Thursday, May 7, 2009

Personalizing Your Schedule ~ Part 2

Find yourself a binder, or at least a notebook. (Granted you could use a laptop if that is really your style.)

You will want to keep all your work in one place. That way, if need be, it will be accessible to your household - and it will make your project “household portable". In case of an emergency, this will make it handy for others to see what needs to happen! (This is especially useful, if you are doing your planning tasks while waiting for your children after school, at the doctor’s office, or on your lunch hour!)

It can be new or old. There are some who no doubt, have one hidden in a pile of clutter in the basement or garage, so see what you can come up with. (Have someone watch for the castoff binders from their company’s discontinued training manuals! The companies are often thrilled to see them recycled!)

You may even choose to do your initial planning layout on the computer, but once it is down, I would recommend printing it for easy accessibility and then putting it in a binder! (Page protectors are a wonderful preservative for sheets that are handled often!)

You can find some neat ones with organizers built into the cover, to hold your calculator, pens and sticky notes! Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to keep you organized!

Don’t forget the page protectors and notebook dividers - there are some amazing plastic ones that far outlast the old cardstock versions! You will want at least one package to start! Sticky notes are another handy item and they came in all sorts of colours! As a “visual” personality, I use different colours for different things!

If you want, personalize your cover and make it your own! As an artist, I love to create fibre-art, but I know there are tremendously talented scrapbook artists who can do the same thing! (Remember though, as your “household notebook”, it will probably take a lot of wear-and-tear, so laminate it, or use a protective covering if you want to preserve your creation!)

After asking “Where Does Your Time Go” and figuring out how your current schedule flows, this would be the next practical step. This will take some time, so feel free to spread it out over several days or a week - it is not necessary to try to attempt to do this all in one fell swoop!

Most importantly, before you start, don’t forget to pray and ask God for the wisdom and clarity needed as you lay this “planning stage” out! We want Him to lead our steps, and we want to work with Him!

Now make yourself a week’s worth of 24-hour time charts, in 15 minute increments for a week. If you have different "weekly" schedules, do a months’ worth! Another helpful tool is a monthly calendar for those monthly commitments and appointments that you will be able to see at a glance. (Don’t run out and buy a bunch of calendars! If you don't have one, ask a friend to print some blank pages on the computer for you to use as a working copy! We will be looking at that issue later. Remember we are still in the planning and organizing stages!)

Utilize your computer, or grab a pencil and eraser, and we will now take it one step further.

You will be doing a lot of cut-and-paste, or erasing and moving things, at this point. (Tip #1: A calendar-program or spreadsheet on your computer can work quite effectively. Tip #2: For planning, some sticky notes on a wall that can be moved around will work, as will a dry erase board. Or, you could use recipe cards on the biggest expanse of floor that you can find! Tip #3: This could be a great take-along task for doing in the car while you are waiting, or in a waiting room, over the course of this week. Do what works best for your organizing style!)

Attempt to first break it down into general time segments for your own “individual” household.

This may change over time, so don’t get stressed over it! For example: I initially segmented mine into early morning (5-9, since we are up at 5 due to hubby’s early work hours, and I have a lot on my list “to do” list), morning routine (9-12), lunch hour, afternoon routine (1-4), before supper routine (4-5), after supper routine (5:30-6:30, as I usually have meetings in the evenings), evening (7- 10) before bedtime routine, and bedtime routine (depending on the day of the week and my meeting schedule).

This is the place where I discovered my schedule-calendar meets “the need to be very personalized”, and why a standard calendar-format type of planner doesn’t work for a very “visual” and “colour-coding” me! I also have lists that are way too long for the little, teeny spaces that most calendars provide, and the little “stickies” help for my one-time details. Again, this is where designing your own “personalized” calendar/schedule/binder comes in handy - and why your own “household notebook” will be “evolving” for a short while!

Initially, you may see where events will run over the top of your natural time segments, but that is okay, as it is part of seeing where things fall! This is not about “knowing” what you “do automatically”, but about “seeing” how to make it all work! This is where your own calendar becomes unique and personal!

Enter your “mandatory” activities and “priority” commitments first. (Tip: Be sure to separately show the required amount of travel time that is needed before and after events. People often forget to do this and wonder why they can’t seem to make it all work! And if the event is cancelled, for some reason, it is easy to locate those extra chunks of free time!) Blocking or framing these time segments in a different colour may be helpful for seeing where things are falling. Church time on Sunday is one example. Homeschooling hours during the week, are another. Figure out what your own “blocks of time” are - they may include your job, your alternating custody slots with your children, family time, after-school routines, homeschooling hours, study time, regular hobbies, weekly visits, volunteer hours, church, bible study time, prayer meetings, and whatever other “goals” and regular items that you may have. Those “to-do” lists will come later! Just block out the time zones for now!

Save some time here now, and check and see what nights you need to plan for meals that need to be eaten earlier, later, or on the run. This will help to ensure that meals are not skipped, and that you are not relying on take-out!

We are living in a different day and age and sit-down dinners are a common rarity in most households. (We will be addressing this in the near future, but do consider making it a scheduled part of your time zones on your calendar, if you do it now. Some families are happy to accomplish this feat once a week or on specific days, while others insist on it daily.)

You may find a busy day and evening activities, require a "crockpot Wednesday" weekly, a "stirfry" Thursday, and the after-school activites on Tuesday mean a "grab-and-go wrap" with all the fixings on the side that that has been put together early morning or the night before!Remember. you are still in the planning stages, so make a note in another colour on your calendar, or on a separate “Meal Planning” page, so you can find this info later on. Even a sticky note on your pages will work for now!)

Now, look at your normal, monthly household calendar.

What is not part of your regular schedule, but part of your customary events? This where you should be writing down vet appointments, doctors, dentists, and car tune-ups! Be sure to include those “every second Tuesday” and “every fourth Wednesday of the month” meetings, and your children’s extracurricular activities. Appointments are only noted on the monthly calendar at this point, unless they are a recurring and regularly-slotted event. (If you are a visual person, like myself, I like to jot appointment reminders on brightly coloured sticky notes and add them to the pages in my dayplanner, as well. This ensures that I don’t overlook something!)

Now, let’s see where the time goes, and what is left over after that.

Not much time left, is there? This is the point where people generally begin to realize they may be overcommitted. If you are feeling that way, see if there is some weeding-out of the activities that is required, or even possible. You may have to re-evaluate what is important to you, and what is not!

Do you need to make any necessary changes to your “plan” based on what you see?

Have a family meeting, with those in your household, and see what changes are feasible. Don’t forget to start with prayer! Delegating certain tasks, and hiring outside help for a season, may be solutions to those dilemmas. It will help you to discern the things that have to change or be added.

So the task is: Grab your binder, which we will call our "household notebook" for the time being, and write down a list of all the things you need to do the next day. Do this every night for the week and note problem areas. Review it daily, in light of your newly planned schedule.

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