Planning about Planners–Organizing for the Anal-retentive Psychotic with Possible ADD


Now that the official school year is coming to an end, I’m finding myself ogling new planners again. It’s like a quest for the holy grail, trying to find THE planner that will work perfectly for me, keeping me organized and not feeling like a loser for only sticking with it for a month. It’s even harder as a homeschooler finding an organizational tool that works for me, and I’ve tried many.

It’s not that I’m a planner slut; its more like I’ve been serially monogamous and perpetually disappointed, as well as torn. I want paper, but I want digital. I want both! I’ve finally come to the realization that I can’t expect one single planner to meet all my needs, and think I’ve found the small group of tools that are going to make me a happy girl. Here’s what I’ve come up with, after many trials:

Gotta have a Moleskine. As much as online task planners seem to make things easier, they ultimately don’t work if you fail to use them. I’m a paper person, and my reality is that I’m more likely to input my tasks into a small moleskine journal than I am to type them into my iphone. I like the iphone for checking in to see what I need to do, but for data entry, I’m all about the pen and paper. At the moment, I’m collecting my tasks in a bucket list in the moleskine, then sorting and assigning them on my ipad.

Online task management for me. Right now I’m experimenting with the Midnight Inbox Touch app for the ipad. It’s a GTD system (bad joke: watch out for all these organizing apps, you might get a GTD) that’s quite pleasant to use, because it actually walks you through the steps of collecting, process, organizing, reviewing, and doing. Generally I fail to do these things in sequence because the process of doing them isn’t visually pleasant and fun. I’ve tried to use Pocket Informant (see calendar, below) for managing tasks, but the interface is all foldery and convoluted. It’s an added level of thought required when I need to figure out whether something should be starred or a next action. It’s just not aesthetically pleasing, and gosh darn it the way to the left side of my brain is through my right. This would be the purple side instead of the green side, according to the pictures, which also makes me wonder whether zombies would have a right brain or left brain preference. Midnight Inbox asks me what to do with an item and gives me choices to click on, which focuses my addled brain and makes my cross-brain synapses happy.

Online task management for everyone else. Because task management is only fun if you get to tell other people what to do. I’ve decided I like to keep my tasks hermetically isolated from those of my minions (oops, family). I use the 2Do app for them, because I can sync it from my iphone to my kids’ ipod touches and also send my husband a list of reminders or “honey-do’s” in email or message form (because he is not a cool Apple person like us). He loves getting the mid-week lists and reminders (I’m using the sarcasm app right now).

Online calendars for the family. You can’t beat Google Calendar. It syncs with ical, as well as with Midnight Inbox, Pocket Informant, and Outlook. I can see all of our appointments and activities from whatever device I’m on, and I can move things around and create repeat events with ease.

Last but not least, the good old paper calendar for me. I’ve had many of these, with pitiable results. My problem is that I either fly by the seat of my pants and don’t plan things ahead, or the things we do (music lessons, karate, etc.) are the same time each week so there’s no point in my writing that down on a gazillion pages. I’d imagine most moms with kids are in the same boat. Do I really need to write down the Monday morning homeschool coop on every Monday in my planner? Even worse, I’d find myself writing things in after the fact just so my planner didn’t look so pathetic and empty, at least until I just stopped using it after week two.

This year I’ve been using the BusyBodyBook calendar, which in theory is really nice. It has the days of each week going down the left side and then blank headings for 4 spaces going across the top. So you can have a space each day for different aspects of your life, or for each child, or for time of the day, which is how I chose to use it. Unfortunately, I have a hard time dealing with my days presented horizontally. I just don’t like it. Also, each page is the same, and it’s just, well…boring. Recently I’ve been looking at Julie Morgenstern’s “Balanced Life” system in the Levenger catalog. It’s printed in a nice green color and has space for varied to-do categories, habit formation (and breaking), and goals. It briefly gave me the anal-retentive shivers. The downside of it is that if you get it with the leather case (let’s not even mention the fountain pen) it costs about as much as the monthly grocery budget for a family of four. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Thirty-two dollars for three months of a calendar is just too much. And the big downer–it’s boring. If they sold it with an orange leather case, I’d be drooling on my shoes. But plain black? Really?

I finally came across the calendar of my dreams. Erin Condren (available online) sells personalized, colorful, spiral bound calendars that are just astonishingly gorgeous. They look like they’re a pure delight to use, and the design is both attractive and functional. I’m counting the days until the 2012-2013 planners are available. Like the BusyBodyBook (as I’ve used it), it also breaks the day up, but into three vertical spaces. There’s enough space to log morning workouts, plans for the day, and evening activities. I can’t wait! While I’ve found I really like my iphone for looking at the weekly events, I really need paper and for planning the real meat of my day. Also much of what I do during the day isn’t strictly tied to a particular time, so just putting it in a list form is easier for me. I don’t want to have to switch the calendar event “Son #1-math” just because he chooses to take a half-hour poop in the morning. Really, that isn’t technology making my life easier.

Which reminds me: time to add “clean out kitty litter” as a daily repeating chore on my daughter’s list, because the sweeping arm of the mechanical kitty litter “system” is again stuck right in the middle rendering it unusable. Is there an app for that?