Planners for Real Moms

Because life moves at the speed of light, moms need planners. However, we don’t need the fancy-schmancy and uber-complicated. Hey, we’re the people who only have enough time for five-minute showers and 30-second potty breaks! Besides, we live within budgets. We can’t spend bread, milk (or underwear) money on something just because it is popular and pretty.

What works best for us real moms?

How about:

  • A place to track events on specific dates.
  • Places to jot down numbers to call and bills to pay.
  • A place to jot down things “to get.”
  • Places to jot down ideas
  • Places to record precious memories
  • Places to keep us on track for homeschooling
  • A pocket or two to keep coupons and other loose bits of paper
  • Some sticky-things, flags, tabs, and notes.

I can tell you that this real mom has not gone digital. Using a device to keep track of my life has not worked at all. Call me crazy, but I simply do not enjoy trying to enter 10 or more dental appointments in my calendar using only two fingers.

Pencil and paper is my style!

But just what type of pencil and paper? Most of us are familiar with the obvious choices, such as:

  • Printed planners.
  • Printables
  • Plain and bullet journals.

I have found that sticking with one type doesn’t do the job, either. Each sort of planner has its strengths, but there is always something missing.

For instance, printed planners make me sigh with relief. Anyone who knows me realizes I am in love with creating, that I tend to put my creative side at odds with my organized side. Even though I crave order, I often lack the discipline necessary to keep all of my activities in line.

This is why it is so wonderful to have exact spaces for dates and notes about my days. I try to take time the night before and jot down a short list and blow-by-blow of the day. I also keep track of bills for my husband in the monthly section. Birthdays are in there, too, as well as addresses and phone numbers.

Which printed planner do I use?

About a year ago I was out grocery shopping and spied the “Do-it-all” planner from Orange Circle Studio. I think it was love at first site! Here are the reasons I esteem it above any other I have tried:

  • Size. It’s just big enough to write in (I enjoy writing in small letters) but not too big to put into my purse.
  • Spiral-bound. It opens flat.
  • Pretty. The floral patterned cover is done in muted tones which are carried through the entire planner.
  • Calendars. Each month with its own page and room at the bottom for notes (which I use to keep the budget straight). There are also year-at-a-glance pages.
  • Week-at-a-glance. The days are in vertical columns with Saturday and Sunday receiving equal space and importance (something that is important to me due to my husband’s odd schedule).
  • Lined spaces at the top of the page. This is where I copy a scripture that I am meditating on that week.
  • Stickers. No need to have a separate stash (although I do add my own in). Here are pretty things you can put on the pages (if you can snatch a few moments here-and-there).
  • Tear-out shopping lists. I only know of one other planner which offers this, The 2018 Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner by Sue Hooley (which is another nice one, it just didn’t meet my needs).
  • A pocket. Yes! Were these folks reading my mail?
  • Price. This darling of a planner only set me back $15! Even I can afford that!

However, even with all of this wonder, this planner is not enough. I need other spaces where I can track and record my spiritual life,  homeschooling, and my online business.

This is where my blank notebooks come in.

I like to keep these super-cheap. This way I can do whatever I want in them and never feel guilty, or like I am “wasting.” I try not to spend over a dollar on any that I use.

Currently I have one for Bible and sermon notes which is smaller, and a simple, 50-cent composition book which I use for homeschooling and my business.

These are pretty free-flowing, something my creative side craves, but with enough structure to make them easier to refer to when needed. I have a section in the composition book for the following:

  1. Lesson numbers and descriptions. I keep about six weeks’ worth of these for each child for the McGuffey readers and the vintage grammar and math we use. This saves me a little bit of time when I am filling in assignment sheets.
  2. A journal of our days together. I write down learning activities we do together, and then track what each individual child is doing using initials with circles around them. I even have a simple system of denoting learning activities by using initials with an underline (such as “RA” for “Read Aloud,” and “SR” for “Silent (or Self) Read.”
  3. A whole page opposite the learning journal to jot down ideas or special notes. Some days these are blank, others they are overflowing. Since the book is so cheap I don’t worry about doing either 🙂 .
  4. One called “Biz.” This is for all my online endeavors. I use these pages for writing down notes about what I am learning about blogging, such as better writing techniques, technical information, etc. Most of my posts start here. I also jot down ideas for products I want to create, or printables, or even books I want to write (or am writing).

I differentiate the sections and make them easy to turn to by using Post-it-Notes tabs (in the past I have used sticky-notes themselves, which are great and cheap, but they don’t last as long).

Oh, and here is a little warning: It’s OK to have a few different books available for scribbling in, but there should be a limit. When planning and recording take up too much of the day or your system is too complicated, it’s time to simplify and downsize!

What about embellishments?

Any search for “planners” will turn up a host of “must-haves” for proper planning and scheduling. This usually include rolls of washi tape and pens in the colors of the rainbow which cost upwards of a kajillion dollars.

Well, after years of trying to live a life of meaning rather than a life of “stuff,” I have come to the conclusion that a little bit of a good thing is a lot better than a lot of a good thing, which can make it a bad thing (as in eating and hoarding). Yes, I do own some washi tape, but only six mini-rolls that I paid a dollar for.

As for pens, I prefer Bic. You know, the cheap ones you buy in the plastic bag on the bottom-most rack at Wally Mart. I have some in blue, black, and red (for special use). Truth is, I adore how these write, even better than the more expensive types I’ve tried (even better than gels or ceramic, or just about anything, and I am picky).

I also have a special mechanical pencil (which cost me a whole dollar) which I use in my printed planner so I can erase if I need to (which is a lot).

Oh, and I really rely on sticky notes.

They are useful for so many things:

  • I can jot down a note as I am on my laptop and then transfer it later to my planner or my journal, or vice-versa.
  • I can place one in one area of my planner and then move it around as I am progressing through the week, month, or year. I use small, medium, and large ones for these.
  • I use the plastic tab ones to separate my planner and journal into sections and keep my place for quick reference (I peel and place them on the next week as I move through the year). I have both the “Post It” brand and the Dollar Tree brand.

And there you have it.

One very busy (and creative) mom’s version of tackling life on paper. Now that I’ve shared my favorites, what are some of yours?


6 thoughts on “Planners for Real Moms”

  1. Yes, definitely not digital here either! Paper, pens and pencils are some of my best friends 🙂 Funny though, even my mom who is 24 years older than me uses her cell phone for all types of reminders and planning so I can’t even say I’m behind in the times! 🙂 Thanks for the ideas, I love planning and lists. Currently my one daughter covers a composition book (I buy for 50 cents) all pretty with washi tape for me and that’s my planner each year. I pay her $2 for it :). I love it!

    • I think you mentioned this before, if I remember correctly. Yes, I have done that one for many years, too, with much success 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post! Love it! I always get such good ideas from you. I think I’m going to start a notebook for sermon notes! I have one for planning, but you’re way ahead of me on details and effectiveness – I love the new ideas to try.

    Merry Christmas!!

  3. Flabbergasted, I have multi planners as well, and one has a lined sticky note summarizing the goals of all. Thank goodness I’m not the only one

    • It takes the power of the Spirit to keep me from over-dosing on planners and journals 😛 Seriously, I have to look at the planners in Wally Mart almost every time I’m there. But the Lord is good and tells me I need to step back and exit the store before I purchase a new one…


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