I’m drowning most of the time. There is even an official term for the way I live my life: Motherhood. As a mum of three, my life is hectic. Throw in the fact that I work from home, and I rarely get a minute to myself. Despite my better judgement, I seem to thrive off having multiple projects on the go at any given time. As nonsensical as this seems, I know I am not alone. Motherhood is a time of life when you find yourself confused, sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. There are so many tasks that need completing and people who need pleasing, that it can be impossible to keep track of it all. What’s worse, all those little things YOU need keep getting pushed to the bottom of your priority list.
I often find myself overwhelmed by demands and unfinished jobs. I was losing track of valuable projects and completing forgetting essential tasks. Life was getting rough, and I was neglecting myself in the process.
Then came Pinterest. Pinterest is a dangerous realm of impossibilities. I was taunted with immaculate home decor, complex D.I.Y activities for children and mouth-watering kitchen masterpieces. Pinterest had quickly become a cruel tease for the drowning mother… Until I found some posts about paper planning!
You hear terms like ‘Filofax’ and ‘Project Planning’, and you can’t help but picture a stuffy office, people in suits with hefty portfolios spread open, overflowing with notes. But that was yesteryear. Now, the average Filofax owner carries a magnitude of colourful pens, cute stickers and fancy deco tape. A Typical Filofax owner can be a stay at home mum who loves to read and take her kids on playdates at the park. I was inspired by the variety of ways people were using weekly planners and diaries to organise their goals and dreams.
Over the past few years, I have tried and tested a variety of planners and methods in order to find the best possible fit for my life. The most incredible part of this ever-changing planning system is that each method was appropriate for that stage of my life. When I moved back to my mum’s house before I had my third child, I wasn’t working as much, I wasn’t organising a household, and I was rarely in control of my schedule! For this reason, I was able to put aside my bulging A5 Filofax and pull out a simple notebook to keep a daily track of my priorities in the lead up to my due date.
Being a paper planner has not only brought relative peace to my hectic life, but it has also been a thoroughly enjoyable process, one that changes constantly according to the demands of my life. My planner has become my life jacket, and without it, I am back to floundering amongst the chaos of housework and unsatisfied children!
Setting up a planner can be tricky, so here are some tips to bear in mind:
What goes into your planner should be unique. We all live our own individual lives, and your planner should reflect that. However, there are some features that are common appearances in most planners:
1) Monthly calendar
These come in a wide range of formats, and it depends what suits you best. Personally, I prefer a grid across two pages. Although, others prefer to have their entire month on one page. Some people opt out of a grid format entirely and prefer a vertical list with each day of the month on a single line.
2) Weekly calendar
Again, the number of formats available for a weekly calendar are pretty extensive. Rather than vertical columns for each day, I have always preferred each day horizontally.
3) To do lists
You can organise these lists into categories. This helps you see how much time you are devoting to each area of your life. Often, we fill our time with household tasks and work-related tasks, and we end up neglecting other aspects of ourselves. In my planner I have different sections for tasks:
Purge your mind!
One of the biggest obstacles to our productivity is our mind. Often we find ourselves unable to focus on one task because we are too busy worrying about all the other tasks we need to get round to. When this happens, not only are we less likely to perform successfully, but we also leave tasks incomplete as we attempt to handle several projects at once.
So sit down, grab a pen and paper, and write down everything you need to do. Whether it’s a big task or small, write it down. For example, ‘clean fridge’ or even ‘write article’ . The aim is to get everything down on paper so it isn’t cluttering your mind and hindering your progress.
Break it down – plan it out!
Now you have your Master To Do list, it’s time to sift through and split any big tasks into a step by step process. For example:
Plan main points
Format and finalise
You could even break these down further. You may only have 10 minutes a day to work on your article, so break it down in a way that each task can be completed in just 10 minutes. This way, you are more likely to see a project through to the end, even if it takes a little longer.
Spread it out
Now you have all your small tasks, they can be spread across each day or even spread through each month. After putting all your appointments, events and deadlines onto your calendars, you will have a clear view of your free time. Distribute your tasks and projects across your week, deciding where best to put each task. Remember, those bigger projects were split into bite size chunks for a reason – you don’t have to complete them all at once!
Adding extra sections to your planner depends on you. I prefer to have a section for household notes like maintenance and meal plans. Another section I find useful is a ‘Work’ section which holds all my deadlines in one place, along with relevant notes and contacts for each project. Some mothers have a ‘School’ section to hold together any information for their child’s school events and holidays. Another idea is to have a ‘Reading’ section to keep track of the books you’re working through.
The possibilities are completely up to you – whatever makes your life easier!
This step is completely optional. A lot of planner users aren’t a big fan of stickers and fancy colour codes, whilst other users only have a planner so that they can decorate. But one goal is in mind: enjoy your planner. If your planner doesn’t make you feel good when you open it, you’re less likely to use it. Whether you want to use colourful stickers or fancy deco tape, decorating your planner can be both enjoyable and functional.
That’s all it takes to set up a paper planner. Although, you may find yourself regularly adjusting and reshuffling your planner as your life evolves and your demands change. Either way, having somewhere to collect everything that goes on in your life is a breath of fresh air during those chaotic times in your life! How you format and arrange your planner is completely up to you. Browse online for ideas – seeing how other people have set up their planners is always a great way to get ideas and inspiration. Try it out, and believe me, you’ll wonder how on earth you coped before!
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Khadijah Stott-Andrew is an enthusiastic paper planner. Don’t miss her upcoming blog series for more ideas and inspiration for your planner. Subscribe to Khadijah’s blog- khadijahsa.wordpress.com