Planner Obsession

In April, 2016, a friend recommended I look into the Erin Condren planner.  We both home educate, have part-time jobs and ministry commitments as well as trying to keep up with running our households, juggling children’s extracurricular activities … it can get a bit nutty.  I have been lamenting the disjointed nature of my planning system for the past few years.  I’ve tried some good things – like Cozi for phone and computer, using my OneNote and even creating a calendar on Word.  I had weekly calendars for our home education plans on Word as well.  Pretty much I was all over the map when it came to planning.  I would be out somewhere and someone would ask me if I could do something and I’d have to pull up the calendar on my phone, but if I hadn’t synced it with our home schedules on Word, then I was out of luck as to really knowing what I would be doing a few weeks out.  Also, I had my to-dos in one place and not with me.  All that to say, I wanted a one-stop shop.  When my husband heard I was buying a paper-based planner, his comment was, “Going old school, I see.”  Yep.  Back to paper.  I can take everything with me.  I can’t mistakenly erase the files.  My to-dos, calendars and weekly planner are all in one place (along with my library book list, grocery list and much more).
Watch out world, this girl is getting organized.

So, without further ado, here is a bit of a tour as to what I did to the Erin Condren Teacher Planner to make it a Homeschool Life Planner.  I had to do some big and some small modifications to make this work for me.   Maybe you can get some ideas from what I did here.  

Opening the Package

Here is the planner box being opened … they send you a bunch of cute (gigantic) stickers … not that I’ll use these with my planner, but they are great for encouragment, etc. 

Planner in box

Here’s the cover I designed.  No.  I didn’t paint the cover.  I found these images on the internet and used the “design your own” cover option … the caption says, “His eye is on the sparrow, I know He watches me.” 

3- Planner open First Page

So, this is their first page: a quote about education followed by the “all about me” page.  I’m pretty much over my all about me stage, so I’m in no need of this page.  I took the educational quote out and put it on our bulletin board in our laundry room.  The All About Me Page became my “Words of Inspiration.”  … see the next few pics for details …

3a- Planner open first page laying down sticker and using bookmark

First I print a full page sticker page with the design I wanted to use.  (I designed this page from scratch).  Then I put the sticker superimposed on the “All About Me Page.” 

3b - Planner open first page laying down words of inspiration

Sticker going into place …

3c- Planner open first page words of inspiration

Voila … new page in place of “All About Me” … these are quotes and principles I want to keep at the forefront of my mind – they show me the way I want to live.  {If you would like a free Word Document of this sticker for your planner, simply sign up to be on the Hearts Homeward email list and I will send you one for free.  The sign up is in the right margin of this page and my home page}.  

3cc- Planner open first page comparing two planners

When my friend, Christine came to visit me on my personal retreat, we laid her planner out next to mine so you could see “before” and “after” pics of page layouts.  Here’s the before and after of the first page spread.

3ccc - Planner open first page for the substitute and volunteers

The next original spread in the teacher planner is the “volunteers” and “substitutes” section.  Obviously, as much as I’d like to have both of these in my home educating world, they do not exist.  So, another repurposing of the pages was in order.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be fervent and intentional in prayer.  I have kept prayer journals in the past, but again, these weren’t in my planner.  Now I have a page spread devoted to long-term prayers I’m praying for people in my life.  (I smooged it out when I edited the photo so you can’t read the personal details … just wanted to show you how it looks).  For this page, I used glue stick and trimmed scrapbook paper.  Surprisingly it didn’t make the page feel heavy or dense.  My categories are “Name” “Prayer” and “Movement of God/Scripture.”  I don’t like to check “Answered” as all prayers are heard and answered.  Instead I want to acknowledge the movement of God when I notice it or any scripture that is good to pray along with what I am praying for this person.  3ccc - Planner open first page prayer journal

Here’s the comparison between the original page and my page.  3ccc - Planner open first page substitute and volunteers comparing two planners

Next comes the “Happy Birthday to You” pages.  I considered keeping this so that I could keep track of all my friends’ and family members’ birthdays.  I decided I didn’t want to waste prime planner real estate on a birthday list.  I can track birthdays another way (on the notes column in my monthly calendars). 

3d- Planner Open second page - happy birthday to you

I turned the Birthday pages into “Special Events.”  Here I’ll put any field trips, classes or other special events (like our cultural day) on the list under that month.  I’ll also add in camping trips, visits from friends out of town or trips we take.  That way I can see at a glance how full a given month is before I plan any other events.   3dd - Planner Open second page - happy birthday comparing two planners

Next in the original Erin Condren Teacher Planner is the attendance sheet section.  I’ve heard teachers say they don’t use this because things are automated on computer nowadays.  I surely don’t need attendance.  He’s here.  Home.  With me.  Check.  Repurpose – Blog Planning.  I made four columns: Post Title/Ideas (a great place to brainstorm) and then a Photos column (to make sure I took and edited pics for the post); Social Media (to show that I shared the post on various sites like FB and Twitter) and then a checkbox for when I actually posted.  3e- Planner open Attendance Sheets

Here’s the comparison between the original and the revamped version.  3e- Planner open comparing two planners

Next come the graph pages.  I haven’t decided how I’ll use all of those.  So far I turned one into the library book page … pretty sure, with the number of books we go through in a year (including home educating books we check out and personal reads and audio books) we will need all six pages to be converted.  All I did was design a “library books” page on Microsoft Word and print it on a full page sticker sheet and then superimpose it over the graph paper page. 

3f- Planner open library page comparing to graph paper

I kept all the monthly pages as is, but added in date dots, of course.  It’s great having a month view and week view in the same planner.  Here’s a glimpse at the original Weekly Planner page.  They would call this a lesson plan page and the thought is that you will put your subjects across the top and use the Monday through Friday sections down the side to track your lessons accordingly.  Here’s the rub.  I don’t need only a homeschool planner and I don’t want to carry two of these beauties around with me (as in a teacher planner and a life planner) – one is obnoxious enough.  So, I wanted to use the weekly spreads to cover school and life.  I’m demanding like that.

5- Planner open weekly view

I made the top row of seven spots (the ones originally designated for subjects in a school day) the seven days of the week.  Then I turned the five rows into the sections of my day and turned the side column into a place to track my to-do list, my weekly prayers (When I say, “I’ll be praying for you,” I can be sure to do so!)   I also add a little gratitude box to jot things I am grateful for in a given week.  This picture (below) gives a sense of how I go about covering the planner with stickers to repurpose it.  I’ll make a list of what supplies I use below the photo.  6- Planner Open Weekly with Beginning Design

  • Seven colorful background stickers (1″ x 1 3/4″) to cover the subject spots at the top of the page
  • Days of the week stickers (I make these on my computer now, and print on sticker paper)
  • A long “to do” sticker (1 3/4″ wide x 5 1/2′ long) to go on the left side column.  This essentially covers the Monday-Friday days which were there before. 
  • (2) 2 1/2″ stickers with “Prayers” and “Grateful” at the top.  These go under the “to do” sticker to finish covering that sidebar. 
  • Decorative stickers and other purposeful stickers like “Hydration Tracker,” “Meals for the Week” and little arrows and callouts to highlight various events so I don’t forget them.  Here (below) is an example of my first week once it was complete.  I thought I wanted to write everything in pencil, but that looked a bit crowded and not cute (and this planner must be cute, don’t ya know) so I solved that by ordering markers that are erasable and printing a few more stickers (more on that in a minute). 

7- Planner open Weekly with filled design

Here are a bunch of weeks I completed.  Personally the Yellow, Red and Black with Asian girls is my fave.  It makes me cheery.  That’s important in a planner, don’t you think? 

8- Planner Open Weekly with Asian design 9- Planner Open Weekly View Peach and Blackbirds 9a- Planner Open Weekly Veiw Asian Red and Yellow 10- Planner Open Weekly View Spring Floral

You might have noticed those handy-dandy little schedule stickers.  I designed those by using a table in Word.  I just put the subjects we usually cover in a school day and then checkboxes and blanks so I can write in page numbers or other details.  The blanks before the subjects are so I can write in times.  If there is a day we aren’t going to do something, I just cross it out.  Easy peasy.  Cleaner and quicker than hand-writing my schedule in daily.  That was not going to be happening. 

11- Planner Sticker School Schedule

Here’s what the schedule stickers look like laid out on a page.  This is a week I’ll be in LA for work on a Monday and my son will have Botany class the middle of the morning on Thursday, so I made a half schedule template for those days we only get in four or five subjects.  12- Planner Open Asian with School stickers in place

Finally, Erin Condren had the checklist pages.  The planner comes with eight of these pages (2 wide = 16 total).  I decided to repurpose these as goal trackers.  There are certain things in my life I want to aim for, such as building up my teen son with words of affirmation, making time to pause and enter my youngest son’s dreamer world and then more practical things like drinking enough water, getting to bed on time or eating sauerkraut (for the probiotic benefits).  So, I put all those on the side of a checklist and then the dates across the top of the page.  I can check off how well I did at the end of each day and track my progress.  Just doing this keeps these goals at the front of my mind instead of in whatever other part of my brain they usually stay – somewhere ineffective, I can tell you that much.  Here’s what my revamped checklist page looks like.   13a - Planner Open comparing student checklist to goals

Finally, I added in a grocery list (which I designed from a template my friend, Christine had on Word) and put that in the clear plastic sleeve they supply.  Those sleeves are thick and wonderful.  Had I known how wonderful, I would have opted for the three extras they offered at a small fee when I ordered.  There’s always next year.  I use a wet erase marker to check off what we need each week and then wipe it clean and reuse it.  Oh, I love this!  All my planning needs in one place – a cute place, with stickers.

14 Grocery List

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the planner.  Please comment if you use an Erin Condren planner or any other planner.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros/cons, and of course any hacks you have made to improve the productivity and effectiveness of your planner.
Happy Planning!!

If you are new to Hearts Homeward, welcome.  You can check out my welcome page to learn more about me.  I write a post to encourage your spiritual growth every Monday, a post to bless you and support you as you parent every Wednesday and a post with a menagerie of goodies and links to fun and helpful stuff around the web on Fridays.  You are welcome to browse around and come back anytime. 

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  • Reply
    Heather Bergman
    April 15, 2016 at 2:03 PM

    Beautiful! Love how you utilized the columns, I never would have thought to flip the days row to the columns! Currently loving my Plum Planner, and feel like I’ve finally found a happy medium with decorating and a good groove for my layouts. But using it for school planning has made it feel a little less “mine” so I am drooling over a Lime Life Homeschool planner for fall. Because what’s better than a planner and stickers? TWO planners and MORE stickers haha!

    • Reply
      April 15, 2016 at 6:45 PM

      It is super fun to have a creative outlet along with increased efficiency. I can’t wait to see what you are using. Stickers. Who knew? I adore little stickers for my planner. Thanks for coming by and sharing!

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