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Time management binder

Time management.  It’s so important, isn’t it?  How we manage our time and what we do with it says a lot about who we are and what we prioritize.  Right now I’m in a stage of life where spare time is very limited.  I’m sure many of you can relate.  Since baby #3 came into my life (and completely rocked my world both for good and bad!) I have been on a quest to figure out a system that will help me organize my time and make the most out of every minute.  
First I’ll state the obvious.  I use a planner.  I actually bought two this year.  Not because I need them both, but because I bought the aqua one on the left and then the cover was bothering me so I went back to Target and bought the green one which is identical to the planner I had last year except it’s smaller.  I needed something that would fit in my purse.  I’m only using this planner for two things: to keep track of appointments and random activities, and to write specific to-do’s for each day.  Things that I have to do that day that are time sensitive (make a certain phone call, take Ellie to a birthday party, doctor appointments, etc).  Everything else in my brain gets dumped here:
I shared this binder with you in my post on paper organization, but I’ve changed things up a bit since then.  

This was how it used to be organized…

This is my binder now.  I’ve tweaked this binder so many times over the past year and finally feel like I have something that works well for me.  That’s the great thing about a binder like this.  You can customize it to meet your needs.  The important thing is having a place to “dump your brain” so that you don’t have to think about things anymore.  It’s all right in front of you.

First you need a cute cover page.  Ellie drew this picture of us under a rainbow.  She gave it to me in October, hence the ghost.  I think the two of us look simply stunning so I wanted it in a place I would see often.  :)  Once you have a cover page that makes you smile, you can focus on organizing the categories in your binder to make it work well for you.  Here is how I organized mine:

Week at a Glance On the first page in my binder (you can kind of see through the red folder above) I have the days of the week listed and set activities/things I need to remember.  These are things that always happen on that day each week.  Examples: the days my girls have library and need to take their books to school, the days they have activities like dance and gymnastics, the days it’s my turn to do pick-up because I carpool with neighbors.  I glance at this page each night before I go to bed to remember the set in stone things for the following day.  Then I look in my planner to see if there are any additional appointments or activities (there always are!) that fill up the rest of my day.  Now I know what the next day looks like for me.  This “week at a glance” page helps me a lot.  Now there will never be a time that I space a weekly activity or forget that I have after school pick-up.  My brain isn’t cluttered trying to remember the details of each day.  It’s written right in front of me!

Shopping for – My next tab is titled “shopping for” and this might seem a little crazy to some of you but here’s my deal.  I’m not good at meal planning.  I’m not one of those people who can plan out a weeks’ worth of meals and only go to the grocery store once.  I go to the grocery store about every three days which works fine for me because it’s close by and easy to pop in while the girls have dance class or after I take them to a friends’ house.  My other issue is that I buy my groceries/household items at three different stores – grocery store, Target, and Costco.  I also always have items I always need/want at the mall and other random places so here’s what works for me:

Sticky notes!  I always have four on a page.  These are my “running lists” of things I need to buy.  The great thing about using sticky notes is that when it’s time to make a Target run I can just pull off my Target sticky note and toss it in my purse so I don’t forget anything.  I know this wouldn’t work for someone who has a long list of groceries, but like I said, I go often so this works for me.

Current Projects – A list of the current projects I’m working on.  These are things that I’m focusing on right now so currently I have my “to organize” list on the top page and a few other projects that are in the works on the following pages.

When Kole is napping and I find myself with a little free time, I glance at my planner to see if there is something that HAS to get done.  If not (or once those to-do’s are checked off) I turn to this “current projects” section of my binder and work on something here.

Future Projects – Any time I have an idea for a project – a gallery wall somewhere in the house, a lemonade stand for the girls, what ever it is – this is where I write it down.  Just ideas for now.  But someday they will be moved to “current projects.”

Post Ideas – This is where I tend to “dump my brain” the most.  Ideas for blog posts are always popping into my head.  When I’m exercising, when I’m driving, when I’m typing another blog post!  The ideas are never ending.  Finding the time to implement all of my ideas is another story.  But at least I have a set place to write them all down!

Post Schedule – This is a category I’m trying for the first time this year.  The two areas of my life I’m NOT organized in – meal planning (cause I hate cooking so planning to cook just isn’t appealing) and my blog!  I am so fly by the seat of my pants where this blog is concerned.  I never know what I’m going to post until I sit down the night before.  I look at my recent pictures and somehow always manage to come up with something.  I know bloggers who are so organized!  Have their posts planned and typed out a week or two in advance.  Wow.  That would be nice.  While I don’t think that will realistically happen for me (and in some ways I enjoy blogging present time anyway) I would like to be a little more organized in this area.  I just have a blank calendar page for each month in this section of my binder where I can jot down an idea of what to post each day.

Birthdays – I like to keep a list of each month and any birthdays I need to remember.  I know this information pops up on facebook and your cell phone and all over the place, but I like a written list in my binder so that I can plan ahead.  I glance at it at the beginning of each month so that I know who I need to get gifts for and when I need to deliver or mail them.

Miscellaneous Information – I always have a “random” spot in my binder for those extra items that always pop up.  I love my current tab dividers (from Target) that have a folder included on each one so that I have a place to store any papers/forms I need to keep close by.  This is where I also have a list of my goals for the year.

That’s it for my time management binder!  I know this is custom to me and my needs, but hopefully it still gave a few of you some ideas for how you could make something like this work for you.  I’m a firm believer in dumping your brain out on paper!   Life is busy and I’ve learned I just can’t rely on my memory for everything.  If something doesn’t get written down, it doesn’t get done.

And since we’re talking binders, here are a couple more I also keep close by:

I have a spot in my binder that reminds me of birthdays and other days I want to remember, but last year when I saw this book in Hallmark I just couldn’t resist buying it.  

It has tabs for each month of the year.

Then when you open each tab it not only has a place to write down birthdays, but it also has a pocket to hold cards.  I love this because I always buy multiple cards at a time.  (I do this because picking out cards is SO hard to do with little ones!  If I am ever in a Hallmark by myself I stock up!)  If I see a card I love for my dad, I buy it, even if his birthday is months away.  I save it in his birthday month pocket and then when his birthday comes rolling around I’m prepared!  I still like having my binder list for a quick glance because my binder is always with me and I keep this card book upstairs.  A book like this would be SO easy to make on your own.  Just buy a binder and tabs and use it the same way!

And of course there is my home decor binder that I LOVE looking through and adding to.  
(Full post on my Home Decor binder here.)

It’s kind of like Pinterest – only old school.  :)

What can I say?  I’m a binder girl.  They really do help me manage my time.  For more tips on time management, you can check out this previous post I wrote.  It includes some other tips that have really helped me make the most of my time.  And on that note, time to wrap this up!  I have a “current projects” list that needs my attention while a certain someone is sleeping!
Have a great week everyone!  
xoxo, Erin
Join the Conversation

47 thoughts on “Time management binder

  1. Hi Erin! I love having a place to ‘dump my brain’ daily too! I swear if I didn’t I wouldn’t get any sleep because my brain runs about 1000 kms an hour!
    I noticed that you have finished organising your kids bath toys – How do you do organise them? I’m looking for ideas – i’m constantly throwing away bath toys when they start to get the yucky brown stuff in them but I’m not sure ‘how to best’ store them once my boys have finished playing in the bath. I don’t like my bathroom to be taken over by kids toys as its my main bathroom that guests use. I’d love to see photos of what you do. Thanks :-)

  2. I need to get one of those card organizers! A time saver that I’m going to try this year is to buy $25 gift cards to Starbucks, itunes, etc. at once for our out-of-town relatives that we send gifts to. It’s something I budget for, but I know that having them ahead of time will make it easier for me to get cards/gifts out on time.
    Thanks so much for this post. I made my binder just like your last year, and I need to re-fresh it, too!
    I know you get a lot of ‘post requests’, but one thing I’d love to read about is how you and your husband do budgeting. Do you have weekly or monthly meetings? Do you track your spending on groceries? It’s an area that my family set for a goal this year (mostly just tracking it so we can see where we might be able to save) but I’d love to hear about any system you have that works!

  3. Great post. You’ve shared alot of great tips. My faves are the post it notes (love me some post it notes) and the little binder from Hallmark. So cute. My home management binder has been on my “to do list” for updating. Thanks for reminding to get that done.

  4. Great post Erin. I currently have a mini meal planner binder, an a4 pad for my to-do list, post it notes with shopping lists and random pieces of paper with “ideas”. I never thought about combining it all into a binder but am about to go and do it straight away. Thank you!!

  5. I am totally a binder freak. I have a similar HOME binder, a craft idea binder, a home decorating idea binder, recipe binders and I just started a new binder last week for my new “business” making quilts from baby clothes.
    Do you remember as a kid getting a Trapper Keeper? I loved those.
    Nothing makes me happier than to leave Target with a new notebook and package of pens.

  6. Erin, everytime you post a blog, I always get this “itch” to go organize something. So, please don’t stop the posts because otherwise the “itch” won’t happen. ;) That might not end well. Also, I would love to see Kole’s closet whenever you get it done. :) Thanks!

  7. Love it! I’ve started getting everything out of my head and onto some paper, and I do find it makes a really big difference. Suddenly my brain is less busy trying to remember what it is I have to do, and therefore it has more space to actually do it! I wish my writing were as neat as yours though. I can’t read half my lists a week later :)


    I MUST share this website and her AMAZING MUST HAVE PLANNER!!!! Buy it Erin!!!! I can’t say enough WONDERFUL things about her planner love love love!!! Check out her site and check out the planner!!! It’s changed me and I have never really been a planner user.. I LOVE this.. did I mention that haha!!


  9. Thanks for sharing! I love reading about organization, it helps inspire me! I’ve been trying to get and keep our home in order, and it’s so rewarding. Thanks again!

  10. LOVE the post it idea! I just have all my lists on one piece of paper that I have to carry to every store and inevitably end up losing it. Thanks for the tips. I will be using a few of these to fine-tune my notebook. Have a great week!

  11. Hi Erin! Once again, I am totally inspired by your post! You and I are so much alike! I, too, would have gotten annoyed by that first planner’s cover! It’s so funny! It’s nice to know I’m “not the only one!” Hee! Hee! Can’t wait to get working on MY binder! Such great ideas!! Keep ’em coming!!

  12. Wow, Erin – great post. I have yet to create a binder like this, but you have inspired me! I don’t know that I have the time to dedicate to creating it this week, but it will be added to my “to do” list for sure! I wish I could borrow you for a few days and you could come organize my home so I don’t have to do it!

    Shannon in PA

  13. Love this post. I can %100 relate to being a binder girl too. When I read this post I was nodding my head in agreement: I wouldn’t be able to pass up a beautiful birthday monthly binder like yours either lol. I have a house decorating binder and a monthly birthdate binder too. I’d be lost without them :)

  14. Thanks everyone! I’m so happy you like the binder post! Sounds like there are a lot of binder people out there like me. Love it! :)

    Ok – so a post on finances (that should be a fun one! ;) and bath toys and Kole’s closet. I think I’m just going to let all of you start running this blog! Everyone always has such great ideas! :)

  15. I just saw that you use the same binder I do to organize birthday cards! Its fabulous. Something I have found that works for us is this: I buy/make all of the cards for the whole year at the end of december/early january. I feel it is important to have my kids sign the cards so they understand the importance of celebrating someone else. So…I have all six of them ages 9-16 sign each card. When they were little I would have them sign 4-5 at a time. Now they pretty much can sit through the whole pile. This year its 56 cards. We only send to our siblings, neices/nephews and grandparents. And one of my aunts…she has never missed one of my birthdays and I want to be that kind of aunt. I don’t seal or address the cards until the month of in case someone moves and so I can write a relevent note inside to the special person. I use the cozi online family calendar and it also syncs with my phone so I set a reminder for a week before the new month to get the cards out. I have tried many different ways and this has worked great for us. By the way, I too am a huge planner and ALWAYS had a paper one until my droid x. Love that I can set recurring dates and reminders. Check out Cozi. Its an awesome planning tool.

  16. Love your binder. My favorite part is the super cute cover:) I don’t have a binder, but I have all the components of your binder in different spots throughout my house! haha maybe I should consider a binder. Thanks for sharing this part of your organizing life:)

  17. Love your ideas, as always! Love the “shopping for” tab with the sticky notes and the “week at a glance.” I need to implement these into my Family Binder. And I have a home binder as well for all my future project ideas! ~Gina

  18. Hi Erin! I LOVE this binder idea! I just have a couple questions. Does your “week at a glance” change each week, or are these things that stay the same for a longer period of time. I guess my question is…do you write a new “week at a glance” each week? My second question is….do you just have one piece of paper in the “shopping for” section since you use post it notes on the pages? Thanks!!

  19. Hi Anonymous!

    My “week at a glance” doesn’t change. Those are the things that happen each week all year long. (It will be the same until the school year ends and our schedule changes.) And yes! I only need one piece of paper in the “shopping for” section. I have more paper in there because when I first created that section of my binder I was writing everything on paper. But paper wasn’t as easy to slip in my purse to take to the store and I didn’t need a whole sheet to write down the four things I wanted to remember at Target. Sticky notes seemed like the perfect solution! So really for both of those sections of my binder I only need one piece of paper. :)

  20. Thanks for the awesome idea! I’m working on setting mine up right now. I have a daily planner but I don’t like that I can’t see the future in it. haha. I’m going to attempt your plan, with the addition of a Month-at-a-glance calendar. This won’t show any details but it will give me an idea of what days things are going on so I can plan accordingly. (My planner has 2 pgs per day but no weekly or monthly pages).

    Thanks again!

  21. Hi. Just ran across your lovely blog. Oh how I needed to see this post!!! Earlier this year I started my own binder as part of my “get it together New Years resolution” and I am doing fairly well but I needed some tips on setting it up and keeping it running smoothly. Thanks for this post. I can’t wait to explore the rest of your blog :)

  22. I just discovered your blog- from Ali Edwards summer manifesto links. And I have to say it is just wonderful! I started a binder like this a few months ago but haven been needing to fix it a little to work better for me. I love the sticky note shopping lists! I also shop at multiple stores and go a few times a week so this should work great for me. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m looking forward to exploring your blog some more. Have a lovely day!

  23. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been worried about myself lately because I’m not even 40 & I find myself forgetting things..wishing my brain was a computer & I could clean out the

    I’m going to try to make a 5×7 special days binder like the one you bought.

  24. As a college student taking what equates to 9 – 10 classes a semester and working anywhere from 25-30 hrs a week, organization is key and I always struggle with the best way to achieve the most effective time management tool. I am DOING this one for FALL :0)

  25. Hi Erin,
    I just found this binder on Pinterest( now if only I would get off Pinterest and do more:)

    I LOVE your idea of a place to dump your brain. LOL

    I will try this, and I also plan on printing some of my Pinterest pins,once I find an easy way to do that.

  26. Hi Erin….
    This amazing binder organization has helped me tremendously with less anxiety! I LOVE having a place to “dump” my brain. I even sleep better! I feel more organized when I go shopping too instead of everything on one paper! Thanks so much for sharing this idea! :)

  27. Just made my own Time Management Binder!!! Thanks for posting this Erin, I love to organize and you have given me another outlet to do so! Keep the organization posts coming, they make me giddy every time =)

  28. Love this idea – I’m a binder girl too! I have only just stumbled onto your blog via Pinterest – apparently there is lots here for me to read through ;)

    One thing I wanted to share, about your trick to use sticky notes… not only are they super portable, but they stick! Obvious, I know, right?!? But I mean it – they stick to my wallet in transport, then I stick the lists to the shopping cart handle! Easy reference :) Then, on my way out of the store, I ditch the fulfilled list into the garbage and it’s one less scrap of paper to bring home ;)

    Just thought I would share!

  29. Hey Erin! I just stumbled upon your page and I am so excited! I don’t know anyone else who loves to be as organized as I do. I am a college student and i find myself always making trips to Target and Staples just to look around for more ideas. I am about to run to Target now to get stuff to make an organization binder like yours! Just a little fun fact: My boyfriend decided he would surprise me with a few little gifts the other day just because he wanted to and i opened the box and it was filled with all sorts of organization stuff. We laughed at the fact that most girls love getting nice expensive stuff (which would be nice too obviously) but for me its the little things that mean the most, especially organizing stuff! Thanks for having such a wonderful page and sharing all of your ideas with us!

  30. Hi Shae!

    Thanks for the sweet comment! Sounds like we have a lot in common. :) Your boyfriend is a keeper for sure! So nice to “meet” you!

  31. Wow, this is my first time visiting your page, but this post has jumped it right into the list of my favorite blogs! I have a notebook that I keep to-do lists and lists of projects in, but I lose track of where they are in the notebook after I’ve moved on a few pages. The binder is going to fix that problem perfectly! I am going to Target on my lunch break…

  32. I just found your blog tonight and am loving it. Getting some great ideas to help me get my binders organized. I have several ‘sprial’ notebooks and other misc. little ‘cutesy’ notepads that I have all over . . . never knowing where I wrote what. I love binders and keep them . . . just in case. Well, I just found the . . . just in case moment. Thank you for sharing and I have taken many notes.

  33. I have been so busy trying to find just the right type of planner to help with my organizing but I haven’t. All this time, I could have just made my own…THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST! I know it’s old, but it is still valuable!

  34. I absolutely ADORE this and feel like ive just randomly stumbled upon the holy grail of planner peace for me! THANKYOU!

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