dollar values next to each item to help determine which gifts you will be able to give.

3. Determine where you’ll find each item.

Make lists by location: Target, FranklinPlanner.com, Adorama, etc. List the items you plan to purchase from each location. Take note of free shipping thresholds and other offers that can extend your shopping dollars.

4. Mark your monthly calendar for important events.

Track sales events in your monthly calendar to ensure you’re getting a good deal for the items you purchase and to ensure you don’t miss a big opportunity to save. Speaking of savings opportunities, our most recent catalog has some great offers that will help your dollar go further, and keep an eye out for our Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales coming soon.

5. Set holiday shopping goals.

Your planner is a proven way to ensure you set and reach your goals. Make shopping goals to ensure you are finished with your shopping in plenty of time to enjoy the season stress-free. Mark dates in your planner for ordering online items, plan shopping trips to beat the rush, and schedule your Black Friday shopping party now, so you can relax knowing your gifts are in hand.

So open your planners now and start your stress-free holiday giving. After all, there is a lot more to the season than worrying about gifts.

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Thanksgiving is Coming! Is your Planner Ready?!

By Patty Gardner

Thanksgiving is coming, and it’s going to be at my house again (like it has been for the last 20 years or more).  I’ve hosted so many times that I can almost plan the menu and prepare the food with my eyes closed.  But I don’t.  And even though I know what I’m doing, I still use my trusty planner to figure out what to do and when to do it.

The first thing I do is pull out last year’s planner and read about how last year’s Thanksgiving went.  Then I get out my calendar and highlight Thanksgiving on my monthly calendar so I can see at a glance how much time I have before the big day arrives. Since I have ADHD, I don’t always have a realistic view of how much time has passed or how much time is still remaining.  That’s why it’s important for me to have a visual reminder of exactly when the holiday is – more than just a box on the calendar – a HIGHLIGHTED box.

FC - Thanksgiving 3Then I go to the Thanksgiving page in my planner and insert a blank piece of paper.  On that paper, I write down who I think will be coming so I can get a count.  I also decide what time we’ll eat and write down a tentative menu.  We like to have most of the same foods year after year but we tried to include a few new things each holiday.  Anyway, on that blank piece of paper I jot down any thoughts I have about the menu, the guest list or anything else about the holiday.  I start doing this in October at the latest.

As November gets closer, I start finalizing the recipes and assigning foods to other family members (I let them tell me what they want to bring and then make it fit the menu).  I write on the Thanksgiving planning page who’s bringing what.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving I start writing down all the extra things we’ll need like plates, silverware, napkins, salt & pepper, butter, coffee (I always forget coffee), ice, etc.  It sounds silly to write all that stuff down but I want to make things as easy and mindless as possible on Thanksgiving.  I don’t want to forget anything and I don’t want to be stressed.

At the beginning of the week of Thanksgiving I write out a plan.  My plan includes what I’m cooking and when.  I get pretty detailed about what needs to be done when.  And I post that plan so it’s visible to everyone.  Then if they want to help, they have a better idea of what to do and I know what to tell them.

FC - Thanksgiving 2

And then . . . when it’s all over, I write details on my notes page about how it went and what I might want to do different or the same next year.  And before the lights go out on Thanksgiving, I move on to Christmas . . . no wait, I already started planning for Christmas.  But that’s an article for another day!!!

 

 

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4 Questions to Consider Before Choosing a Planner for 2016

open binder

With the holiday season approaching, it’s a great time to order your 2016 planner. But with such a wide selection of planner formats, sizes, and designs, selecting the right planner for you may be a little daunting. Answer the following questions while selecting your planner, and you’ll find the one that’s tailored for your planning needs.

When Do You Plan?

Deciding on the right format for your planning needs is the first step to choosing your planner. If you have a large number of tasks each day and you need plenty of space for notes, then a daily planner is a good choice. Weekly planners specialize in displaying a full week of appointments at a glance or managing a smaller number of tasks for each day.

What Do You Plan?

The Original FranklinPlanner was designed for business (even though many people customize it to fit their busy schedules). It dedicates page space to tasks, appointments, a daily tracker, and a full page of notes. But there is more to life than a traditional career, so new designs emphasize a different mix of these elements. One may emphasize appointments, while another gets rid of the daily appointment schedule in exchange for more notes space. The Dot Grid Planner even lets you design your own daily planning with a page of dots for each day. Knowing how you use your planner will help you narrow your selection.

How Big Do You Plan?

Once you’ve answered the first two questions, you will have a focused group of planner designs to choose from. Now you’ll need to decide on the planner size that fits your life.

If you’re a long-time planner user, you will probably have a binder and accessories in your preferred size. However, if your analysis of your planning needs shows that your situation has changed and a smaller size is a better fit, consider updating your planning experience with a fresh binder to match.

What is Your Personal Style?

When you’ve narrowed down your format and size, you’ll have a group of planner designs to choose from. Will you choose a playful, colorful design?(RetroPop) Or a more subdued, textured design?(Wanderlust) Will you explore one of our new designs?(Watercolor) Or stick with our time-tested top seller?(Original)

No matter how you plan on planning in 2016, FranklinPlanner.com has something for you.

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Dot Grid Wire-bound Daily Planner

Your plans change for each day of your life. Why shouldn’t your planner change to match them? The Dot Grid Planner lets you adapt each day with a page full of ordered dots, letting you create your own planning layout. Draw a large box for your daily schedule, line a page for notes, or doodle a memory. With one page for each weekday, a shared page for Saturday and Sunday, and monthly tabs included, this design lets you customize your personal planning experience.

Available in Classic size. This planner features a wide wire binding and is designed to fit in wide wire-bound covers.

66202_4lrgcase

 

IMG_2760 IMG_2762 IMG_2764 IMG_2765

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50 Ways to Use Your Planner

Scott And Kim 2013

Need some new planning ideas? Here are 50 ways you can use your planner, starting with the traditional and moving to the extra creative:

  1. Appointments
  2. Tasks
  3. Notes
  4. Calendar
  5. Budgeting
  6. Fitness Tracker
  7. Nutrition Tracker
  8. Menu Planning
  9. Brainstorming
  10. Journaling
  11. Addresses
  12. Phone Numbers
  13. Birthdays
  14. Business Card Storage
  15. Habit Tracker
  16. Gratitude Journal
  17. Daily Inspiration
  18. Stream of Consciousness
  19. Family Scheduler
  20. Doodle Pad
  21. Scrapbooking
  22. Storyboarding
  23. Late-night Idea Repository
  24. Medical and Dental Appointment Reminders
  25. Password Log
  26. Library Book Due Date Tracker
  27. Party Planner
  28. Unified Travel Itinerary
  29. Class Scheduler (one syllabus to rule them all)
  30. Redbox® Reminder
  31. Free Trial Cancellation Reminder
  32. Scratch Paper (cell phone calculators have but one line)
  33. Quote Capturer
  34. Corner Flipbook Animation (one picture at a time)
  35. Movie Collection Catalog
  36. Home Maintenance Log
  37. Garden Map
  38. Fuse Box Map
  39. Attic/Cellar/Shed Contents List
  40. Carpool Scheduler
  41. Grounded Kids Timer (But it’s already been a week!)
  42. Work Anniversary/Performance Review Tracker
  43. Naturalist Notebook
  44. Hobby Tracker
  45. Veterinary Appointment Scheduler
  46. Pet Duties
  47. Freelance Project Log
  48. Vehicle Mileage/Maintenance Tracker
  49. One Interesting Thing Log (Today, on the drive home, I saw a man in a full dress kilt and bagpipes running across the street.)
  50. Non-standard Anniversary Reminders (first date, first kiss, etc.)
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4 Steps to Creating an Annual Plan

annual planMany of us have hopes and aspirations that, for one reason or another, aren’t progressing as we would like. Maybe we want to improve our sales over the coming year—perhaps we have a small home business that hasn’t gotten traction—or it’s possible that we simply want to keep our work life from interfering with our home life. These are big aspirations and they can be very difficult to attain because life has a way of throwing sticks into our bicycle spokes.

Thankfully, our largest visions can become part of our reality, and this is the perfect time of year to see that they do. This is the time of year when you start thinking about next year. But this time things will be different because your hopes for next year are going to be accompanied by your annual plan. Here’s how you do it.

Start with your goals

An annual plan has to begin with generalities. You’ll save the specifics for later. Start by listing your basic goals. Begin with the end in mind. List your big-picture goals by thinking about how you’d like next year to end. For example, “I want to earn $15,000 from my in-home photo studio to supplement my full-time income.” Or, “I want to leave work at work so I can focus more on family time.” Don’t worry about how you’re going to achieve these goals yet, for now you’re simply writing down the things you’d like to do. List all of your goals from big to small.

Sort

When we start this process, it’s easy to feel excited and end up with a huge list of goals that we want to accomplish. A huge list is fine, but we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew. Now that you have your list, prioritize your list by deciding which items are most important to you.

Sort your most important goals into your ‘A’ list, the next most important segment of goals into your ‘B’ list, and so forth. Then go through each list and assign priority by number. This is an incredibly healthy exercise because it helps you focus. You may be surprised to find out that what you thought was your most important goal when you began this process ends up superseded by an even greater goal.

Prepare

Big goals need to be tackled one step at a time and in the right order. If you want to eat a great meal, you first need to purchase the ingredients, prepare them, cook them, and serve the food. One of the reasons we don’t complete our goals is because we want to skip steps. We want to eat our meal right after we buy our ingredients and we get frustrated when it doesn’t work. Think through your goals and break your goals into small, manageable pieces that you can accomplish in a short time—hours, days, weeks, and so forth. Schedule these steps in your planner. Set dates for each part of your goal to be met and note those dates on your monthly planner tabs.

Track Your Progress

Now you’re ready to start, and you’ve got a whole year to ensure you get it done. Take your first step by scheduling a simple action in your weekly or daily planner. Look back on your progress often. Keep your master list of goals in your planner and refer to them regularly to be sure you’re making the kind of progress you’d like to see. If you miss a goal along the way, quickly reschedule it so that you don’t fall too far behind. Before you know it, you’ll be looking back on a year of rewarding accomplishment.

Setting and reaching goals takes work and time, but by this time next year you’ll be a year older whether you reach your goal or not. Why not jump in now and make it a year to remember?

Good luck, and happy planning.

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Wanderlust Ring-bound Daily Planner

Let your daily planning sessions inspire your daily journeys. Designed for those who love travel, the Wanderlust Planner features a clean, two pages per day design with inspiring quotes and illustrations on its monthly tabs. This planner includes space for daily tasks, appointments, and notes, letting you keep track of your itinerary throughout your journeys. This planner also features colors that change monthly, space for a monthly journal, and a perpetual calendar. Future planning pages included.

Available in Compact and Classic sizes.

MLQH2144[1]

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6 Ways to Use a Planner To-Do Page

By Patty Gardner

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

I’m pretty sure that all time management experts recommend using a personal planning system of some sort.  It can be anything:  an electronic planner, your smart phone, a paper planner (my personal favorite), your computer or tablet, or even notebooks, steno or legal pads, or index cards.  It doesn’t matter what you use as long as you use it and it works for you!

And therein lies the problem.  Most of the pre-printed systems are designed to be used a certain way and most people try to use them the way they were designed even if they don’t work for them.  Sometimes the planner you’re trying to use isn’t worth saving – it just doesn’t work.  So toss it.  But sometimes you can tweak it and make it work.  Here are a few points to consider:

  • Just because the planner provides lines for you to write on doesn’t mean you have to write on them.  My planner’s lines are too narrow so I use two lines instead of one.
  • Just because the “box” says it’s for the prioritized task list doesn’t mean you have to write the task list there.
  • Just because another area says it’s for appointments doesn’t mean you can’t put to do items there, too.
  • Just because an area is blank and isn’t supposed to be written on doesn’t mean you can’t.
  • You can write in your planner any way you want!

I’ve been using a planner for a very long time – I can’t function without it.  Just ask my family.  That being said, I’m not sure I’ve ever used my planning pages the way they’re supposed to be used.  But my modifications worked for me.  Below are six examples of different ways I’ve used my planner over the years (and sometimes in the same week!).  I’m hoping these examples will give you ideas for how you can better use your planner.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 1.  This example uses the planner page as intended.  You make a list of everything you need to do and then prioritize the list using A, B and C and 1, 2 and 3.  A’s are items that MUST be done that day or bad things will happen.  B’s are items that you should do.  C’s are things that you can do if you have time.  If you don’t do them, nothing will happen.

I personally have a very hard time prioritizing in this way.  If your list consists only of “extra” things you needed to do, like pay bills, schedule an appointment, etc –this method is easier.  But I include pretty much everything I need to do and it’s hard to decide whether dinner is more important than laundry and which should be done first.   So I’ve never done my list this way.  But I know a lot of people have success with this method.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 2.  On this page, my list consists only of items that must be done that day.  In the bottom section, the daily tracker, is a list of the daily things I need to do.  On the top right of the page is a reminder of a friend’s appointment so I can follow up.  On the top left is my menu.

 6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 3.  On this example I divided my day into sections and made my list based on what I hope to accomplish during each time segment.  Again my menu is on the top left.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 4.  On this example, in the prioritized daily task list section I have one column of daily chores and one column that is all the other things I would like to do.  The circled items (you could also put an asterisk by them) are items that are very important.  My menu is in the daily tracker.  And the area at the top right includes things I need to do as soon as I get up.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 5.  On this example I use the appointment schedule to record my to do’s.  I plug in the things I have to do at set times and highlight them so they stand out.  Then in the spaces between, I write what I’m planning to do during that time period.  I use the prioritized daily task list area for details about those items.

6 Ways to Use a Planner To Do Page

Example 6.  On this example, I limit my list to only 10 things that are important for that day.  I have more things I would like to do but setting a limit helps me focus on the most important things.  When I’m making my list (it’s a good idea to use pencil), sometimes I have to erase something in favor of something else that I decide is more important.  The list at the top right includes about 5 things that can be completed very quickly.  I’ll do those when I have a minute between tasks.  If I happen to complete all 10 items before the end of the day (I don’t think that ever happened), then I’ll make a list of 5 more.  Again, my menu is in the daily tracker section.

So just because the planner page designates certain areas for certain things doesn’t mean you have to do it that way.  Don’t be afraid to modify your page so that it works for you!  You should never be a slave to the planner.  The planner is your servant!  Make it work for you!

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4 Ways to Make Your Bucket List a Reality

In 2007, the movie The Bucket List told the story of a millionaire and an auto mechanic who, after meeting in a hospital room, decide to go out and do the things they’ve always wanted to do before they die. Since then, the idea of making a bucket list has taken hold in popular culture.

There are bound to be some things that you have a deep desire to experience in your lifetime. While it’s unlikely that you’ll end up traveling the world with Morgan Freeman while Jack Nicholson foots the bill, there can be many rich experiences waiting for you. If you feel like your life is set in stone, follow these four steps to discover and implement your own bucket list:

Dream It

Before you can check anything off your bucket list, you have to create one. While you have many dreams and ambitions, it’s impossible to focus on all of them at the same time. Inspiration often comes from other sources. A documentary on Billy the Kid may inspire you to visit the old west. Your streaming playlist may inspire you to attend a concert at Carnegie Hall, or take guitar lessons to make your own music.

Designate a notes page in your planner as your Bucket List, and write down these inspirations as they strike.

Sharpen It

Once you have a few items on your list, take a moment to flesh out the details for each item. For example, the entry “enjoy retirement” could go several different ways. Do you want to spend your time gardening and tending your fruit trees, and then have an end-of-summer party where you serve your grandkids fresh peaches and homemade ice cream? Or does your retirement mean taking off from home base and touring museums and historical sites from Milan to Mongolia? The more you flesh out the items on your bucket list, the closer they get to reality.

asct7up3yde-julia-caesarPlan It

When you can see your ideal future, it’s time to make a plan to support it. Start by sorting your list items on a scale from the near future to the distant future. Then identify what needs to happen to get there, whether it’s saving up for a year for a family trip or advancing in your career to make your retirement goals possible. Work out the personal, financial, and social decisions you need to make to start fulfilling your bucket list.

Achieve It

As you finish your plans, set a date in your planner. For longer-term goals, you can mark the end date on your future planning calendar. Then you can make recurring entries in your task list to remind you of the steps you need to take each day to fulfill your goal. As the years go by, you’ll find that the small steps you take each day have led to an experience you might not have believed.

In the end, you’ll find that the contents of your bucket list are less important than the mindset that you develop while making it. When you unleash your dreams with a plan, each step along the way becomes worthwhile and fulfilling. Whatever is on your bucket list, it’s time to start crossing them off.

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La Vie En Rose Daily Wire-bound Planner

Life is like a perfect photograph—rich with highlight and shadow. Passing through shadows in life can be hard, but these same shadows make the highlights feel that much brighter. Perhaps that’s why, when we assess our lives, it’s easy to see the joyful and cheerful parts. The French refer to it as la vie en rose, (life in pink, or life in rosy hues).

We love the idea of viewing life through rose-colored glasses. There is real power in optimism. That’s why we created La Vie En Rose Daily Wire-bound Planner. This striking planner features a hard glossy cover with gold corner protectors on a gold wire-o binding. Inside you’ll find designated space for top daily priorities, to-do items, notes, daily happenings, and personal goals. Its unique layout offers one page for each weekday while Saturday and Sunday share a page. With space for monthly notes, lined pages in back, and 12 monthly tabs, that rotate through four vintage floral images, your entire year can be wrapped up in one beautiful, rosy book. Start seeing your life in rose.

La Vie En Rose is a unique size. It measures: 8” W x 9.75” H x 1.25” D.

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Finding The Right Sized Planner For You

When it comes to any endeavor, it pays to have the right tools for the job. Photographers purchase fast lenses and modifiers to control light, painters go out of their way to buy the best brushes, and mechanics…well, we all know that the tools in their shops are far superior than most of the tools in our garages.

binder sizes3Similarly, the task of planning goes more smoothly if you have the right planner for your needs. In previous posts we’ve discussed the different planner formats available to you—monthly, vertical weekly, horizontal weekly, one-page-per-day, and two-pages-per-day. Today we’re going to discuss planner size.

Like anything else, each size has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to decide what works best. The size of the planner you choose depends a lot on the way you use it. If you are always on the go, you’ll want a planner that can travel with you. If you spend most of your day at your desk, you may prefer a large planner that acts as an anchor to your office and your daily schedule.

Pocket Size

The most portable planner is our pocket size planner. Its smaller size limits the space you have for detailed notes, but having a planner small enough to fit inside most lapel pockets adds a powerful boost to your day. This size fits nicely in one hand and pairs well with your smartphone to keep you on track throughout your day. You’ll find a pocket planner in our most popular styles and formats. Pocket size planners measure 3.5” W x 6” H.

Compact Size

Larger than the pocket planner and smaller than our classic, our compact planner goes where you go while still providing room for the daily details. It fits perfectly in a purse, tote, or business case so you can stay on top of your schedule no matter what comes up during the day. Most of our planner designs and formats are available in this convenient size. Compact size planners measure 4.25” W x 6.75” H.

Classic Size

The classic size planner is our most popular size. It’s based on the size of a half-sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper so you can attend meetings, take notes, and simply fold any other papers you receive at the meeting in half and close them into your binder for easy carrying. Because it’s so popular, nearly all of our planner designs and formats are available in this size, as well as the majority of our wire-bound planners. This size offers room to get creative with your notes without compromising space for necessities and it’s still portable enough to fit in your business case and most totes. Classic planners measure 5.5” W x 8.5” H.

Monarch Size

Our monarch planners are great because they’re the same size as the average sheet of paper in the U.S. Their larger size makes them easy to read and allows even more room for notes, scribbles, ideas, and sketches. Plus, you don’t have to fold your meeting papers in half to carry them. Monarch planners may be a bit bulky for some people, but if you aren’t constantly on the go, that may not be an issue for you. Monarch planners measure 8.5” W x 11” H.

Unique Sizes

We have other planners that don’t fit into the previous categories. We call these our unique-sized planners. These planners lend themselves well to the popular scrapbook-style planning, with plenty of room for your schedule and space for journaling, photos, and embellishments. They’re a creative way to keep track of your whole life and not just your goals and ambitions. Our unique planners come in the following sizes:

FC Studio Weekly Planner 7.25” W x 9.25” H

La Vie en Rose Planner 7.5” W x 9.5” H

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Cooper Leather Binder

Add some space to your binder with Cooper’s deep pockets. Crafted from soft leather in timeless colors like tan and black, this binder features two pen loops, five card slots, a large side pocket, and a deep pocket in the back. Binders available in Compact and Classic sizes, with Wire-bound Covers in Classic.

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Compact Binder:

Measures 6.25” W x 7.5” H x 3” D, Ring size 1.25”

Classic Binder:

Measures 7.75” W x 9.5” H x 3” D, Ring size 1.5”

Classic Wire-bound Cover

Measures 7” W x 9.5” H x 1” D

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The 5 Choices to Reach Extraordinary Productivity

There’s an interesting psychological term used to describe the feeling of being overworked: burnout. The term comes from drag racing, where drivers spin their wheels at high speeds, creating massive amounts of friction to burn off irregularities on their tires while not actually going anywhere. All too often, that description also sums up a work experience: pressure to go faster in daily tasks while making no progress toward larger goals. And as sure as a tire burnout makes smoke, job burnout leads to apathy, dissatisfaction, and depression.

66207_lrgcaseIf you find yourself suffering from burnout, it’s time to reexamine how you approach your workday. Start with these five steps from The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity:

1. Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent

You may be familiar with the classic time management quadrant system, where the activities in your day are divided by their importance and sense urgency. The key to a happy life is spending your energy on tasks that are important, but not urgent (labeled Q2 tasks), planning ahead to stay on top of your responsibilities without feeling rushed or stressed. Often, however, these most important tasks take a backseat to things that seem urgent, or get pushed off by unimportant distractions. Identifying your Q2 tasks lets you see what parts of your day move you toward the finish line and which ones are just spinning your wheels.

2. Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary

Of course, before you can make it to the finish line, you have to identify where it is. The second choice involves identifying your roles in life: one man might be a father, a nurse, and a husband. The second choice involves an honest evaluation of your performance in these roles, letting you crafting a Q2 role statement: “As a nurse, I will provide my patients with the humanized care they deserve.” Keeping your eyes on these finish lines helps direct your planning sessions toward the most productive tasks.

3. Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel

Fitting tasks into a day is much like fitting rocks and gravel into a jar. If you fill the jar with gravel, larger rocks won’t have space to sit. Put the big rocks in first, however, and the gravel can fill in the empty spaces. The third choice involves prioritizing your daily tasks, and accomplishing the Q2 tasks before pursuing other activities.

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4. Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let it Rule You

Nothing competes for your attention like modern technology. With constant streams of notifications from your workplace, social media accounts, and entertainment choices, it can quickly pull your attention away from your Q2 tasks. One strategy for managing technology is to keep your appointments in the cloud while keeping your goals and tasks on paper. The 5 Choices Planner provides an optimal space for this practice, with weekly space for tasks and notes.

5. Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out

For each of us, there are physical and mental realities that shape how our brains perceive the world. If you’re heading to work in the morning on five hours of sleep, only to eat three break room donuts and sit in your chair for four hours until lunch, you shouldn’t be surprised at how you feel. The fifth choice involves a benevolent cycle: Move, Eat, Sleep, Relax, Connect. Positive choices in each of these areas give your brain the physical and mental fuel it needs to continue to perform at its peak ability.

The most important choice you can make is the choice to evaluate your life and change as needed. As you follow these five choices, you can move beyond spinning your wheels and hit the finish line with record performance.

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How to Build Momentum to Accomplish Your Tasks

Have you been feeling unmotivated lately? Does it seem like the tasks in your life are too large, too many, and too daunting to attempt? You’re not alone: in a 2014 national survey*, 73% of respondents said that they don’t feel “completely balanced,” and need to find ways to counteract crammed schedules. This same survey found that, among those who would pay money for an extra hour in each day, 58% would gladly pay $2,725 for the privilege.

Yes, there are days when you feel like you’d pay three grand just to accomplish something, anything. If you’re staring at your Prioritized Daily Task List and feeling overwhelmed with your day, take a moment to reconsider.

Scott And Kim 2013First, check the priorities on your tasks. Think of the classic object lesson of trying to fit big rocks and little rocks in the same jar. Are there small rocks masquerading as big rocks? Sometimes the desire to cram activity into a single day seriously lessens the actual amount of what gets done. If there are things that you can reschedule, take a moment and do so. Your friends and family will understand, and hopefully you’ll offer them the same courtesy with their scheduling conflicts.

Of course, that leaves the items on your list that must be done today. To give yourself more breathing room, grab a separate piece of paper and list subtasks for each task. Then, on the appropriate days in your planner, you can note the subtasks you need to achieve your goal. For example, if your main goal is “Buy/Make Halloween Costumes”, then you can schedule time with your family two weeks before Halloween to research costume ideas. Once everyone has selected their costume, schedule time one and a half weeks before Halloween to shop for supplies. One week out, plan on making the costumes. And then two days before, you can make final adjustments and pick up any final accessories.

Life is full of minutiae that you just can’t anticipate. There will be days when potty training works less well, when your son empties the cereal box onto the kitchen floor, or when your sister gives your kids red Kool-Aid right before family pictures. Whether you squeeze many of your subtasks in between life’s urgencies, or whether you find yourself writing “water the plants” on your list, just so you can say that you accomplished something, remember that any day is just that: 24 hours of your life. With your plans broken out step by step, there’s nothing to say that you won’t get much further with the next 24.

*2014 Survey from Zico Coconut Water

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5 Ways Your Planner Can Help You Act, Instead of React

By Patty Gardner

Do you act or react?  “Acting” is definitely a less stressful way to live but most people spend their life RE-acting.

What is reacting?

  • Being late to an appointment because you’re gathering the stuff you need at the last minute.
  • Being late to an appointment because you can’t find your keys or bag or items you need to take.
  • Paying fines on library books because you forgot they were due.
  • Running out of gas because you didn’t realize you were low or didn’t take the time to stop and fill it up.
  • Getting arrested because you forgot to pay your speeding ticket (this has not happened to me, by the way).
  • Having your electricity shut off because you forgot to pay the bill.
  • Paying an exorbitant amount of interest because you signed up for the no interest for one year financing but then made your payment late.

Besides the embarrassment, financial hits and other consequences, reacting also makes you feel like you’re always behind.  You’re reacting to all the things life throws at you instead of acting in advance.

How do you get ahead?  How do you become an actor instead of a reactor?

1.       Have a planner, calendar or electronic device and use it faithfully.  It won’t work if you don’t use it.  And if you don’t use it, unless you’re one of those naturally organized people, you won’t be ahead of the game but running behind.  Carry it with you.  Put it out where you can see it.  Set reminders on your phone to check it.

2.       Write everything down!  If you stop and pick up library books, write on your calendar when they’re due.  Then put a note a few days ahead reminding you to return them.  If you sign up for an account and have to choose a user id and password, write it down.  If you think of something you need to do, write it down.  Don’t rely on your memory.  It will fail you!

3.       Look ahead.  If you don’t look ahead in your planner, tasks and appointments can still catch you by surprise.  It’s good to have a day when you sit down and look at the coming week, make notes about what you need to do and observe appointments.  If you need to, put extra reminders in your planner.

Here’s an example from my planning routine.  My husband rented a piece of expensive equipment for a job he was working on and he had a set amount of time before he had to return it or we be charged a very expensive penalty.

  • I noted the date due on my calendar.
  • A week before the equipment was due, I put a note on my calendar.
  • A few days later, I put another reminder.
  • After the equipment was shipped, I wrote the tracking number in my planner.
  • I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking.
  • On the actual due date, I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking to be sure it had arrived on time.

An example from my library routine:

  • After I go to the library, I put on my monthly calendar the date the books are due.
  • Then on the daily page, I put “did you return library books?”
  • A couple of days before they’re due, I put “library books due 12-26-13”
  • After I return all the books due that day, I put a mark through the note on my monthly page so I know I did it.

4.       Use questions instead of to-do’s.  Did you notice on my library example I put “did you return library books?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told what to do.  Sometimes my to-do list feels more like it’s bossing me and then the last thing I want to do is whatever is on that list.  But a question feels less offensive and less bossy.

I know this strategy is dumb, and I don’t use it for everything, but sometimes I have to do crazy things to keep myself motivated and on track.

5.       Put follow-up in your planning system.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in a long time, but when I did, I took extra steps to keep myself out of trouble.

  • I recorded the date due on the appropriate planner page.
  • A week before the ticket was due, I wrote pay the ticket. 
  • The day before the ticket was due, I checked my bank account to be sure the check had cleared.

While paying the ticket was important, making sure they got the payment was just as important.  Follow-up can save you a LOT of trouble!!!

Another example is a 0% financing for one year deal.  If everything goes well, they’re a great deal, but one tiny mistake and you’re in serious hot water.  We took advantage of one of those recently.  To stay out of trouble, I set up automatic payments delivered four or five days ahead of the due date.  A couple of days before the due date, I always checked to be sure the payment was made properly.

Paranoid? No, just careful.  I’ve had too many things go wrong to trust the system.  But I do trust my planner.

So which are you?  A reactor or actor?

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3 Reasons Why Using a Planner Can Build Your Child’s Confidence

There’s no understating the benefits of confidence. It comes when your efforts and your expectations line up with your capabilities. With fear and insecurities out of the way, you’re free to succeed.

But learning this process doesn’t happen automatically. To have faith in yourself, like having faith in anything else, you have to take action and evaluate the results. The results of your actions strengthen your expectations for the next time, whether you succeed or fail.

For your kids, school is the laboratory where this process takes place. Whether it’s their professional development through attendance and homework or their social development through extracurricular activities and appointments with friends, the results of their time in school will shape how they think and feel about themselves.

A FranklinPlanner is an invaluable tool to help your kids flourish in school. With the proper instruction, your kids can know what’s expected of them, raise their own expectations for themselves, and develop dependability with everyone on their schedule, from teachers to friends. Here are three benefits from teaching your kids to use the FranklinPlanner system:

Anticipating Deadlines

With assignments in each subject to track, school can be overwhelming at times, especially when taking challenging subjects. Teach your kids how to mark their assignments for the week in their Prioritized Daily Task List, with a due date listed by each.

After making this list, they can assign priorities to each task. It can be as simple as tackling assignments with the closest due date first, or it can be allocating time for various term projects throughout the week. With this daily list, it’s much easier for them plan enough time to get everything done.

Achieving Goals

It can be easy for kids to see the world as a bunch of external forces working on them, and to feel that they can’t control their lives. It’s the reason that parents hear “It’s not my fault!” from their kids as explanation for problems at school. You can help them combat this insecurity by setting goals and subgoals in their planners. For example, to achieve the goal “Get an A in AP Physics”, a student could write “Complete assignments the evening they’re assigned” or “Find demonstration videos on YouTube”. As your students meet each subgoal, they’ll start to understand how the small steps they take make big changes in who they are and what they can achieve.

Scheduling

From heading to school in the morning to staying after for sports, band, or the homecoming parade committee, your students have people counting on them to arrive on time. Teaching them to schedule their activities in their planner lets them take charge of their own life, whether they’re earning money at a high school job, playing starting linebacker, or just having fun with their friends.

When it comes to developing confidence, there’s no substitute for preparation. Help your kids prepare with the FranklinPlanner system, and there’s no limit to their success.

 

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How to Stop Procrastinating

By Carmen Coker

I find that, when it comes to organization, getting started is half the battle.

If you’re procrastinating on an organizing project, the key to pushing past the procrastination is to find out what motivates you. Know your motivators before a wave of procrastination hits, and you’ll be prepared to deal with it — head-on — as soon as it arrives.

So ask yourself, “What makes me want to get things done? To get organized?”

Here are some possibilities…

(1) Free time.

It’s well-established that if you simplify life, you save time.

But just how much time, exactly, will you save? US News and World Report recently demonstrated that the average American spends 1 year of their life looking for lost or misplaced items at home and in the office.

1 year = 365 days = 8,760 hours = 525,600 minutes = 31,536,000 seconds

Any way you put it — it’s a lot of time! A lot of time you could have been doing other things…

(2) Money.

Think about your biggest organizing problem. Let’s just say, for example, that it’s your home office.

Assume that you’re losing $20 a week ($3 a day) in personal resources — lost time, energy, productivity, sanity — because you don’t have an effective organizing system in place. (It’s probably much more than $3/ day, but we’ll go for a moderate amount.)

Imagine you decide against de-cluttering your home office and continue down the same unorganized path for the next 5 years. You will lose over $5000 of resources!

Although that $5000 is just a hypothetical figure, it puts disorganization in a whole new light.

(3) Positive energy.

According to the book The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People by Dr. David Niven, it’s important to establish a schedule to take your tasks from “To Do” to “To Done.”

Dr. Niven writes: “We often feel overwhelmed by the chores that have to be done on a regular basis. We clean the kitchen, then the living room needs to be vacuumed…and 16 other things need to be done. With a routine, you will not be lost in wondering what’s next.”

Precisely how much will a household routine boost your level of happiness? 100 Simple Secrets explains: “In a study of families, regularity in household routines improved daily personal satisfaction by about 5%.”

(4) Shaping your destiny.

I realize that for some of you out there, home organization may be just about as fun as boot camp. But in this day in age, when life keeps getting crazier and crazier, you can’t afford not to be organized!

Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

Isn’t that so true? It definitely applies to organizing…

If you know you have to get organized, you can choose to procrastinate, and your disorganization will just cause you more frustration. Or you can choose to get motivated, get organized, and truly know the freedom that comes with it.

It’s always your choice…

(5) Tough love.

There can be some undesirable consequences that accompany disorganization.

– Can’t find your keys in the mornings = late for work

– Forget a birthday = guilty feelings (you) and hurt feelings (birthday boy or girl)

– Neglect to declutter the house = embarrassing mess to explain away to visitors

– Pack a suitcase without a purpose = too many socks and too few undies

– Pay a bill after it’s due = excess late fees

– Overlook expired car registration = traffic ticket and possible fines

I’m sure you could add a few more examples to this list!

It’s time to get organized — and stop putting yourself in situations where you wish that you had made organization a priority. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

For the purpose of this article, I’ve applied the above motivators to organizing specifically. But you can relate this same formula to other areas of your life where procrastination plagues you.

Knowing your strong inner motivators + Knowing where you’re vulnerable to procrastination = Knowing how to push past procrastination

It’s that simple. Although sometimes we tend to make it harder than that!

Martin Luther, German priest and scholar, opined “How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” Your “nows” are fleeting — don’t let them slip away!

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Prepare to Send Your Kids Back to School

For the kids who live at home, it’s almost time for registration. For new college freshmen, it’s almost time to move out on their own. Wherever your kids fall along this spectrum, it’s helpful to take a notes page in your planner and write out everything that needs to happen before they go back to school. This brain dump becomes the perfect starting point for a smooth transition back to school.

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Use Your Planner: 9 Tips for Making it Easier

10 Reasons (3)

By Patty Gardner

Do you ever neglect your planner because it seems like too much trouble? There are things you can do to make it easier to use.

1.      Take it with you as much as possible.  Keep it in your purse or bag or hand, but take it with you.  If it isn’t with you, you can’t use it.  If you don’t want to take it into stores or people’s homes, leave it in the car.  You can always go get it if you need it.

2.       Keep it near you when you’re home.  I don’t mean you have to wear it around your neck, but keep it handy.  When I work at my desk, my planner is on the desk next to me.  When I go downstairs and cook or clean, I keep my planner on the table.  As much as possible, I keep it near where I’m working.

3.       Keep it OPEN.  If it’s closed, you’re less likely to use it.  Remember – we want to make it as easy as possible.  The small step of having to open it might keep you from using it, especially if you’re in a hurry.  So keep it open.

4.      Keep it supplied with things you need.  If you use post-its, keep them in the pockets of the planner.  Always have a pen in the pen loop or at least nestled next to the pages (when I’m using mine a lot, I don’t always put the pen back in the pen loop).  Make sure there’s blank paper and current inserts.

5.       Keep it cleaned out.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand using a planner that’s so full I can’t open the rings without papers falling out.  That makes me NOT want to use it.  If that doesn’t bother you, then don’t worry about it, but if it does, then keep it cleaned out so overflowing rings won’t keep you from using it.

6.       Make sure you LIKE it!  If you hate your binder or your pages are boring, you probably won’t use it.  If your set-up isn’t working, you probably won’t use it either.  So do what you can to make it work for you.

7.       Look at it often.  If you never look at it, you may as well not have it.  Get in the habit of taking a look at it frequently.  The more you look at it and realize how much it helps you, the more you’ll use it.

8.       Have page finders or markers of some kind for the sections you use frequently.  If it takes too much time to get to the section you need, you won’t do it.

9.       Limit the amount of loose pages.  If you open your planner and a bunch of stuff falls out, you’re not going to want to open it.

If you have a planner but don’t use it faithfully, why don’t you?  If the hold-up isn’t any of these items, figure out what it is and try to fix it.  A planner is an extremely valuable tool that can make the difference between chaos and calm.  Sometimes you need a completely different system, but most of the time your current system just needs a tweak or two.

Have you struggled with any of these issues? What keeps you from using your planner?

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FranklinPlanner’s Share Week

Annoucement post #

Starting Monday, July 27, we will begin FranklinPlanner’s Share Week! Here’s how it works:

  1. We will post a different planner topic each day for the week of July 27 – July 31. This page (www.franklinplannertalk.com/shareweek) will be updated daily with the newest topic.
  2. Respond to the prompt based on your personal experience using a planner. All topics may not apply to you. Each response must be 100 words or more.
  3. Submit your response in the provided form by midnight that day.
  4. Each day one winning entry will be selected and announced the following day on this page.
  5. The winner will receive a $50 gift card to FranklinPlanner.com!
  6. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and #FPShareWeek for regular updates throughout the week.

We look forward to hearing from you and happy planning!

July 31: Why FranklinPlanner?

Name:
Twitter handle (optional):
Instagram handle (optional):
Why do you choose FranklinPlanner over other planner brands?



*By clicking “Submit Survey”, you agree to allow FranklinPlanner to use your name and entry for future marketing and publicity purposes.

July 30: Made it your own?

How have you taken the Franklin Planner and made it your own? How have you personalized your planner?

July 30 winning entry: To be announced!

July 29: Changed formats?

As life changes, your preferred planner format can change. Have you switched between a daily and weekly layout? Tell us how you’ve used different formats based on your phase of life.

July 29 winning entry:

“I love Franklin Planners, I have switched to using three different formats. I began with a weekly view when I was in school, that was all I needed. In fact back then I used a weekly spiral bound, mainly because I needed something thin and very portable. I would keep myself on top of my class work by writing when papers were due and important dates for class work. Actually my school mates would contact me about when work was due, since I had everything organized and prioritized in my spiral planner. A little later in life I needed a ring binder with a 2 page daily view. I had three daughters that all played fast pitch, had school activities, birthday parties, games doctors appointments everything for their busy lives went into my planner… Now my life is all about work and I need that view of what is coming up throughout the week without turning the page seven times! I use the pagefinders for appointments that makes my life so easy I have 4, 6 and 8 weeks marked and ready! I would have never made it through life without my Franklin Planner!”  – Dyann C.

July 28: Retired and still planning?

Are you retired and still using a planner? As your schedule and routines have changed, how has your planning changed?

July 28 winning entry:

“Retired these past six years, and wouldn’t *dream* of trying to make it through the day without my Planner! Once the first shock of retirement wore off, I realized that I still needed structure to my day, and that was where my Planner really came in handy. I now have sections of my Master Task List blocked off for the month’s greeting cards, chores that are best done monthly or seasonally (furnace cleaning, anyone??), and the names of bills that have to be paid, along with the date when they were paid…”

– Meg L. 

July 27: Better together?

Do you use a smart phone/tablet AND a planner? How do you use both?
How are they better together?

July 27 winning entry:

“I find that I love my planner for my personal use but I need my online calendar to be able to coordinate with others. When I am going through my day, I love to be able to quickly jot down thoughts, notes, dates, details, etc. in my own style and my own handwriting, rather than trying to fit the information into the electronic categories available on my phone. It is so much faster for me to write and it also allows me to stay more present and focused on the people with which I am working. However, at the end of the day, I can go back and add everything from my planner onto my shared online calendar so that my friends, family, or coworkers, etc. can still have access to a synced, up-to-date calendar in order to better coordinate with one another. I’ve got to have both. One without the other is incomplete.”

-Hollie O. 

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Create an Emergency Contact List for Your Kids

Do your kids know the number to call in case of an emergency? And if Grandma isn’t home, which number do they call next? Prepare an emergency contact list with a package of Address/Phone Tabs, keep it in an easily accessible place in your home, and teach your kids where it’s located and how to use it. Your pre-cell-phone kids will have an important resource if they need help, and your older kids will have what they need to program their contact lists.

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Add a Back to School Checklist to Your Planner

Summer gets crammed full of activities: family vacations, sporting events, and continuing education all get layered on top of your normal responsibilities. With so much going on, it can be easy to forget something the kids need when they head back to school. Keep a running checklist for each child in your planner, and you’ll be able to see the big picture and buy all your no.2 pencils at once. Download and print our Back to School Checklists, and you’ll make the process even easier.

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How to Use Your Daily Planner on “Blank” Days

Ah! The lazy days of summer. Who are we kidding? Most of us don’t have lazy days, even during the summer, but there are those wonderful times when our schedules are light or even empty. Empty days are the best because they’re filled with so much promise. We can do with them as we will.

The trouble is, empty or “blank” days without a schedule can quickly get away from us. It doesn’t take long to think of things you’d do with an empty day. Maybe you’d write in your journal, take a long walk, or picnic in the park. Perhaps you’d choose to work on a hobby, read a good book, or learn a new recipe.

IMG_1993aIf your planner is blank and you’ve got hours to kill, schedule that time. Give yourself the freedom you want by scheduling it into your day. That way, you’ll ensure you have the time to do some of those things on your wish list. A Progressive Task List is the perfect place to write all the things you’d like to do, create, learn, or try if only you had the time. Keep that list in your planner and refer to it whenever you have a few spare hours. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish over time.

Planning works best when it’s a daily habit, so even on empty days spending a few minutes in your planner will keep the habit strong and keep you moving happily toward your goals.

Empty days are a great time to add vision to your goals. Use your empty planner page to bring more life to your dreams. Thumb through catalogs and magazines and find images that represent the goals you have for yourself. Cut them out and paste or tape them onto your page. Some people call this a vision board. Perhaps you want to build a pergola in your back yard, run a half-marathon, get into better shape, or paint a bedroom—you’ll find all sorts of great images to represent those goals.

This exercise is a great way to increase your motivation to work toward your goals. As you do this, you will often come up with things you can do right then, during your empty day, to get you closer to realizing your dreams.

Have you taken any pictures during the last month or so? Print them off and tape them onto the days that the events happened. It will make revisiting your planner that much more fun later.

While you’re enjoying your empty day in the sun, take some time to reflect on the things you’ve done and learned in the past couple of months. Think through your recent events and see if you can find things to be grateful for. Note these learning moments and opportunities in your planner. This kind of reflection is a great way to feel grounded and it helps you appreciate the amazing life you live.

Benjamin Franklin has said, “Lost time is never found again.” Keeping track of the things you’d love to do on your lazy days is a great way to ensure your time isn’t wasted—even if you spend it in a hammock with a good book.

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3 Books to Take Your Planning to the Next Level

Whether you’re heading out to a vacation destination or simply enjoying life without chauffeuring kids to school, the right book makes summer even better. Take some time to get back to the basics of why planning is so important and what big picture concepts can enhance your personal planning sessions. Here are our picks to read:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Summer’s relaxed pace makes it an optimal time for reflection and introspection. Stephen R. Covey’s classic is a great choice, with detailed insights in how to move from dependence on others through independence to interdependence, where the sum of working with others is so much greater than the parts. Whether you’re re-examining your paradigms or discovering Covey’s life-changing wisdom for the first time, this book can change your life.

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Great Quotes from Great Leaders

If you don’t have time for lengthy reading, inspire your summer days with quotes from the great leaders of our time. With more than 400 quotes from 32 world leaders, this book captures the integrity, strength of character, and passion of these extraordinary men and women.

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What It Takes To Be Number One

If you love sports and value organization, then this book is for you. Vince Lombardi, Jr. expands on the wisdom in his father’s famous speech, with sections on Commitment, Discipline, Excellence, Mental Toughness, Habit, Faith, Passion, Results, and Truth. With vintage photographs and audio content of the original speech, this is a must-read.

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8 Ways Using a Planner Reduces Stress

As with all successful efforts, it takes some initiative to use a planner. But when you look at the alternatives, using a planner eliminates many stressful situations from your life. Here are eight examples.

planner pages1. Avoid double-booking

If you’ve ever accidentally double-booked your schedule, you know how stressful it can be when you get a reminder call for an important appointment while preparing for highly-anticipated time with friends and family. Writing your appointments in your planner lets you check your availability before planning another, even if months pass in the meantime.

2. Track long-term projects

Modern navigation systems make it easy to find your way: Google an address, and your phone will tell you every turn you need to make. Your planner performs a similar function for long-term projects, letting you lay out each step to help you keep on track and meet all upcoming deadlines.

3. Capture and retrieve information

While sticky notes are wonderful, they’re also hard to find if the bottom of your purse is covered with old papers. Stick your important information in your planner, and it will be there when you need it.

4. Feel the peace of a routine

Most days, your brain gets a serious workout, making important decisions and constantly moving from one task to another. The last thing it wants is to think about the small, routine details—but this leaves you with anxiety that you’re missing something. Following a routine set in your planner can help with decision fatigue.

5. Anticipate upcoming events

Your planner also helps you prepare for the days that fall outside of your routine. With weekly planning sessions, you can look ahead to birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and other important occasions, and plan well in advance to make them even better.

6. Rest with a clear mind

When you have important tasks to think about, your brain will try and make connections, no matter what time it is. Writing ideas down in your planner gives your thoughts closure, and you’ll sleep better knowing that you’ve got a plan.

7. Recover your passwords

There’s no place like a planner to write down the things you only reference occasionally. Use it to store passwords for less-frequented websites, phone numbers for takeout, model numbers of appliances, prescription numbers, etc.

8. Experience the Joy of Completion

Instead of mental uncertainty, there’s a satisfaction that comes when you check tasks off your list and clear it from your mind.

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Why Bother Planning?

By Patty Gardner

Do you ever feel like planning is a waste of time?  As soon as you get your list made, everything changes!  Or you start out strong but then it all falls apart.  And when you finally sit down at night and evaluate your day, you did little or nothing of what was on your list.  It’s discouraging and sometimes it makes me feel like planning is a waste of time.

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But it’s not.  Even though it might seem like it, planning is still one of the best things you can do.  And here’s why:

1. You can’t have Plan B without Plan A.  If you start out with a plan but then things change, as they always do, you can look at Plan A and make decisions and adjustments.  And chances are, you’ll still end up having a productive day because you started with a plan.

2. Without a plan, you spend your day reacting to whatever comes up.  You might get some things done but they may not be the things you needed to do.  You spent your day putting out fires and that’s no way to live!

3. You get more done with a plan than without a plan.  This is absolutely true for me!  Without a list, I tend to piddle.  I end up spending time cleaning out a closet or re-doing my recipes when I should have been cleaning the bathroom, making dinner and paying the bills.  Having a list is like having goals.  Not having a list is like wandering aimlessly through the desert.

4. Even if you can’t get everything on your list done, a list shows you what needs done.  Maybe you’re one of those people who can keep a list in their head and always knows what to do next (like Mr. Organized, my husband).  I’m not like that.  If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  I need a list so I know what to do.  Even if I don’t get it all done, the list is there to remind me.

5. A list provides a written record of what needs done and what you did.  I frequently look back to see when or if I did something.  And I don’t have to worry that a task will be forgotten because I have it written down.  If it’s written down, it’s safe.  If it’s swimming around in my head…oh, boy, that’s never good!!!

Even if it seems like making a list or having a plan is a waste of time, it isn’t.  And unless you’re like Mr. Organized, a list is probably going make the difference between a productive day and a day spent putting out fires.

So whip out your planner and get your list ready for tomorrow.

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How to Use Your Franklin Planner for Both Personal and Professional Uses

Your Franklin Planner is designed to help you manage all of your activities and goals, whether your days are loaded with business meetings or baseball games. For most of us our days are filled with an eclectic mix of events—usually a conglomerate of unequal parts blended into something we call life. It can be messy.

Often our planners resemble that muddled part of our lives—taking on an appearance that makes them difficult to decipher. So how do we manage such different aspects of our lives in one small planner without it looking as jumbled inside as we sometimes feel?

We have a few suggestions.

Separate your work activities from your other events.

If you leave a couple of blank lines on your Prioritized Daily Task List between the tasks you need to perform for work and the tasks you plan to accomplish at home, it will be easier to keep track of what is happening when. Other people have suggested writing your tasks for work on your Personalized Daily Task List from the top down and writing your tasks for home from the bottom up.

Washi tape is a creative way to sort and separate events. This thin tape comes in several colors and patterns and it makes a fun embellishment for your planner while serving a great purpose. You could use it to divide groups of tasks on your planner pages or use different colors of tape for the different roles you play each day—orange for work, blue for home, green for community events, etc. Plus, it’s easy to remove without damaging your paper.

Not every planner has a Prioritized Daily Task List, so you can use your washi tape in the Notes section to accomplish the same thing.

FC studio w imbellishments-30aUse different colored pens.

Use different colored pens to show different people’s schedules—Blue: Nate, Green: Emily, etc.—or use different colors for work, home, and community events. Giving yourself an instant visual image of what events carry the most weight in your day can help you determine your priorities and work toward balance. For example: if you use black for work, green for family, and blue for church or community events, and you notice that you have days packed full of black, you can try to work more family time into that day.

Use colored tabs or flags

Use colored tabs or page flags to separate the events of your day—this is for work, this is for home. You may want to keep events separate on your pages and then use your colored page flags for each segment. You can also use different colored highlighters to mark the activities for home and work etc.

Use a Progressive Task List

If you have several events that span several days, or if you have some activities that you need to accomplish each day and you don’t want to forget them, add a Progressive Task List to your planner. The Progressive Task List fits inside your pagefinder so you only need to write those tasks once, then they follow you from day to day until they’re complete. It’s a great way to reduce redundant clutter on your planner pages

It can be difficult to stay ahead of your schedule if your life is so busy that your planner is hard to follow. Hopefully these few hints have given you some inspiration and sparked some great ideas of your own.

If you have any unique ways that you keep your planner neat and orderly amid the chaos of your life, we’d love to hear from you.

Happy planning!

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When To-Do Lists Don’t Work

By Carmen Coker

Generally speaking, a list is a good thing because …

When you write a list, it helps you focus. When you follow a list, it keeps you on track and moving toward list completion. And when you cross off list items, you feel productive.

And yet, despite proven results and positive qualities, lists don’t always work for everyone, every time because …

When you have to make a list, it means you have lots to accomplish. When you have lots to accomplish, you suddenly don’t want to do anything but sit on your couch, watch TV, and eat ice cream.

In other words, making a list is making you procrastinate. At this point, you’ve entered into a mind-game between your lazy self and your productive self, and your lazy self is winning!

If you find yourself in a similar situation, I encourage you to fight back by creating a NOT To-Do List to help you get organized.

The NOT To-Do List is exactly as the name implies – a list of things you do not want to do.

For example …

The Not To-Do List for Housekeeping

  • Throw shoes by the front door
  • Let mail pile up on the kitchen counter
  • Forget to file bills at the end of month

The NOT To-Do List for Time Management

  • Hit the “snooze” button on the alarm more than once
  • Check email more than 2 times per day
  • Turn on TV while getting ready for work

With the NOT To-Do List, you’re giving your lazy self permission to be lazy while, at the same time, giving your productive self permission to get things done.

Carmen Coker is a former US Air Force officer turned professional organizer. Thousands of busy people have benefited from her expertise featured by CBS, NBC, and Real Simple magazine – now it’s your turn! If you want to get organized and calm the chaos in your life, go to CarmenCoker.com for her free video how-to called the Secrets of the Super Organized™.

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How to Use Your Prioritized Daily Task List

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4 Tips to Get Ready for Tax Season

It’s that time of year again: with only a couple of weeks until April 15, tax season is upon us. Hopefully you’ve been keeping careful track of your documents throughout the previous year and have everything ready to go. Here are some tips to make things easier, both now, and for next year.

1. Clean Out Old Paperwork: According to the IRS, you should keep tax records for tax refunds for three years, and tax records for business losses for seven. Go through your files, clear out your old documents, and shred them to free up some space.

2. Gather Your Paperwork: As documents come in the mail, or as you print them off from online records, put them in a centralized folder. Then nothing will get left behind when the time comes to hand them over to your accountant or work through them yourself.

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3. Create a 2015 Tax Folder: If you itemize expenses for a home business or for any other reason, create a folder for the coming year’s documents. This is a good place to store documents like filled Auto Mileage Logs and other important receipts.

4. Stay Ahead of the Curve: Whether you’re expecting a refund or paying Uncle Sam, it’s better to stay ahead of the April 15 deadline. Contact your accountant today, or set down a time for preparing your taxes in your planner. When it comes to taxes, procrastination can cost you.

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10 Reasons Why I Use a Planner

10 Reasons

By Patty Gardner

Planners are extremely effective tools for helping you keep your ducks in a row.  I’ve been using a planner for 20 years.  Before that I had a calendar and a to-do list.  My family knows that if I don’t use my planner, bad things happen.  In case you’re skeptical about the benefits of using a planner, here are 10 ways my planner helps me manage my life:

1.       I don’t remember anything if I don’t write it down.  If I write it down, it’s like magic and I can usually remember it even if I never look at it again.  But if I don’t write it down, it’s gone forever.  So if you ask me to do something, make sure I write it down!

2.       I need to see the big picture so I know what I can and can’t do.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t see the big picture in my head.  It has to be on paper.  And seeing the big picture helps me plan so I don’t get worn out or bored.

3.       I get overwhelmed easily, but if I write everything down, it doesn’t seem so bad.  Or I see that it really is that bad and I can figure out how to fix it.

4.       If everything I need to do is swimming around in my head, there’s no room for anything else – like creativity.  So getting it out of my head and on paper allows me to think about other things that are more fun.

5.       I can’t make Plan B if I don’t have a Plan A.  And if Plan A isn’t on paper, it’s not really a plan – at least for me.  I need to SEE things – on paper.

10 Reasons I Use a Planner

6.       Without writing it down, I always plan too much – more than any one person can do.  But when I write it down and schedule it on the calendar, or put time estimates next to each item, I am more realistic about what I can do and it’s much easier to prioritize.

7.       A planner provides a place to write down all my brilliant ideas and be able to find them again.  If I use notes and post-its, there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to locate those brilliant ideas again.

8.       I think better with a pen.  Seeing my thoughts on paper (I use my planner as a journal, too), makes them easier to process and figure out.  It’s also easier to see positive or negative patterns when it’s written down.

9.       My planner provides a permanent written record of events, calls, activities, funny things the kids and grandkids do.  I have all my planners from the last 25 years.  There’s a wealth of information in those planners that I treasure.

10.     Without a written plan, I tend to spin my wheels and waste my time.  It’s like I don’t know what to do next.  But if a task list is on paper, I am much more likely to be productive.

If you use a planner, why do you?  If you don’t use a planner, why don’t you and how do you keep your ducks in a row?

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