Paper, Digital, or Both? How I manage my life.

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The digital world follows us everywhere. All day, every day.

Internet is at our fingertips (literally). Computers are practically our 3rd arm during the workday (if not longer).

Everything is digital. Which is great for connectivity and opportunity.

But it can get overwhelming … and maybe a bit exhausting too, right?

I know it does for me, even though I love my online business! ;)

Sometimes, I just need to step away.

When I need that break, I find my analog systems to be critical to my sanity.

Before I had kids, my brain functioned no matter what I used.

I could locate anything, know what needed to happen and when, and how to quickly navigate through my digital files/calendars/task lists. I was super sharp.

But unfortunately, that all changed pretty quickly once I had my daughter.

It was like my brain said, “oh, girl, we’re just gonna go ahead and pretend like computers aren’t around anymore ’cause you have a baby to care for now!”

Uhhhhh…

That was hard. But I made it work and am now more productive than before my sweetie arrived (and now I have two!)

I already knew I loved paper planners and binder systems. I also knew they’d work for me since I work from home, so it wasn’t all that difficult to make the switch.

Slowly, but surely, I swapped out my digital default for analog.

So here’s where I made the shift …

How I Manage My Life as a Working Mom

Calendar

Today, I use the Emily Ley Simplified Weekly Planner and our whiteboard Command Center to track all key appointments.

Everything is documented in my planner first. If the appointment is tentative, I write it on a mini Post-It until finalized. I hate crossing things off if I don’t have to ;)

On Sundays, my husband and I compare calendars and document all appointments that impact the family on our Command Center whiteboards.

A digital calendar is still required for my day job, but keeping it separate from my paper planner is a great way to set boundaries. More on that later ;)

It’d be nice to also keep a Google Cal :) I love that appointments are available on my phone, can be shared with my husband or anyone else, and show up on the Amazon Echo Show 5 in our kitchen. My paper planner will remain the default, but I do have a plan to integrate Google Cal more in 2020. It’ll never replace my trusty paper planner, though!

One of my favorite benefits of keeping a paper calendar is retention. I hardly ever forget an appointment once I write it down. My brain is visual and the connection of writing something down and seeing it on paper is a huge benefit to me.

Tasks

My task management is a little odd, to be honest. The default is definitely paper, but I keep my task parking lot, all re-occurring tasks, and all project-related tasks in ClickUp.

All of my tasks are developed at the brain dump stage. All brain dumps happen on paper and I normally do a brain dump on Sundays.

Once I finish a brain dump, I start figuring out whether it’s an immediate task or a task to consider in a future week.

Immediate tasks go right into my Emily Ley planner for the week upcoming. Unless I’m certain of the day of the week the task needs to happen, I put all tasks starting at the top of the Monday list. To keep it simple, I use the task slots as one long list on the weekly layout.

For anything set for the future, I enter the list into ClickUp with a targeted due date (even if I’m unsure).

Then, during my morning routine, I journal my intention, tasks, risks and cheers. This is where I decide my top tasks to accomplish during the day for home & work. I pull these tasks from my planner because that’s where they landed during my Sunday brain dump. If I have a NEW task come up during my morning routine, I duplicate it on my planner as if I’d written it during the brain dump :)

So what do I do with my ClickUp parking lot? I pull from it during my Sunday brain dump :)

Think of ClickUp like the long-term memory that I no longer have after having kids. Hehe.

I find that repetition helps me sift through what’s truly a priority task. The multi-layered approach here is helpful because surely I won’t waste my time writing something over and over again if it’s an unnecessary task!

Notes

My notes are written on graph paper. Super random, I know.

I don’t remember when I started using graph paper, but it’s been a game changer for me! I write headers with my favorite colorful marker tip pens and take notes with my favorite ballpoint pens.

If any notes become tasks – you know the drill. Then I cross them off the notes page :)

Any remaining notes are added to a relevant binder or notebook, discarded or transferred for long term reference into OneNote.

When I’m on a conference call or have a really quick idea that needs a place to land ASAP, I use these small white notepads.

I actually don’t like keeping too much paper around long term. I especially can’t stand papers that “float!”

Because of this, I’m a huge fan of binder and notebook systems. So as long as paper can live in a binder or notebook, it’s OK by me!

Binder Systems

Speaking of binders … one of my top favorite analog binders is my Home Finance Binder System.

I’ve been keeping this binder system in our home since 2013. It’s truly the BEST home base for all things bills and home finance. It keeps all of my financial paperwork from being all over the house and ensures I’m able to stay on top of all my bills (autopay is not my jam!)

I love my Home Finance Binder System so much that I put the whole process together for you here.

After your binder is setup, it’s easy to set a budget using the printable budget pages that are included in the Home Finance Binder System.

After I spent a lot of time refining the analog process within my binder system, I “graduated” into pulling digital resources together to help support my planning efforts. Now, I also use Quicken to keep track of year-on-year reporting so we can make changes based on overall spending habits.

So What?

The moral of the story here is that there’s a place for digital AND analog systems. Analog is my sweet spot though, and if I had to give one up, it’d be digital.

The benefits of analog retention and being able to walk away from my computer or phone without losing my whole schedule are immeasurable.

So tell me … paper, digital, or both?!