Welcome to our newest series. In “Friday Favorites,” our team will share a handful of favorite items. These can range from clothes to beauty products to recipes to books and anything in between.

There are lots of apps available to ping reminders on your phone or synch with every extended family member you have. But to me, they have nothing on a well spaced out, blank calendar.
 

Any excuse to look a little less at my phone, ya know?

 
The white board wall calendar seemed alluring for awhile, but for quite a few reasons, it didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped. Certain family members couldn’t remember not to lean on the calendar and accidentally remove all Mondays of all their previously written out and now forever gone appointments. Now, I certainly still use a shared virtual calendar with my husband for many things, but over the last several years I’ve found an actual paper planner on my counter to be more effective for keeping my life somewhat together (at least as together as it’s going to be). This goes well beyond putting in family birthdays and school projects; by the time the year wraps up, my calendar looks much more like a journal than a used up planner. 
 
I know paper planners aren’t everyone jam, but over the last few years I have discovered that they are one of the few ways I can bring some peace and organization to our busy crew while also putting myself ahead of the game for the future. 
 

Here are my favorite ways to put a planner to work:

High Visibility Placement

Keep it in a spot where you can easily look it over daily, even multiple times a day. I know this seems basic, but one of the things I hear most often from friends when they notice mine is that they have bought a planner for years, but never used it. Putting it in prime real estate is crucial.

For me, it’s at the end of my kitchen island. It’s almost always there, open to the current month, and I can glance at it while I chug my first cup of coffee or make lunch. For awhile, I would check it in the morning, close it up, and put it away for the day. I ended up not using it effectively because it wasn’t easy to jot down a note or an appointment. Having it out, even if you are a clutterphobe like me, will make this much more likely to be used. 

Use It For More Than a Calendar

Use it as a spot to debrief and leave tips for your future self. After a holiday or event, I make notes in the margin about what worked or what didn’t (a super brief AAR of sorts). Things like: “Valentine’s Day- too much candy, kids most excited about gum and new umbrellas. Dinner was takeout pizza and we played board games-loved it, do this again.” I do the same thing after birthdays or anytime I want to be sure to do something next year.

This has become especially crucial around the holiday rush, when everything feels THIS IMPORTANT and EVERYONE WILL NOTICE IF WE DON’T DO THIS TRADITION.

If after the cookie exchange/St Nicholas gifts/neighborhood ornament doorbell dash, I am met with a sense of disappointment and utter the words, “Well I’m not doing that again,” I write that in my planner. Otherwise, I will do it again next year, and I will again say, “I’m not doing that again!” on repeat forever.

When I get my new planner around the New Year, I go through my old one to read and then add all of these notes to my new calendar. It helps to highlight them after you write them so it’s easy to see what you wanted your future self to know.

Go Back and Add Things After They’ve Happened.

Don’t be afraid to look back. I can’t tell you how many times I needed to go back and check a date or time of something that hadn’t been planned in advance or hadn’t seemed important enough to write down but that I’d made a note of after. It helps me declutter my head of all of the little things that I’m tempted to “just try and remember” at the end of the week by doing a brain dump onto my calendar pages, where it can live in the event I need the information again. 
 

Set Monthly Reminders

At the end of every month, add a reminder for something you want to accomplish. Mine is to print pictures. I always wish I had actual prints of digital pictures but never get it done. I know you can set a reminder to do this on your phone, but I am SO likely to get a reminder ping, clear it because it’s just not a convenient time, and never come back to it. You don’t have that option on a paper calendar. It won’t ping you, but you’ll see if every time you glance at the pages.

I usually write this reminder on the last weekend of the month. Then at some point during that weekend when it’s convenient for me, I go through my phone and upload all of those pictures to our preferred printer ( I like Costco) in one bulk order. When they get here, it’s easy to just label the front of the envelope “JAN-2021” and put it in our photo storage box if I don’t want to look at pictures right then, or let the kids go through the pictures with me as I note which twin is which on the back. I’m sure one day I will get it wrong when they quiz me. 

Keep Addresses and Stamps Handy

Write your most commonly used addresses in it, and paperclip a book of forever stamps to the page. There’s a page for addresses in most planners, but does it get used? Again, many people store addresses in their phones. But when I’m trying to get a birthday card in the mail as I hear the mail truck chugging down the street, the last thing I want to do is find my phone and then tap the screen repeatedly to keep it from going dark as I try to write down an obscure zip code.

BONUS for military families- write all of the last addresses you’ve lived at in this section so that when that random form shows that needs to get filled out, you have it easily on hand!

Let me know if you give paper planners a try, I hope my five favorite tips for using them make it a great resource for you!

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Katie has been an Air Force spouse for over 12 years, leaving her home town of Colorado Springs to explore exotic locations like Dayton, Ohio, then on to Ramstein, Germany, and then back to Dayton because her husband is a glutton for punishment and decided to get his PhD from the Air Force Institute of Technology. She's mom to four kids including one year old twins who are currently deconstructing everything she thought she knew about life, brick by brick. Her current life doesn't have room for hobbies, but she thinks she used to like meeting friends for dinner, running holiday 5K races, and going to the beach. You can find her at pearls.points.and.parenting on IG talking about mom life, trying to get back into a shape other than round, and laughing at memes.