Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Search For The Perfect Planner

Sadly, this tale has no happy ending.  Ultimately, the planner that I need doesn't exist.  I'm a work at home mom.  I try to volunteer at the school, spend time with the family, add time for writing and exercise and of course, fit work into the demands of daily life. I split my days into 15 minute increments to keep track and I run from the time I wake up until the wee hours of night most often.

So, I need a planner that is small enough to carry around and fit nicely beside my computer when I'm working. I need a planner with a to-do list that I can move from day to day.  I need a month at a glance, a week at a glance and a day by day that shows everything from 6 am to 2 am.  I created a form for myself that had my day only, this worked great, I could flag work hours vs. home hours easily. To make it large enough to actually write in, it takes a page per day. This page doesn't have room for much to-do or action items, so I need a separate list. 

My work tasks are logged in an internal system and my time is also entered there. Logic screams that I should only be tracking my time in there. But there are errors. Occasionally, items don't save properly and occasionally the user (yes, me) makes mistakes and has nothing to compare it to.

Enter the time tracking cell phone app. This works great for tracking my time on the go, but then it gets messy. The reports don't break things down in a great way for me to quickly enter my time on the work system. The paper planner wasn't great for time entry either but at least I had back up. In order to get a list from the app that I can work with, I have to email it to myself, then spent time sorting and filtering and transferring the time.

There are so many things I need to keep track of, and ideally it would be all in one place, right?  I'm trying to track my fitness and exercise. I need to keep track of how much water I drink, because I never drink enough. I'm trying to track my work hours. I need an ongoing list of to-do's for the homefront. I need a list of appointments and outings. I need to keep track of the kids daily needs (so I never have to try to remember when the last time Angel Baby had a bath was) and their events.  I need to keep track of my blogging for two reasons, first of which is to make sure I do spend time writing and second is to make sure I'm not spending TOO MUCH time writing.

The worst part of it is that if it is not written down, it will likely get forgotten and I will have to spend hours going over my open tasks for work, digging out school calendars, staring at the missed cleaning jobs or checking for empty dresser drawers in the mad search for school clothes.

My brain went downhill seriously each time I popped out a baby, I should have stopped earlier!

Once upon a time, I used my pretty Flylady Control Journal. It managed a lot of my routine items. I still couldn't fit work into it and I still needed my calendar for other items, but it kept me on track. The problem was that it was too big. It took up too much space. A big Binder, no matter how pretty, just always seemed to be in the way. So it got forgotten.

I stress myself often over the perfect way to manage everything. At times I just give up on trying to manage anything.  I know that I can do this, I've done it before. I don't have to do anywhere near as much as I did in the past. It's silly to think that those things matter. Really, if you are going to look at my baseboards and check for dust... you deserve to find it!  And really, it doesn't matter what kind of planner or agenda you have if you don't have the motivation to do what's in it!

Today I downsized. I'm going to depend on sticky notes and a small student agenda. Just a week at a glance type of book, exactly like the one my kids bring home from school, only smaller.  I'm not going to fill it with details. I can map out my tasks generally, note my hours for work as a total, list appointments or commitments and I can find a way to track my fitness if I want to. The point of exercising is to just go, I'm not hugely concerned about when or how, just the IF. 

I'm a compulsive planner. There is always a better way to do everything. But this time, I am doing something completely unlike me and I'm letting go of the details. My September goals are attainable and simple. This is one area where I will allow the imperfection and just try something different.

How do you keep track of your time?  Got any suggestions?

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