Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Organizing Wedding Planning

Yesterday, over at Feeding the Soil, I wrote about my goals for the month of June, and Kelsey asked: "Can you share how you keep track of these? Do you have a "method" of journaling or a place you keep ideas?"

I figured 2000dollarwedding was the perfect place to share my response, since planning a wedding can require a lot of organization and a centralized way to track everything.

Enter the Life Binder.

When I taught 6th grade at the original KIPP school in Houston, our students had a mega binder that held everything for all their classes, which we called their "Life Binders". I started calling my personal organization system my Life Binder to show them that organizing your stuff in a centralized location is not just something that nit-picky adults impose upon children; it's actually an organizational strategy that they might choose for themselves when they are older.

Before I share my system for keeping myself organized, I have to include this obvious caveat: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to organization. In fact, my own system changes depending upon my job. My current system reflects the fact that I am not often in front of my computer, and therefore need a tangible and portable system.

So, here's a little tour of my Life Binder, in case it provides some inspiration for reflecting upon or revamping your own system:

Part I: My Vision for the Year
  • Every New Year's, my friends and I make collages to represent the kind of year we want to create for ourselves. On the back, I usually list out my goals for the year, as well as a monthly breakdown of what I need to do each month in order to accomplish the yearly goals. I also usually have a list of roles that I play in my life (teacher, grade level team member, blogger, wife/friend/sister/daughter, time bank coordinator, etc.) I didn't do it this year.
Part II: My Weekly Action Plan
  • Every Sunday night, I sit down to create my plan for the week. I look at my calendar and transfer all my obligations. I also backwards-plan particular things. For example, if I have a Montessori team meeting on Thursday, I might finish creating the observation form on Tuesday, and print the agenda on Thursday morning. If I notice that it's someone's birthday, I add "Write a card" onto the appropriate day. I also schedule exercise, dates, fun things with friends, etc. I also take a look at my monthly goals and see what smaller steps I can tackle this week, in order to accomplish my goals for the month. I also scan my list of life roles to see if there's anything I'm neglecting.
Part III: Notes
  • I keep things like meeting agendas, nutrition trackers, etc. in this section, so I always have what I need handy.
Part IV: People
  • All my colleagues have a box assigned to them. On a sticky note, I record what I need to talk to them about. That way, when we have a meeting, I can talk about everything I've been saving up (instead of sending a gazillion e-mail messages or peppering them with comments/questions all the time). I use sticky notes, so I can change them out whenever they get full (some people fill up much faster than others).
Part V: Lists
  • I do the same thing with sticky notes, but I record things that I need to buy at the grocery store, read, posts I want to write on my blogs, etc.

Part VI: Upcoming
  • I store things that I'm going to need in the immediate future, like directions to meetings, confirmations for hotels, etc.
Part VII: Monthly Calendars
  • I keep my monthly calendar in my binder (purchased from Office Max) to record obligations, dates, events, birthdays, etc.

So there you have it! If you're interested in using any of the templates, you can download them here.

Any other words of wisdom for keeping oneself organized? What works for you?

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Sarah said...

Oh my gosh, you are so organized. This is amazing.

Katie said...

LOVE THE BINDER!!!! I do a much smaller version, I have a small planner that easily fits into my purse. I love your binder but it wouldnotfit intomy lifestyle. My planneris my lifeline though and I would be lost without it!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Katie: I've also used a smaller binder (not thinner, but actually smaller) and shrunk all my documents when printing them (by printing two pages per sheet). It was easier to fit the smaller binder in bags, but it was still a little on the thick side.

Bess B. said...

Wow! I love the binder! The only problem I would foresee with something like this for myself is that I would forget to write in it. I have never been the greatest at using planners- I usually fill them out for a few days and then they sit unopened for months.

Angie said...

i love this idea.

do you change out the sticky notes as they fill up and keep the same sheet of paper?

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Elizabeth: Exactly. That's why people have to find systems that work for them. It's useless if you don't actually use it!

@ Angie: Exactly! Some sticky notes fill up much faster than others. The sheet of paper always stays the same, and I just replace sticky notes as necessary.

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! You've really inspired me. I've been really, really unorganized for the past couple of years, to the point that I felt like like was just sort of slipping by me and I couldn't keep up.

For the last month or so, I've had a huge dry-erase board in my apartment that I write everything I need to do on. Even if I'm physically about to walk to another room and do something, I first dash over and write it on the board.

However, my calendar, books to read list, music to try out list, and Wish List (i.e. "what'll I tell people I want for my birthday when they ask?" list), are all online. I'm online all the time, so this seemed like a good idea to me. But moving my To-Do list from the internet to a physical place in the house has worked so well that I think I might try it with some other things as well.

Thanks for the inspiration!

spankey said...

Wow! Beats my huge white board that only I can decipher (once I started teaching I became addicted to them)! I also keep a desk calendar on the refrigerator. I did make a binder for my wedding, but never thought of organizing my sticky notes. Those are part of the "confetti" that drives my husband crazy about my housekeeping skills.

Unknown said...

Wow, I have an organizational hard on right now. That is amazing! I definitely have been rocking the wedding binder and think I'll continue a binder for after. Not as detailed as yours, but probably with a calendar, lists central, and inspiration clippings and ideas.

Thanks for sharing!

Elsa said...

Wow! This is awesome Sara. I usually have a planner and moleskin I carry around in my purse but have been thinking about where I can put all of the little clippings or inspirations I come across--I usually pin them to a board over my desk but hardly look at them. I might give this a try and see how it works for me.

Hilary said...

This is great! I am currently working on how to organize my life and my new career and this is really helpful. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

You terrify me with your organizational skills.

~Milena~ said...

I have to agree with everyone else and say THANK YOU for sharing. You are amazingly organized, and have given me quite a bit of inspiration. I am also a person who would get a planner, write in it for awhile and then stop doing it. It felt like such a waste of money that I eventually stopped. I tried switching to an electronic one (Palm Pilot) and it turned out to be the same thing. I kind of keep some stuff on my Blackberry, but as I start planning my wedding, I've been so inspired by you, I feel like I need to give myself some discipline and figure out my system.

When I was in college, I gave each course a color scheme. I would have a binder, a notebook, and a highlighter in the same color so that I could identify each class easily.

I most recently have been an opera stage manager. This involves keeping a score. Here is where I'm at my most organized. I keep all information (on color coded post-its, of course) regarding the running of the show in my book so that I (or someone else should I get hit by a bus) easily do my job. I just need to figure out a way to transfer that organization into my daily life!

Unknown said...

This is very inspiring! It looks like you have a lot of templates you made yourself. I don't know if this is asking too much, but I know for me it would be incredibly helpful if you could share some of them. I know they would have to be "de-personalized" a bit, but I can't tell you how valuable it would be to see how you manage to plan at this level of detail.

I couldn't figure out a way to keep track of my strength training routine until I found a blogger who kindly posted their template, and it saved me from tearing my hair out!

Sara E. Cotner said...

@ Heather: Oops! I should have mentioned that I already uploaded the templates on another site: http://saracotner.wordpress.com/resources-2/organization-tools/

Hope they help!

"T-Bone" Lee said...

Reading this post has left me exhausted and ashamed at my complete lack of organization. My system of organization is "don't delete emails or throw anything away so that if I ever need it I can spend hours sifting through piles of papers looking for that one thing I need!"

you're so very impressive.

Bridey said...

Thanks for sharing, this is awesome! I love organising & lists and the idea of post its organised in sections adds a whole new level! I sense a trip to a stationery store coming up :)

Ms Bear Cub said...

holy cow you're organized. I bow to you.
Mr. BC says it's rad you worked at KIPP! He's super jealous.

suki said...

i am absolutely in love with your binder!!!

Anonymous said...

OMG ... that is AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

love your idea! i'm definitely going to give this a try w/ a little bit of twaeking..! thank you!

Amanda said...

OH THIS IS GREAT!! i did mine all on excel and word, i loved it that way. but that's just me!

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