How We Do It: Organizing Our Time

9 January 2018

Friends, I am so excited about this series!!! I loved hearing your guesses — everything from another round of Marvelous Mama to an extended personal finance guide (both of which sound marvelous, by the way) — but dare I say what we have planned is even better…?

A month or two ago, I was searching on Nancy’s blog for something when I stumbled upon the “organization” series she wrote in 2014. I remembered loving the posts when they were originally written, but as I re-read them, it hit me how much her life had changed in the last four years! I thought about how I would love for her to revisit the same topics, and then realized that they dovetailed perfectly with the most-requested topic from my reader survey last year: rhythms, habits, and routines. How do I make space and time for what matters most in all areas of my life? How do I get things done? How do I do it???

Well, I most certainly do not have all the answers, but one thing I have been given is a confidence in the decisions we make for our family and a willingness to share them. So here we are! Nancy was totally game for a revisit when I proposed the idea to her, and what I love most about this is that throughout this series, you’ll get to hear from two people who have similar hearts but different ways of living them out. There is no one right way to do things! Instead of a prescription, we hope to offer you inspiration, ideas, tools, tips, and encouragement. I am so excited. I also have WAY too much to say on each topic and am already having to rein myself in, ha!

Simplified Planner and PowerSheets

Let’s start at the beginning: with time.

Readers who’ve been here awhile know I’ve written about this topic before, and I would definitely encourage you to check out those two posts! The most important takeaways: I have a permanent moratorium on the phrase time is flying by, the response busy but good, and anything else that sounds remotely similar. I also have learned to embrace this paradox: time is both precious and plentiful. To have as much time as I need for the things I want, I must be ruthless about not filling time with things I don’t care about or that aren’t a priority for me.

So let’s start there. What do I NOT do? Here are a few from a very long list of things. In general, I do not…

— Paint my nails
— Browse in stores or go to the mall
— Wash my hair every day
— Clean (well, I do clean – ha! But I pretty much do the bare minimum and let the rest slide.)
— Tidy (again, I do this – but there are MANY days and hours when things are NOT in their proper place.)
— Sell clothing I’m getting rid of (I just donate it.)
— Scroll on Facebook
— Get together with girlfriends (except for Articles Club and a neighborhood book club)
— Switch my accessories (I wear pearl studs and my wedding and engagement rings and that’s it.)
— Own a dog
— Volunteer
— Text (pretty much only with my family and only in reply to texts sent to me)
— Curate my Instagram (I am a stylist by trade – if I spent more time on it, it would look different!)
— Binge watch TV shows

Are any of these things bad? Not at all. But in a full season, I have to say a firm no to good things to make way for better things. (Things like puzzles with June, prayer, making dinner for my family every night, reading, weekly calls with my sisters, evening walks, writing on EFM, and SLEEP. I love sleep and get 8-9 hours every night.) I look forward to doing some of these things in other seasons. Your list might look very different from mine, but it’s important that you have it.


An integral tool for helping me prioritize my time and clarify my yeses and nos: PowerSheets. Y’all have heard me talk about them extensively at the end of each year and in my monthly goal posts, but they deserve a mention here, too!

As for how I organize my time from day to day, I am a paper calendar gal. In fact, I am an old-school paper calendar gal: I use an *original* Simplified Planner, purchased in 2012, which is really just a pretty blue binder that I fill with printable monthly calendar pages. And yes, though bulky, it travels to and from work with me every day I’m in the office! :)

Simplified Planner

Why paper? I want to see every event on every day of the month at the same time. So much of what I’m scheduling needs to happen in relation to other things, and I hate having to click back and forth between days or switch between the day view and the month view so I can see every event happening on a certain day.

You can read more about how I use my Planner here.

A Lindsay Letters Creatives calendar is the newest addition to our home, and I think it will become increasingly important as kiddos grow and our schedule gets more complicated! It hangs in our kitchen, and at the beginning of every month I transfer over from my Planner events that affect both of us as well as our meal plan for the week. We’ve only had it for a short while, but so far it has been super helpful to get John and I on the same page!

Creatives Calendar

A final tip: there is NOTHING in my life that makes me feel more like I’ve wasted time or that I don’t have enough time than scrolling on social media. Nothing. If your schedule/life feels out of your control and you spend any amount of time on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, that might be a good (though hard) place to start. More about this and my social media boundaries later in the series :)

Friends, I hope this post was helpful for you and that you’re excited for what’s to come!! Don’t forget to read Nancy’s post here.

How do y’all manage your time? Are you a paper or electronic calendar gal? What do you say no to? I’d love to hear!!

The rest of the series:
Time: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Home: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Personal Lives: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Work: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Relationships: Em’s post and Nancy’s post
Kids: Em’s post and Nancy’s post

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January 9, 2018 6:53 am

So looking forward to this, Emily (and Nancy)!!

My main question on this post is if you could elaborate a little on the no cleaning/tidying, as that is something I’m currently overwhelmed by and am trying to come up with a better system for! Is it a once-in-awhile-clean-everything set-up? Do you outsource it?

January 9, 2018 7:40 am

Such great timing! Literally this morning, I was praying about the constant feeling of overwhelm, the constant nagging that there are a million things that I should/could be doing at every moment in time, the constant discouragement from the feeling that there is never a “free” moment! How sad it made me to realize that I never feel free! Thank you for this post (and the series). Hoping – and praying – to get right-side-up, and to operate from a wisely prioritized place of order and peace and freedom! Grateful for your insight, and your tactical strategies!

January 9, 2018 8:04 am

I’m very excited about this series – I love this type of stuff and I appreciate your vulnerability to share how you handle these things.

I do have one question that maybe you’ll address in your Relationships post. If you don’t spend time with girlfriends and you don’t text, is there another way you keep in touch with friends? Maybe I ask because I’m 30 and single and more and more of my friends are getting married and having children. I understand that our friendship becomes less of a priority for them but I sometimes worry I’m bothering them when I initiate texts or try to make dinner plans or something. How do you let your girlfriends know you value those relationships?


[…] miss: How We Do It: Organizing our Time by EmforMarvelous Nancy’s 2014 Organization in Time […]

January 9, 2018 9:53 am

I adore how you laid out your post! The most intriguing thing to me was how you spelled out the things you DON’T spend your time doing. I also don’t browse or go to the mall or wash my hair every day, but just reading your words freed me to confidently say I don’t do those things because I don’t WANT to spend my time doing that! (Geez blow drying hair is just way too time consuming and I’d much rather sleep, too!) Love your perspective every time, friend. Don’t know how we are going to top this post, because it’s already a favorite of mine!

January 9, 2018 11:15 am

What a great series. I can’t wait to read more from both of you! I am really going to take time to think about this too. My husband and I are Google calendar people, but I do like to make lists (like my to-do lists and shopping lists) on real paper. I get a real sense of accomplishment when I can actually throw that list away! haha. Also super interesting to think about what you DON’T do. I am going to have to think about that one!

January 9, 2018 12:12 pm

I love this and I am so looking forward to this entire series! I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant and after an overwhelmed meltdown during my first trimester, I realized I really needed to refocus where my time and energy went. I was sooo tired that I just could do it all the way I was used to. The priorities I landed on are: work, exercise, spending time with my husband, friends, and family, getting outside to walk my dogs daily,and maintaining a healthy diet. That’s it. For now, I’ve eliminated: yard work (paying neighborhood teenagers to do the bare minimum), my side calligraphy business (sad, but necessary for now), almost all TV, preparing any elaborate meals, and taking on any major diy home improvement (other than simplifying and organizing what is already there). Like you said, all good things that I will come back to later on, but this girl needs like 10 hours of sleep to function so something’s gotta give!

January 9, 2018 1:31 pm

Em, thanks so much for sharing how you organize your time. My PowerSheets yes/no list has been really helpful in how I use my time too (nixing fashion blogs, Facebook, the news and celebrity gossip). I love reading both your and Nancy’s blogs and am looking forward to the rest of series. :)

Nichole Winkel
January 9, 2018 4:52 pm

I’m so excited to follow along with this series! Thank you both for taking the time to put it together. I love the list of what you’re saying no to and can relate to so many of them (painted nails…no time for that)!

January 9, 2018 5:11 pm

That’s so crazy! Most of the things you hard pass on I find are “must do’s!” I say no to my phone after 8pm. I say no to washing my hair every day. I don’t have many “no’s” now that I think of it. I have so many yes’s though. Yes to: picking out my entire week’s worth of outfits on Sunday, tidying the kitchen and living room nightly, making my lunches the night before, working out daily, pumping in the middle of the night, reading before bed, etc.

January 9, 2018 5:13 pm

I LOVE this idea for the series and the collaboration with Nancy Ray! Excited to follow along! :)

January 9, 2018 6:35 pm

You consistently write the blog posts that just stick with me- and I feel like every one of this series is going to be like that for me. I’m so excited and grateful for your thoughtful words!

January 9, 2018 7:05 pm

This post is awesome, and I look forward to the rest of the series! I’m hopeless at prioritizing and staying organized, which often leaves me with a cluttered mind. One question: Is your planner reserved for home/personal life events and tasks, or does it include work-related stuff as well? Thanks for sharing!

January 9, 2018 8:58 pm

I am so excited for this, ladies! Emily, I am entirely with you on not saying “time is flying” and answering “busy” when asked how I’m doing. We choose to keep statements like that out of our home because time is so precious and much more savored when moments aren’t wasted steeping in the passing of time! :)

January 9, 2018 9:09 pm

Loved reading this and can’t wait for the rest of the series!

January 9, 2018 9:50 pm

Oh, how my little nerd soul loves this series SO much! All the praise hands for you saying yes to sleep. I feel like so many people around me are sacrificing sleep with the excuse of “not enough time” and I’m here to say, yes you can and should prioritize sleep if you need it! It really just gave me a sigh of relief knowing someone else needs proper sleep haha.

January 10, 2018 1:50 am

I love this series, Emily, and am so excited to follow it! I believe wholeheartedly in so many of the things you say no to and needed the reminder on social media. I also absolutely need to have “time is both precious and plentiful” on my Tending List one of these months!

January 10, 2018 1:14 pm
Reply to  Mackenzie

Ahh, those would be perfect encouraging words to put on a tending list! I might steal that idea :)

January 10, 2018 10:57 am

I’ve been re-reading a LOT of your posts the last week or so. Mostly your money and goals ones as they really resonate with me. I love how you’re breaking this down, and I can’t wait to gain wisdom from your insights. Seeing your no list was freeing, and makes me want to revisit my no list on my powersheets. Sometimes I think they have to be so elaborate, but a simple no to binge watching tv is just as good as anything.

January 10, 2018 1:14 pm
Reply to  Kelly

Yes, ma’am! And what a compliment!

Kelly Strawberry
January 10, 2018 10:58 am

Love this post, as always! LOL at “I don’t own a dog.” My bulldogs are two of the best things in my entire life, but by golly are they high maintenance! :)

January 10, 2018 1:16 pm

I was kind of like, well, in this case, not only do I not GENERALLY own a dog, but I straight-up DON’T OWN A DOG EVER, haha! I grew up with one and loved her dearly and am not counting out the possibility of owning one down the road, but not today!

January 10, 2018 12:10 pm

I love that CLEAN is on your list of things you don’t do. I love a clean house, but my husband and I both HATE cleaning. So we ended up hiring a maid service to clean our house regularly. Never thought I’d ever write that sentence, because I didn’t grow up with a maid, and neither did my husband. BUT, I’ve also never been happier. I read an article a few months back that said most people are happier when they spend money services that save them time. I completely agree with this.

January 10, 2018 1:17 pm
Reply to  Jewel

That is absolutely a goal of mine! I responded to Lisa’s comment farther up about cleaning and how we were able to hire a housecleaner three times last year, and it was wonderful! Just choosing other priorities at the moment in general :) But I look forward to the day when we can hire it out, because I agree, more time is one of the best things you can buy with your money!!

January 11, 2018 2:34 am

Em, this series is SO up my alley. Thank you in advance for all the work you’ll be putting in to it — I know how much time and careful thought these things take. I absolutely love your “no” list and am right there with you on 99% of it. Totally curious, though, if you’d be willing to expand on any of it? Specifically texting and getting together with girlfriends. I’m a mom of two little ones, and texting is often the only way I feel connected to others throughout the day! And of course I don’t have much time to hang with girlfriends these days, but do so via playdates or an occasional moms’ night out when I have the chance! Saying no to washing my hair every day, however, comes really easy ;) I know everyone’s “no” list is different (as it should be!) but I’m just curious as to why you’ve ruled specific things out. I just love your thoughtfulness and intentions in everything you do, but please don’t feel like you need to explain yourself!

January 11, 2018 9:55 am

I’m glad you don’t curate your Instagram! It’s so boring to see the same type of image over and over!

January 11, 2018 5:46 pm

Just found the link to your blog from Shelby at Life As The Coats. Small world, my husband is from CT and we lived there for a few years (Granby) before relocating to Raleigh last year!
I was reading through your home search posts and we are experiencing the same thing. Houses are bought as soon as they go on the market and we don’t even have a chance to look at them!
Like you, I feel like we’re looking for something that doesn’t exist. On one of your posts you had said, ” big, private lots and old neighborhoods with mature trees.” That is pretty much WORD FOR WORD what I told our realtor. I don’t want to live in a brand new development where all the houses are exactly the same, there are no trees, and no privacy. It drives me insane down here!

Victoria Bouchard
January 13, 2018 7:29 am

I absolutely loved your series on time last year. I am really trying to live that way as well. I am actually surprised that so many people have been pushing back on me and want me to agree that time is going so fast or are almost surprised that I don’t agree with them when they say I can’t believe your son is nine months old! I want to be present with him so I love this post as well! Your blog is such a good resource for so many things. Thank you for sharing everything over the years!

January 15, 2018 8:25 am

YAY!! Love this post and the series ahead.
I am a bit OCD so I used a Simplified Planner to write down my hourly day, a chalkboard for the whole family AND my digital calendar which is synced with my husband… Maybe too organized over here :)

January 18, 2018 9:55 am

This is such a fun series! I’ve loved the two posts so far and am looking forward to the future topics! I’m especially grateful to hear of someone else who values sleep A LOT and needs 8-9 hours a night. My family just doesn’t understand! Are you by chance a 9 on the Enneagram? I am and supposedly nines need a lot of sleep. :)

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