Category Archives: Organization

Planners for Moms: Your Suggestions

The day planner series has generated simply scads of feedback—thanks! Here are some of the ideas you’ve shared in the comments:

Becky wrote,

I’m a geek too, but a cheap geek and lazy to boot. I found I just
don’t use the kind of planners meant to be toted around (I much prefer
a huge central calendar in the kitchen for things like that — and I
love the "Family Organizer" from More Time Moms, which sacrifices
pretty pictures for lots of spaces).

But I do like to keep a record of the kids’ work for the day, as you
do, Lissa, and I’ve found that a regular "student planner" at Staples
for under $10 does the trick. There was a lovely supermarket-brand one
a couple of years ago, but it seemed to be a one-off 🙁

Leslie recommended a planner I haven’t seen yet:

Be sure to check out the Familytime.mine planner from Tanglewood Press.
Border’s Books sells it. It has sections for seasonal, monthly, and
weekly views with large blocks for each day. It’s a 17-month planner
that begins in September and runs through December of the following
year. It is an 8.5 x11" spiral bound size, though, so it won’t fit in
most purses. About 5-7 of the moms I know use it and love it. I just
happen to be a PalmPilot kinda woman, myself.

And Ann came up with her own pretty and practical solution:

After reading your intriguing series of posts on Planners, Melissa,
I bought my own pretty (because, yes, beauty is *essential* in a
planner)hardback, spiral (it needed to lay open on the counter, if I
was really going to use it) journal, with some adhesive tabs and made
my own day planner based on the brilliant layout from the
MomAgenda…with several caveats… (A Planner for UnPlanners):

1. I didn’t label the tabs with all kind of subjects–I am only
labelling them as I actually find need to jot something down–that way
it is just what I acutally need and *use* as opposed to some imposed,
unecessary division I’ll never use. (So far, I have a tab for: Daily
Schedules, Grocery Lists, Items needed for Children)

2. I am writing only a loose skeleton for the day’s outline…no tight
schedule for me. And then as the day progresses, I write in (loosely,
only what I want to make note of) what I actually *DID*—like
**scheduling in reverse**. That is working for me. I can see what
worked some days, what didn’t, what may have been a stumbling point and
could be tweaked…and I feel a sense of accomplishment instead of
discouragement. Seeing what I *did* on a day motivates me for the next
day. And if I didn’t get to "a bone on my skeleton" for the day, I just
add it to the next day.

3. In the children’s squares, somedays I jot in what I’d like to do
with each child that day so I remember…or again, I jot in what we
actually did together. Nice to have a record of our days.

3. Finally, I am only making up one week layout at a time in the
journal… that way, if I choose not to continue (I am on my third week),
well…I still have a blank, pretty journal to write in instead of a
whole planner of scheduled, useless pages! ~warm smile~ (And one can
*always* use a journal!)

I am *most* grateful, Melissa, for this series…with some tweaking, I think this is a planner that works unplanners!

Anne-Marie prefers the high-tech version:

Me, I’m a computer gal, so Microsoft
Outlook is the one way to go. I keep separate calendars for my work as
an Usborne Books consultant, and a main one for daily appointments.
Each family member has their own color and I also color code the
different work things I do – MOMS Club, charter school, writing,
Usborne, etc.

My problem with written calendars is that either I run out of room
or they’re a mess from the constant changes. With MS Outlook, I change
everything online and just print out a new calendar to take with and
post on the ‘frige.

I’d love to hear from more folks about the planners you know and love. It’s so nice to know I’m not t he only one with this obsession.

Other day planner reviews:
Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner
Small Meadow Press — Circle of Days
The BusyBodyBook

Another Mom Planner Review: The BusyBodyBook

Okay, you plannerholics, here’s another one to feed your cravings: the BusyBodyBook Organizer by About Your Time. This is a 7×10 spiral bound book (a little larger than the MomAgenda, and not quite as thick) with a pocket on the front and back cover. Its format is a weekly grid with five columns for each day. You could use one column for mom and the others for kids, sort of like the MomAgenda (though laid out quite differently). Or if you’re a homeschooler you could use it as an assignment/lesson books with a column for different subjects.

Here’s a walk-through:

• 2 page spread for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

• 3 months at a glance. (I love this feature—though the boxes are small, they’re big enough to mark major events like vacations, doctor appointments, and so forth, and I love the idea of seeing a three-month chunk at once.)

• Then the weekly spreads begin: left page is for notes & lists; right page is the weekly grid. The days of the week run down the page; you enter names or topics across in the columns. To use it just for yourself, you could do something like: Appointments, Chores, Errands, Meals, Misc. Or, as I said above, have a column for yourself and one for each kid.

• In the back are several pages for notes, and then a bunch of tear-out To Do lists, which is a nifty feature. In the very back are two pages for addresses (seems intended just for your most frequent contacts, not a full address book) and a bookmark.

The bottom corner of the lefthand notes pages (opposite the weekly grids) has faint photo images for decoration, mostly warm family scenes. I’m not crazy about this feature—I don’t think I’d notice it after the first week or two, but I don’t really want to see strangers smiling up from my planner. Could be just me. Otherwise it’s a nice clean design.

The weeks go Monday through Sunday.

Jane pounced on this one immediately; she sees endless possibilities for filling those grids.

Other planner reviews:
Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner
Small Meadow Press — Circle of Days

Planners for Moms: Circle of Days

Ta-da! Let the oohs and ahhs commence because the Small Meadow Press planner is here!

You know, I love it when people think outside the box. Lesley Austin is so good at that: she can take a tired old idea and reimagine it so that it becomes something entirely new and beautiful. She’s done it again with her planner, and she is right in saying that it isn’t your ordinary day planner.

Lesley writes:

If you are like me, you have tried many planners with the fervent hope that they will be just the right thing to finally keep some order in your day. So many pages, so much potential, so exciting! And then you find that you don’t use many of the categories, or that you don’t like looking at all that you have to do in a day all at once, or you begin to feel guilty because you are not using yet another system. I have done this so many times and was tempted to do it again, when the idea for A Circle of Days came to me.

This is not your usual planner….I see it as a sort-of-perpetual planner. A container for all the tasks we hope to accomplish during the day. It has twenty-one cardstock pages inside its covers-three for each day-one for morning, one for afternoon and one for evening. I find it more peaceful to see what I want to do for a part of the day, rather than the whole day. It is less overwhelming.

CodpagespreadLesley’s system uses small Post-It Notes to keep track of each day’s tasks. She has assigned a Post-It color to each of her children and one for herself. After a task is completed, the note either goes in the recycling bin or, if it’s a recurring event, gets stuck in the back of the planner until its time rolls round again.

Immediately, I’m thinking: FlyLady. You could make post-its for your daily and weekly routines and your zone work. It would be the prettiest "control journal" going—pretty enough to leave on your counter all day, for sure. The order page mentions a few other uses people have envisioned:

…one young lady plans to use it to organize her studies in the coming year, and a dear friend is using it to house inspirational writings that she turn to throughout her day.

Codcontent_1If you’re wanting a permanent record of your activities (like the way I use my dayplanner to record what the children have read or studied each day, and to track Wonderboy’s medical and therapy history), you’ll want a more traditional planner. But if you’re looking for a way to bring order and beauty to your daily home management tasks, this is an inspired solution.

You know, I think it actually embarrasses Lesley a bit the way I’m always raving about her lovely creations. But I can’t help it. I so admire her sweet simplicity, her attention to detail, her ability to infuse even the most mundane of tasks with real beauty. She approaches her work with such care and gentleness—she’s like my favorite line from Anne of Avonlea:

"I’d like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don’t exactly want to make people know more. . .though I know that is the noblest ambition. . .but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me. . .to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born."

That’s exactly what Lesley Austin does (and I know she’ll be even more embarrassed when she reads this). How many little joys and happy thoughts she has brought into my world since the day I happened upon her booth at a homeschooling conference!

Other planner reviews:
Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner

Planners for Moms: My Other Favorite Planner

It seems I’m not the only one with a planner obsession. I’m getting tons of feedback on this topic. Keep it coming! If you have found an organizational tool you love, do tell!—I’ll collect all the comments I’ve received in a future post. Sounds like there are some more nifty planners out there I should investigate…including, and this news has me so excited I can hardly stand it, yesterday I read that Small Meadow Press is about to launch its own planner. Cue the exclamation points! If you know me, you know I am a huuuuuge fan of all things Small Meadow. The notecards, the illustrated quotations, the house garlands—really, there is nothing Lesley Austin creates that doesn’t make my heart go pitty-pat. A Small Meadow planner sounds too good to be true.

Planners1_image3431Now on to another fine planner. This is the one I have used this past year and it served me perfectly. It’s the Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner from Family-Centered Press. All you FranklinCovey fans will be happy to know the Catholic Woman’s planner is available in a 7-hole-punched version that fits in your FC or DayRunner binders (FranklinCovey’s "classic" size). There is also a spiral-bound version, which is the one I used. If you prefer a larger size there is an 8 1/2 x 11" version available in both spiral-bound and 3-hole-punched editions. Mine is the smaller spiral one and I loved its compactness (but there was still plenty of room for writing Lots of Stuff).

My favorite thing about this lovely planner: printed on each day are the daily Mass readings and saints’ feast days and Holy Days. It’s a beautiful way to keep tuned in to the turnings of the liturgical year. There are also quotes from the Church fathers on each weekly spread.

The format is a little different this year: click here for a look. Like the momAgenda, each month begins with a two-page month-at-a-glance spread and proceeds to week-at-a-glance pages. (Samples of both at the link above.) The extra pages include daily prayers, prayer journal, address book, web log and year-at-a-glance calendars. You can also choose versions with lesson planning pages, menu planning pages, or both. Lots of options!

I liked the protective plastic cover that doubled as a firmer surface for writing on. Of course a huge advantage to the spiral-bound and hole-punched formats is that the planner always lays flat, unlike sewn bindings.

Designing a planner can be a difficult job, because everyone has such decided preferences. I think the old format (week at a glance on the left-hand page, space for notes, shopping lists, and menu plans on the right) probably suited me better than the new layout, but a lot of people prefer the new version with more space for each weekday. This year’s model comes with stick-on plastic tabs, too, for demarcating the months of the year and other sections.

As for aesthetics, well, the momAgenda’s pretty colors are hard to beat. But that beauty comes at a price: the momAgenda is considerably more expensive. The Catholic Woman’s Planner (there’s a men’s version too) is affordable, functional, edifying, and inspirational, and I have thoroughly enjoyed using it.

More reviews to come in the days ahead! That’s my plan.

Other planner reviews:
Small Meadow Press — Circle of Days

Day Planners for Moms

My quest for the perfect planner began eight years ago when I first read Confessions of an Organized Housewife. Crucial to housewifely organization, according to author and highly organized person Denise Schofield, is a book in which to keep track of All the Stuff That’s Going On in Everyone’s Life. FlyLady says pretty much the same thing, except she uses the term "side-tracked home executive" instead of "housewife."

Over the years I have tried a bunch of different versions. FranklinCovey and its less expensive imitators, Day-Timer and DayRunner, offer a variety of size and style options for durable binders with hole-punched inserts. Target carries FranklinCovey materials now, but if you want the full range of design choices, you probably need to shop online or find yourself a catalog. (Tip: Look for a used binder on eBay rather than shell out [gasp] seventy bucks for a new one. I once bought a gently used leather one for ten dollars.)

Lots of people swear by this kind of planner, and certainly it has its advantages. You can pick the size that suits you, whether it’s a big one with lots of room to write or compact version that’ll fit inside your bag. And you can customize for your own needs with all the many insert options: address book, notepad, week-at-a-glance planning pages, daily planning pages, little plastic photo holders, credit card holders, pouches to hold stamps, amazingly flat yet functional calculators—the choices are legion. And you can reuse most of this nifty stuff year after year, just swapping out the calendar pages.

But somehow the FranklinCovey-type of planner didn’t work for me. Maybe it was all those inserts: I found it hard to write on my calendar pages because of the bumpy stuff underneath. And the hole-punched pages just seemed flimsy. I like paper with some meat to it.

So I resumed my quest. And I discovered some treasures. Like this one: the MomAgenda. When I saw this planner, it was love at first sight. I was all, Ooh, it’s so  PRETTY! The lovely colored paper gives it a higher price tag, of course, but it really is a treat to the eyes. The stain-resistant shantung covers come in pink, blue, green, green, brown, black, and red.  And the interior layout is brilliant in concept. You can tell it was designed by a mom. For each weekly spread, the days are divided into a large space for mom and four smaller spaces for the kids. If your kids have a lot of activities, this would be an easy way to keep track of them. Homeschoolers could use the kid-boxes to record lesson plans. Very clever design.


The planner comes with a removable address book. There is a bound edition with ribbon markers, or a hole-punched edition with binder. I have the bound version, which I have to admit doesn’t lay as flat as I might like. I need my planner to stay open on the counter. Upon reconsideration, the binder/hole-punched version might have suited me better.

The momAgenda folks are now offering free printable downloads of their weekly planner pages, if you want a look-see.

Edited to add: One caveat! A couple of the quotes on the MomAgenda’s pages are unsuitable for kids to see. If you’re like me and leave your planner open on the counter in full view of the younguns, you’re going to keep an eye on the quotes.

More planner reviews:
Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner
Small Meadow Press — Circle of Days