Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Are You Organized?

The week between Christmas and New Year's is time I traditionally spend getting organized. That whole, 'out with the old, in with the new,' thing.

To that end, I've organized cupboards while finding a home for all the new stuff and have turned out my office; that has been the biggest project.

My '"office" is actually a corner of the dining room which also doubles as a school room for my daughter. It's a huge room, 15x15 at least, so the desk, bookcases, and bins are not in the way but, since the room technically is for eating, (though we rarely use it for that!), I like to keep all of the books, papers, and art supplies tidy. All the books are turned the right way and the shelves are all dusted but what to do with all my 'stuff'?

For someone who makes their living by using a computer, you'd think there wouldn't be a ton of paper ... you'd think wrong! I have no idea what is on the white stuff or why I keep it but, there it is, staring me in the face every time I sit down to work. I can't function in chaos so yesterday was spent at an office supply store. I bought two of those cardboard magazine holders, in a perky lime green stripe, (a girl has to have pretties!), and a cool chrome mesh desktop bulletin board. That helped contain some of the clutter but then I took a look at my online calendar-and panicked!

My email messenger software has a great calendar/task feature and I've filled it with color coded reminders of events, guest bloggers, promo events, etc. but it is SO FULL that I go cross-eyed looking at it. I realized the master calendar method was simply a confusing rainbow on my screen. That led me to the realization that I am old school; I require paper and ink to keep myself straight. So I went looking for an organizer.

I spent over two hours, (or should I say wasted two hours?), at the office supply store pondering which "system" would work best for me. An hour in I came to the conclusion that I am in the wrong profession; I should seriously consider designing organizer stationary. There are aisles overflowing with assorted sizes of calendars, weekly/daily ledgers, contact lists, and planning journals and they come in some really pretty designs; but they are useless to women, at least this one! I can't possibly be the only woman running around like a chicken with her head cut off while juggling three and sometimes four different full time jobs. Yet I must be because there is no system, (that I could find anyway), that lets a person keep track of four different and completely dissimilar occupations in one organizer.

I decided to "make something work" and determined that I need a large organizer; the 8.5x11 sized inserts fit the bill. I also refused to pay upwards of $50.00 for a fancy three ring binder so 8.5x11 papers could be stored in a much cheaper three ring binder found in the school supplies-I could also 'doctor' it up with my scrapbook supplies, (gotta have that pretty!). So, I'm all set, I've got a plan, then I see that the store doesn't have 8.5x11 monthly calendar inserts. They also didn't have weekly/daily planning pages; they did have some expensive glorified notebook paper though!

By this time I was thoroughly disgusted with the amount of time I had spent dithering over something that was supposed to help me use my time more effectively. My nine year old was also long past ready to go! That is when I decided to make my own inserts. You see, in order to keep track of writing deadlines, guest blog spots, guests on my blog, submission opportunities, critique groups, promo loops, workshops-well, you get the picture. I was planning to use one calendar and daily/weekly planner insert per "job" I have but the store didn't even have one pack of inserts. Talk about frustration!

When I decided to make my own inserts I came up with the bright idea to use different colored paper for each job; blue for writing, green for home school, yellow for our family business, and pink for personal/household. Alas, colored paper was going to cost me around $ 20.00 and my cart was already full so I scrapped that plan-for now. But I have made my own calendars and weekly/daily planning pages-on white copy paper. I did indulge myself and buy a lime green fabric covered three ring binder and a black wooden magazine holder as a home for the binder on my desk, (there's that pretty, again:).

I went home with and did what I do best-internet research. There are a plethora of free printables websites out there; I didn't have to open excel or word, once! The monthly calendars came from Calendar Labs. This is a very useful site! You can design a multitude of calendars, picking what day of the week they start on, eliminate weekends, or anything else you might find necessary.

The weekly/daily planner pages came from Printable Planners. I LOVE this site. They have planner pages for everything, even food logs and pet pages (no idea why someone would need to plan for a pet!), and they are available in all the sizes from mini to executive!

I printed out the twelve months of 2011 and about three weeks worth of daily/weekly planner pages; I still want to do the color coded thing but I'm going to wait a few weeks and splurge on some colored paper-Christmas combined with marketing for Ring of Lies has tapped me right now, and we won't even mention that fact that about ten extra people will be here this weekend! For now, I'm using my collection of colored ink pens, (yeah, I've a collection and stamps, ink, stickers, paper-I did say I used to scrapbook!), to differentiate between jobs. Not ideal but ... it works.

It is a good thing I'm OCD about organizing all of my commitments because, last night my computer decided to freeze. I tried everything to quit the program I was in; the trusty 'Control, Alt, Delete failed me! Frustration set in and I hit the Restart button. After what seemed like a year, the computer rebooted (or whatever it does) and started to load my desktop; only it wasn't my desktop!

The picture was the standard Microsoft screen that comes up when you buy a new pc. I didn't think anything of it (or much of it anyway) until I tried to pull up Microsoft Word. It prompted me to register the program. I was irritated by that point and clicked the X but when I looked in my documents-NOTHING! Gone, all gone. All of my drafts, blog posts, letters, nothing was there. Panic set in. I mean it. We are talking heart palpitations and dots in front of my eyes!

I frantically checked all of my other folders: One Note-gone, Pictures-gone, Email messenger AND the calendar-gone. After much clicking I managed to find the files under Owner but I couldn't get them back into the software programs. It was a mess, a total freakin' mess.

When I realized my calendar was gone I had to walk away from my desk-I'd reached the end of my, admittedly limited, patience. Resigned to setting up the email messenger all over again and thanking God for my foresight in purchasing Carbonite, I started to restore files; that is when I discovered the Restore Settings button.

Now, I wasn't sure what would happen if I clicked that Restore button. It kept warning me and asking if I really wanted to do it-I'm thinking, "uh, yeah! What the heck else can I do my email and calendars are all gone!" So, I closed my eyes, held my breath, and clicked.

The stars were aligned for me after all because I'm happy to report, (happy is such a mild word for what I am feeling!), that after restarting, again, my beautiful autumn picture of an English field popped back onto the screen, and more importantly, ALL of my files are right back were they belong! They are also now backed up on CD's as well as Carbonite :) and, my life is also written on good old fashioned paper, too. Technology is great ... until it fails!

So, am I obsessive with all of this organizing and scheduling? Do you feel the need to have everything in your life written down and planned out? How do you maintain control?


  1. Every year I plan to get organized - and every year I fail.

    I love my computer and keep my calendar on my Gmail - works well for me, I've got it set up to send alerts to my cell phone too.

    I am a creature of habit and love the paper planners - but between my writing binding I keep in my purse and now my Nook - I don't have room for another planner unless I plan on carrying a suitcase with me everywhere I go.

    I'm learning to love my iTouch and it's calendar and reminder apps!

    Good luck...I feel your pain.

  2. Debora,
    I actually have a Gmail calendar too! I enter everything into my Blackberry and have all the alerts set but I still manage to be late or completely forget things :(. I don't even try to carry my planner with me-too much stuff in that purse! The planner is for me to keep everything straight AT HOME, on the road I'm still pretty much hopeless!

  3. I love this week, YES! I like to start out fresh each year, with the intent that I am an organized person! HA, so much for intentions, by Christmas I am a mess again. LOL! I also spent today "organizing" my office. It is a seperate room and like you I must have paper in hand, notes, notebooks, posty notes, you name it I use it, UNTIL the dreadful day around March when, "OH NO! I lost my notebook" this is the day my husband looks forward to every year and laughs for hours! I do not find him funny, by the way. I really think he hides it!

    But yes, I think we all need the nesting factor between Christmas and New Years to regroup and plan our strategy for the new year! Have a wonderful and safe New Year!!

  4. I had to laugh when you mentioned all the paper. I have boxes and boxes of notes, a notebook for each novel and printouts from workshops. I'm actually trying to get more organized this week. And not succeeding very well. My calendar is "A Working Writer's Daily Planner 2010." I have a new one for 2011. The squares aren't very big but it seems to work. I have a spare bedroom for my office and still don't seem to have room for everything. It's a losing battle. Have a great New Year!

  5. I have bins over-flowing with papers I just can't seem to part with. But everytime I get organized and throw stuff away, it never fails that I NEED it two days later!

  6. Oh, that feeling of everything disappearing into that technological black hole... So glad everything came back up!

  7. I utterly stink at organizing. This is odd because at my day job I'm compulsively organized. And the papers at home are threatening to EAT MY HEAD.

  8. I get the urge to organize several times per year. But within a week everything is back in its unorganized place.