How I Keep It All Together… (aka Tips To Manage Your Time)

Happy New Year!!!

Personally, I’m a wife, step mom (including a 16 year old who lives with my husband & I), dog mommy (to a 1 & 1/2 year old Black Labrador) & avid scrapbooker.

Professionally, I’m an Executive Director (of Donda’s House Inc.), 2014 Echoing Green – BMA Fellow, writer and assistant to my husband (who is an artist, writer, radio show host, etc.).

Like most people, I wear many hats, and the key to staying on top of things is organization! I also have to confess that I taught High School for over 10 years, so I LOVE lists, and treat my time and life like one big lesson plan lol! I’m a planner & organizer by training and by nature. My mom told me this funny story yesterday about how I used to line up my shoes and make my bed up (crooked) but I was so proud to “clean my room” at age two! It’s definitely in my blood…

If the system gets too overwhelming for you, don’t feel like you have to continue it. It is never too late to press the “esc” button in your life if something isn’t working for you! The thing about a time-management system is that you have to actually like it to make it work. My system is based on years of trying out different things and then finally I found a combination of tools that really help me to advance my personal and professional goals, stay on top of my appointments and keep my family in sync (without pulling out all of my hair lol).

Here are the tools that I use: 

(1) Paper Planner (Weekly View + Weekly Notes)

(2) Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda

(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters

(4) Google Calendar

(5) Print-out of Daily Tasks (with a place to check them off) – Download here: Weekly Checklist

(6) Accountability Partner

Where To Get The Tools & How To Use Them: 

1. Paper Planner – I purchased my paper planner at a store called Paper Source in early December. It’s by a company called Post by Graphic Images. I like my planner because it has a Weekly Calendar View on the left side, and a space for notes on the right side. You can also purchase planners at Office Supply Stores, and Barnes & Noble has a nice selection too. I prefer a planner that is small so that it can fit in my purse! I started with a Franklin Covey, but it was just so big and bulky, I abandoned that system pretty quickly! I love this paper planner, because when I meet with people I usually write down follow up and action items. It’s nice for those notes to “live” on the same page as the appointment.

Here is how it looks both outside and inside:

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2. Start: Your Quarterly Guide to Goal Domination by Krysta Masciale + Ruthi Auda can either be purchased digitally or a hard copy can be shipped to you.


I purchased the digital version and then printed out the pages.I like this tool because it is strictly for goal setting. It includes a section for writing goals in different areas of your life (including spiritual, investment, work, networking, personal development, physical well-being, financial, exploration & family/relationships). You basically set goals for each of those areas in your life every quarter and there is a reflection section at the end of each quarter. You then “schedule” time to work on your goals, so that they move from the goal phase to the action phase. Here are some of my Quarter 1 Goals:

  • Explicitly spend time every week Fundraising (work)
  • Attend one networking event per month (networking)
  • Hang out with bestie bi-weekly (family/relationships)

So that lead me to create a weekly fundraising appointment (“Fundraising Friday” from 10 am – 2 pm), find one networking event to attend per month (may be a meeting, actual networking event, other organization’s event, etc.) and schedule time every other week to meet up with my bestie. I had a ton of other goals, but hopefully you see how this system works.

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(3) Colored Ink Pens + Highlighters – My favorite brand of pens for my planner include Paper Mate Ink Joy (300 RT 1.0 M ink), and Pentel RSVP (Med). I like the brands because the colors are very vivid and bright AND they don’t bleed through the planner ruining the page behind. I use different colored ink to mirror the colors in my Google Calendar. For example, personal & social events are written in hot pink, Donda’s House stuff is written in purple, and hubby’s stuff is written in black ink. I adopted the highlighter system from Myleik Teele (Founder of Curlbox). Also, check out this great piece about Myleik: “Mentor in My Head: 54 Life Lessons from Myleik Teele: CEO of Curlbox.” Basically, Myleik makes a daily to-do list and at the end of the day she uses highlighters to update the status of her task. For example, orange highlighter crosses off items that were completed, yellow highlighter crosses off items that were “touched” but not completed and pink highlighter crosses off items that were “not touched” therefore “not completed.” Yellow highlighter & pink highlighter items are then moved to the following day until the tasks are completed. Her color choices may be different but that’s basically how the system works. I usually try not to have more than three things on my to do list per day (on top of the daily tasks like reading my bible, checking e-mail, etc.).


(4) Google Calendar – Google Calendar is my main time-management tool. Google Calendar is great for “sharing” calendars with others. For example, I help manage my husband’s calendar, and both of us can make updates and it automatically syncs in all locations. Paper calendars don’t have that level of efficiency (unless you + family members use one calendar…) We also maintain an organizational calendar (that large groups of people have access to). Similar to my paper calendar, I use a color coded system.


(5) Print out of daily to-do list – I created this Weekly Checklist in Microsoft Excel and will print one out every Sunday during my weekly journal/scrapbook/weekly planning time. I don’t want to copy these things daily into my planner, so I will use my little weekly checklist instead. You can download the template by clicking here:

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To print the template, highlight everything that needs to be printed (including all of your daily tasks and the cells through Saturday.

– Click “File”

– Click “Print” from the File List

– Click “Page Setup”

– Click “Landscape” instead of Portrait under Orientation

– Click “Sheet” and check the box that says “Gridlines” (which will print the lines between each row and column)

– Click “Ok”

– Click “Print”

(6) Find an accountability partner and try to check in at least once per month. My accountability partner is my best friend, and we will meet bi-weekly to talk about our goals (and share lots of laughs like we always do).

I have a weekly planning session on Sundays (to ensure that my Google Calendar + paper planner are in sync for the remainder of the month), and every night I update my paper planner (which is where my daily appointments and meeting notes live). If I had a meeting with someone, I take the action items and make time to complete them (whether it’s sending them some information they requested, conducting e-mail introductions or looking up something they recommended to me).

If you have ANY questions, please feel free to leave a comment and I will answer. I wish you well if you try out my full system, parts of the system!!!

4 thoughts on “How I Keep It All Together… (aka Tips To Manage Your Time)

  1. I really enjoyed this article. I’m struggling with swapping over to all digital to match my husband’s calendar and keeping my tried and true paper version. I think you have some really great tips and tricks on here for staying on top of your game.

    1. Thanks Lorraine! I definitely don’t think you have to do either/or. I use a hybrid approach of both digital and paper and it works great for me. Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions! I’ll be happy to share more details!

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