In Praise of Paper

I’m on my annual winter planning kick. February is always a really hard time for me, and planning for spring makes it all seem that much more doable. This is the time of year that I revisit our budget, plan my garden and basically look at everything we do and make sure it’s going smoothly.

In the past I’ve relied on my phone calendar, spreadsheets and pages documents, but this year I am going back to analog methods. As much as I love technology, too much of it seems to decrease my productivity rather than increase it. My ADHD brain has trouble resisting the temptation to check Facebook, or email, and if I’m on my phone, I’m more likely to get pestered by my phone-less younger kids into looking up the land speed of a velociraptor, or information on King Edward I’s famous trebuchet, Warwolf.

A friend told me recently that she had heard that for ADHD people, all organizational tasks should be one step. Keep it as simple as possible, so you’ll actually keep it up.

My weapons this year are a simple, large desk calendar, a planner I found in the discount section, that I am using to track bills and expenses, and a notebook on my “Command Center” desk in the living room.

On Thursday, when family folders come home, I have kids come up to me one at a time. We go through them together and I write all important information on the calendar. Then I immediately toss the papers, because if I have extra papers around I get easily confused and overwhelmed. Any papers I need to sign are signed and immediately put in the children’s backpack, where they have about a 50/50 chance of actually reaching the teacher. But, hey, I tried. Papers the children need to deal with are put into their section of an accordion-style file folder. That part is not working quite as well as the rest of it. To be honest, that’s where homework, which is still not mandatory at the younger kids’ ages, goes to die. At the moment I am fine with that, because we can either take the time to do homework, or get our stuff ready for tomorrow and get in bed at a reasonable hour. There simply isn’t time for both, and with a 7:00am bus pick up time, I’ve chosen bedtime as my hill to die on.

For my financial tracking, I have every bill listed on it’s due date in the calendar section of my planner, and every payday, whether it’s Zach’s or mine, listed as well. I use a pencil for bills, and a pen for income, rather than colour coding, because all it takes is one day that I can’t find a red pen, and I’ll give up doing it. I can almost always dig up a pencil or a pen. If extra money comes in, I write it in on the date it came in, again in pen.

On Saturdays, I open the bank app on my phone (I do use a little technology) and copy down the expenses in the daily section of the planner. I make notes on what the money was spent on, and add it up by category. That helps give me a visual idea of what is going where, and how much is left in the budget for the following weeks.

My notebook is my catch-all for everything else. I tried bullet journaling, but the legwork of indexing and numbering pages, and figuring out how much space I might need for something was too much for me. I really do need it to be one step. Write stuff down. The end. I have 40 years of experience sorting through my messy, random thoughts. I’ll find what I need to find. I did find that I enjoyed the brain dump notebook a lot more when I had a nice set of gel pens and could make things colourful and prettier. I may need to put those on my list.

I do still need to figure out an efficient system for paperwork and mail. Right now I have a magazine file box that I just stick it all into, but I’m not good at doing anything with it, or finding what I need to find. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

One thought on “In Praise of Paper

  1. I switched to electronic-only calendar about 4 years ago, and a year ago I once again purchased a paper planner. I now use a hybrid system of both. The electronic calendar is great for things that someone else in the family needs to know, or things that repeat, or things far in the future for which I need a reminder. I use it for:
    irregular household tasks and chores (e.g., once/month, clean the outside dryer vent)
    birthdays (every month on the 20th, I get a list of days and names for the next month’s birthdays)
    appointments that are not this week, with reminders (that dental appt that’s 6 months away)

    But I like to see each week visually. I have a much better sense of my week if I can see the days on paper. And as all paper aficionados would agree, printing the electronic one is not the same. I remember things better if I write them down. Besides, for things that only happen once, it’s a lot faster to scribble a note than to enter it electronically. The best thing about the paper planner is that I can file other papers inside it that I need to deal with a few weeks from now (AP test registration, due in a month, that would otherwise get put in a stack of other not-right-now papers).

    Because my planner is a lot less busy than it used to be (at work all day, don’t need much space in the personal planner), so it’s my brain dump notebook as well… at least when I only need a few square inches of space. Well, not really. That makes me sound more organized than I am… because I actually have brain dump notebooks everywhere.

    Our finances take a lot less time than they did in the years of paper checks. All of our repeating bills are automated, and irregular bills come to my email and I schedule electronic checks within a day or two of receiving the email. No writing checks, no keeping track of deadlines, no stamps, and no record keeping… because the bank does it all. I can download activity from our bank account and a couple of credit cards and have a nearly complete view of a long period of time, too.


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