The William Morris Project: 2014 | Overwhelmed

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The William Morris Project


I decided to put aside the post on the boys’ new costume trunk in favor of a post on advice for the overwhelmed. In this case, I’m the overwhelmed. It was interesting yesterday–and I will reply to comments from this week, promise–to see the different WMP personalities. I’m fairly uncluttered, but not organized. Some of you are the opposite: your many things are organized to a fault. (My mother.) It’s possible no one even knows you have many things! Then, there are those of us who are cluttered and unorganized. It takes all kinds. Maybe we can learn from each other?

My friend Kendra asked me last night if I had an Arc Organizer. I never heard of it before, but she swears by hers and I now know that on pinterest there are pages and pages of free downloads to make your Arc Organizer pretty and pretty awesome. I guess it’s like a Franklin Covey thing? Of course I saw it and immediately wanted one of my own. I could see myself tabbing things and marking things and writing things down. Lots of things! I would be doing lots of organized things!

For about a week, because that’s how long those things usually work for me before I forget to enter in appointments, leave it at home, get bored, etc. I use my phone for my calendar–but that’s it. I don’t have a note keeping system, I don’t have a way to keep track of the boys’ school calendar, I don’t have anything that would make my life easier. I used to joke that I didn’t need a calendar. I would point to my head and say there was no need because I had it “all up here.” And for a long time, that worked. But now my mind is jello. I blame the internet.

I’m not reinventing the wheel because I’m a big believer in Proverbs 13:10 :: Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

So, organization plans? Techniques? Do-dads? I’m not a fan of buying things but I’ll make an exception for my sanity.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. April says

    Have you looked into the Getting Things Done method? Based on the book of the same name by David Allen. Requires very little in the form of equipment (read: you don’t need to buy much, if anything). Check the book out from your library. It’s not the most efficient read (he rambles and repeats himself) but the content is gold. And simple, which is the most important part.

    • says

      THIS THIS THIS THIS. I clicked over to comment PURELY to tell you to read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. IT HAS TOTALLY CHANGED MY LIFE. Not kidding. First life-management system I have ever, ever stuck with – for 7 months and counting. I have friends who did the same before me, the friends I heard about this from, and they had similar issues of a system not working for more than a few weeks before they abandoned all hope…and they have been doing it for YEARS now.

      • says

        Second (third? fourth?) the GTD motion. I never read past the first few chapters of his book, but some of the habits have stuck with me for YEARS… and unlike other systems, it’s pretty easy to jump back on the wagon if you’ve fallen off.

        From what I recall (again, haven’t read it in years), the idea is that you need a Trusted System to hold all your brain mess so you don’t have to exhaust yourself managing it on your own. It doesn’t matter how much GTD you do, as long all the mess is out of your brain and in the system, and that you trust the system to help you get it all done.

  2. Adeline says

    Talking about Franklin Covey – I read just yesterday about his weekly planner from the 7 Habits book and will get started on that today. Basically you highlight your ‘roles’ (ie day job, laundry, food stuff, fitness etc) and pick up to 3-4 priorities for each one for a week. You can further break down each priority if you need, then put them all in your diary for the week and BAM, it’s all there and laid out and you know what you have to do. There’s a bunch of free templates online (like this one which I’m using).

    I’m guilty of writing it all down on a huge to do list, then either forgetting about it or avoiding it because I get overwhelmed and start panicking. Maybe the key is to sticking to the essential must-dos to get past the panic stage..

  3. says

    My 2 cents…
    – Look at everything you ARE doing, rather than focusing on what you are NOT doing.
    – Make lists and be proud of yourself if you accomplish 1 thing off of it (sometimes even write something you have already done and cross it off – feels good)
    – Think about ways to make your life more simple (easier meals, at least one junk closet or drawer where you throw ‘stuff’ until it finds a home)
    – Put some responsibility onto the boys (your oldest sounds super responsible – get him a cork board and put his school calendar up there and he can start to keep track of his events)
    – I like to do things for my future self. I think, if I just spend one minute doing task X, it will make my life easier tomorrow when I have more tasks to do. So, if I don’t feel like doing the dishes the night before I think about how nice it would be for me to wake up with a clean sink when I am tired in the morning and so, I do it and say thank you to my past self for doing it
    – Again, – Look at everything you ARE doing, rather than focusing on what you are NOT doing.


  4. fleur des champs says

    A planner helps so much, as long as you keep it simple and clear. The Filofax organizer type has the advantage of adding and removing pages. There is also the Midori notebook solution, and the bullet list journal notebook type. They are all great and you can take them with you during the day, but some work better than the others depending on one’s personality and needs. They’re all a good way of putting together all the info one usually jots down on scraps of papers that tend to disappear when you need them, and look like clutter. They are a little like a guide and trusted friend. Writing on paper helps me do one thing at a time, step by step and feeling good every time I mark something as done. There are youtube videos and facebook groups which are quite helpful in learning how to use them. I’ve always loved paper, pens and pencils! and they help me visualise what I have to do much better than electronic technology. Especially when I feel overwhelmed, a planner or notebook gives me a sense of security and directions, a little like a compass to a traveller :)

  5. Megan says

    One word. Trello. It is a free app you download and it also has a website interface. Since you primarily use your phone, this could be a useful, free solution to your problem. Trello is set up with boards. On theses boards you add cards. For my system I have boards for our home, our big move coming up, my church committees, work projects. Then everything I need to remember either goes in the automatically generated To Do/Doing/Done boards or on a custom board of my own devising. For example, I have a collection for our current house, with a board called staging, and then cards for tasks that need to be done, like paint that one piece of bathroom trim. This really works for me, and I have a long history of trying and discarding organizer solutions.

  6. says

    I’m a college professor who is teaching 7 classes at 2 different universities this semester, so I have no choice but to be crazy organized. Everything I have for school is color-coded, otherwise I’d have no idea what’s what. My students often joke that I’m a walking, talking advertisement for Office Depot.

    I find that a big wall calendar works well for me to keep everything in one place. I don’t do well with calendars or agendas I have to carry around with me – I barely use them. I’m a bigger fan of the “to do” list, and at any given moment have one on a bulletin board above my computer. If it’s an event I need to remember – it goes on the calendar. If it’s a task I need to remember, it goes on the “to do” list. My whole existence can be summed up on two sheets of paper. Anything related to groceries (dinner plan and grocery list) is on my phone, but only because if I don’t do that, I’ll never bring a list with me to the store, and I’ll come home with a bag of Snickers and some Red Bull.

    Then again, I have one pretty self-sufficient husband and no kids…so my advice might be hogwash for someone with a lot more to juggle.

    • Karen says

      I second the wall calendar and a reasonable to do list. I put all the family stuff on the calendar in the kitchen where everyone can see it (me, husband, 12 and 16-year-old girls). It’s easier to see a week at a glance, what’s happening next weekend, etc. than on my phone. If you aren’t really a systems persons, you may want to keep it simple and a paper calendar on the wall is pretty simple.

      On to do lists, I usually have one list of things I need to do in the next few days, then I also have a list (or lists) for projects or longer term things.

      I also agree with the sentiment that you should look at what you are getting done and try to appreciate how well you are doing!

    • Michellejeanne says

      YES! to the grocery list on the phone.
      I have kids so I have a white board in my kitchen, and sometimes people other than me remember to write things on the list. I just make sure I add that to my phone list the day I intend to shop.

  7. Lily says

    This is a very simple, old-school technique I used when I was teaching – I had a large, desk-blotter sized calendar (Staples has them) that showed a month at a time and also had room on the side to make lists, notes, etc. Because it was on my desk, I could see it all the time and it was an easy snapshot of the ‘big picture’. Also too big to lose or move, so I always knew where to find it!

    My advice would be to start with something simple and basic – and maybe to follow the suggestion above and get Mikey to be responsible for filling in the school stuff (maybe every Friday or whenever the newsletters come home?)

    I think it will be like your daily walking exercise – challenging to begin a new routine, but rewarding once you’ve got a habit going, and easier to maintain if you start with something simple and basic. Whatever you decide to try, I hope you find something that works for you!

  8. Lisa-domesticaccident says

    I swear by my erin Condren organizer but I’m a write it down girl. I’ve never used my phone as a calendar. You can find tutorials on youtube for using it effectively. It is by far the most pricey calendar/organizer I’ve ever purchased, but I just love how it’s laid out. I’ve bought one for the last three years. Last year, I got a cheaper version and after three months, I ended up buying another Erin Condren.

    I place it on a cookbook stand in the kitchen command center, so everyone can see it. My family knows that if it’s not in the book, it doesn’t exist.

    Good luck finding the system that works for you.

  9. says

    The only thing I’ve used with any success is a good old-fashioned wall calendar. Everything goes on it. When I actually remember to look at it, we’re good! When I got all crazy and tried a new style of calendar, I couldn’t make it work. Those “Mom Calendars”- where everything is broken down by person each week – look great and are nice and roomy, but I can’t make my brain make the leap to multiple entries. It’s sad, really. Even posting large notes with important dates (say, major school project due dates) on the front of the fridge doesn’t seem to work; they just fade into the scenery.

    Calendar. Just one.

    Whatever you choose, I hope it’s THE thing. You’re doing things, Jules!

  10. Shaina says

    I’m only giving input on the multiple calendars. I use Google calendar. I have 4 calendars set up under my account and one calendar shared with me from Sweetie. The calendar assigns each appointment a color based on which calendar it’s on. It syncs with my phone so I can add tasks or schedule on the computer or from my phone. I also loaded the Google Tasks app to my phone and the widget is on my home screen. I’m not familiar with apps available to iPhones but surely there’s a comparable alternative if the Apple store doesn’t have that.
    I also like seeing a month-at-a-glance schedule so I have a dry erase calendar on my fridge that I update at the beginning of the month. I don’t always remember to add events add they spring up during the month, but they are always on my phone calendar.

    • says

      I’m also a Google calendar user. I put EVERYTHING on it: appointments, playdates, lessons, what time I have to pick up so-and-so from such-and-such. For the kids’ recurring activities, I have gotten in a good habit of entering the schedule as soon as I register them (or receive the school calendar, sign the permission slip, whatever). I get email alerts–gives me the agenda for the next day–and my husband has access and can check and add things from work or his phone, too. I may forget to check the calendar, but I rarely forget to check my email. I use the “Tasks” for more long term to-do lists (if I’m planning an event or making a shopping list)–that way I don’t lose lists on my desk (which is the dumping ground for all paper in the house).

    • yj says

      I also love my google calendar since it now auto syncs with the iphone calendar and will send me reminders. My work’s outlook calendar stuff also syncs with the iphone calendar so i get both work event and personal event reminders. You can set custom reminders (day before, week before, etc). It takes a moment to enter, but then it’s wonderful. and permanently in your calendar and look back on your super full week.

      (i also have a moleskin for food/goals/dreams, longer todos)

  11. Jenn says

    I am JUST LIKE YOU – I have used planners, for about a week, in the past, because they look so pretty, and, OH, my life will be so much better. Then, no. The ONLY thing that I have found that I have used consistently now for 2 years is the Cozi App ( It’s free (bonus!) – you can update the calendar from the app or online, and anyone can update as long as they have the username and password. I finally have a way that my husband will actually update with his various activities (it’s very easy), and we can keep track of who goes to which activity, and it reminds you on the phone. Now, when my husband says – which he inevitably does — what are we doing and when are we going X – I just tell him “look on Cozi – my brain is not big enough to hold the calendars for 4 individuals”. Good luck!

  12. Rachel says

    For a calendar I use google calendar. The main calendar is for appointments and whole family events. I have additional calendars for school, church, and Birthdays/anniversaries. I like the separate calendars because then the events color code to the calendar they are entered on. Google Calendar synchs to smart phones so I have a copy that I carry around with me. Once or twice a month I copy my online calendar to a wall calendar so the rest of the family have something to refer to.

    • says

      I use the GalenGoo app because it color codes well and syncs Tasks as well and will flip between a list and showing tasks on their due dates. I LOVE it!

  13. Kathy says

    Love reading about the william morris project!!! I have started doing something to organize every day no matter how small. This is after a full time job, mom, wife, etc… 2 things that have helped greatly to deal with bill and appointments are:
    1. Huge calendar that hangs on the end of a kitchen cabinet that everyone walks by everyday. All appointments, birthdays, parties, church activities, trips, school holidays, etc…go on that calendar. If it’s not on there, we aren’t going to it!!!! I tried planners and it never worked but this does.
    2. Bill paying notebook…calendar in front to put due date on when bills come in. Bill goes in binder pocket. I pay it, write on the bill the date and amount paid, its X out on calendar, and the receipt portion of bill (where I wrote date and amount) go into the divided sections..examples are cable, mortgage, cell phone, visa, etc..Whatever categories work for you family. I saw examples on the internet then tweaked it for us.
    3. School projects could be added to the calendar. Ultimately, the school projects are their responsibility. I helped with keeping them on track when younger but as they get older I would step back. We never sat down with the kids to do home work or projects. They spread out on kitchen table and we were around to answer question, quiz or help as they requested.
    Watching hoarders on TLC for a few episodes always motivates to purge a room. Slowly but surely!!!!

  14. Nicole says

    Is there anything so promising as a new planner?! Its one of my favorite purchases, just for the *promise* of the organized life I could lead. Not that I ever get there… :)

    I’m excited for your post – I’m feeling super super overwhelmed right now & could use advice on how to dig myself out. Partially the craziness in my life is to blame: I’m 10 weeks away from my due date (1st child!), which coincides with my major project at work going live (like literally on my due date), then a move to another state 2 months later for my husband to attend grad school. So, yeah. I can take any help I can get wrapping my head around it all!

    One thing that has helped me in the past are the principals in the book Getting Things Done, by David Allen. (There are tons & tons of posts, videos, etc online about using/ getting started w/ GTD.) His ‘braindump’ idea – literally sit down & write down every. single. thing. on your mind is so cathartic and really helpful. Afterwards you can those items on your calendar, to-do-list, whatever, but it really does something magical to free your mind from churning on the same items over & over.

    Also, I have been using the Website/ App and it is fantastic. So easy to use, to have multiple lists, and I love how things roll over from one day to the next.

    Just added this comment & then went back to read what others had to suggest… obviously we have a nice GTD fanbase! :)

  15. Kathie says

    I second the wall calendar. Giant squares (I use the one from The Fly Lady). We each have a different color pen for entries. I got past it not matching my decor and hung it right next to the refrigerator – for 10 years now. Even now that my 20-year-old has returned home (temporarily!), she enters her work schedule and plans. When they were smaller I had a little basket with a few self ink stamps – a music note (guitar and piano lessons), baseball (Little League) – so I wasn’t writing “guitar lessons” 52 times. My youngest is a senior now, and husband and I will probably switch to a shared Google calendar after that. But being able to see everything at a glance while you grab the milk and cereal has been the perfect tool for us. The downside is I haven’t been able to throw old ones away! The kids will decorate their birthday squares…or we enter memorable events like the great tortilla incident of 2009. My mom bought personalized sticker sets for each kid that we post on the holidays and special occasions. My mom’s treatment and recovery from breast cancer is documented through appointments and long stays with us.

    I’m looking forward to checking out some of the other suggestions up there ^^!

  16. says

    Jules, I feel you. I can’t tell you how many fresh calendars and binders and organizers I’ve purchased over the years. But if it’s neither up-to-date nor with me, it’s not helpful. In my law firm, I’m not the only one who manages my court and appointment calendar, so I was forced from the analog calendaring world into the digital. While this has been hugely beneficial in terms of “not missing things” (I love alarms), it’s also too easy to over/badly-book myself (trial the week after vacation? after-work commitments 4 out of 5 days this week?). I just can’t see the big picture on my phone. I’ve purchased a monthly-view ONLY calendar, but honestly, I haven’t used it much. I really need something where I can see the whole month, and a bunch of little dots on a square on a 4″ screen just ain’t working for me.

    I’m signing up for (a little) less, which is part of the issue. I’m such a “yes” person. But this has been one of the best and worst developments in tech/my life. I’m constantly booked, but I’m not missing things. If you figure out where to find that balance/organization, I’m all ears…

    I hope to use that paper calendar more when people ask me for major commitments. It’s 8.5×11, thick cover, spiral bound, and very skinny, so I can easily tote it around in my work bag. If I only use it when scheduling trials, vacations, and major commitments, that will be a huge improvement. C’mon me.

  17. Donna says

    I’m totally old school and it works for me. I need to see things written down and I need to be able to cross things off. I use a regular paper calendar (one on the wall at home for family use, one purse size one for me and my stuff) and a daily “to do list” written in sharpie and items crossed out in sharpie for the sheer satisfaction of it. I do keep another small notebook that I write ongoing “to dos” in so I don’t forget. I’m with ya…the older I get, the more my brain turns to jello. I used to be able to hold so many “to do” things in my head…no more! I blame the internet too! lol

  18. HeatherL says

    Any system that requires a guide book or video how-to is too complicated for me. I have Getting Things Done, but it was too involved, although I do like some of the concepts. At work, I always liked a paper calendar, but I have gotten used to my Outlook calendar. I like it b/c I am forced to be at my computer all day & I can take it beep at time to do other things. I need to get better at to -do lists for my home life, but schedule wise- my life is pretty repetitive, so I just put doctor appointments in my phone.
    Have your heard of The Fly Lady? She focusses a lot on de-cluttering, but she sells a big paper calendar that people seem to like because it has big boxes for lots of info & the whole family can use it.
    I also learned of the Cozi app, which I don’t currently use , but seems like it could be helpful for families.

    • Ellen S. says

      I got one of these for the first time this year. It’s the weekly version with the calendar on the left side and an open lined page on the opposite side. I hope to use the blank side to record all my to-dos and shopping lists. I use google-calendar too, so I”m just hoping that I can figure out a way to not lose anything in between. I feel like I’ve tried a billion different ways but can’t seem to find THE one.

  19. says

    Disclaimer – I used to be better organized than I currently am, and I carried a paper planner. It was color coded, obsessively maintained, amazing. But I guess I’m getting more scatterbrained as time goes on? Also, trying to carry around less weight as my shoulders start to protest years of heavy bags.

    I’m almost entirely on Google calendar right now, since I finally have a smart phone. I use multiple calendars to keep track of different things and they automatically color code it. D uses it too, and we share our calendars with each other so I can see at a glance what our joint week looks like. I do still regularly print out our calendar and then make more notes on it (look, computers are not like paper, and they just don’t give me enough creative note leeway!) and stick it on our fridge. I do the same thing for work, using the printed calendar to allow me to literally pencil in tasks and projects around concrete events.

    I am NOT naturally organized! I was the most daydream-y, unable to get it together kid. I nearly failed 7th grade because I just couldn’t ever remember what I was supposed to be doing when. After that I got a paper planner, started forcing myself into a system and it turns out that my life became way easier when I actually knew what I needed to be doing and when. And now I think it was the best lesson to learn. I get so much more done than I would otherwise and I barely have to think about it anymore.

    • Susan says

      So I’m not married and I don’t have kids, so my personal life is simple. I’m very visual and use a small pocket calender for things that occur outside the work day. I use my work calendar (with alarms – alarms are VERY KEY) for things that occur during the day work related or personal (like doctor’s appt and lunch plans).

      Work is another story. I manage 5 projects that take place in 6 different countries with workshops and travel going on constantly. Because I am visual, the only way I can keep track of it all is a four month white board calendar ( I live by it. They can be pricey (but there are cheaper options like decals), but you hang it in the kitchen, you can SEE what’s coming at you months ahead (ie Mikey’s book reports), and everyone can see it and add to it. You can get fancy and color code, or you can just write it all down in black.

      Good luck!

  20. Ellen says

    This is a subject dear to my heart, because I am a very, very naturally organized person, and I love it. If you took away my organization, you’d take away my soul. 😉 My dichotomy, however, is that I have a hard time with productivity (as opposed to organized / clutter, mine is organized / productive). The way it sort of works in my head is that organization means I know where everything is (IE, everything has a home – and nothing fancy, like the stuff I want to pin from catalogs always sits on the left side of the desk in a particular spot – I don’t mean baskets & containers for everything), but there is a home for everything in our house & I like clean surfaces. That’s my baseline, and I think ultimately what you’ve gone a long way in accomplishing with WM, since a lot of that has to do with clutter clearing, etc… So give yourself a lot of credit!
    Last year, I realized how annoyed I was about how I have this wonderful life, but I’m not spending it doing the stuff that matters most to me, as well as the stuff I have to do to have this wonderful life (IE, laundry, shopping, kid corralling, etc…). So I did a ton of reading & research on stuff, and I found a pretty good solution that I’ve had a lot of luck with. First, while I LOVED having a To Do List on paper, so I could make notes, categorize, etc.. it was out of control because every time it looked messy, I would spend all this time rewriting it neatly & not actually DOING THE STUFF ON THE LIST. Idiot. Plus, I wanted to figure out a way to track recurring tasks – stuff I have to do today, but again next week, etc… I found an app for my phone called Wunderlist, and I’m fairly impressed with it. I put the grand to do list on there, and it allows you to schedule tasks for certain days, make them recurring, have sub tasks under larger tasks, etc…. IT IS FANTASTIC. I’ve put larger goals in there, broken into smaller sub tasks – this type of stuff always discouraged me on a paper to do list, since it WAS STILL THERE, even though I’d worked on it. You can also integrate it with the calendar on your phone, which I haven’t done, but likely will try at some point in the future. (That seems like it would work well with the Google calendar stuff others have talked about – to dos & events!)
    I also have different lists within the app for different types of shopping, so that I can see / add what I need at the mall, grocery store, drug store, etc… It has really helped with my productivity – I really do want to make place-mats for the dining room, AND clean out the refrigerator every month, and breaking that into tasks that I can “click” as accomplished help me make progress.
    I also keep a monthly calendar on paper – just so that I can see it all in one place. I do not like having a small calendar on a phone where I can’t see (realistically) more than a day. I will likely try to integrate that at some point electronically, probably with a combination of Google calendar & Wunderlist, but maybe later.
    I actually married someone more responsible than I am, and he’s also in finance, so he’s in charge of all the $$, bill paying, etc.. and he’s great at it. So that’s not something I have to organize or track, but I imagine if I did, I’d just schedule a to do in Wunderlist with the future date of when I needed to tackle that item. It also allows you to set alarms for certain tasks, but I don’t do that – my phone beeps enough.
    Productivity wise, I also heard of an idea somewhere that is basically a timer – Pomodoro, I think it was called. Basically you do everything you can in a set amount of time (mine is 25 minutes), then you take a break, ie, do whatever, for 5 minutes. Since I work from home, this has revolutionized my productivity. In those 5 minute “breaks”, which I actually time on my phone because I am nuts, that’s the time I’ve set aside to do non-work stuff during the day. Granted, you can’t get a lot done in 5 minutes, but sometimes you can get a lot more done than you would think (especially with the silly to dos, like scheduling appts, switching out the laundry, etc…). Of course I go over sometimes, but you could easily adjust the times or adapt for your use.

    This is long enough! Good luck getting organized!!!

  21. Megan says

    This isn’t a planner or calendar, but the iPhone app Clear has helped me so much with keeping track of lists. I used to write down everything on post-it notes or scraps of paper, but then I would lose the note, or leave it at work when I needed it at home. Clear has helped me so much with that, it makes it so easy to cross things off and add things to my list . I keep lists of things I need to do, things I need to buy, a perpetual grocery list, meals for the week, etc.

  22. Shannon says

    Ugh, my eternal struggle. I get my life to a point where it feels ok to say yes to stuff and then those “systems” all come crashing down & I want to crawl in a corner & suck my thumb. . . . . I really don’t think that it has anything to do with the type of calendar/planner I use as much as it does with learning not to beat myself up mercilessly when something doesn’t go the right way or an unforseen snag happens. That leads to a downward spiral of self loathing & wallowing that undermines all my earlier good intentions. When I learn that those snags are just going to happen and figure out how to gracefully step over them (instead of throwing myself to the floor in a virtual toddler tantrum) I think I’ll be much better off………(time to revisit Brene, I think!)

    As for actual calendars – I have to have the most boring, large squares with lines, calendar I can find at Office Max to hang on the fridge. No fancy colors, but I do highlight all the days the kids will be out of school so I can see at a glance what the month looks like. I’m babystepping my way to using the electronic calendar better simply because it helps my husband stay in touch with what we are doing as a family. That helps me in the long run so I need to embrace that technology.

    The Modern Mrs. Darcy suggested a book on visual organization that I’m looking into this year. I really do need my lists/calendars in the open and am curious why and how to be more efficient with that.

  23. Phaedra says

    I saw several ‘wall calendar’ suggestions and honestly? It’s the idea that’s worked best for me. Simple, accessible to the whole family in one glance (without having to have access to my laptop or the mister’s smart phone..or whatever). There are so many great electronic things out there, but I am like you… I lose interest after a week and go right back to sticky notes and writing on my hand. A calendar with large blocks fits the bill and it can be updated instantly while I’m waiting for dinner to cook.
    At WORK, I use my outlook and various electronic reminders, but that’s because I’m on the computer all the live long day & it can sync with my coworkers schedules. That system just doesn’t work for home & school though.

  24. says

    Some people are organized. I come from a long line of them – we moved my grandmother from a retirement center to a nursing home two weeks ago, and my husband was SHOCKED at how much stuff that woman had in approximately 75 square feet of living space. I snorted, because I knew. My mother is the same. And I didn’t fall far from that particular tree.

    Anyway, I digress. Some people are organized. If you aren’t, then the idea of trying to force yourself to be organized is a nightmare, and it’s just setting yourself up for failure if you try, because at your core, you’re denying who you are. If you aren’t organized, I’m not saying embrace it and run with the clutter and chaos, but don’t try to become someone else just because you feel overwhelmed and like you aren’t keeping up with the Joneses.

    Even I, with all my organization techniques, go through periods where I can’t remember things, where all the lists in the world can’t help me because I feel so overwhelmed. Setting up a new system sounds glorious, but within a week (it takes 3 weeks – 21 days – to establish a new habit, just FYI) I realize that I can take a deep breath, get over the hump, and go back to what I was doing because overall it works just fine.

    Here’s what I have all the time: a meal list visible near the fridge so I know what there is to cook for dinner, and beside that, a running grocery list that I add to (or the kids and hubby add to) when we run low or out of ingredients; a small notebook for appointment cards, because while I do put appointments in my phone, I fear the day it crashes; and one… ONE… weekly to-do list where I put the regular stuff down with the stuff that’s out of the ordinary. I don’t fill in that to-do list every week. That’s my ‘I’m overwhelmed’ list, and the family knows if that list is filled in, they can take something off my plate and do it for me as long as they cross it off the list when they’re done.

    I hope you can find something that works for you and get over the hump. Hang in there. It’s been a really, really rough week for many people.

  25. cathrynj says

    Last year I took an organizing class online…it was self paced. I learned one key thing: I needed to add in time as a cushion for all the unexpected things that do come up each day. So I have learned to love putting the most important things on my to do list and working on those. At the end of the day when I review what I got done, I can pat myself on the back when the critical things got done. I keep a big master list to keep all the stuff to do out of my head; I can always find more to do if I find I have easily crossed off my to do list. Or, crazy idea, relax a bit and enjoy the rest of the day. There was a time of adjustment when I put more and then much less on the lists to get the hang of it. This has dramatically reduced my feeling of being overwhelmed.

  26. says

    Shared Google Calendars. You can have separate ones for the boys, for you, for your husband, and can choose who you share them with (each other, etc). It’s on your phone, your desktop and your tablet – all instant updating. If you lose your phone, it’s still in the cloud, miraculously saved. That’s the first step to sanity.

    Second is to breathe and I second the Getting Things Done book. I think it will suit you – has nice rules and formulae for tacking stuff and makes being organized seem really fun.

    Hang in there and good luck!

  27. Lena says

    1. Wall “mom” calendar.
    2. GTD (Alphabetical filing has helped a lot. Keep It Simple, Smartypants.)
    3. Cheap spiral-bound notebook (for all brain dumping: recipes to try, notes to self, knitting pattern modifications/row-tracking charts, to-do lists, grocery lists, pending projects, Everything!).
    4. I don’t strictly plan meals (gasp!) but I have a flexible plan in my head for the week (something Asian with tofu; something Indian with lentils; spaghetti and meatballs, something with leftover meatballs involving corn tortillas and toppings in the fridge; pizza with clear-out-the-fridge-type toppings). I am experimenting to find patterns after the fact, by recording our dinner menu AFTER we eat it (on the wall “mom” calendar at the bottom of each day). Reverse meal-planning!

    • Michellejeanne says

      I do something similar with my meal planning – I do write them in my planner ahead of time when I am trying hard, but we are flexible and switch around Tuesdays meal for Wednesdays if the schedule changes. But the info is still there.

      If I haven’t been planning, and we try something new the family likes, I write that down. I do look back a lot to see what they liked, what we haven’t had in a while.

      When we have time I hand the girls a bunch of recipe books, magazines, and some tabs. They mark the things they want to try, and I put the items on the days that fit: crock pot/soup for busy days, more involved for the days I or one of them are home, etc. Then they can’t complain about what I serve :)

  28. Margie says

    Moleskine weekly planner and a pen. The Moleskine weekly planner is basic. Some space on the left page with no time markings getting in the way to track appointments and dedicated to dos. The right side is a blank page for notes. I use a sticky note for my daily to do list on that side of the page and then can toss it at the end of the day and start fresh. The physical act of writing the list is therapeutic for me, as it lets my brain sort priorities while writing. We also have a family wall calendar next to the dinner table so my husband and I can discuss the week ahead while the boys (slow eaters) finish their meals.

    Expensive planners were nice when I was working and they bought me one every year, but I only use them in fits and starts when life got crazy.

  29. Margie says

    Oh, and for the wall calendar, I buy the fly lady one. It has no pictures, big squares and the paper is thick enough to handle erasures and it isn’t glossy so you can use pencil. It also starts in August which lets me get all the kids school stuff up once and not have to jack with transfers at the heart of the holidays!

  30. Jenn says

    Even though I don’t like clutter, and I like there to be a place for everything, I try to keep my schedule in my head. It makes no sense. Sometimes I will use the calendar on my iPhone or iPad, but I am not consistent. I like lists–but I also get frustrated with lists because why am I not getting MORE done!?

  31. Susan says

    Also – here’s why your Project 365 daily 5 item gratitude list didn’t pan out the way you wanted. So don’t sweat it – it wouldn’t have worked anyway :-)

    – Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”

  32. Kendra says

    True story – I always feel a little bit famous when I’m mentioned on your blog.

    As for organization. I “try” to be. But this year is my year for change. I’m working out (WHAT?!) and making myself be more organized. We instituted the ARCs in our office at work. There are three of us who run the show, and the plan is to keep everything updated so that if one of us is out (one is pregnant) someone else can pick up their ARC and see exactly what needs to be done and when. Bonus? I have a home section too. We’ve tried planners before, but because these are fully customizable, you use it for only the things you need. Mine has a calendar with deadlines (color coded), an address/phone section (no smart phone here), a note section, and a lists. I can move things around easily and if we need to move things from planner to planner we can. SO FAR it’s working out well. And, yes, I’m in love.

    • Shannon says

      Oh gosh, me too, Kendra! I got all twitterpated when she shared the question I had on the WM project. My girls thought it was SOOOOOO cool. 😀

  33. akemi says

    i love the look and feel of paper planners/organizers, and there have been countless times i’ve wanted to buy the prettiest notebook because i believe i will write things down in it that will change my life, yeah! i know i’m not alone in this line of thinking! the thing is, i hate carrying a heavy purse, and any notebook bigger than my hand ends up making my purse feel too heavy. and so, the notebooks get left at home, and i have a stack of them with only the first 10 pages filled in. portability is key for me so i can access my information when and where i need it. mostly i use apps like Apple Calendars (with a separate one i share with my husband) and Reminders for the really important things, Google Docs for spreadsheets, and Evernote for everything else (lists of all kinds, random notes, drafts, recipes, etc.). Evernote has been a great catchall so i can get out all my thoughts and retrieve them easily … if only my brain was that searchable.

  34. Michellejeanne says

    MomAgenda. I used to use a dayplanner, and some other fancy planners when I worked. Then my girls – three of them, one each in elementary, middle, and high school – started getting into activities, and the little purse sized thing I’d used no longer fit any of MY stuff, and it was a mess.

    MomAgenda Personal Portfolio has room enough for MY daily schedule/appointments, a separate to-do list at the beginning of the week so it stays off my schedule, plus space for each of my 3 kids AND my husband. I know who has what at a glance, and they can find their stuff too. Plus, there is a small space for meal planning at the bottom of each day. When I plan meals, I just write the main dish/where I find the recipe here. SO helpful when I actually take the time…

    I also use the notes section and add my own tabs (Confirmation class schedule, various committee notes, etc.) so I am not carrying a planner and notebook at all times. Oh and addresses are in there too. So if you find you don’t use the planner part, well, it’s an address book.

    The refils for the calendar year (including week on two pages as I described plus a month view calendar plus a 4 month view write-it-on-the-line view calendar) is just $12 plus shipping.

    I am NOT employed or compensated by the company, lol! I stumbled on it a few years ago when searching online for planners.

    Ok, so a few comments
    1: what I have linked to below is out of stock, but you could get the refills (also out of stock, gah) and just put ’em in a 3 ring notebook.
    2: I LOVE paper and lists and planners, so this is so ME. However, I was gifted a mini iPad, and I can absolutely see using that and my phone calendar someday, when there are fewer people in the house. My phone would explode if I tried to upload even a months activities, though the “repeat every Tuesday” function would also be nice.
    3. It isn’t the internet turning your brain to mush. It is just this time of life. I swear. I wish I could post a photo of my planner this week, it is hilarious. for Instance, Tuesdays I pick up kids at 2:30, 2:35, and 3:15, leave to take one to Youth Sinfonia at 4:15 with the high school-er in tow, leave there for the high school at 5:30, back to pick up from Symphony, home by 6:20. 7:00 leave with the middle school-er in tow to pick up the high school-er, drop off the middle school-er elsewhere for Volleyball, home, and eventually pick up the middle school-er. Then drop dead. *I* would not survive without this book. The end.

  35. Heather M in AL says

    I keep my calendar on my phone but changed my life. I need a notebook because I like lists of all sorts. And for some reason, I hate lists in Notes on my phone and in Outlook. I have never found an electronic way to make lists that I don’t abhor. But I love my fits-in-my-purse bullet journal. Zoot does a great job of describing how she hacked her bulletjournal to reflect her needs: .

    Anyway, it works with my librarian brain. Good luck working out your system. And just so you know, one of the dates in my phone calendar AND on a bullet journal page is Kip Moore’s concert and new album release date. Uh-huh. :)

  36. LauraC says

    Wow, so many comments! I just have a question. I’ve seen the Arc system, and while it’s pretty and cool, I haven’t ever understood how it’s different from a three ring binder. You can get three rings in large notebook size, small purse size, plus, tiny, cute miniature-ring binders. This means you can also pull out and rearrange pages, so I’m just not sure why this system is revolutionary? (Not being critical at all, this is just a question I’ve wondered for awhile. Jennifer Jones from I Heart Organizing has this system and it’s so pretty, still just wondered about the why. It’s not cheap.)

    • Kendra says

      It’s not really ‘different’ but we’ve found that the pages in 3 ring binders tear easily. The way the Arc punches work, that doesn’t happen. Plus, it’s a lot prettier. And I’m a sucker for pretty. 😉

  37. sarah says

    YAY! I don’t know what it is, but sometimes my computer/internet does NOT like accessing your blog. So this is the first time since the new year that I have been able to get on and read your William Morris Project posts. As for the organizer thingy do dad. You need to figure out what system works best for you. You’ve already said that you only do calenders/planners for about a week and then you peter out. Don’t get sucked into it then! If your phone is your best thing then explore those options – aps etc (I dont have a smartphone so I am of no help here). Personally I am a planner gal – I will keep it updated and check it regularly and it works for me. When you start spreading out to multiple sources (calender, planner, AND phone) thats when things get lost and forgotten.

    • Connie says

      I’m with you, Sarah. Took me years, but I finally realized I was looking at the quandary backwards. Instead of me trying to adapt to a system, I took an honest look at my daily habits and realized that because I’m checking my e-mail more frequently than my to-do lists, phone, or wall calendar, my best bet would be to utilize the calendar attached to my e-mail – let the system come to me! Just started this about six months ago, and it’s been working pretty well for me. That being said, even so I sometimes can’t be bothered to do that one extra click required for me to check the calendar! I now wonder whether it wasn’t all an illusion that I was so organized prior to kids. Perhaps I’m truly a disorganized person who was just coasting by due to excess of time and shortage of tasks…(sigh).

  38. Karen F says

    I swear by the Cozi app on my phone/computer. We have a family calendar on there that’s color coded by person. My husband can see it on his phone, add appointments, etc. Our entire lives are on that calendar! And I have it with me wherever I am, since it’s on my phone. I also have a one week dry-erase calendar on my kitchen wall. Every Sunday, I update it for the following week, based on what I have in the Cozi calendar. According to my husband, I’m the only one who uses the wall calendar, but it helps me know at a glance what we have going on that week!

    For my to-do list, I write everything in a notebook. any time I make a phone call that requires me to write something down, I write it in that same notebook, so everything is in one place. I’ve been using the same system for years and it works for me. For some reason, I don’t do as well with having a to-do list on my phone – it needs to be written down to be effective for me! Good luck!

  39. Hazel says

    I’m untidy and a procrastinator. I am also not that great with technology so the only thing I can get to work for me is a wall calendar with a column per person (there are 5 of us). It’s in the kitchen, where we spend most of our time.
    If it’s not written down there is absolutely no guarantee I will remember it. Another commenter said the extra columns were a step too far for her, but I found everything in one box too complicated.
    I put birthdays etc in my column, the kids get clubs/playdates etc, 15 year old writes down when she’s babysitting (that took a while…) and husband writes down when he’s out/away etc (that took even longer…) Family activities go across my and husband’s columns at least.
    School term dates are on there too- ‘back to school tomorrow’.
    I do have birthdays written down in my greetings card box too, but if I HAD to look in a separate place, I’d just put it off. (Writing a months birthday cards out in one go lasts from January to April on average.)

    Now I’m working on getting the rest of the family to actually use it. Seems it’s much easier to ask mum (or wife!) what;s happening than take 2 steps and look yourself…

  40. Kim from Philadelphia says

    I’m afraid my suggestion is very unsophisticated, however a family calendar is key for us. It’s usually a free one from church or the mail, with white square blocks for each day. As an added bonus there’s usually a pretty picture on the ” top” of each month ( landscape or saint, depending on the calendar’s origins!)

    Appointments, school events, birthdays, get- togethers are all entered here. It’s hung in our kitchen, by the desk. I’m the main data ” input” person. It’s convenient, easy, and very inexpensive!

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