Using a diary to organise your life

Back to school organising

I originally wrote this post as a back to school organising post because it went live in August but actually the tips I shared are useful for any time of the year, and particularly in Janaury.

For years I have organised our family’s life with an A4, day to a page diary.  I cannot begin to imagine how many hours of “what;s happening./ what do I need / where is the info” chaos it has saved.

So how to organise it all?  How do you keep track of knowing who needs to be where / when / with what extra kit?  You need a system.  A fool proof system that over time every family member adopts (I often turn a page to find something somebody else has written in it)

First of all you need a page to a view diary.

There are academic ones in the shops now so you don’t need to wait until January.   I actually have one that is a bit like a Filofax.  A4 pages and with four ring binder holes in it.  But if you can’t get one of those any A4 page to a day diary will work.

Find a place for it to sit where it will not be moved.

This is crucial.  This is a house diary.  Everybody in the house will use it and it needs to be stationary, as opposed to stationery (did you see what I did there?).   It needs to be open on today, at all times so you get into the habit of looking at it regularly.

Next up make a cup of tea,

Log on to the school / college website

Note down in the diary all the term dates and when holidays are.  That way you know exactly when you are going to need childcare if necessary, or for how many days you will have teenagers lying on the sofa eating you out of house and home.

Next write in  all your family or important birthdays

Again, so you never forget them.    Then this is where the organising comes into it.

A week before that birthday write down “Get card for X and post it”.   That way you don’t turn over the page on the day of the actual birthday and realise you haven’t sent a card.

This method now carries on for birthday parties and other invites.


If you get an invite (or your child does) write the details in the diary AND put the invite on the page too.  Or invest in some of those plastic pouches with holes punched in them (we call them Polly Pockets but I am sure they have an official name).   This is why the diary now never moves as you have extra pieces of paper in it.  You might think it is messy but really it isn’t.   It means you will never lose another invite and will know instantly all the crucial details.

If you need to buy a present or card or send something, write it down a week before “buy present for X party on Y date”.

If you happen to buy a card or see one weeks before it is needed, put it in the diary on that week before date.  So now you have the card where you know you will find it and can post it if needed, or you can take it to the party.

Over the years my kids have all learned that everything goes in the diary.

School trip information

The letter goes in on the day of the trip but the day before we write down “don’t forget wellies / packed lunch / £5 spending money for tomorrow”.    That way you don’t have a heart attack when you see on the day of the trip that any of those things are needed at 7am and you have to upend the garage looking for wellies.

Back to school organising

If we go away for the weekend (or indeed on holiday) I put everything in a Polly Pocket for that weekend.   Print outs of car park bookings / hotel confirmations / boarding passes etc .   That way it is all in one place and no time is wasted looking for bits of paper.

Or this

How to organise your life

If you have tickets for a play, same thing, tickets and info are in a wallet, and in the diary so we know exactly where to locate them.

We even write things in that we need to remember to do such as today mine says “sort out prescription” because I will only remember this at 4am when I have a raging headache and find I have run out of tablets.  If I put it in the diary I don’t need to remember to do it.  We carry so many “I mustn’t forget to do that” type thoughts in our head that we just need to get them out and not have to worry about them.  Putting them on paper, in one place has helped me no end.

Note down follow ups

If I have emailed somebody and I need a response, or want to check something has happened, make a note of it in your diary for a week’s time.  You can then either cross it out or follow up.

If you do the same with all the bits of paper you are about to start getting from school about parent evenings / day trips / class assemblies you will never be stressed the night before because you can’t quite remember the timings etc.  It takes a while to get into the habit of doing it, but trust me it works and will stop you being stressed about how you will remember it all.

And that has to be a good thing, right?

To do list

Now write down things you need to do, one on each line and just before you write it draw a small circle.   Write everything down, get everything on that day so you dont have to carry anything in your head.

Now when you do the task, colour in the circle.

If, at the end of the day, you haven’t done the task, write it on the next day.

Keep doing that every day, adding things for the future like “renew car insurance” at the beginning of the month it renews, so nothing is ever a surprise.

Colour in the things you do, keep writing down and moving to the next day until you do each task everything that goes on your list.  If you are a procrastinator like me you will soon get sick of repeating yourself and just get it done so you dont have to write it down again.

This way you will never forget things like birthdays, renewals, to pick up dry cleaning (put the receipt in a polly sleeve too) or anything you need to do.

Trust me!

Do let me know if you adopt it and how it works for you

Image of a diary at top of the post is courtesy of Shutterstock

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