Can you believe it’s already 2015 and we’re part way through February! This year seems to be going by so quickly….and as usual for the start of the year I have so much trouble with getting into a good rhythm. I’m struggling with getting into a good flow of working, getting into a good flow of teaching and getting into a good flow of just organizing my life in general. So I’ve decided to simplify my life this year. I’m going to share with you the three tools that I’ve been using so far this year to organize my life and to simplify things so that it’s easy for me to work out what I need to do.
1. Life Planner
The first tool that I’ve been using to organize my every day life is my 2015 Life Planner. I found a template that I liked of a planner online and I’ve used the parts that suit me to then bind into my life planner. I’ve also added some other little bits and pieces that really help me to find places in my life planner.
Down the right hand side of my life planner I have little colorful tabs to find the start of each new month, which is great because I can just flip to where I need. The other thing I’ve put in the planner is a piece of ribbon, so that marks the current week that I’m into as well.
I’ve also included a month overview; which spans two A4 pages and provides a snapshot of the month. I have lots of different hats that I wear and do lots of different things so I like to use the month overview to show the newsletters that have gone out on my blog and to also show any blog posts that I have published. I also I like to keep a daily track of any sales I may have made from the teaching products that I sell. I set myself goals for the month and write those on the month overview as well.
If you’re teaching in a classroom the month overview would be great because you can plot in any excursions that you have , you can put in any people that come to visit or if it’s your turn for an assembly. There are many different ways you can use the month overview.
The next thing that I like with my planner, is when it is open side by side it shows the 7 days in the week as well as the time slots for each day. The times begin at 6am in the morning and go through to 10:30 at night and there are increments every 30 minutes down the side. I like this because I have lots of different things happening. My little girl started school this year, so I can put in the days she goes to school. I’ve started a new job so I can plot in the days I’m working. I have many things that happen on the weekend so I can put those in.
It’s fantastic having just one book to help me stay organized. Everything goes in this book from what’s happening in my personal life, to what’s happening at my job, what’s happening with tutoring and also what’s happening with my blog.
Also when showing the weekly view I have room for my To Do lists as well as room for priority items. There is space for this week’s focus or a goal for the week and on the other side of the page there is room for any notes or things I think of that I want to write down.
To make my planner that little bit special I’ve started decorating it with some decorative tape (washi tape), cute little stickers and post it notes. This is to make it more appealing so that I’ll want to use the planner.
The other spot in the planner that I also like is at the end of the month and the start of each month I have just one page of lined paper. This can be used to add any notes, sketches or brainstorming or I could use it as a journal as well.
I found the template for my Lifer Planner at Passion Planner.
The next tool I want to share with you is a tool I use for blogging; to help me stay motivated, capture my ideas and then to help me plan blog posts. I think this is definitely an idea that you can use across teaching especially if you want to plan a big unit of work or if you want to integrate different areas of the curriculum with a theme.
This tool is called mindmapping and most of you as teachers would be very familiar with mindmapping. There are a number of different software packages and tools that you can use for mindmapping, but when it comes to planning my blog posts from the basic idea to the rough outline, I actually like doing it the old fashioned way with post it notes and some colorful pens.
On the blog I have different categories that I blog about and it also makes it easy if you’re searching for different ideas on my blog if posts are categorized. In my big flower type post it notes I put those main categories, for instance: time saving tips or whether I have a post relating to lesson ideas or reflective teaching. They’re the main ideas.
Every time I have an idea that I want to write a blog post about I write it on a post it note and stick it to which ever category it relates to. So as you can see under my Review topic I have a post that I want to do about the Lion and the Gibbon and a craft to go with that. I’ve also got some phonics books that I’d like to review.
I find that the big, visual thing that I can be constantly adding to works great for me. You might not have the space to do this, but you could also do the same sort of thing on a whiteboard or a piece of paper. But I have this desk in my office so it works well.
Then the next part I do is when I decide I’d like to write about that blog post, I move it over to my piece of glass. I’ve just had this lying around and I wondered what I could use it for. So I thought it would be a great way to plot out a rough idea of my blog posts. I have my blog post idea up the top, next I write my headline or my heading for the blog post and then I do a rough outline of what I want to put in the blog post. I add the sub headings and as you can see with this one I’ve got my 3 tools that I use with a couple of ideas underneath.
I hope this is something that you could use as well.
The last tool I want to talk about is an online organizational tool called Trello. In my post last year, ‘Can’t Keep Up? 5 Ways To Simplify Your Home And Teaching Schedule‘, I also talked about Trello and how I was using it for blog post development.
This year I’ve mainly been using Trello for product development. On my blog you’ll also notice I have a store, the Top Notch Teaching Store which is where I sell the teaching products that I create.
I have so many ideas for different products and they just come to me at random times so I create a note in Trello with the main idea as the heading. These notes then become all the little ‘To Do’s’ of the products that I would like to create.
When I start working on an item I move it over to my ‘Doing List.’ I also add in a checklist so I know what each product requires. For example, I need to include: my cover page, copyright page, instructions, credits, any content to go in there and all the little bits and pieces that I need to do to get that product ready for sale. Once I’ve done the item and it’s all checked off then I move it over into the ‘Done List.’
So there you have it; the 3 tools that I’m currently using to simplify my life. I think they’re fantastic and they work for me. But I’d also love to hear from you in the comments. What tools are you using this year to help simplify your life? It could be a tool that you’re using in your teaching, it could be that you’re using a specific tool in your personal life or maybe you’re a blogger like I am and it’s something you’re using in your blogging. If you’ve got any fantastic tools I’d love to check them out so pop some links in the comments and I’ll be sure to have a look.