Monday, August 17, 2009

My Organizer

When my children were young, I tried a lot of organizing systems. Daytimers did not work for me. So I kept looking. I read books on how to get organized. Although I occasionally found an idea that was helpful, nothing I came across fit my needs.

Traditional time-management systems never worked for long because they created too many categories to maintain and assumed a typical office with compartmentalized tasks. Managing children and a home and a school meant that there were many unexpected demands and needs that couldn't be planned for and multiple, overlapping tasks happening most of the time. I needed a stream-lined, big-picture, flexible system that can be adjusted on the run and required little effort to administrate.

Eventually, I created my own organizer and my own system for managing it. This was a blend of ideas and principles which I had gathered over several years of listening, reading, and experimenting. This worked happily for me for a number of years: through several moves; while we rennovated an old house; while I started and ran two ministries; while I was flat on my back after surgeries; with elementary students, middle school students, and high school students.

It was cheap. It was quick. It was easy. Most of all, it worked because it was flexible and simple. I could set it up on a Saturday afternoon, and we could start the school year the following Monday.

Here is what I did.

First I went shopping. I bought the following:

  • 3-ring binder (2 or 2 1/2 inches deep)
  • monthly calendar (8 x 10 inches)
  • 10 dividers for the binder
  • tabbed address section for the binder (only purchased onces; could be re-used each year)
  • notebook paper
  • post-it notes in two sizes
  • 5 clear pocket dividers
  • pencils and nice erasers

Next, I:

  • Inserted the monthly calendar into the binder and added the address pages behind the calendar.

  • Added some looseleaf notebook paper in front of the calendar and some dividers between the calendar and the address section.

  • Labeled five of the dividers: school; household; community; personal; to-do. I left the other five dividers blank for later expansion. As the year progressed, I added categories that I found I needed. Extra blank tabs were stored in the clear pocket in my to-do section for safe-keeping. I kept categories for as long as they were helpful and removed them when I stopped using them. (Christmas shopping and holiday planning is were one example of this. )

  • Inserted the clear pocket dividers behind the labeled dividers so that slipping papers into these categories is quick and easy.
  • Filled in the monthly calendar with important holidays, deadlines, and birthdays.

  • Added the addresses and phone numbers to the address section, or planned another time to add those. One of my tricks was to add them while doing the Christmas cards. Usually that's also when I updated the information each year.

  • Put the post-it notes of at least two sizes at my desk, in the school room, in the kitchen, and in the glove compartment of the car. I used these to add quick reminders to my calendar, to-do lists, refrigerator, and so on.

That's it. Tomorrow, I will write more on this system and how I used it each week.


What do you like to use to organize your year?


  1. Some good ideas here. I'm teaching a co-op for the first time this year and put my lesson plans in a three ring binder. Then I added a tab for general co-op info, then one for contact information, and so on, letting the binder grow as I went. Everytime I reach for something and can't find it, I'll make a new tab or add a new pocket. This way the binder can grow into what I need instead of me starting with blank pages and trying to fill them in.

  2. That's the way to do it! Let it grow in response to your real needs.

  3. I had this starred in my reader from August...see what I mean! So glad I finally read it, now I am off to find part two! :)


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