the fine print on planners, to-do lists and more

the fine print on planners, to-do lists and more


I loved reading all of your comments yesterday here and on Facebook about the important life topic of planners, journals, pens and Altoid tins. It’s so good to know I’m not the only one who makes a detour to the office supply aisle just to gaze at notebooks.

Before I move onto another topic, I wanted to go into more detail about the system I mentioned in my earlier post about how I use both technology and old school pen and paper to keep things organized.


A few years ago, I discovered Cozi, and it has become my online calendar of choice. It’s very similar to iCal or Google in terms of how you enter events into the calendar, make them recurring and share calendars across computers and devices. I love that I can color code events by family member and that our kids can log in to Cozi on their iPods to check the family calendar.

The main reason I decided to use Cozi over another calendar is that I wanted to be able to print our monthly family calendar and insert it into my planner. The key feature I was looking for in a printable calendar was cute. Because it’s all about the cute.

When you print out the Cozi calendar from the month view, the calendar grid is in color and the colors change to match the season. For example, it’s green in spring, brown in fall and blue in winter. It includes a photo of our family in the top corner. Cozi also uses a pleasant font, instead of the standard Arial or Helvetica. In other words. Cute.


Being able to print out the monthly calendar is super important to me because it saves me from re-entering all of those details into my planner. With school schedules, sports practices, games, youth group, work meetings, volunteer commitments and church functions, our monthly calendar is absolutely packed. It’s honestly too much to try to write using pen and ink, especially since so many of the events repeat every week.

However, I do still love having a place to write my daily to-do lists. On paper. With a pen.

This is where I have started using the iheartorganizing weekly planner. I like it because it’s a pdf download that I can insert into my binder. By doing it this way, I can add my printed monthly calendar, as well as other important documents in between the pages of my planner. I couldn’t do that with a spiral bound planner.

The iheart planner is cute, colorful and formatted in a way that is perfect for my daily lists and weekly goals. It gives me plenty of room to write my daily list of tasks I need to accomplish, and includes a place to write my goals for the week.
A few years ago, I invested in an Arc system binder that is sold at Staples, and this is where I keep my iheart planner. The Arc system is pricier than a normal binder, and it requires a special hole punch to insert new pages. But the beauty of it is that it isn’t as bulky as a three-ring binder, so I can carry it everywhere. I’ve been using it for my planner for several years, so I finally feel like it was worth the investment.


In addition to my daily binder, I also have all of my printables that I have created to help keep track of chores, house cleaning duties, meal plans and whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. I just print these off as needed, but it’s nice to have them designed and ready to go. You can take a look at a bunch of my printables here. And here’s a link to the daily checklists we use in the summer.


So, why on earth would I need a bullet journal in addition to all of these other forms of planning and lists? I have been using the bullet journal for information I want to reference. It includes a lot of ideas that I want to write down in a central location so I can find them all later!

For example, I’ve started using my journal to log web site passwords. I have a list of books I want to read. I have a page of craft project ideas. I have notes I want to remember about healthy eating. I use it to track my weight and habits I’m trying to establish. I jot down one sentence “bullet journal” entries.

I could also keep all of these notes in Evernote or on my phone, but I do love writing things on paper.


I have to admit that my new obsession with bullet journaling has me rethinking my system. For a while, I have had this idea swirling around in the back of my head about how I could create a planner with premade doodles on each page to color. My brain also has been obsessing over a printable version of the bullet journal idea, so stay tuned…


Until then, I would love to hear what works for you. Do you use an online calendar and which one? Do you prefer pen and paper? Have you found a planner that you love? Do you use printables? A bullet journal? Do tell!

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on bullet journaling, great pens and altoid tins

on bullet journaling, great pens and altoid tins


For the two or three of you who have been reading my blog since I started it 100 years ago, you might remember that the whole impetus to start blogging was my obsession with finding the perfect planner. I spent several years searching stores for a planner that would be designed in such a way to meet my OCD desire to track all of my to-do lists, goals, and plans on a daily basis. Out of frustration, I ended up creating my own “everydayMOM planner,” and that is actually the reason I started this blog many moons ago.

After several years of updating and selling my planner, I decided to move on to a digital form of tracking my life. And finally, I’ve reached a system that combines tracking all of our family events on an electronic shareable calendar, while using paper and pen to keep track of my day-to-day lists.

This week, my mind was blown when I learned there is an entire universe of people out there who are even more obsessed than I with finding the perfect planner. In fact, they have created a cult following over a completely old school form of planner. It’s called bullet journaling, and learning about it has become my new favorite past time. It is both so complicated and yet so simple that you will find little pieces of your brain splattered on the walls when you first try to understand what it’s all about. Do a quick search of #bulletjournal on Instagram, and you’ll see what I mean.

To make a super long explanation short, the bullet journal is a diy journal that you create from scratch every day in a special notebook. On the one hand, it seems ridiculous to use pen and paper to draw out your own calendar spreads for the day, month and year. On the other hand, it’s so fun and satisfying to think of creating custom pages that perfectly meet your needs.

The concept of bullet journaling seems to appeal to people who love:

  • writing on paper
  • hand lettering
  • writing with colored pens
  • doodling
  • making to-do lists
  • journaling

I would say that pretty much describes ME!

While I don’t really see the need to hand draw my own planner in a notebook, I DO love the idea of keeping a custom journal in which I can add pages for whatever comes to mind. I started my own version that includes pages like:

  • books I want to read or have read
  • craft projects I want to try
  • a habit tracker
  • notes about what healthy foods I should eat
  • and “bullet journaling,” which is simply jotting down little notes to remember what happened that day.

Each day, I seem to think of more and more things I want to add to my bullet journal, and I look forward to having a few minutes in the afternoon to add new pages. This has been a fun new obsession!


In the process of learning about starting a bullet journal, I convinced myself it would be essential to buy some new pens if I even wanted to consider giving it a try. Many of you know that my pen collection is… um… substantial. However, it is 98 percent Sharpies, and I really felt I should branch out into the world of the gel pen if I wanted to be properly equipped to take on the bullet journal.

That’s when I discovered the Pilot G-Tec-C Gel Rolling Ball pens. At the risk of being overly dramatic, can I just say #lifechanging! The thing I love about these pens is the .4 mm ultra fine tip. I’m pretty sure this is the finest, fine tip that you can buy in an over-the-counter pen. (Perhaps you can get a prescription for something finer.)  I love these pens, and they make me want to write stuff in my #bulletjournal.


Finally, can we just talk about the cuteness of Altoid tins? I have literally never had an Altoid mint or an Altoid tin in my life. But recently, I was spying on the most adorable little earbud case made by the mom of my daughter’s friend. She had taken an Altoid tin and covered it in something cute, maybe Washi tape or fabric… I can’t even remember.

I was at Costco the other day and saw that they sell Altoid “smalls.” These are just smaller, cuter versions of the regular Altoid tins. Of course, I had to buy some for future craft projects, and since it was Costco, they came in a pack of 12. If you want to entertain yourself for a few hours, just do a search on Pinterest for Altoid tin projects. I can barely wait until I’ve eaten all of my tiny mints so I can get started!

Until then, I’ve added “Altoid tin earbud holder” to my #bulletjournal, and I wrote it with my .4mm ultra fine tip pens. That alone was quite satisfying.

How about you? Have you learned about anything new this week? Did you know about bullet journaling? Do you have a favorite pen? Do you love Altoids or their tins? I would love to know!

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a clean slate

a clean slate


I don’t think there are many people in my circle of friends who get half as excited as I do about the promise of a new year. There’s nothing I love more than the opportunity of a clean slate. It gives me a feeling I can do anything I set my mind to. My past is behind me, and I have a chance at a fresh start.

The past few years I’ve noticed that my clean slate mentality isn’t just limited to Jan. 1. Throughout the year, there are several natural breaking points at which I find myself regrouping. I start a new exercise program. I make a change to my diet. I start organizing my house. I recommit myself to reading.

I seem to do this around my birthday in April, again at the end of May as we enter our summer routine and once more Labor Day weekend. It’s the beginning of a new season and the start of a new schedule now that school is in full swing.

This past Labor Day weekend, I listened to a book during our long road trip about habits. The book is called, “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. I loved a lot about this book, but the thing I loved most was the discovery that another human being inhabiting the planet loves thinking about habits as much as I do! I have been obsessed with habits the past five years or so. I’ve tried to figure out why habits play such a major role in how I live my life. I’ve tried to discover the best way to break bad habits. And I’ve studied and experimented with how I can create good habits.

One of the things Rubin talked about in her book is this idea of the clean slate. Since I “read” the book as an audio book, I can’t even go back and look up exactly what she wrote. But she got me thinking about how the clean slate creates a mental reset that gives me confidence I can do things differently than I have in the past.

This past summer I had a literal “clean slate” experience. The day my doctor told me I had Celiac Disease, I was forced to make the most radical lifestyle change I have ever made! Thankfully, he told me my blood test showed I had a severe case of Celiac Disease several days before I had a biopsy to confirm my diagnosis. That gave me a few days to start processing what that would mean for my life. Then, to prepare for my colonoscopy, I literally had to clean out my digestive system. Talk about a clean slate!

Once that was done, it somehow empowered me to believe I could do this. I told myself that everything bad had been cleaned out of my system, so I didn’t dare eat anything that would make me sick again. From that moment forward, I haven’t even considered eating gluten. I read every label, and I don’t think about cheating. Eliminating so many of my favorite foods from my diet has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But it’s what I have to do, so I do it.

As I thought about how far I’ve come, it made me realize that maybe I could apply that same thinking to other areas of my life. If I can give up gluten, I can make some changes that aren’t nearly as difficult, I told myself!

I got up Monday morning and made my bed. (You might remember that this is one of the habits I’ve been trying to create for a while now!) I went for a 3-mile half jog/half walk. I ate a high protein diet that I’ve been wanting to try. I’m even updating my blog after several months of inactivity.

I’ve decided that starting new routines in September is less intimidating than setting a goal for the whole year. January is only four months away, so I want to see how far I can get in creating better habits before then… when I’ll get another clean slate. 🙂

How about you? Do you find yourself trying to create better routines at the start of the school year? Are you interested in habits? Do you have any new habits you would like to create? I would love to hear in the comments section!

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