When I was single, my brain had just enough memory to remember what I needed to do and take care of myself.
But now that I’m married and have kids, managing my time and my to-dos became much more complicated. Juggling multiple people’s schedules on top of my own busy part-time work-at-home life requires better organizational tools.
Keeping organized is complicated by the fact that I have ADHD. My time management for many years amounted to a flurry of Post-Its and scrap paper to-do lists scattered all over my house. Not the most effective system.
What I do know is that I’m a visual and tactile person. Writing everything out by hand is the way I most effectively process and remember time and tasks.
Yet not all paper planners are created equal. It took me a long time and the purchase of many, many planners to find a functional time management took. Now my quest is over. I found Mama’s Notebook.
Mama’s Notebook is the brainchild of Heather Wood, a friend of mine (Disclaimer #1) and contributor to my online magazine, Real Housekeeping (Disclaimer #2). (But don’t let the disclaimers bother you. I’d recommend Mama’s Notebook regardless.)
Heather, a chemist in her pre-SAHM life, was used to creating her own detailed lab notebooks for tracking… whatever it is they do in a chemistry lab. After her kids were born, she realized she needed a lab notebook for her home life, too. Thus Mama’s Notebook came into being.
This notebook is by far the best time management tool I’ve used, hands down. I’ve used it successfully for over half a year, whereas other planners rarely make it past a month of use.
What makes it work for me? The so-simple-it’s-brilliant way Heather visually arranges the week on a page:
Instead of relying specifically on the clock, Mama’s Notebook breaks down each day into large blocks of time—morning, afternoon, evening—with a meal planner above and a small space for daily to-dos below.
This is perfect for me. I have small children, one with special needs, whose sleep patterns can be a bit erratic. We do not keep much of a clock-specific schedule in our home. By breaking down the day and week in larger chunks of time, Mama’s Notebook accommodates our family’s need for flexible scheduling.
Mama’s Notebook also helps me overcome my Post-It-Notes tendencies. On the facing page to each week’s schedule is a large, open area for creating custom to-do lists:
Instead of writing my to-dos on scrap paper, I now write all my to-dos on this page in my notebook. I also write down doctors’ office numbers, phone messages, recipes that I happen across in a magazine while sitting in a waiting room, and anything else that previously would have ended up as chicken scratch on random notes scattered all over the house.
When I write out my calendar for the following week, I also look at the previous week’s to-do lists and carry any unfinished tasks over to the next week.
By limiting myself to recording everything in Mama’s Notebook, my information stays in one place where I can easily find it. Very often I find myself flipping back through past weeks to find that phone number or that address—which is much better than picking through a stack of papers on my desk or, worse, through a garbage can.
Because my husband uses Google Calendar for work, I still use Google Calendar in addition to Mama’s Notebook for recording anything clock-specific—not because I couldn’t use Mama’s Notebook to keep track of my appointments, but because Google Calendar is the best way to communicate appointments with my husband.
I’ve found it easy to use the two together. When I make a future appointment, I put it in Google Calendar first and share it with my husband. Then, when I sit down on Sundays to write out the week in Mama’s Notebook, I also pull up Google Calendar on my laptop. I handwrite any appointments in their respective time slots in Mama’s Notebook. Handwriting my appointments the week-of helps me to better remember them and plan around them.
The entire process takes me about five minutes, if that.
Mama’s Notebook includes several additional pages for other lists: long-term projects, go-to meals, weekly shopping lists, spiritual life, and more. And if you need something more specific, Heather also offers a Budget Notebook, two Homeschooling Notebooks (by the week or by unit), a Knit & Crochet Notebook, and a New Baby Notebook. (The last two would make great gifts, don’t you think?)
If you’re like me and prefer a good old-fashioned handwritten planner, check out Mama’s Notebook. I can’t praise it enough.
Copyright 2015 Rhonda Ortiz
Images Copyright 2015 Rhonda Ortiz
Cover of Mama’s Notebook courtesy of Mama’s Notebooks.