Get Organized: Tap the Power of Planners

Imagine a genie, a butler, a secret servant at your fingertips.

Someone who remembers everything: when your kindergartner got his last round of immunizations, the name and number of that other Mom in the soccer carpool, what your second cousin named her latest baby.

Every home manager needs this informational paragon, but no one has to scour deserted beaches for a jeweled bottle.

This secret servant is called a planner--and every home manager worth her gym socks needs to have one.

What is a planner? It's a collection of information, portable and accessible.

There are only two rules for planner use: use a single planner, and take it with you everywhere. No sticky notes, no stacks or scraps of paper, no notes on the back of the phone book. One planner, surgically attached to your body. Into it goes everything, every name, address, phone number, idea and list.

Form is not important. Some home managers use simple 3-ring notebooks with our printables, while others lay out big money for creamy leather binders and pretty pre-printed pages.

Tech-minded home managers tote a smart phone in a shirt pocket or rely on cloud-synced computers to keep them on track. All of these are planners--and all will serve as a stabilizing rudder in the maelstrom of a home manager's life.

What's in a planner? Every home manager has different needs, but these are the basic components of a planner:


Calendars are the backbone of a planner. Most crucial is the date book or appointment calendar. Whether a month, a week, or a day at a time, the date book component gets you where you're going, and on time, too.

Note work schedules, children's activities, doctor appointments, class meetings, social events and the arrival of the dreaded workmen in the appointment calendar. One glance will tell you whether you can chaperone a field trip, or whether you'll be home waiting for the cable installer that day.

Annual calendars record recurring information. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be recorded once and remembered forever.

Annual calendars prevent scheduling disasters. Church deacons won't schedule the annual meeting for Superbowl Sunday and Cub Scout den leaders won't hold the Blue-and-Gold Banquet during Ski Week if they create and carry an annual calendar.

Finally, planning calendars track projects and guide goals. An ambitious home redecorating plan becomes possible when broken down into weekly goals and noted on the planning calendar.

Planning calendars prepare for vacation, carry out fall cleaning, and get ready for the holidays. It's a tool to track emphasis and direction at any one time.

To-Do Lists

If the calendars are the bones of a planner, to-do lists form the muscles: they get the work done. There are two kinds of to-do lists: a daily/weekly list, and a master to-do list.

Start with the master to-do list. This is a section in the planner devoted to slaying mind flies. Does your head ring with mind flies, those pesky little gotta-do thoughts? Kill them by writing them down on the master to-do list.

Order and priority aren't the issue; the function of the master to-do list is to get those buzzing thoughts pinned down where they can be dealt with.

A nifty side effect: once fixed in the master to-do list, mind flies no longer infest the brain. Peace and quiet rule the mental domain.

A sample master to-do list might look like this:

  • Get a new drivers' license
  • Make appointment for eye exam
  • Redecorate home office
  • Order new mattress
  • Wash car
  • Sign up for landscape design class
  • Learn French
  • Deliver computer donations to computer recyclers
  • Return serving trays to Jackie and Betty