The Organizational Beast-o-tron

In Teaching by Jenn2 Comments

By definition, organization is not a strong suit of the A-minus Mama. Sure, I love creating organizational schemes, but the execution is…usually somewhat lacking. (Just ask my long-suffering mother and bemused husband. And my students. And my coworkers. Sigh.)

But the first two work weeks of 2016 have been the most productive two weeks of potentially my entire life. I have gone from bringing work home 3-4 nights a week and spending at least half a day on weekends getting ready for school to maybe spending at most two or three hours a week on schoolwork outside of the contractual school week. I am significantly less stressed and frustrated with work, more energetic, and happier with life overall. Oh, and I cleaned out my office and set up a nursery.

How did I do it?! (dramatic infomercial music)

Say hello to my little friend, the Passion Planner.*

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The Passion Planner was my treat to myself for…being awesome, I guess. (And maybe to make up for the 5 heads of garlic and 15 pounds of rice I got for Christmas. Another story for another day.) I wandered into the world of planners via The Ink Road, who followed me on Instagram. Through their feed I discovered the strange and magical world of the planner-scrapbook hybrid, with lovingly applied stickers and stamps and washi tape. (I can only dream of the day I pick up the same pen twice in a row to jot stuff down, forget color-coding and washi-taping.)

As much as I would love to dive into that world, I knew I needed something more utilitarian. I remembered seeing the Spark Planner on Kickstarter, but sadly they were sold out. A little more digging on Kickstarter (apparently the world needs better planners- how do I get in on that gig?) and I found the Passion Planner, which is the beautiful love child of a planner and a journal.

To say this little A5-size vegan-leather bound beauty has changed my life is not an example of my typical hyperbole, and is not a sponsored product placement either. I have unapologetically drunk the #pashfam Kool-Aid and now I live to spread the good news. (Not really, I live to reach my goals and the Passion Planner is invaluable for getting me there.)

I have vacillated between paper and electronic planning systems throughout the years, but I have found that when life starts degenerating into chaos with too many balls to juggle, I tend to reach for the paper. Post-it notes, lists on a notepad, anything. But it’s been awhile since I’ve actually carried a day planner around with me.

*Now, it may be a bit misleading to suggest that the Passion Planner is my only keeper. I’m actually now using a triple-redundancy system of lesson planner, phone calendar, and Passion Planner because pregnancy brain is ferocious, people. (Yesterday I spent five minutes searching for a piece of fabric while cursing softly under my breath before I realized that I had already sewn it to another piece. Today I grabbed a baseball bat and was ready to attack the intruder in the kitchen before remembering I had left my computer playing 80s music on the counter. I’m also slowly losing either my hearing or my ability to process spoken English language. Possibly both)

I kept the same weekly lesson planner that I’ve been using for school all year because I laid it out specifically to help me accomplish the things I have trouble remembering/wanting to do, such as grading, copying, and making sure I actually have what I need for tomorrow’s lesson so I don’t have to run to Kroger during lunch for, say, gummy bears. It is based on the original Sanity Saver from Eat.Write.Teach and customized to fit my (glorious) one-prep schedule and include check boxes for the onerous tasks mentioned above. I also have whole-month calendars to help me plot units somewhat cohesively and  plan around and for school holidays and special events.

And this actually worked relatively well as long as I remembered to use it and planned far enough ahead for this to actually be helpful. Which is where the Passion Planner comes in.

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The only time I’ve used an hourly-agenda style planner was when I worked in a real estate office, and I don’t think I actually wrote things in the appropriate time slots…it was basically a glorified notepad. The Passion Planner has lines for every half hour, and I actually started filling in my daily schedule, specifically the 102 minutes I get each day for planning and lunch.

That was special sauce #1. Previously during my planning time, I would putter around between tasks trying to remember what I needed to do. Or I’d make a trip down to the copier only to forget something I needed to scan or drop off in a mailbox. (My school is so big that two round trips to the workroom without stopping to remember what I went back to my room to get can easily eat 10 minutes of my day, which isn’t so bad from my FitBit’s perspective but it does chip away at my productivity.) Now I have a list of what needs to be copied, delivered, cleaned, or prepped each day. It seems like a small and obvious thing to do, but it has made such a huge difference.

wp-1453167417716.pngSpecial sauce #2 is the Passion Planner’s built-in tools for focusing and planning ahead, which has changed my mindset from keeping my head above water to actually making some forward progress on long-standing projects as well as staying ahead of daily tasks. Each month, week, and day has space to write a focus, and we all know how much I love assigning themes to things. The daily foci are a bit too granular for me sometimes, but the weekly and monthly themes have helped me keep the big picture in mind, which is always an important component of my sanity. Each month and week also has space to list priorities and errands, and the planner goes one step further by asking me to figure out how much time each task requires and then make a place for it in my daily schedules. And there’s also inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout…I do love a well-timed quote.

wp-1453166678234.jpegThe last (first?) special sauce is the Passion Roadmap and Passion Plan template in the very beginning of the planner. Like I wrote in my letter to Fire Monkey at the beginning of the year, my desires drive my goals which determine my plans. So it was very helpful to commit some of those desires to paper, set some goals, and make some concrete plans for reaching those goals. Each month also has a page for reflection and looking forward, which I (the consummate journal nerd) can’t wait to use.

So there you have it. My precious Passion Planner, which is arguably the best $35 I’ve spent in a really long time. (I splurged on the Limited Edition Twilight Blue because pretty colors are worth $5 to me.) They do generously offer a free download version that I printed on 8.5×11 and used for the first week before my precious arrived. The larger size was nice but I am very happy with the smaller size I chose since it fits neatly in my purse.

I originally hesitated to buy a planner-journal (plournal? joulanner?) because A) I naively thought, “I can manage,” – HAH; and B) I somewhat doubted that a year with massive impending changes was a great time to try and boost my productivity and set ambitious goals. But it’s actually the perfect time because now I have the chance to actually steer some of those changes instead of letting things happen to me helter-skelter, which is what I spent 2011-2013 doing. So while my pregnancy journal has languished uncompleted (sorry, Fire Monkey) and my lesson plans still have some holes, my Passion Planner is my constant companion, confidant, and keeper of order. Now excuse me while I plan my week before bed.

Love,

A-minus Mama

***Disclaimer: This post is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by Passion Planner. All parts and designs from the Passion Planner are the property of its creators. I am simply an adoring fangirl.

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