How Do You Plan?

Due to an insanely busy week which involved me reading large chunks of Systematic Theology, going to DC, and joining a secret club of ninjas, I no longer have any brains left for blogging. So today I want to for your help.

Here’s what I want to know. Recently I’ve been trying to grow in planning. I want to learn to diligently plan my days and weeks so that I can more effectively serve my family. In essence, I want to learn to organize my life more efficiently. My question for you is: how do you organize?

What tools and strategies do you use to organize your weeks, and your finances, and your fellowship, and your spiritual disciplines? How do you attack the week before it attacks you? Please help me out here. Point me to some good strategies, tools, articles, etc.

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I’m married to Jen, and I have three kids. I know a lot about Star Wars, and I live in a van down by the river. I’ve also written a number of books, which people seem to like.


  1. says

    Well, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, but I do love to organize!

    I started using a budget this month. I’ve been using Pearbudget ( for that. It’s free for a 30-day trial, and then it’s only $3 a month after that. It’s easy to use, and I’ve saved so much money this month by being able to see where my money is going.

    I use Google Calendar to keep track of the rest of my life. I like it because you can have a bunch of different calendars on it at once (all color-coded) and then pick and choose which ones you want to view. I just wrote a post about it last week –

    Generally, I like to sit down on Saturday nights, look at my calendar, look at what bills are being paid and figure out if there’s anything I need to do before Monday. Sundays go by so quickly, and suddenly Monday is slapping me in the face.

    I hope some of this helped. I think it’s always really hard to try something new or get into a new routine, but once you get used to it, you wonder why it took you so long to try it. :)

    Have a blessed day!

  2. Stephen Altrogge says

    Thanks for that Chelsea. I’m just starting to use Google Calendar and I think I’m going to like it.

  3. ianmcn says

    I use google calendar for scheduling, and for to do lists and reminders. I can have my RTM todo list in the sidebar of my browser (where I do most of my work) and can see at a glance what I need to do today and for the next 5 days. Not only is this useful for upcoming tasks, but it’s also a very convenient way to add tasks that don’t need to be done immediately so they don’t get overlooked. Before I used RTM I would often just do these task straight away so they weren’t forgotten, but now I just need to add them and put as due date “2 weeks” or something like that – much quicker and the weight is off my mind!

    I would also check out, I came across this after RTM, and it looks like it might be better – but it would be too much hassle to convert now I have over 600 tasks tracked by RTM!

  4. says

    Regarding the spiritual disciplines in my life…I have marked out time each day. Same time, same place. Once in the early morning for Bible reading and prayer…just after lunch for intercessory prayer…later afternoon for Bible study prep…nightly with my husband before bed.

    The key has been letting everyone in my life know it. There are days each week when something will overlap one or another. But having others in your life know it means that they will work around it, too. It’s been the same for more than 10 years.

    Obviously, when my kids were younger, the times were much shorter. But they learned early that they can wait a few minutes while Mama prays. And I did most of my Bible reading out loud to them. I’ll give it up to help a friend, but not to fold laundry. Schedule it and you’ll do it.

  5. says

    Ian, another friend, and I are in process of planning a seminar on this to present to young singles at CLC.
    Finances: recomment
    Time: some internet calendar
    Email: inbox zero strategy
    Todos: remember the milk / “Getting Thigns Done”
    He’d be able to fill you in with a lot more detail!

  6. says


    The Background
    Married (wife works), 2 kids (one in HS and one with special needs), own a computer consulting firm, drive a school bus for the insurance (also a GREAT ministry) and 12 grade bible study leader, enrolled in seminary.

    The Technology
    We (wife, daughter, and I) use Outlook + Shareo to share our calendars. This lets us know each others schedules.

    Lisa and I bought used Palm Treos on Ebay a few years ago. They sync well with Outlook. Also, allow me to have multiple translations and resources on hand.

    Outlook is lacking on task management (and always has been). We tried Agendus on the palm and in outlook. Great concept, but unstable (locked up the Treo too often)

    Have tried a number of GTD apps. Thinking Rock, Bonsai.

    I am using Remember the Milk and enjoy it. Can SMS (via twitter) updates and entries. Web access from anywhere. Can access on the desktop using google gears.

  7. says

    I should say, that you can get nearly all this functionality (sans the treo sync) using the tools from Google. If you have your own domain, consider the Google Apps for Domains.

  8. J. says

    hmm..i feel sheepish b/c my life is embarrassingly simple compared to everyone else (single professional).

    some finance tips — quicken online just started offering its program for free. almost everyone i know says it’s the best resource for keeping track of finances.

    pay as many bills as possible online. decreases paper & automatically keeps things organized & searchable. is a fave site for financial organization tips & links to good resources.

    thanks to you & your father for a great blog! :)

  9. fredokie says

    Daytimer – pocket version – week at a glance and a pencil (schedules change). Don’t get the folio size -allows TMI. AND it never crashes!
    I know.. this is really THE old fashioned way but I used computers and spent more time keeping up with schedules and blocking time out that I lost out on the important things – face time with people. Quality time is not gained in front of a computer screen.

  10. fredokie says

    Oh yeah. forgot to write this in my Daytimer. Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey. We have been using his envelope system for many years now and it really you focus on what you are giving up in exchange for goods and services. Here again, old fashioned envelopes, but it works:) You will be amazed at how fast you can get out of debt using his methods.

  11. says

    I use Google calendar to plan for days in advance. The night before, I use a 3×5 card cut in thirds to plan specifics of the day.

    Nothing on the card is the same as the calendar. The calendar is generally reserved for things that involve other people, for example, meetings, conferences, parties, presentations, exams, etc., while the cards are reserved for planning personal tasks like homework, studying, blogging, reading.

    I’m not sure why the personal/social division has been so beneficial for me, but it has.

    Tip for using Google calendar (well, there’s a lot that can be done, but this advice is for simplicity): I don’t put anything on the calendar that doesn’t fit within one small box. In other words, I shouldn’t have to click through to see what all is on the menu for the day.

    Same goes for the 3×5 card, only I write with a highlighter to force myself to write larger and take up more space, which limits the amount I can put on my do to list.

    Sure, I could just limit myself to three things or something like that, but it’s not as fun. Try this one out, and let me know what you think.

    – Marshall

  12. says

    I organize my schedule on the New York City Public Library Student Planner. I like that one a lot.

    I organize my clothes in piles: Clean, not-so-smelly, and dirty.

    I organize my finances in two parts: Tithe and Tuition. But sometimes I cheat tuition so I can buy music.

    I don’t organize papers until they get about knee-deep on my floor. Then I’ll file them, dust the floor, and wait a few more years.

  13. says

    Stephen, I use an online calendar (I use Google but many options are available) to coordinate all my activities. This allows me to access it from home or church, and keeps my secretary up to date. I also keep a simple Word document that shows the “normal” tasks I need to accomplish on a given day to fit in with the flow of a “normal” week. The Army calls this “battle rhythm” and I find it quite helpful.

  14. says


    I have developed an extensive check list that I use at the office to make sure my ministry responsibilities are covered.

    I also use google calendar so that my entire staff can be on the same page.

  15. Stephen Altrogge says

    Hey everybody –

    Thanks for your helpful comments. This is an area I’m trying to grow in, so I really appreciate you giving me your insights into planning an productivity. I also appreciate you taking the time to comment. Please continue to do so!

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