Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Getting Organized (In Which I Consider New Planning Systems and Just as Quickly Discard Them)

I like organization.

Yeah, yeah, I'm unschoolish and flexible but I need a plan. If I don't have a plan from which to deviate, how can I know where I began, where the deviation occurred, and where we are or will be when it's all over? (Atticus used to tease me that I was great at being spontaneous as long as I had some notice.)

I'm the Planning Unschooler, the Unschooler With a Plan, and I don't usually worry about how others go about doing stuff, I just do what works for us. I ponder, and make book lists, and put together a basic game plan for our year. Then I sit back and see what unpredictable stuff life has in store for us.

Though I have long-standing methods of organization, when it comes to systems, I occasionally start flitting around the internet and suddenly the planning grass looks startlingly green over the fence.

I peek over that fence, see something sprouting, and think I should try it out. The latest planner? "Oooh! It looks all-encompassingly perfect." All-Digital-All-the-Time organization? "That's an intriguing idea! Maybe it's time to try that." (Except that when I did, I ended up having my phone beep at me just as dinner guests were arriving. Guess what it was telling me? "Dinner Guests tonight!")

I don't know...whatever it is, whatever attraction I have to Planners-and-Their-Ilk, the sickness hits me the same way the Siren Song of Curriculum Catalogs seems to attack. It makes me want to window shop, dabble, and consider...sometimes I even try something new.

And yet, I always go back to my tried and true methods. I live and die by:

  • the white board in the kitchen
  • the wall calendar that the whole family can see
  • the To Do list that sits on the kitchen counter
  • small notebook in my purse at all times (anything that is scribbled on it while I'm out is transferred, upon arrival home, to the board, the calendar, or the To Do list.)

Organization Central is the dry erase board in the kitchen. For years, my girls have known that this is the place to go to get the scoop for the day.

This isn't my board, but it looks just like my board looked once upon a time. Clean, shiny, and new. 

Here's a past image of our white board in action on a snow day:

A more typical list on the white board might look like this: 

The left side of the board holds the daily stuff, the expectations, a class, some errands. "Behold, daughters: the plan for the day!" We all love this kind of stuff. It satisfies our OCDishness and helps us with our forgetfulness. The white board keeps me on track and gives me a place to send people when they say, "What are we doing today?" or, "What is someone else doing today?" 

The right hand side of the board is for those bigger "To Do" things that I'd forget if I didn't jot them down. These things sometimes end up in two places -- on the board (if, for example, I am trying to flag someone's attention ... ahem, Atticus) and on my paper To-do list on the counter. 

The other thing that keeps me organized is the wall calendar. It sits right next to my laptop and it holds everyone's appointments, meetings, book clubs, and library due dates. It's also where I make note of upcoming radio interviews, writing deadlines, and work-related tasks for me. The wall calendar satisifies my need to see the big picture. I like seeing the whole month at once, for a couple of reasons. One, I like to be able to see if I am overscheduling us, and two, I like to have a central location that shows me everyone's schedule (and where those schedules might overlap or conflict.) 

The white board and the wall calendar are Grand Central Stations, but the To-Do list on the counter is just for me. It's really a combination of short-term goals (errands, chores, appointments I need to make, school-related prep/thoughts, writing ideas, phone calls, emails to compose and send) and long-term planning (notes to myself for "Next Month" or "Before December" ... that sort of thing.) I love the wall calendar, but I need my own space, too! 

The little notebook in my purse is a substitute planner (and idea catcher) for me. I've found that it serves two purposes. It allows me to avoid carrying a master planner with me, and I like not having to haul my entire schedule with me wherever I go. If something comes up while I'm out, I jot it down in the notebook and promise the person I'm talking to (whether that's myself or someone else) that I will check my calendar at home and get back to them. That brings me to the second purpose of the notebook -- this method keeps me mindful of what I'm saying yes or no to. If I must wait until I get home to make a decision, I have granted myself time to think about a request or an opportunity, and I've given myself the space to see how it really fits into my schedule, my family, my life. I love my little notebook. 

Wow, this post got away from me. More than you ever wanted to know about my planning methods, methinks. 


Ramona (Karen's favorite daughter) said...

Organizashin is great! See mom, that's what you get for never teaching your kids how to spell Organizashin. :)

Ramona (Karen's favorite daughter) said...

Organizashin is great! See mom, that's what you get for never teaching your kids how to spell Organizashin. :)

Karen Edmisten said...

Oh, Ramona ... it looks like I need to organize a new spelling program. :) Love you, sweetie!