When I asked women I admire to share their calendars and to-do lists, to be fair, I also shared my own system of time management for work and family.
Over the years, however, I learned from my clients and adapted my system, and revised my old system. Below I share the tools I currently use. While it works for my work-family situation, it may not be right for you. So, be sure to also check out other women’s systems featured in the series as well as some overall evidence-based strategies in the Time Management for Real Women section.
Briefly describe your current time management system
I use a combination of paper-based and digital tools.
To keep track of appointments, each member in my household has their own iCloud calendar that contains their own scheduled events. Events that all four of us do together are put in a separate iCloud calendar called “family.” My husband, teenage daughters and I can see all of these events on all of our devices.
On my devices, I also subscribe to a few calendars feeds: my coaching schedule (not shown in the photo for confidentiality reasons) and the calendar feeds from my daughters’ schools.
I now do most of my planning in a Hobonichi Techo Cousin Avec, an A5-sized, two-book daily planner. (A more detailed description follows in the section below.) I have it housed in a lovely leather folio from Little Mountain Bindery. Their Fillion has room for me to insert a slim Midori Color lined notebook in the back–which I use as a pseudo bullet journal (inspired by Dawn’s bullet journal).
I use Evernote on my phone and laptop to keep checklists or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for things I do over and over again. For example, I have a packing list for when I travel. I also have an SOP to remind me of all of the little steps for creating my Stacy’s Book Notes a
I use Workflowy, for a master project list, (which also serves as a someday-maybe-later list). Because my work projects are more complicated, I have set up databases on Notion to keep more detailed project lists. And, I keep the notes I take while I read and ideas for my own writing in Mem.
For certain work projects where I need or want to track my time, I will use Toggl. I’m often forgetful about turning the Toggl timer on, so I use RescueTime to help me work backward to figure out how long I’ve worked on a particular project. It tracks how long I’ve visited each website or used an app on my computer. I use the free versions of both of these apps.
How does it work?
The Hobonichi works well because of its various spreads. On the 6-month spread, I’ll do my quarterly planning where I list projects I want to work on for the next 3 months. I found that doing any sort of planning was redundant to the quarterly plans, so instead, I use the monthly spread to track any habits I’m trying to develop with stickers. Finally, each week, I list the projects I want to tackle on the one-week spread.
Each morning, I take a quick look at my day’s time commitments in my iCloud calendar and then skim my weekly goals in my Hobonichi. I then turn to that day’s page. At the top, I list one to three things I really want to get done that day, my most important tasks or (MITs).
Below that, on the left timetable, I sketch out how I’d like my day to go, blocking off time for what I want to do.
Then, during the day, I use the space just right of that to keep track of things I get done on my daily “got-done list.” These are things I’ve accomplished that come up that I didn’t plan on doing. This way, if there was a disruption that caused me to not get to the things I had intended to, I won’t get discouraged but give myself some credit.
At the end of the day, I use the space at the bottom to jot down anything I…
- want to remember, or
- am grateful for that day
How did your system evolve?
During most of my professional life, my system was digital. I started with a PalmPilot and loved that I could back up and synchronize information to my computer. I didn’t have to worry about losing everything
In recent years, however, whenever I pick up my iPhone to see what my plan was, I would get distracted by a text. If I headed to my laptop to check off that I’ve completed a task, I would get side-tracked by an email.
So, using a combination of digital and paper tools keeps me focused.n
What’s good about this system of time management for work and family?
Moreover, I observed how my clients benefited from simply writing down their intentions and reflections on paper. When I spend time thinking in the morning, I am more likely to focus throughout the day. It is easier to make better choices with my time.
For a long time, I used a weekly planner. But, this year, I am already finding that the daily planner gives me more room for:
- A longer “got-done list” to list the accomplishments regardless of whether I had planned to do them.
- Reflection, observations or a thanksgiving to note at the end of the day
Both of these are easy ways to feel better about my day.
What concerns do you have about your system?
I sometimes revert to old, less-productive habits, spending too much time trying to make the system perfect. I have to remind myself to deem it good enough and get back to work!
Older versions of this article were published in January 2016 and January 2020.
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