I work 8-5, Monday through Friday as a full-charge bookkeeper. I also run a part-time bookkeeping service business. I also have a home to run, groceries to purchase, dry cleaning to pick up, clients to meet, webinars to attend, cobwebs to attack with a broom, plants to water, weeds to kill, packages to post, appointments to schedule, greeting cards to send, come up with new and exciting ways to make chicken, laundry to wash/dry/fold/put away and a hub that better not be lounging watching Starship Troopers (don’t ask!) for the hundredth time while I’m doing all this – 🙂
No, seriously. He helps. He makes the best sauce and b-b-q baby-back ribs I’ve ever had. But as you can tell, I’m out of the house – a lot. I leave at 7:30 every week day morning and return at 5:30, which means a majority of my daily tasks (that don’t involve Round-Up, a watering can or a vacuum) need to be completed away from my home base. Either scheduled down time at my desk, lunch hour or on my way home. If they’re not, well, guess what I’m doing all weekend long?
In order to maintain balance between my work and home life, I need a system that’s functional. That includes having the means to conduct non-work matters such as tasks, phone calls, appointments, etc. in an efficient manner to garner productivity. One of those ‘means’ is my planner. When I’m in the convenience of my home office, it’s a moot point. However ,when I’m out and about, it’s important that that my planner is not only be set up in a manner that is easy to navigate, but also be equipped with the necessary supplies and tools in order to act in that capacity.
Away from home, my planner must be my mobile office.
How do I do this
Simplicity. Simply stated (not being repetitive) have only what you need to accomplish any task. Overloading your planner with goodies that will not aid your productivity (no matter how adorbs that moustache-shaped sticky note is or glittery owl stickers or crystal-studded-hot-pink pen with 8-metallic colors are) is more of a detriment than a necessity. My humble opinion, of course. Yeah, I know – you planner gals who wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without at least 3 rolls of washi tape or your set of 20 Staedtler pens may think I’m crazy. Really, it’s all about keeping my shoulder and forearm from falling off from the weight of carrying all that! Plus, having all your basic essentials in your planner can enable you to downsize your handbag (I often switch to a wristlet on the weekends) My planner tools are very pared down:
- Pens. I’m currently using erasable Frixion pens that I got for free with my Walgreens Rewards points. Black for text and two colored ones (green & purple) for when something needs to be emphasized. The black one fits into the pen loop while the other two tuck nice and neat on either side of the side pocket (see intro photo above) They’re also clickable so I don’t have to deal with caps popping off and getting lost. I do have a slim pen case that carries two Bic Quad pens in case more color-coding is in order, but I’ve been trying to make do with just what’s in my planner. The less I have to fish around in my tote for a supply, the better.
- Sticky notes: This is one indulgence I do not skimp on. Besides pens, sticky notes are the other item I go into hock over because, in addition to having color and personality, they are also functional. Along with several styles tucked away in the zippered portion of my planner, I keep this 3-sectioned sticky note on my ‘catchboard’ to capture anything that comes to mind while I’m on the run rather than flipping to my monthly/weekly pages or dividers. It’s all about ease and convenience and it’s easier to just open up the planner and put something right there rather than flipping through all your sections. Later when I’m home and have ‘planner time’ I’ll transfer anything from my catchboard to a permanent home, then cross it out. I tried finding the link to these (I was sure they were by At-A-Glance and got them at Staples, but couldn’t find them online – apologies!)
- Lots of blank paper. Punched, inserted and ready to use. Whatever your fancy whether it be plain, lined or grid (squee!) have several sheets in whatever sections of your planner so if you have to pull over to take a call or if you’re with your laptop soaking up free wifi while practicing your doodling with a Youtube video, taking webinar notes, setting up a new section or jotting down ideas to completely turn your kid’s room into a spa oasis once you ship them off to Independence-Land, always have enough to write in whatever desired section.
- Spreads. Whether they be daily, weekly, monthly or all three. Yes, there are a lot of adorbs (I like that word, not just because I’m too lazy to write ‘adorable’) inserts out there be it on Etsy, planner sites or even Staples. I know the week-on-two-page spread with little hearts for task boxes and a row of water bottles to mark your intake and a cute fork and spoon to section off meal planning is hard to resist. But think with your head before you follow your girly-girl heart – ‘how ‘functional’ will this layout be?’ ‘Will I have enough room to write in my schedule with all the graphics taking up space?’ I’m all about having a planner that reflects your style and incorporating fun into it, but – first and foremost – it needs to be your hand-held assistant. And just like an assistant works for the boss, your planner has to work for you. If you REALLY want to try those inserts, then perhaps attempt replicating them in either Word or Excel (I did this with the Franklin Covey day-on-two-page spread, altering it so that it wasn’t a complete rip-off). I wasn’t about to invest a quarter or even an entire year on those inserts unless I knew it would be something I’d stick with for the long haul. Whatever inserts you choose, make sure they have enough space to accommodate your schedule, tasks, to-dos, reminders, etc. The ones I’m currently using have unencumbered spacious room for writing, but a shaded area for anything of a ‘must do’ nature so that it stands out
- Paper clips. Not the jumbo ones with pretty paper bows hot glued to them or fuzzy pom-poms hanging off them. My planner is a ‘working’ planner – trust me, those clips wouldn’t last a day being pulled in and out of my work bag. No, I’m talking about plain ol’ paperclips. Well, maybe not plain. I have these swirly, plastic white ones. Yep, that’s right – I know how to throw down in my planner after all! Ahem, but….yes, I use these for when I need to make an unscheduled stop at the grocery store and have coupons. I pull them from my coupon binder and clip them to the back of my list so they don’t get loose. They’re also good for clipping return envelopes to bills when I sort mail either on my down time at work or on the go. Right now, I’m using one and carrying 3 extra that are clipped to a monthly journaling card in the big side pocket:
- Page markers. There’s a reason these come as a standard item with a filled planner upon purchase. I only utilize one to take me to the current week, but if you also rely heavily on a monthly spread or any other section of your planner you need quick access to, then these are inexpensive time-savers
- Page flags: I have two sets that fit nice and snug in the card slots on the inside cover (see intro photo). They allow quick reference to a page I will need that doesn’t have it’s own divider or page marker. The thin ones I use to tab paperwork I need to complete a task (ie: credit card bill if you have to call to question a charge, a prescription to call in for refill, a prepared deposit to take to the bank, etc.) Below is an example of how I use them. Any paperwork I need to deal with on-the-go gets slotted into the secretarial pocket in the inside cover. I had a doctor’s bill I had to call about on 8/3/15, a check that had to be cashed at the bank and a Staples coupon I noted ‘8/8/15’ because I’ll be out running errands that day and need to stop at Staples for a new calculator so that reminds me to use the coupon.
- Pocket inserts. Whether they be plastic slotted, linen envelope or a Ziploc style, these act like a file cabinet and drawer for small, flat items you may need on-the-go such as postage, tickets for dry cleaning to pick up, store receipts, appointment cards, return address labels, loose change (in the zippered one of course!) or anything that isn’t already housed in the front pocket of your planner. Later, when you’re home, you can go through anything stuffed in there and process them accordingly
- Colored pencils. These make fantastic highlighters as they don’t bleed-through or smudge ink like felt-tipped ones nor leave a tacky residue like gel ones. I keep a couple of these in the zippered portion with the sticky notes. They’re quite slim so my planner isn’t overly bulky when I close it. Appointments and events get highlighted in yellow on my monthly spread. Paydays/direct deposits are in green and dates of auto-drafts are red. If I’m in-between errands and happen to find myself in Starbucks relaxing with a green tea latte, I can begin processing any information from my catchboard so it’s handy to have them just in case.
- Flash Drive. As a bookkeeper, I often support clients remotely. If I can’t remote into their desktop, I have to copy their file onto a flash drive to upload into my software back at my home office. I always keep one in the zippered portion of my planner
- Scissors. As you can see in the intro photo, I keep a tiny pair inside the zipper. These come in handy at the grocery store or pharmacy when they have in-store coupons in their weekly flyer. My ripping skills aren’t that polished and, with my luck, I’d rip it right across the bar code that has to be scanned! Also, if I stop somewhere for lunch and have some quiet ‘planner time’, I can cut and test out a new inserts or free grid paper that needs to be trimmed, I have the tool to do so. Except for…….
- Notecards. I keep three in the side pocket (see intro photo). One are the Orla Keily ones I got from Barnes & Noble and the other two are Target Dollar Spot (the mothership of planner fodder!) Again, these are for when I’m either at my desk at work or still sipping that green tea latte. I’m a couponer and when printing them off online, I also print baby coupons (for our next door neighbor’s newborn) and dog food/supplies ones (for my neighbor down the street for her new pup) I write a little note inside the card, tuck them in and leave it in their mailbox on my way to work in the morning. I also just did a giveaway that I have to ship off to the recipient today and will use one to accompany the package.
- Contact information. While a bulk of my most-called numbers are stored in my Contacts app on my phone, there is certain information I need more easily accessible. By the time I find my phone at the bottom of my tote, turn it on, swipe it open, punch in my security code then search for what I’m looking for, I could’ve watched an entire season of The Walking Dead (okay, exaggerating here!) I keep a list of our banks account numbers in case I’m out of tickets and have to make a deposit, withdrawal or transfer. This is tucked into one of the inside card slots – information folded inward for privacy – with a page flag marked ‘Banking‘ on it (see intro photo) so it’s right there. I also have hub’s med list folded into one of the pocket inserts, a QuickBooks price/features fold out punched in my Business Planning section (in case I get a call from a potential client and need to ‘wow’ them with my font of instant knowledge!) and my ID/account numbers to my Pro Advisor subscriptions (phone number is programmed in my phone). If you need to store more detailed contact information, A-Z dividers would be beneficial.
- Pocket Notebook. Some information I just don’t want to be housed permanently on my planner pages. I keep this little lined, craft notebook from Eccolo (I got it at Staples and fervently searched their site and couldn’t find a link) tucked into the large side pocket where my notecards, paperclips and receipts get stored. This is for inner-self stuff or when I want to sketch out a dorky idea, outline a post, titles for a future novel, a list of songs that remind me of the time I used to visit my cousin for two weeks in the summer in the mid-70’s, plan a secret get-away for hub and me, list out just how fantastically awesome the series finale of Breaking Bad was (really, it was!) or anything I just don’t want visible as I keep my planner open at work and home. This is my little book of secret, dopey, quirky fodder. I can stash it away once it’s full of (GASP!) toss it if I feel there’s nothing in there to keep for posterity.
This is what I keep in mine to support my day-to-day schedule of personal and business needs. I imagine what supplies and tools I would require if I were sitting at my home office doing book work, paying bills, cutting coupons, making calls, sending an email, etc. and tried to fit downsized versions of them into my planner.
And best of all, an open planner on your lap makes a decent desk – in-a-pinch!