Capturing Brilliant Ideas

The Value of a Project Planner

By Flickr user Satoru Kikuchi

I can’t tell you how many times I have thought of a great thing to do, only to have lost the idea hours later.  Being organized is not just about being intentional, but also about capturing and processing thoughts.  This process reclaims time, energy and creativity that has been otherwise lost.  The Simply Planned Homeschool Planner has a project section were unsuspected brilliant ideas can be stored, organized and reclaimed.  Part of the organization was inspired by David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.  The project is broken down into chronological steps called “tasks.”  These are really the actions to complete the project.  The most important action is the “next task,” because it is the next action that you can take to move your project closer to completion.

At the front of the project planner pages, is a list of all the projects that you have captured and their current status (use a pencil).  Each project planner page is broken up into four major sections.

  1.  Visualize:  This is an area to draw or glue a picture of the project.
  2. Description:  This is an area to write a description of the end project’s function and characteristics.  These two should be completed first.
  3. Next Task:  This is an orderly list of actions that must be taken to complete the project.  This just means that while your project is fresh in your mind, you should plot out the steps to complete it (as best you can).  This list captures your initial thoughts so that you can place your next actions on your “Daily to-do List” when time allows.  *Your next task should always start with a verb.
  4. Shopping List:  This is a list of items that are needed to complete the task.  Theses are particularly the items that you may need to buy.  They can be moved to the buying plan as necessary.

These lists help capture the steps and resources needed to make your vision a reality.  The planner just gives you a frame work to properly store and implement your ideas.

Simply HS Title Header

Kid Friendly Homeschool Schedule

Kid Friendly Schedules

Kid Friendly Schedules


  • 4 sheets of construction paper/child
  • 36-50 velcro dots (at minimum 24 hard and 12 soft side)
  • clear packing tape
  • Markers
  • Optional: laminator (Costco for under 19 dollars)

I was putting up my new history time line along with my general before-homeschool organizing and it came to me.  A schedule is like a time line for your homeschool day.  I use a modified Work Box system (by Sue Patrick).  It is absolutely invaluable for hyperactive or autistic children.  I think all kids would benefit from seeing their work visibly decrease as they go through their day.  I just don’t have the space for 48 boxes in a 1300 square foot house.  Or the time to manage that many boxes!  My modification:  All the kids have a portable file box.  There is a hanging folder for every subject and absolutely everything needed for that subject is in that folder.  For example, If that subject needs a dry erase marker or chalk, I create a pocket for those items.  The pockets are made from clear packing tape.  It is great stuff by the way.  You just make a lining, the size of the item, (just two pieces of clear plastic tape with sticky sides stuck together) and then use the tape on the outside to stick the item to the inside of the folder.  Be sure you leave space for the item.  I put the object inside the pocket area and then stick the whole thing to the folder.

File Boxes with Folded Schedules

File Boxes with Folded Schedules

My kid friendly schedule is a half of a piece of construction paper (in the child’s favorite color), with 4 lines on it (divided equally), laminated, and taped together, end-to-end, with clear packing tape.  It creates a personal time line.  Stick one hard sided velcro dot in the middle of each section.

Cards:  Make little cards for each subject (for each child, including lunch and snack), laminate them and put a soft velcro dot on the back of each.

Card Catcher:  After the child is finished with that subject/task they are to put the card on a card catcher at the side of there file box.  (You can put it on the side of their desk if you don’t have a box.)  To make it, draw 12 equal boxes onto a piece of construction paper and laminate it.  Place a hard sided velcro dot in the middle of each box.  I use clear packing tape to connect the catcher to the side of their box.

How does it work:

I put the cards on their schedules —> As they move through their day they put the cards on the card catcher —> When there are no more on their schedule…They are finished.

Preschool-Kindergarten Schedule

Preschool-Kindergarten Schedule

Preschool and Kindergarten:

How do you fit preschool learning toys into folders?  I have color-coded, star-shaped activity cards on the schedule that match the star cards on the containers.  The containers have hard sided velcro dots on the front of them.  I just put the learning toys (with everything needed) in the box and place the corresponding color-coded, star card on the box’s velcro dot.  He knows the star cards are activity cards and looks for them on the shelf beside him.  I only need 2-4 activity boxes for him.

I’m organizing now to keep my sanity later…during the homeschool year.  It is some work putting these together, but it is valuable.  The children tend to be more independent, because they don’t depend on me to be their schedule.  I can spend my time savings on teaching questions.

I also have a free downloadable planner for older children.  It is black and white, but they can add the colors they love.  (It is half book size like my Simply Planned Homeschool Planner.)


Organizing a Gmail In-box

I have been working on getting organize in all areas of my life.  I wanted to help you clean out and organize your Gmail.  I use to have this long string of e-mails in different stages of processing, and every year or so I get frustrated and erase all of them.  I had no capture system to properly process the e-mail input.  I just made a tutorial on creating multiple in-boxes in Gmail, so that you can create a prioritized to-do list there.  I created side boxes labeled Now, Soon, Later.  It is super easy to move your e-mails around.  I also show you how to create folders to organize your archived e-mails.  If you can’t find it (easily), you won’t use it.

Intentional Living: Practical Planning

Getting More Done, in Less Time…

Getting Things Done: Homemaker Style

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen is an amazingly popular book for one very good reason.  It is an organization system that actually works.  No organization system can live up to all our expectations, mostly because we usually try to do more than we ought to do.  So, how do we get better at “Getting things done?”

  1. Expectation Adjustment:  Are your expectations of your time realistic?  Do they reflect your values?  Unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our family and the world is the first dragon we must slay.  Strangely some areas are over extended, and some we don’t challenge ourselves enough, pray for discernment.
  2. Properly organize and process all input successfully…and that is were Getting Things Done comes into play.   A place for every idea and every idea in it’s place.  A place for everything is the hard part!  Mostly because everything includes things you don’t yet know are coming.  The important thing is to have a system that will capture, sort and store anything and everything.  My new planner has places to capture and store important thoughts and lists.
  3. Just Do It!  The system should include a plan to implement all actions that have been processed.  We can do more when we are organized, then when we aren’t.  Better yet, after going through these steps, the actions you take will be the actions you “intentionally” take.

*The GTD system also suggests to group tasks into locations, i.e. home, car, work, church…  This grouping will more efficiently use your time, if your tasks are scattered over locations.  You can use different color highlight marks to designate location sensitive tasks.  I go so few places (small children) that this doesn’t yet apply to me (there will be a time in the future).

Planning helps us intentionally do and be all God created us to be.  It can helps us examine if our values are reflected in our To Do List.  The GTD system can help us look at a more efficient process of sorting and storing information.  I hope the GTD flow chart will help you understand the process to taking action.  Get a planner that can capture and organize your ideas, ultimately helping you be intentional with your life.  If you homeschool, I hope my planner can be a help to you in this process of being all God has called you to be.


How does this Work-out in My life family?

Materials: homeschool planner, gmail, and notepads/pencils (strategically placed)

Optional: ipod touch (for podcasts and notes)

  • Family Calendar:  Our family calendar is on gmail’s google calendars.  This is ideal for us because my husband(at work) and I(at home) can share the calendar.  We can both access it and it can be color coded for each person.  If you have older children, they can access it too.
  • Homeschool Calendar:  My homeschool calendar is in my planner.  It is also small enough to go with me, so that I can capture dates on the road and transfer them later.
  • To Do Lists:   Two of my to-do-lists are in my planner.  I break it down into my
  1. “Shopping lists” (grocery, non-household, 30 list (thinking about)) and
  2. “Daily To Do list” (always start with an action).
  3.  E-mails are also a “to do list.”  Often I am waiting for information to get back to me.  This is a very good place to create a “waiting folder.”  Gmail allows you to do that.  They also allow you to star things in different colors or designate certain emails to go directly into a designated folder.  It is preferable that your email in box be kept at zero.  Folders are amazingly helpful with that.
  • Quick Capturing System:  Capturing input is about catching it and placing the information in a safe place until you can process it.  There are many ways people capture data, i.e. phone numbers, recipes, dates and thoughts.  Narrow down the places you put your data.
  1. Most people have a note pad by the phone.  With mobile phones, it may be more difficult, but put a note pad by the area you are usually seating in the house.  For me, it is by my computer in the school room (which is next to the kitchen).
  2. Recipes go into a notebook in my kitchen.  Since I am always thinking of new recipes the notebook is an arms length away.
  3. Out and About:  I am rarely out, but when I go a capture system has to go with me.  Since if I am out, I my more likely be by myself, meaning my brain will be more likely to think of new ideas.  I use either my ipod touch (notepad) and/or my homeschool planner.  I made the planner small enough to go with me.
  • Homeschool Planner Project List:  A Project is a plan to get something done that has multiple steps.  Those steps are tasks that will go on the to-do-list.  The project can be something that you want to do soon (place the next task in on the to-do-list), or later, or someday (really later).  The planner has a place to both capture and process project ideas.  All things that require multiple steps are projects.  If the project is small enough, it could go directly on your to do list.  Other wise use the project plan.  I will discuss the project planner in more detail in a later post.
  • File for Someday:
  1. Someday Project:  Every now and then you come across something that really interests you, but it is just no the right time in your life to exercise that type of project.  You should file it in a someday maybe filing system.
  2. Long-term Reference:  For homeschoolers, a reference file should be in place to catch future homeschool material.
  3. *When ever possible this should be kept electronically, in a well organized hierarchal filing system inside your computer.
  4. *What ever you want to capture, needs to have the device and all that is needed (notebook and pencil, ipod that is charged) at arms length.

Simply HS featured 2


Homeschool Planner

Simply Planned Home School Planner

Every year I think this will be the year I will be more organized.  Homeschool is no different.  I’m a good “go with the flow” type of person.  The more I add to my day the more planning I need.  I still can’t completely embrace the minute-by-minute planner.  Some things do require exact timing, but there are a lot of things that don’t.  A good mix of timed items and priority lists work best for non-planners.  As I work with my young family, I could drive myself completely crazy trying to follow a rigid plan.  But without a target, I’m sure to miss my goals.  My children are worth the discomfort to overcome my planner phobia.
I began my search.  Most planners on the market are generated by “planner people.”  They work well for other planner type people.  I really felt that there wasn’t a planner sold that would work for me.  I found myself ripping out pages of planners.  Pages that just weren’t needed.  I need a planner the works for me, instead of me working for the planner.  Beauty is another thing that would be wonderful to find in a planner.  Beauty that can carry you though the “dark days” of home school.