What to plan and when to plan it.
I'm a firm believer that your planner should be like the best assistant money could buy. It should remind you of your appointments and events in a way that makes you feel like the put-together woman you are. Here are my suggestions on what to plan, and when to plan it. All of these recommendations are based on using monthly planner pages.
Birthdays & Anniversaries:
You'll plan all of these out a year in advance. Write all birthdays on your monthly calendar with the age they are turning (if you know it). Is this someone you need to mail a card to? Two weeks earlier than their birthday write "Mail so-and-so a birthday card". Is it someone you need to buy a gift for? Write it three weeks earlier. Need to plan a party? Write that two or three months earlier and then when you get to the "plan the party" date, schedule out when you need to send out invitations, buy supplies, and other miscellaneous tasks.
Write these out two months ahead for any monthly bills, always making sure that you write the next month's bills down before you get to that month. If you have any bills that occur less often, like twice a year, write the next bill due date down when you pay the current one. Always having the next due date written in your planner. If you haven't already been doing this, go through and look at your bills and make sure you have them written down. Ideas for less frequent bills include car insurance, car registration, and property tax.
Schools typically give out a calendar at the beginning of the year with days off, early release days, and vacation schedules. Write these all down immediately on your monthly calendars. If your child brings home other dates for things, write those down immediately as well. Often times these events that weren't on the yearly schedule will require a permission slip, a baked good, or tickets to be purchased. Write this down as early as you need to in order to remind yourself to do the required task. Keep in mind if you need to purchase something, or make something, to give yourself plenty of notice.
Keep all observed holidays written down for the year ahead. If the holiday requires you to decorate or purchase things, write those dates down too so you'll remember. Do you need to purchase gifts? Keep a running gift list in your planner with gift ideas. Remember if you need to mail a gift to write that date at least three weeks in advance. If there are costumes or other holiday attire required plan that ahead because these typically are sold out when you get close to the actual day of the holiday. We recommend at least a month ahead for holiday attire.
The dates of the vacation should be written down as soon as you have them. If there is a task, like packing, buying plane tickets, or scheduling a house sitter, write those down when you feel you would need to remember them. Planning isn't about just writing down the event, it's writing down the reminders you need to be able to effectively pull off the event.
Dental visits are usually twice a year, eye exams and physicals are usually once a year. Some doctors will schedule out your next appointment before you leave the current appointment. If you know it, write it down. If they don't do this, write at the top of the month when the appointment is due to remind yourself to schedule it. We recommend scheduling physicals for children in sports about a month before they go back to school to make sure they can get a timely appointment and don't miss out.
There will always be more things that come up. Events and appointments have a way of springing up when you least expect them. Take the time to not only write the event down, but think about what you'll need to do for it and schedule that out too. It's worth your time, we promise.
A note about "over-planning":
You don't have to plan out, in detail, things that will be happening over six months from now, that's crazy. Things will change before then and you'll have this scribble in your planner. That's why we just write out that we need to plan the event when we need to plan it, i.e. write down to plan a party two months in advance, as well as the date of the actual event. When you get to the planning date feel free to go nuts with your scheduling, planning out every detail. Your monthly calendars should be your master planning space that lets you know all the things that are going on at-a-glance. Don't be afraid to fill them out.
The boxes on a monthly calendar aren't meant to plan all the details, so just write enough to know what you mean, maybe abbreviate, and then use another planning page (perhaps our project planner inserts) to write all the little details. When you get closer, use a weekly page to plan out all the tasks.