Being Busy?

Most of my days are really busy with a packed schedule. Take this day in January for example – I woke up and did my morning routine which consists of getting up to date on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube and getting ready for the day. This took about an hour. I then had sheduled in time to catch up on my TV shows and Netflix which took around 4 hours. After that I scheduled an hour for a leisurely lunch and some more YouTube. Then it was a crazy afternoon.

In fact here’s a picture of my schedule.

  

As you can see there was, like, only an hour of my day unaccounted for.

Okay so I know this isn’t actually a busy day. I know you can have a full to do list and even schedule out every second of your day and not really be busy. But then I’ve never been one of those people who think being busy is some kind of accomplishment.

In the working world it seems that being busy is an indication of how important you are. But stay at home parents and homemakers often complain they have no time and that they’re busy, as if it’s something to be proud of. To be honest, people who complain about being busy all the time because of the NUMBER of tasks they have to do are probably indicating to me how ineffective they are at prioritising, or worse, how inefficient they are.

Obviously there are times when people are genuinely busy. A person who holds down two jobs while studying and being a single parent can claim to be busy. But on a smaller scale, if you have two events at the same time then you can’t attend one of them because you’re already busy. The same is true if you have an urgent deadline on one task so you’re busy and can’t go to a meeting or work on another task at that time. But these are examples of time constrained busy-ness.

Always having something to do or having somewhere to go doesn’t mean someone’s a busy person. More importantly, it doesn’t mean they’re a useful or productive person.

A change of mindset is needed where people stop thinking being busy is something to boast about. Don’t be busy, be productive.

Those who plan – evolution of communities

Sometimes I think the world can be divided into two kinds of people – those who use a paper planner and those who don’t. Maybe 10 years ago the division would have been between those who planned and those who didn’t, but it seems electronic tools changed the dividing line.

I fall firmly into the category of people who use a paper planner so obviously my perceptions will be clouded by that. But it seems to me the paper planner users are always on the defensive because the other group have somehow taken the higher ground. Apparently in this modern world, people who still use paper must be out of date and inefficient; if you need to plan at least use an electronic device; but obviously the highest form of efficiency is not to need any kind of planner at all but have it all in your mind.

I can use an electronic calendar and I see the benefits of being able to share calendars with family or colleagues. My main issue with them is trusting data entry. I can even use electronic means to do a brain dump. If I’m simply trying to get all thoughts out of my head then any notes or word processing app will do. In fact people call me a gadget geek so they find it doubly strange that I choose paper planners over electronic means. But something about the act of writing consolidates things in my mind. I can get a sense of security when I’ve written something down which I’ve never had from typing it out.

Yet within the paper planner community, over the last few years a new division has arisen. Between those who decorate and those who don’t. And those who don’t decorate seem to feel the higher ground is theirs because planners are functional not for decoration; if you have time to decorate, you’re not busy enough to need a planner; and there are a large number of housewives and W/SAHMs who decorate so it must be a bored woman’s play tool.

The simple fact is the scrapbook and journalling communities have meshed with the planner communities and a new type of planning has emerged.

Perhaps it’s a matter of terminology – people who write about events that already happened aren’t planning they’re recording. But using a planner to keep wish lists and even contact details isn’t really planning – it’s storing.

Our eyes have been opened to the world of creative planning, which in its truest sense blends function and form to enhance functionality. For me it’s a wonderful opportunity to use both the left and right sides of my brain together in a simple planning session.

Yes, I get frustrated by the endless plan with me videos which show decorative layouts but no functional planning and there are many things about decorating planners that confuse me, such as why pay $50 for something you’re covering every inch of? But the answer’s probably as obvious to those people as the answer to ‘why do you need so many planners?’ is to me.

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Time Management Basics – Schedule Your Time

I’m the first to admit I’ve murdered time a lot, particularly over the last few years. (I suppose I should feel grateful he’s still talking to me and I’ve not been punished with an endless tea party.)

Recently I’ve been wasting a lot of time reading books, watching videos and generally immersing myself in all things to do with productivity and time management. I’ve always been a great believer in working smarter not harder, which is born from my innate laziness but luckily translated to efficiency in the work place. I used to get overwhelmed purely because I chose to juggle too many balls, but I was fairly realistic about the time I had available; just unrealistic about I wanted to use that time for.

Anyway I decided to put all my ‘research’ to some use and I’ve started a time management/productivity series on my YouTube channel My Kind of Organised.

I start with a video about scheduling time. It’s really an exercise in being realistic about how we spend our time. People seem to think being busy is a sign of their worth. As if being busy is the same as being productive or efficient or even happy. The reality is, for a lot of people we have a choice over how we spend our time. We may have activities or tasks to fill up every waking moment but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time for other activities – it just means we choose to prioritise our time differently.

Here’s my favourite example, and it comes from the planner community I love. I often see Facebook comments or even YouTube videos where the person says they wish they had time to decorate their planners, they’re just too busy. Frankly, if they have time to log on Facebook and make a comment about decorating, they have time to slap some washi and a couple of stickers on a piece of paper. However they choose to do something else with that time e.g. spend it on social media instead. And that’s a perfectly acceptable use of their time.

We tend to think time is in short supply because we value all our activities with the same level of importance, whether it’s going to work, spending time with family, taking a bath or being a content creator. In this video I suggest we look at the activities that form our week and prioritise them. I talk about ‘tiers’ as a way of framing priorities. I use outsourcing as a way of thinking about discretionary time even though I completely appreciate there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to outsource an activitiy such as caring for children. You could simply ask “could I realistically being doing something else with my time at this moment” but that doesn’t necessarily create levels of priority.

Here’s the weekly layout I use, in case you’re too busy to make your own

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Planner Review – A Look at the Erin Condren Life Planner 2015

Possibly another redundant review. What true planner nerd hasn’t heard of the Erin Condren Life Planner and seen countless unboxing videos? I can spend hours on YouTube watching how people use their Life Planner.
I’m not sure whether Erin Condren does any advertising outside social media but I think her following in the UK is definitely built on YouTube and blogs.

International shipping is now available at a flat rate of $19.95. It used to be $39.95 so that’s a great change. However tinyprints also sell some Erin Condren products and their shipping to the EU is $15.

Life Planner covers are customisable. The insides are not. So all planners start with some pages of “frou frou”

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Then there is an 18 month overview from July 2014, which is when the 2014/2015 planners started. There isn’t much space to write notes on these pages but I’ve seen them used as trackers.

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The monthly spread is on 2 pages and has a Sunday start. There is a notes section on the right hand sideIMG_0079

I think there’s plenty of writing space in these boxes but in August the last Sunday and Monday are halved because the month straddles more than 5 weeks.

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Each month is tabbed and the weekly pages follow the relevant month

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but you tend to get the last few days of the month after the following month’s tab

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The weekly layout starts on a Monday which I prefer, although it was slightly confusing at first to have a month with the Sunday start as well. The weekly layout has a goals and notes column on the left hand side and a lined section headed “meal plans, exercise, daily dos, thoughts, inspiration” at the bottom. Each day is divided into a morning, day and night section.

At the end of the planner are some lined and blank note pages, a flimsy folder and a clear plastic pouch.

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Erin Condren also supplies event stickers and 2 sheets of blank stickers with the Life Planner. It also comes with a booklet for the perpetual calendar and contacts, although I’m not quite sure how this will work in future years. The perpetual nature suggests it should be used every year so will they have it as part of the planner next year or only as an accessory?

This year the covers are interchangeable (if you have something to interchange it with – otherwise they’re just removable).

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The covers are laminated and the lamination on my cover from last year has lasted well despite me uncoiling and putting it in a Filofax. Although my experience with the covers has been fine I know a few have experienced bubbling quite early on.

There are issues with quality control and some people have had problems with customer service. My own experience is that the mistakes they make are frustrating and avoidable but they always put it right or offer credit so I wouldn’t let that aspect put me off.

Each month has a dual colour scheme which is used throughout the month. This is what originally attracted me to the Life Planner. After many years of using plain black and white paper I wanted more colour on the page and I’m not someone who is naturally artistic enough to decorate my planner.

So what about functionality?

Life Planners are 7in x 9in so they’re larger than an A5 Filofax. They are very light though so I would consider them to be portable.

I’ve a seen a myriad of ways people use their Life Planner but stripping it all back, and watching Erin Condren’s early promotional videos, this seems to be designed simply as an agenda. It’s primary purpose seems to be a place to record appointments and events. For this reason the morning, day and night sections make sense. There is also ample space in the boxes to write appointments and events. The space around the Monday – Sunday spread seems to be where to write notes and tasks.

If this is the case then it’s a very expensive planner.

It’s no wonder people have taken to using it for different purposes. But then it seems unfair to complain about not liking the sections to be called ‘morning, day, night’ or not having enough space to fit everything in, because you’re using it for an unintended purpose. I personally think they could maximise the space on the weekly spread better – the date and day doesn’t need to be so big and there really isn’t any need for the gaps between the columns. Since the meal plan, exercise etc heading doesn’t add anything to the lined section they could just remove it.

On a side note, I am curious to know why people who use the Erin Condren Life Planner with different heading names or for journalling and who also cover up all aspects of colour on the page actually buy the planner. Why is the planner worth the $50 cost if so much has to be changed? Obviously people can use their planner how they want, that’s not the point I’m making, the question I’m asking is what is it about the Life Planner that still makes it their planner of choice?

Would I buy another Life Planner – who knows? There are so many alternatives available now they would have to offer something more to tempt me again.

If you’d like to see how I used my Life Planner in 2014, I’ve done a video

From the website

– an INTERCHANGEABLE, laminated, heavy duty 10mil cover for protection from daily wear and tear 
– inspirational quotes throughout 
– LAMINATED tabs for extra durability 
– TWO-page monthly spreads w/ reinforced coil-side binding 
– goals and to-do lists for every week and month 
– weekly spreads divided into morning, day & night 
– meal/exercise/lists/etc. section for highlighted daily notes & activities 
– clear, snap-in page holder/ruler 
– over 25 lined and designer blank pages for notes and sketches 
– DOUBLE-sided “keep it together” folder to wrangle receipts, stamps, and other papers 
– 240 colorful stickers to highlight birthdays, special events and reminders 
– bound-in zip lock pocket with 12 gift labels and “let’s get together” cards 
– perpetual calendar booklet for birthdays and anniversaries 
– sturdy aluminum coil that will not bend & allows your planner to lay flat 
– add photo stickers, custom event stickers, matching notepads, a pen holder, marker set, designer sticker sheets, coil clips or even elastic bands to further customize your planner to be as YOU*nique as you are!

Inside my Erin Condren Life Planner

At $50 for a basic planner, Erin Condren Life Planners are not cheap, particularly when you’re paying $40 on top just to ship it to the UK. But they’re beautiful and an absolute joy to use.

I keep hearing they’re fully customisable, but that’s not really true. You can customise the front and back covers (but only in the classic versions) but as far as I can tell everything else within the planner comes in a standard format. Yes, you can buy extras like pens and stickers but if add-ons make something “fully customisable” then pretty much every bog standard notebook I’ve bought fits into that description.

Anyway onto how I use my planner. I use it for blog/social media, writing, LLM, voluntary work, exercise and menu planning rather than my daily to do planner. I originally bought it for these activities but I thought I’d be supplementing with a daily docket so there are some holidays etc recorded in. (I now use my Filofax for daily tasks.)

I use the monthly pages as a blog/Youtube scheduler. The stickers come with the planner and each colour represents one of my blogs with brown stickers being my Youtube channel. I currently have set days for each blog.

IMG_0503Once I’ve posted, I write the name of the post on the sticker and if I’m late publishing I add the date I published as well.  I also include appointments relating to the other activities so orange is for voluntary work and red is for writing.

Yes, I do colour code in this planner.

IMG_0505I use the top section for LLM, exercise and voluntary work. I use the middle section for blogs and Youtube and I use the bottom section for writing. I did try using washi tape to cover the “morning”, “day” and “night” lines but I don’t find it necessary since I know what the sections are for and I don’t think I’m likely to get confused and think I have to study in the morning, blog in the afternoon and write in the evening. I currently use the bottom of the page for menu planning but I’m thinking about moving that to my Filofax.

At the front of the planner is a perpetual calendar which is meant to be used for birthdays and anniversaries. I use these pages to note down post ideas. I got the idea from someone on Youtube. I’ve got ideas for posts until the end of April and in March I’ll start planning for the next few months. I then use these ideas to plan in more detail on the weekly pages.

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Even though I blog for fun, I wanted to make sure I had enough posts to offer them on a regular schedule. I’m not going to post daily on any blog but I know I have enough content for a weekly post. I’m not great at getting the reviews up for my book blog so I may move that to an every-other-week or twice a month schedule.

Near the back of the planner is a Keep It Together folder and I use this to keep two notebooks, one for writing and one for blogs where I flesh out ideas more fully. I got these notebooks for half price from Paperchase.IMG_0513

So do I love my planner? Absolutely. Do I think it’s worth the money? Even with shipping costs I really think it is. But it’s only February so who knows…

ETA – Apparently erincondren.com gives customers referral links so if you place your first order using my link you get $10 off your purchase and I get a referral credit. Simples

THIS IS A COPY OF A POST WHICH WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON STATIONERYBYDEFAULT.COM

Planning for 2014 – Part 2 Potential Planners

This post may be out of date within hours of it being published since I’ve spent the last few days tweaking and reworking my planning set up for 2014.

I started thinking about this year’s planner set up in November 2013. I thought seriously about what my planning needs were and how I could best find a system that met those needs.

Not really.

I have lusted after Erin Condren Life Planners for a couple of years but I thought they were just too expensive for a planner that probably wouldn’t meet all my needs. So I bought a cheap colourful planner with a similar layout from an Etsy shop printed it and put it in an A5 ARC.

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Only it was clear almost immediately that the planner wouldn’t work out because there wasn’t enough writing space (could be an issue with my printer though).

At this point I did start thinking about what I’d be using my planners for. Function was about to prevail over form. Basically I needed

  • a daily to do list
  • a strategic/long-term project planner
  • a weekly scheduler to cover blogs, studying, exercise, meal planning and writing

My initial thoughts were I could continue to use the daily dockets for my to do list and A4 ARC for my project planning, even though the latter wasn’t really working for me at all. So what I really needed was something to use as a weekly scheduler.

My mind kept going back to the Erin Condren planner and I realised although it may be a lot of money for a planner, with shipping to the UK costing almost as much as the planner itself, I could afford it from my personal budget and it was worth trying it out (otherwise I would always wonder whether it was as lovely as it seems). So I placed an order. Yes there was a financial risk if it wouldn’t meet my needs but this wasn’t an impulse buy.

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I’m thinking about doing a separate blog post or video about how I’m using this planner but basically on the monthly overview pages I use a blank sticker to represent a scheduled blog post (blue – readwritereview; pink – cleanseandtone and purple is this blog) and I use the weekly planner to record the proposed post topics and other stuff.

I thought I’d continue to use my daily dockets but make them A5 size and insert in my EC planner as needed but it didn’t give me scope for much forward planning.

UncalendarI then bought the Uncalendar thinking it would be better to have daily to do lists in one planner rather than using loose sheets but after a while I realised using 3 planners seemed a tad unnecessary.

Early this year I got a real hankering to use a Filofax again. I don’t know why. Last year I fell out of love with them a bit but I started watching Filofax setup videos on YouTube and knew I needed a Filo back in my life. So once again function was going to have to follow form.

Since the A4 ARC hadn’t worked out, I decided to try using my A5 mustard Finchley as my project/task planner and use the daily dockets in the same binder to record my daily to dos.

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and since then,, using my EC planner for weekly scheduling and my Filofax for daily to dos and strategic planning has remained constant. I also use a notebook to supplement both planners.

However the exact Filofax and the way I’m doing my daily planning keeps changing and I’m currently on incarnation number 4. If I ever use the same set up for more than a couple of weeks I may do a post on my Filo setup too.

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