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.

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.

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.

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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8 Ways to Improve Your Handwriting

Does it seem like penmanship is becoming a lost art? So much of our written expression is tapped out on a keyboard or via text messages that when it comes to writing longhand it can feel like we’re all thumbs. Yet we can all appreciate beautiful handwriting, and many of us would like to improve our own. If you’re one of them, here are some things to remember.

1. Practice slowly and carefully. Better handwriting is usually a matter of slowing down and concentrating. To improve, you need to train through slow, deliberate writing motions until you’ve taught your muscles to form each letter. Consistently beautiful penmanship is a matter of muscle memory. In other words, practice, practice, practice.

Thanks to sites like HandwritingPractice.net, it’s easy to create your own practice pages where you decide the words or letters you want to work on improving. You can also find other resources online such as workbooks, lesson materials, and tutorials.

2. Start with a good pen or pencil. Writing should be enjoyable. Find a pen that feels comfortable and balanced in your hand, something you can hold and maneuver without employing a death grip, one where the ink flows easily onto the paper without requiring you to press hard on the page or retrace your strokes. Try several pens with different sized nibs or balls to find the thickness that appeals most to you.

chalkboard3. Check your grip. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, but you don’t need to wield your pen like one. Your grip should be supportive but soft. Holding your hand too tense will cause unnecessary strain—and squeezing will not help the ink flow any better.

4. Correct your posture. Be sure to sit up straight and relaxed with your fingers gently
curled under your hand.

5. Give yourself room to work. Writing free-flowing script is difficult if you feel like
you’re writing in a cramped space. Cleaning your desk or writing surface will allow you
to move more easily as you write.

6. Don’t write with your wrist and fingers. It may take some getting used to, but your
shoulder and forearm should be moving when you write and not your fingers and wrist.
These muscles don’t tire nearly as quickly as those in your hand and wrist. You can
practice this by writing large letters in the air and paying attention to your arm
movement. Next pull out the paper and practice drawing large lines loops and shapes, still
focusing on your arm and shoulder movement, as you get more comfortable make your
shapes smaller and smaller until you’re ready to work on letters.

7. Don’t miss an opportunity to write. If you can send a thank-you note in longhand rather
than sending an email, do it. Use your planner for notes. If you need to write a report,
consider writing the first draft by hand. Write a little more in your journal each day.

8. Don’t overdo it. When you practice it’s wise to remember to practice intensely but in
short spurts. It’s more effective to practice something a few times correctly than several
times incorrectly. Only perfect practice makes perfect. If you begin to grow tired and feel
the desire to rush through your lessons, you should stop so you don’t commit incorrect
penmanship to memory.

There are all sorts of reasons for good handwriting. Whether you’re filling out a job
application, sending a thank-you card, or leaving a note for a co-worker, your
penmanship, fair or not, does leave an impression.

Good luck, and keep writing.

Plan Your Meals

If you’ve ever resolved to eat healthier, only to have your produce turn to compost in the crisper bin of your refrigerator, then you can benefit from a meal plan. Plan out a week of meals at a time, and look at your schedule to ensure that you have time to prepare the meal you plan for each day. When you have a couple of meals, match any leftover ingredients like green onions, lettuce, or broccoli with other recipes, and fit them into your schedule.

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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.

Document Your Summer Plans

Summer is a magical time. It’s the season of family vacations, connecting with friends in the backyard, and exploring the world. Whatever your plans this summer, you’ll want to remember the fun. Use your planner as a journal as you plan your excursions, and as you carry them out, write down the small details of what made each part memorable. Set a goal to record something every day, even if it’s just a lazy summer afternoon with your family. With your planner, you’ll be enjoying the memories of this summer years from now.

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Schedule “You” Time

We all have many roles to play in our lives: employee, manager, parent, family member, community member, etc. With all the responsibilities that come with these roles, it’s easy to let them define who you are. It’s important to schedule time for yourself, for relaxation, reflection, and rediscovery. As you plan out your week, be sure to include personal tasks like meditation or hobby work.

 

5 Ways to Keep Up With a Busy Schedule

By Monica Friel

Are you busy? It seems like we are all so busy trying to keep up with it all. So how do we stay on top of the hectic schedules and remain organized? Here 5 ways to keep your schedule running smoothly:

Schedule It All

Put every activity, meeting and plan into your calendar. This way you’ll know exactly what is going on and what you can realistically fit in.

Decline

Don’t opt in to every interest and social event that takes place. Choose your activities wisely. Remember, for every item you add to your calendar, your choosing to eliminate what might be some much needed down time.

Plan Ahead

Anything you can do to plan ahead will make the hectic times less stressful.

Organization is about creating systems so you can find things in the future. Spending some time organizing and setting up systems will save you time when you’re in a hurry.

Decompress

Make sure you allow time to unwind. Re-group in between meetings and events. Running on fumes is neither productive nor enjoyable. Read more about carving out down time.

Enlist Help

Make use of help from others whenever possible. Carpool with neighbors, enlist babysitters, reciprocate favors. Even swap organizing projects with a friend. Having someone to help you accomplish tasks will ensure that it gets done!

Remember, it’s not glamorous to be busy, it’s exhausting. Use your time wisely and enjoy each moment.

Monica Friel

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?

According 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.

commute2If 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.