a peek inside my planner + time management tips


In a former life, I was an office manager in charge of organizing around 120-140 new projects a month and dividing responsibilities among multiple employees in the most efficient manner. So, I guess you could say I like organizing. Just a little.

I’m not exactly Type A for most things. In fact, I bet my husband is somewhere laughing right about now. But bright color coding and lists are my jive. As a reformed overachiever, I still typically balance a lot of things on my plate and want to be sure my priorities are in the right place and goals get accomplished.

Last year, I found the perfect planner to support my love of lists and intentional living: the Blue Sky 10 x 8″ Weekly/Monthly Planner, especially when teamed with designer Dabney Lee.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you got a front-row seat to my #plannernerd panic when June came to an end and they still hadn’t released their new July-June planners. It wasn’t pretty. But what IS pretty is my the planner I finally ordered.

Here’s a peek inside and some organizational tips. Because we’re friends like that.


Each month, I write out the bigger commitments and events I know about ahead of time as I go. Things I probably should remember but never would be able to keep track of on my own with Mom Brain.


There’s also a really cool feature next to each monthly calendar: lists for To Do, To Call, and To Buy. I typically use the To Do for monthly goals, ranging from personal to professional to writing goals. Do I want to write 25K words this month? Up my running mileage? Read a craft book? Go on a date night every week with my husband? Grow out my fingernails? What fun things can I do with my daughter this month? Since I have a secret aversion to talking on the phone, To Call is for blog posts I want to write. To Buy changes every month, but I’d imagine it would also make a good place for monthly budgeting goals or tracking expenses!

Now (*rubs hands together*) for my favorite part of this planner. The weekly spread!


Every week, I look at my monthly calendar and write down any events. Then I make a list of weekly goals on the far right Notes column. This includes meals I want to cook, work projects that are due, scenes I want to write in my manuscript, what days I’m going to blog, and various and sundry things like house projects. Then I spread them out across the week in the daily list section. I also look at the workout class schedule at my gym and write down any classes I’d like to take.

My weeks rarely go according to plan because that’s just life. But mapping out my week helps me make sense of the craziness, accomplish more, and not let anything super important slip through the cracks.


Each day in the planner is like a to-do list. I LOVE the vertical format. I try to make a list of things I’d like to accomplish based on what commitments I have. This helps me budget my tasks wisely. For example, if I know I have a meeting one night, I can plan a crockpot meal so I don’t have to scramble. If I have two work projects due on the same day, I can budget my word count goals so I can still get my writing done with just less volume that day. If I want to cook at home more since the amount we’ve eaten out lately is atrocious, I can write down the meals I’d like us to have that week, make one grocery list, and plan accordingly based on what our week looks like.

I’m pretty good about sticking to my planner, but I could be better about prioritizing some things. {*cough* following my gym schedule!} My approach is to be ambitious when planning my goals but to give myself plenty of grace and wiggle room. And having a safe place to put ideas is also a really good thing!

As far as planning/time management goes, I’m a firm believer in this:

  1. You can accomplish anything that’s really important to you! Most of the time, when people say “I don’t have time,” realistically they should be saying “I’m not willing to make time.”
  2. No one person can do everything. And that’s okay. It’s important to be flexible and budget in lots of wiggle room, or else you might go crazy. Just ask College Laurie about this.
  3. People are more important than getting everything done. Sometimes throwing the schedule aside and investing in someone else is the absolute best thing you can do.
  4. There is a motivating satisfaction in crossing something off of your [preferably color-coded :)] to-do list.

Do you use a planner to manage your time? And more importantly, will anyone besides me fess up to adding things you’ve already finished on your to-do list just so you can cross them off? 

Psst: Be on the lookout for one of these in a giveaway next week! Don’t think for a second I could keep this goodness to myself!

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  • I love all the tips and ideas! This planner looks awesome. I recently heard about a different planner, but it was quite pricey. I need to do something to organize my time a little better, especially with school starting back up. ACFW is around the corner and my time needs to be a little more structured between now and then. Thank you so much.

    • That’s another thing I love about this planner. You can buy it at Target for less than $20!

      • Did they stop making this planner? 🙁 I can’t find one with this format. I love the different kind of lists and I’ve always preferred the weekly/monthly format. If you know of where I can find one, please let me know! Thank you.

  • Thanks for the tips! I need all the help I can get between teaching kinder, gymnastics and college reading, being wife and mom and trying to keep the house clean and organized (OK, I just threw that last one in to sound good cause my house is NEVER clean and organized.) I’m going to look up some planners and try this myself.

    • You do have a busy load! My house is never clean and organized either, to be honest! I can clean/organize about one thing a week. And by the time I make the cycle, it’s already messed up again thanks to me toddler tornado. 🙂

  • Laurie! I too write things down just to mark them off! Amy Knapp also has a great planner that has notes, meals, menus and to – do areas. When the kids were home it was a huge help to me as you can record your menu and shopping list and they are perforated for easy removal to take to the store. It saved us a boatload of grocery dollars because it kept me from just buying what looked appealing and getting what I needed instead.

    • Oooh! Hers is pretty! Yes, always having a grocery list is one of my favorite rules. Along with never going to the store when you’re starving 🙂

  • Bethany Martin says:

    I’ll go ahead and geek out with you over my list making/planner obsession. I cant remember if I told you my freak out moment when I went to Target on July 1st and the planner I had been eyeing for ALL of June was SOLD OUT (AND that was after I was so diligent in my budgeting that I tried SO hard to wait until July to buy it so that I could use my July budget to cover the cost). THANKFULLY I went back just a few days later and it was back in stock.
    And also, I definitely added “babysit Allie” on my to-do list for Tuesday JUST so I could check it off.
    AND ALSO I’ve been meaning to buy some cute washi tape to color code things, rather than just doing colored pens……and now Im in total geek mode and want to dash to Target to buy supplies!!!
    How evident is it that we are sisters??? and surprisingly not by blood!
    LOVE YOU!!!
    oh and….now Im in hyper organize mode!

  • I still liked the pretty pink one ;).

    I’m attempting to use mine and need to get better at it. With ACFW coming and everything else, I NEED to get organized… 😀

  • J Fleming says:

    I can no longer find the vertical days in their planners, it seems they have all gone horizontal. super bummed.