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I’ve put it off as long as possible, but considering some of you are just a week or so away from the beginning of the school year (!!) I figured it’s time to finally launch our back-to-school theme for the rest of August.
Just saying that has me feeling a bit queasy. I mean, it’s not even the middle of August yet! The summer is still in full swing. And yet, I know part of meeting the school year feeling prepared and (more or less) in charge – instead of scattered and frazzled – is taking a few steps to get ready.
Don’t worry – if your family, like mine, doesn’t start back to school for a while, I’m not going to tell you to step away from the unplanned afternoons or iced-tea jug just yet. But it can’t hurt to give some thought to the details now, so that after sending the kids off on that first day of school you can sit back on the sofa and let out a peaceful sigh, instead of rushing around to drop off forms or pick up supplies you forgot about.
I’m thrilled that today’s post and giveaway are sponsored by Blue Sky, a company that makes beautiful, simple-to-use wall calendars, planners, checklists and more. I’ve been using their stuff for a while and it’s been key to creating a system that works for me, so I’m happy to announce that two readers will be winning a Blue Sky organizing package too.
But more on that after these back-to-school planning tips:
1. Set an intention for the school year.
Think about the words you’d like to use to describe your fall. Do you thrive on a burst of frenetic energy at the beginning of the year, or are you better off easing into the hustle? If you’re at home during the day, how do you want your days to go when the kids are at school? Will you participate in fundraisers? (don’t feel guilty if the answer is ‘no’.) If you want to read to your child’s classroom or visit the classroom, when will you do it? Will you exercise? Just envisioning how you’d like your fall to look can help you make plans fall into place.
2. Check in with reality.
Now that you’ve thought about how you’d like the fall to go, make sure your plans are all going to fit. Check your calendar against the school calendar, and make sure your schedule is realistic. Remember, nobody can – or should – do everything. That includes your joiner 13-year-old who wants to be in five clubs and two sports all at the same time.
3. Create a time management system that works for you, and plug in the details.
No matter how cool that jumbo organizing system with eighteen different compartments, a zip-out change purse and a built-in calculator might seem, it’s utterly worthless if you won’t actually use it. Ditto that amazing new phone app into which you keep forgetting to plug your appointments.
It took me years to realize that I’m actually not a hopelessly disorganized, scatterbrained mess – I simply wasn’t using the right tools for my work style and personality type. After a lot of trial and error I realized a few key things about myself:
- Any planner held closed with a zipper simply never gets opened
- Ditto purse-sized calendars
- While smartphone technology is great for on-the-go scheduling, I need to write appointments and to-do lists down -with an actual pencil or pen, and sometimes more than once – for them to really “stick”
- I need one place to keep track of scheduled deadlines and appointments and a separate place for brainstorming and list-making – and it’s best when those dates and lists are hanging where I can see them many times throughout the day.
I used these self-discoveries to create a planning system tailor-made to the way I work best:
- The first piece of the puzzle is my Blue Sky Susy Jack wall calendar, where I keep track of recurring deadlines and family-oriented dates – things that involve more people in the house besides just myself, or things that I really need to be reminded of with a quick glance.
- I also have two white boards – a large one that I use as a “master task list” to keep track of ideas and one-day goals rattling around in my brain, and one that offers a week’s worth of spaces for planning out the coming week.
- Then I tie all the components together with my Susy Jack weekly/monthly planner, which opens flat, has no closures and offers plenty of blank space for notes and to-do lists.
Even though it’s got a lot of moving parts, once I really figured out what I need in an organizing system, mine was a snap to create (and I had one of those “Duh, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before!” moments once it was all in place.)
My personal system is great for me because it really helps me quiet the noise in my distraction-prone brain. Each different “type” of information has its own place, giving me space to separate long-term goal-setting from short-term to-dos. If I have a deadline coming up next week, I can fill in a day to work on the project on my weekly whiteboard (and move it easily if I need to.) If I have a few minutes available and can’t think of something to do, I can quickly glance up at my master list to grab an idea of something I’d like to be working on. If I need to check whether a deadline conflicts with a family event, I can easily cross-reference the family calendar with the planner. And I can take the weekly/monthly planner with me when I work at the library or coffee shop. It also doesn’t hurt that the designs on the Susy Jack calendar and planner are beautiful and I love the color scheme, which makes the different components a pleasure to use.
But that doesn’t mean you should copy my system wholesale, unless of course you totally identify with the way my brain works! Maybe you are the person who likes to keep it simple with a single planner or wall calendar. Maybe you need wall-to-wall whiteboards for doodling and brainstorming. Maybe you really are the person who can keep track of everything on a smartphone.
When it comes to organization systems, we all have unique needs. I love technology, but I’m a pen-and-paper girl at heart. I’m a “if it’s not in front of me I’ll forget” person. I’m a “the less possibility of me misplacing a calendar the better” person. How about you?
I’d love to hear what would go into your perfect organizing system, and why! Comment below for a chance to win a back-to-school organizing package from Blue Sky. If you tweet or Facebook about the contest and leave a separate comment to let me know, that will count as an extra entry (or two.) The contest will run until 1:00 PM EST on Monday, August 15, and two winners will be randomly chosen using the plugin “And The Winner Is.” Good luck!