Thursday, June 29, 2017


A zibaldone much older than mine.

Not even sure how to label this one.

I've tried all sorts of organizational tools in my lifetime--planners and notetaking systems and project trackers of a variety of styles and designs--paper, web-based, apps, you name it. I've never found one that really and truly and completely works with all the parts together in one place--monthly, weekly and daily schedules, to-do lists, worship planning helps, journaling,prayer lists and contact information all in one--oh, and commonplace booklinks between them. It probably can't exist.

I've managed to create a system, though, that works for me, and actually, it is better this way. My journaling and prayer lists remain private because they are separate--so no one but me sees those prayer needs (mine or anyone else's) or my less-than-elegant attempts at poetry. I can actually carry it (my last stab at combining as much of this as I could ended up weighing more than my laptop--and was not available as an app for said laptop, or for its replacement tablet).

The catalyst for my epiphany was an article on a renaissance book called a "zibaldone," or commonplace book. These were carried about by renaissance writers and artists who used them to record, well, pretty much everything. Journals, yes, but also their expenses, the names of new people they met, the details of a deal they'd struck, a drawing of a architectural detail they liked, a flower that struck them, poetry, notes from a meeting, a sermon--anything they wanted to record. They were the smartphones of their day, without the separate Pinterest, cameras, Evernote, recorders, and spreadsheet apps. Always available, never need charging, can't get lost in the cloud... I started using one (I like Moleskine, but I just like their size and price and feel). I put everything in there--my journaling, notes from team and Board meetings, from community group meetings, from phone calls, anything I am likely to want to remember. Bonus--I can index them! I can write a word or phrase in the blank space at the top of the page to remind myself what I'm talking about on that page: "Food closet;" "Pentecost planning,"Worship team meeting," "Bonnie," and so on.

And then I found Moleskine's 18-month weekly datebooks. I've used daily planners for years and years--one side for appointments and to-dos, the other for notes and planning. It worked for a long time, until life started getting more complicated. As a full-time pastor, I am juggling way more projects and needs and things than ever before. I was continually transferring things from day to day to day. Even when I tried assigning tasks to days within the week (task A to Tuesday, task B to Wednesday, etc.) invariably task A did not get done, or not completely, and had to be moved to Wednesday, and then something came up and then of course I had tasks C, D, and E...all of which had to fit in Wednesday and Thursday...). But the weekly worked great--the days of the week on the left-hand page with their appointments and meetings, the right-hand page blank ruled for that to-do list. I rarely have more than two or three appointments in  a day, and there's plenty of room for that.

So. My zibaldone for journaling and notes, the datebook for planning (I do keep the dates in my phone, too--it's an extra step, but I do always have my phone with me, even when I am not "at work"), a prayer app for keeping track of prayers (so I can record prayer requests on the run and not only pray then but include it in my daily prayers and also
in the prayers of the people on Sundays), and contacts in my phone (which does link with the calendar in my phone).

Worship planning... well, I have several calendars in my phone which let me know Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Sikh, Jain and Hindu holidays. But that's not really something, I have discovered, that I can do in a planner or journal anyway. It's more of a "need to be aware of when setting dates" than anything else. Worship planning takes place over weeks, not days or hours; it's not something you really need in a planner, except to note the holidays/observances and make time for thinking about/working with the planning team.

Anyway, this system has been working for me for about four-five months, and I think it is going to stick. It has worked well with a seminar, with travel, with planning I am currently doing for a big capitol fundraiser for the church.

A journal/zabaldone, a datebook, a smartphone. Oh, and they all fit in my bag without hurting my shoulder too. Bonus!

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