Planning to Succeed in the New Year

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by Jamie Hughes |

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Now that 2016 is thankfully behind us, it’s time to start a new year — fresh, rested, and ready to kick butt and chew bubble gum. That being said, rest in peace David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glen Frey, Prince, Nancy Reagan, George Kennedy, Gary Shandling, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson, Patty Duke, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, and hundreds more besides. Between losing all these people and living through the 2016 political season, I feel like we all earned a merit badge …or at least a donut.

The most common New Year’s resolution is, of course, losing weight. But just behind the No. 1 resolution is one of my all-time favorite things to do —“get organized.” My family, friends, and co-workers will tell you that I love anything to do with filing, collating, and storing. I have color-coded file folders, labeled containers, and storage systems for everything: from my kids’ stuffed animals and artwork, to my husband’s woodworking tools. To me, there is nothing better than making sure everything is tidy and easy to find.

As a working mother of two, a wife, and a full-time writer/editor who also takes side work, it is essential for me to keep a tidy calendar. Having multiple sclerosis makes this even more essential, because a planner not only helps me keep my head screwed on straight, it also reduces my overall stress level, helps me deal with brain fog and gives me a way to be in control of the thousand and one things that life throws my way. Quite honestly, it’s empowering.

There are many cool personalized and adaptable planners out there, and I encourage you to look around and find the one that works best for you. I have had good luck with The Happy Planner from me & my big ideas, and with the LifePlanner from Erin Condren. (FYI: Hobby Lobby and Michael’s both sell the Happy Planner line, and you can use coupons to save 40% on your planner, which knocks the price point down considerably.)

The nice thing about these is that they are fully customizable. You can take sections out and put new ones in very easily, so as the seasons change or your organizational needs evolve, you can adjust rather than start from scratch. Also, there are tons of accessories you can use to keep photos, inspirational quotes, or other good reminders close at hand. I have things like my favorite scriptures and kids’ photos (which I can’t show you sadly because they’re still in foster care. Hopefully, the adoption process will be complete in the spring.)

The pockets are also handy for keeping paperwork together for doctor’s visits, or to make sure nothing gets lost. If I ever have something to scan, for instance, I just tuck it in there and keep it with me until I can get to a computer. No need to dig in a bag!

Each planner is different, but all have monthly and weekly views. I put all my doctor visits, school projects, work trips, birthdays, and reminders on the monthly pages, and then transfer them to the weekly pages each Sunday afternoon. That keeps me in the planner each day and limits the amount of information I have to look at.


The monthly view can get a little overwhelming, but when you break things down by the week (and then by morning, afternoon, evening … notice the three sections each day?), it’s much more manageable. Honestly, even with brain fog or fatigue, I don’t forget things very often. Instead, I write everything down and let the planner do the remembering for me. There’s a color-coded system for events (blue for family, purple for medical, red for school, and so on.) Also, I keep track of when to give myself shots by using dots (on M/W/F). There is ample space each week for to do lists and reminders, and with all the fun stickers they sell, it’s easy to keep yourself organized and bright!

There are sections I’ve created for myself, too. One is the weekly to-do list. I divide mine in half (top is for work and bottom is for home). That keeps me organized and on top of errands and tasks. I use graph paper, stickers, and washi tape to create a page each Sunday and start the week off right. I add to it as the week goes on and check off each task when it’s finished. Talk about rewarding!

I can’t be all work and no play, so I also keep blank journal pages in my planner. That way, if I have an idea for an article or blog, I can jot it down to come back to later. This one is blank and ready to go for 2017. This could also be useful for questions you think of for your doctor or pharmacist, so you can have them ready for your next appointment.

And this last section has been a godsend for me … an honest-to-goodness meal planner! This is part of an extension pack you can buy, and it also contains a section for budgeting, house cleaning, and to-do lists. I use this to plan my family’s dinners each week. I write down what I’m going to cook each night on the left, write out the ingredients I need on the right (in their own sections, no less), and then take the entire planner to the grocery store. Nothing gets forgotten, so I don’t have to waste another second thinking about it. I get home at night, look up what I am going to cook, get the ingredients I purchased, and before you know it, dinner is served.

Life with multiple sclerosis can be a challenge, but a little time and a planner to help you keep track of it all really makes a difference. Here’s to a happy — and well-organized — 2017!

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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