We’re a week into the new year, and while some of you have your calendars or planners fully updated with all of your recurring appointments and items scheduled long ago, others of you have been trying to make do with that 13th month in your calendar while you decide what to do next. And perhaps, part of that search is how to make your days a little more colorful?
Paper Doll doesn’t doodle. I’m not visually artistic. I didn’t like coloring when I was little, and honestly, trying to figure out whether two colors go together, or making sure I’m coloring inside the lines, is stress-producing for me. But from the coloring tables at NAPO2016 to Smead’s SuperTab® Coloring Folders, I see many of you have embraced coloring, and you’ve got some support from research in the mental health and neurological communities:
Given all of this, it stands to reason that it’s the coloring, not the book, per se, that is the key to stress relief, so it’s interesting to see how coloring being incorporated into other activities, such as the aforementioned Smead Coloring Folders, can improve the organizing experience.
Tasks, schedules, and appointments often make people stressed, so it’s no surprise that some enterprising calendar and planner designers would find a way to blend the precision of scheduling with the freedom and stress-reliving properties of adult coloring books. Today, we’re going to look at a few that might tickle your coloring fancy while helping you organize your days.
These ring-bound, two-page-a-day Franklin Covey pages come in Compact (4.25″ W x 6.75″ H x 0.5″ D) or Classic (5.50″ W x 8.50″ H x 0.5″ D), on 70# paper, with the monthly tabs included. They are available at Amazon in Classic and Compact for about $48 (for you Amazon Prime people) and directly from Franklin-Covey for about $44.
Of course, If you’ve already bought your ringed Franklin Planner for the year, don’t fret. Franklin-Covey has the coloring-loving early birds covered.
The coloring page packs, available directly from Franklin-Covey, come in two ring-bound sizes, Compact ($8) and Classic ($9), with a wide variety of black-and-white designs on the 32-sheet packs. The pages are printed on the same heavier, 70# paper as the Living Color Planner, but note that designs appear on only one side, while the reverse pages are blank.
The wire-bound FloraDoodle planner has a flexible, pink, reusable (and removable) canvas cover with a zipper pocket for storage, and features a black and white design with a hand-drawn look. The individual page designs “feature white flowers on a black backdrop with a scribble look where flowers, petals, and squiggles lay overtop one another for a one of a kind pattern.”
Every page of the FloraDoodle planner displays black borders with a white flower pattern across the top for coloring. The two-page monthly pages are tabbed for easy navigation and include unruled daily blocks, as well as doodle space and past/future month reference calendars to manage upcoming events. The two-page per week weekly spreads provide an equal amount of ruled planning space for each day (Monday – Sunday) for recording daily tasks. Each weekly section begins with a blank space for doodling and drawing.
The FloraDoodle Weekly/Monthly Planner’s special pages include a holiday list, a three-year reference calendar, an overall event calendar, contact pages, note pages and planning pages for the following year.
This academic planner is a little more loosey-goosey than the professional planners above, with un-dated pages so the user can begin at any point in time. Each coloring planner measures 5.1″ X 7.4″ and consist of monthly and weekly pages, accounting pages, a blank notes section and a checklist section for recording tasks.
Each planner comes with a protective PVC cover to preserve durability, and two different coloring covers. (Note: While there are four different coloring cover versions, random coloring covers are shipped, so it is not possible to accurately predict and purchase a complete set.) Each planner runs under $10 at Amazon.
A related product in the same family is the Color Therapy Planner, sold at Cool Pencil Case for $12.50. The product description is almost identical except that specific “soothing colors” may be ordered: soft mint green, powder blue, rose pink, and mellow yellow.
For those looking for less of a robust planner set and more of a straightforward calendar or desk pad, you might like:
Fantastic Cities 2017 Wall Calendar by Steve McDonald ($7.50)
For fans of Johanna Basford, a superstar in the adult coloring realm, this 2017 calendar includes drawings from her Sea Garden, Enchanted Forest, and Lost Ocean coloring books, and comes with a keepsake box for storage. (Paper Doll‘s editorial note: Saved coloring pages easily become clutter, so do consider setting the box of colored pages free after the end of the year.)
For more coloring calendars, check out Cleverpedia’s blog post, The Best Adult Coloring Calendars for 2017 for a gorgeous array of colorful planning options.
For more on how to pick the right calendar or planner for your needs, you might like to review Pick Your Planner 2015: Paper Doll Rounds Up the (Un)Usual Suspects.
Whatever calendars you use, whether paper or digital, Paper Doll believes that commitment to your system is the key to success. If coloring your appointment pages helps you keep your commitment, then, by all means, make your days colorful!
You’ve got boxes, right? After a weekend of giving and receiving gifts, you’re likely surrounded by boxes. Everywhere you turn, boxes. It’s practically a Day of Boxing! Well, actually…
Boxing Day, observed on December 26th, the day after Christmas (and this year, the second day of Hanukkah), is a holiday popularly celebrated in the UK and various Commonwealth nations, many of which used to be British colonies. The history of the holiday is complex and widely debated, but traditionally, servants and tradespeople were given Christmas boxes on the day after Christmas, when they were granted leave to visit their own families and did not have to work. How very Downton Abbey of them.
Before you move along to another post, affecting a posh accent and saying, “I’m going upstairs to take off my hat,” I’d like to suggest a much more rewarding way to observe Boxing Day.
Give Back Box®, through a partnership with Amazon, Overstock.com, Ann Taylor, REI Co-Op, and more than a dozen other retailers, has found a solution that allows you to encourage yourself to pare down your excess possessions, bless others with donations of your largesse, and get those cardboard shipping boxes out of your house, all in one fell swoop.
THE MISSION STATEMENT
The purpose of Give Back Box® is to provide an effortless and convenient method of donating your used household items. Give Back Box not only provides an easy way to be part of a truly good cause, it also allows cardboard boxes a second life by recycling them and keeping them away from landfills to help improve our environment. So this is an all-round CSR & Sustainability solution that costs you literally nothing.
- Take your Amazon (or any other retail partner’s box), and empty out the goodies you’ve received. (You can also use a plain cardboard box, if you like.)
- Fill the box with donations of clothing, shoes, and various household goods. But please, no liquids, electronics, ammunition, or fragile or hazardous things! (And do check the pockets for any train tickets that might prove you innocent of murder.) Then seal up the package.
- Print a free pre-paid shipping label from Give Back Box’s site and affix it to the box. The cost is covered by Give Back Box’s partner retailers, most of whom have special Give Back Box pages on their sites, too.
There’s no weight limit, so you can fill the box to the brim — and print as many labels as you need.
- Now, just send the package to Goodwill via UPS or the United States Postal Service at any UPS Store or post office, all at no cost to you. You can even request a free USPS pick-up of your package at your home, if the weather outside is not so delightful and you’d rather lounge about and have your lady’s maid, Anna, serve your meals in bed.
Give Back Box box has a variety of benefits — personal, social, economic, and environmental.
You’ll make donations more often — You know you’re busy. You know your house is full of things you don’t use, don’t wear, or don’t want. (Honestly, what was Aunt Rosamund thinking?) You want to donate more things and more often, but the truth is that every time you find something in your home that you want to donate, you set it aside and forget about it. Maybe you have a donation station in your home, with the pile getting bigger and bigger, but it practically takes an act of Congress to get the donations out of your house, into your car, and to whatever non-profit you choose.
By making it free and convenient, Give Back Box prompts you to think about what you can let go of every single time you receive a box from one of their partner retailers.
Boom! There’s your habit! Get a box of stuff? Give a box of stuff!
That’s good for you, and it’s good for all the work that Goodwill does, providing job training and putting people to work in the local community. And people who want and need what you no longer have space or time to manage reap the benefits, too!
It’s also sustainable. About 30 million tons of retailers’ cardboard box material is zooming around the earth each year. By following the principles of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” Give Back Box and its partners are helping you clean out your house and helping us all clean up the environment.
Even the Dowager Countess would be excited!
Still have questions? Read through the Give Back Box page of frequently asked questions, and check out this little video.
Last week, in Paper Doll & Smead Talk Paper vs. Digital Organizing: It’s Not Either/Or, you got to see the first part of my discussion with John Hunt of Smead about the anxieties many people face when thinking about moving their information from paper to digital. We discussed control vs. convenience, and how the learning curve with technology can be an obstacle to exploring solutions.
We also reviewed the scientific research on learning and cognition related to taking notes by hand vs. on the computer, and even explored the relative merits and drawbacks for reading paper books vs. using digital devices. We even talked about how marketing messages on paper vs. digital can have differing persuasive powers.
I made the case that there were different situations and individuals for which paper might be the right choice, and others where a digital solution could be better. And there were definitely indications that a hybrid system might be best.
Today, in a continuation of that Keeping You Organized podcast discussion, we continue that chat and explore two of the productivity tools that engender the most debate on the paper vs. digital landscape: calendars and task lists.
Calendars — We discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of paper vs. digital calendars, and delve into portability, syncing, visualization, creativity vs. linearity, and personalization. We also got into how comprehension of the passage of time (whether via analog or digital clocks, or using paper vs. digital calendars) can impact how we live our lives.
To Do and Task Lists — With a plethora of to do and task apps out there, some people are overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of options and choose the analog paper list every time, while others live and die by the task app. John and I talk about my hybrid approach to task tracking, and why using your calendar as a task or to do list is really fraught. And because productivity is all about priorities, we had to talk about the role prioritization plays in getting things done, whether you’re jotting those priorities on a sticky note or accessing them from the cloud.
Jump right in:
Remember, you can also watch (or download the audio only, if you prefer an auditory podcast experience) right at Smead’s page for Part 2 of our chat.
And, if you like what you hear, be sure to check out the other discussions John and I have had about organizing, and listen to what my great colleagues in professional organizing and productivity have had to say. Just pop over to the stellar Keeping You Organized podcast archive page.
Finally, once you’ve listened to parts 1 and 2 of our Paper vs. Digital podcast discussions, share your thoughts in the comments sections of either or both posts. What are your thoughts and preferences:
- Do you have app overload, or do you enjoy exploring tech solutions for organizing?
- Ebooks or dead trees — how do you like to read?
- Notetaking — would you rather grab a pen and pad, or put your notes into something like Evernote? Does it differ whether you’re taking notes for academic work vs. meetings?
- Paper planners or digital calendars: where do your appointments live?
- Task lists: sticky note/paper pad or task app?
Recently, I sat down again with John Hunt for Smead‘s excellent video podcast series, Keeping You Organized. We wanted to get to the heart of that question, “Which is better, paper or digital organizing?” But as we got into it, I was able to explain my view, that it’s really a false dichotomy.
There are so many things we have to organize — our academic notes and research, our to do lists, our appointments, our thoughts — in order to keep our heads afloat. Even the fun things in our lives, like the books we read, can be overwhelming if we don’t have a way to organize the collections so we can enjoy and remember what we’ve read. And would you believe certain marketing messages — which impact our pocketbooks and those little green pieces of paper — can have a greater or lesser effect depending on whether they come on the page or the screen?
Sometimes, the decision over whether to go paper vs. digital is aesthetic — we like the feel of paper, or the glossy nature of a screen. But I’ve found that emotions play the largest role in how we choose a platform.
The problem we professional organizers often see is that people have anxiety around this whole issue of paper vs. digital. Some people feel anxious about not moving their whole lives to the cloud — digital task lists, calendars, ebooks, phone books — they’re afraid they will seem out of touch if they don’t eschew paper and embrace everything digital. Meanwhile, just as there is a backlash against modernity with hipsters and music purists preferring vinyl, there are those who will only relinquish their Moleskines when you pry them from their cold, dead hands. But it doesn’t have to be like this!
In my discussion with John, we talk about all the different situations, and the different types of learning styles and personality types, for which organizing by paper, or digitally, or through a combination of the two, might work best.
Take a look:
If you visit the source, you can watch us right at Smead’s Keeping You Organized podcast page or download the show as an audio podcast to listen while walk or work. While you’re there, peruse other episodes in the multi-year series, including some with me, your Paper Doll:
Finally, John and I had SO MUCH to discuss (because when does Paper Doll ever run out of words?) that there’s a second whole video podcast on the way, where we continue the conversation. How’s that for organizing a holiday gift for you readers and viewers?
A few years ago, we discussed how Social Security replaced the annual paper statements (for individuals under age 60) with an online system called My Social Security, and I explained the steps for registering for an account. (Officially, it appears everywhere as “my Social Security,” complete with the italicized, lowercase “my” and color-coding, which Paper Doll finds frustrating and will not emulate, but let’s stay on point.)
In step #8 of the Paper Doll’s 16 Ways to Organize Your Money in 2016, I reminded you of the importance of registering for your My Social Security account.
My Social Security is similar to your IRA, 401(K), and other retirement-related websites, in that it provides essential information for planning your retirement. At the website, you can see your estimated benefits if you were to retire early (at age 62), at your full retirement age (for Paper Doll, that’s 67) or later, at age 70. You also have the opportunity to view your complete earnings record (and taxes paid for both Social Security and Medicare purposes), back to the first time you filed your taxes. For example, my record begins in 1984.
In addition to providing comforting figures (or spurring you to improve your retirement-related investment habits), the My Social Security online account gives you other opportunities. You can:
- Provide eligibility proof (for yourself or your family) that you have qualified to receive Medicare, disability, retirement, or related benefits.
- Identify under-reporting errors, generally caused when an employer neglects to provide an accurate 1099 to the IRS.
- Identify over-reporting errors, which most often happens when you’re a victim of identity theft. If someone fraudulently uses your Social Security number when applying for a job (which they would be unable to get under their own name and number), that income can be erroneously applied to your Social Security record.
Starting this month, as the result of an executive order for all federal agencies to provide more secure authentication for their online services, the Social Security Administration is creating an additional level of security to protect users’ privacy. Social Security, like other agencies that that provides online access to its customer’s personal information, will be using multi-factor authentication. That’s a fancy way of saying Social Security will be using more than one method to make sure you are really you.
It also means that you’ll have to do a little more to prove that you are you. Annoying? Well, wouldn’t it be more annoying to have someone fraudulently log into your Social Security account?
Effective immediately, when you sign into your Social Security account at ssa.gov/myaccount, you will still use your username and password, as always. However, the site will then ask you to add your text-enabled cell phone number. From then on, every time you log into your Social Security account, the system will text you a one-time security code you will then enter on-screen before you can successfully complete your log-in.
So, if you already have a My Social Security account, you can go test it out:
Step 1: Sign in with your username and password. (Remember, Social Security makes you change your password every 6 months, so be prepared to make note of your new password somewhere secure, like your password notebook or password app, and not on a sticky note next to the computer!)
Step 2: Get a text message from Social Security. It won’t say it’s coming from Social Security — there will just be a phone number and a one-time security code.
Step 3: Submit the security code by entering the code from the text into the field on the screen and hit “submit.”
That’s it! Because I had my phone next to the computer, the whole process took about six seconds. If you have to go hunting around your home or office for your phone, it might take a few extra minutes. Still, pretty easy for helping protect your data, eh?
There are some potential downsides to this plan, of course.
You have to have a text-enabled cell phone. If your first reaction is, “That’s silly. EVERYONE has texting!” then you’re probably younger, have some form of disposable income, and are used to texting. But not everyone has texting. Until mere months ago, Paper Doll enjoyed the gentle chiding of colleagues over this very issue.
Yes, it’s true, I had a flip phone and a 2000-era legacy account for 300 minutes for $30/month. I didn’t text because it’s nearly impossible to text out on a dumb-phone, and I froze texting on my plan so I wouldn’t be charged for incoming spam calls and wrong numbers. However, because texting has “almost zero marginal cost” for service providers, the advent of unlimited talk-and-texting plans means that upwards of 88% of Americans have access to unlimited texting.
If you don’t have an unlimited plan, your cell phone provider’s text message (and possibly data) rates may apply.
You have to be willing to provide your cell phone number to the Social Security Administration. But y’know, they have your address, they have access to all your tax returns, and they know how much money you make and will get back. Unlike your favorite coffee bar or fast food place, they probably won’t be tempted to sell your cell phone number to other marketers. I can’t be certain, but I think your cell phone number is pretty safe with Social Security.
So, from now on, if you want to be able to log into your account, you’ll have to be willing to adhere to two-factor/multi-factor authentication, and not only know your user name and password (which, again, Social Security makes you change every six months), but you’ll have to have your cell phone nearby so that when you log in, you can pause for a few seconds and type in that special code.
If you don’t have a text-enabled cell phone [note: it doesn’t have to be a smart phone] or you don’t want to give up your digits, you won’t be able to access your Social Security account. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck — you’ll just have to contact Social Security “Old School” by phone, US Mail, in person, or by email.
Multi-factor authentication isn’t the wave of the future; it’s the wave of the present. My bank just upgraded its online app, and I went through the same process to prove my identity. The bank also gave me the option of using my thumb or fingerprint to log into my account. I have no doubt that future options will include voice authentication or retinal scans — perhaps psychic readings, someday! The point is, the safer your information is, the safer your financial future is, and isn’t that a goal of a more organized life?