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Ask Allie: Staying Organized

By Wardrobeoxygen @wardrobe_oxygen
I noticed you have a paper calendar as well as a smartphone in your tote bag. How do you organize your to- dos (both work and home) and your appointments using both? I go back and forth between paper and digital and can't seem to find a good fit, I'd love to know how someone else does it. Thanks! (Oh, and I am a big list maker!)

Once Emerson was on the scene, Karl and I realized we needed a way to synchronize our schedules. No longer would a post-it note or text work, we had a human being who needed at least one of us 24/7. And with my day job, his freelance photography, and my blog, our life was like a game of Tetris. Once Emerson was old enough for dance classes and play dates it got insane.

Everywhere I read recommended Google Calendar for families. So one weekend I set it up and added the times for all our classes, meetings, after-work events with my personal Gmail email and Karl's Gmail email. I forgot that brands I work with send Google Calendar invites to my Wardrobe Oxygen email, so I had to include that one too. I then had my phone show things from both my work Outlook calendar and Google calendar. Thing is, Karl doesn't love being attached to his phone and doesn't sit at a computer all day like me so when he had appointments, he'd email them to me and I entered them. On top of that, like you I am a list maker. I often make bullets of what to discuss on a call or list of what to take for an event and I couldn't easily access them or update them with everything on my phone. This was not saving us time or keeping us more organized.

I went back to my paper planner and was much happier. Our front door is steel, and it became Command Central, with magnets holding post-it note reminders, appointment cards, and such. I'd send Karl an email each Monday with the week's schedule. It was not perfect, but it was easier than Google Calendar.

Ask Allie: Staying OrganizedA couple months later I went to a kid's birthday party and the family had a gigantic dry erase board calendar in their dining room. It was magnetic; they'd write down events, pin field trip permission slips and theater tickets to it, had markers of different colors to represent each family member. It wasn't anything that would get oohs and aahs on Apartment Therapy but I found it utterly brilliant. That weekend I was at Target and saw they had magnetic dry erase calendar squares (think these may be the same ones) and purchased two and a few markers in different colors. I made one for the current month and one for the upcoming month. Pink for Emerson, orange for me, blue for Karl, black for high priority. We hung them up in the kitchen just a few steps from the front door at a height where even Emerson can access them.

I kept the paper calendar because on it I add work and blog-related events that don't affect the family; it has a week at a glance which I use as my blog editorial/meeting calendar as well as a mini journal. I also liked how portable it was; first thing at work I lay it open on my desk. Once a week I synchronize the calendars to be sure we're on the same page. The only things I put on my electronic calendar/Outlook are weekday things that affect just me: phone calls, concerts, after work events. The only work things I put on the paper or magnetic calendars are things that require me to get to work super early or leave unusually late or where I need to be offsite.

At work I live by Outlook. I schedule phone calls, schedule due dates, schedule all sorts of reminders. It's funny, at my last job I lived by Outlook Tasks but now I put tasks as appointments. My day job is a lot of meetings, webinars, and calls and we schedule them by looking at coworkers' availability. By scheduling my tasks on my Outlook calendar, I schedule in time to get them done and don't end up working extra hours to catch up.

I also go paper at work. I have a five-subject spiral that sits on the edge of my desk and goes with me to every meeting. Each day I start a new page with the date in the upper right corner and make a task list. There's something so delicious about physically crossing things off a list. I put a post-it on that page so I can easily find it; behind it I will have notes from meetings, projects, and things from that day's activities. Each day gets a fresh page and anything not crossed off from the previous day's list goes to the top of that list. These spirals are like a journal and since they're in chronological order I can easily go back a month or two and refer to notes. If for some reason I don't have my spiral on me, I transfer any notes into the book behind the right date's page to keep order.

I like to doodle. A lot. While there's plenty of pen doodles in my spiral, I have a stack of Xerox paper and a cup cull of colored pens and fine tip markers on my desk for more elaborate doodles for long conference calls and when my brain is full and I need a break to regain my mojo.

Ask Allie: Staying OrganizedAfter a couple months with the magnetic calendars we were in love... and we wanted more. One month in advance wasn't enough, so I went back to Target and bought what I thought were two more of the same tiles. They were not the same. Different size, and while the first two are Sunday through Saturday, these were set up Monday through Sunday. We put them up under the ones seen and they were too low; when we tried to remove the ones we currently have up our wall paint started peeling. And having calendars with different week setups was a quick way to go insane. We also found the colored markers weren't necessary and decided to stick to just black and two boards. We kept the front door as Command Central; it's visible and just a few steps from the calendar so the combination works for us.

If I could go back, I'd buy four all at once or consider three and a fourth to be a cork or magnetic board the same size. Especially with a kid, we often have to plan far in advance and I often wish I could keep the previous month up for at least a week. The reason the paint was peeling from the wall is because these boards come with thin and cheap mounting tape squares so we added 3M Command strips to keep them up. The Command strips work great but did not want to cooperate and leave the walls nicely. So two it is for now.

It's nice to have your dry erase markers as fine tipped as possible, and attached to your calendars. We found some that hung from a magnet by a chain, but they were too thick of tips. Each of our boards has a pen clip on top where we keep a marker; there's a few calendar boards that have ledges for pens and erasers but again consider your space (for us a ledge would likely cause a lot of bruises in our narrow kitchen).

For magnets I highly recommend these which I found on Amazon. They're small, can be used for color coding people or activities, and are uber strong. And we don't have an eraser; a finger or the edge of a dish towel works for small edits and at the end of the month I clean the board with a bit of white vinegar and an old rag.

Everyone's life is different, and while I love technology Karl doesn't. Going 'old school' with our calendars makes the most sense for us. I love having the paper planner for lists, for a blog editorial calendar, and as a bit of a journal (I keep all my old planners like some keep diaries). Sure, there's some work to ensure we're synchronized, but I actually like that because it forces us to communicate, review, and be aware.

How do you keep your household calendar? Do share your ways in the comments as your tips may be the exact thing a fellow reader needs in her life!

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