Last week, I said I was going to start using a planner and a budget. I thought I’d give an update on how well it has gone… Partly to let you, my faithful readers, have something to read, but mostly to keep myself using these tools. First, the budget. I know a lot of people do just fine without budgets. Some of those people have fewer expenses than me (my childless friends, for example). Some make more money than I do. Perhaps the rest only deal in cash. In any case, and I have had many long discussions about finances. We had “budgeted” our money several times. We were very comfortable with the numbers. And it never worked. My current thinking is that I need a tool to help me see where the money is a few weeks into the future at a time. This way, I don’t feel flush and forget that I have bills to pay. (I’m very forgetful that way.) So, a week ago, I used GnuCash to set up a budget with scheduled payments for known expenses. I set it up put entries in the ledger a month ahead of time so I know a month in advance how much money I have when. Then, I set up funds. Some expenses (like dentist’s visits or car repairs) are sizable, but I should still save a little each month for them. So, I set up sub-accounts in my main checking account. Each paycheck, GnuCash automatically moves a bit of my paycheck into each of these sub-accounts. In reality, the money is still in the checking account, but when I look at my ledger for the checking account in GnuCash, it is hidden from me, so I don’t spend it. This is kind of like cashing your paycheck and putting different amounts of money in various envelopes. When the money in the envelope is gone, you can’t spend any more on that item. So far, this has worked out pretty well. Still it has only been a week. I’ll let you know in a month how well it has gone. The other bit of organisation I added was planner-el. I even read a bit of the manual! The biggest change so far (besides using a planner in the first place to create and schedule tasks as well as measure how long I spend on them) has been using another Emacs package that works with planner-el: RememberMode. In the past, whenever I read something in my email, I would mark it as important and, every time I opened my email, there it would be, staring at me (my email reader only shows me unread messages and those marked as important). The only time I did anything with these was when I was feeling bored and wanted to get rid of some of the visual garbage. That is to say, I didn’t do much with it very often. In fact, most of the time, I would mark a message, ignore it for a while, and then unmark it without doing anything. In an effort to clear my own mind, I went back through those messages, read through them and, using RememberMode and planner-el, created planner pages with links to the messages. This cleaned up a lot of mental detritus and helped me to organise those things into tasks. Another nifty way I’ve used RememberMode is to keep track of items I want to buy. The other day on IRC, there was a discussion about slimline DVD writers … something I’m looking to buy shortly. I used RememberMode to mark the webpage and make a note of it on my shopping list. Now, most people will read through this description and shake their head. “Why don’t you just use little scraps of paper?” Well, my handwriting is terrible and, not only that, I write slowly. I type slowly, too, but I live in Emacs and all this functionality is just a few keystrokes away no matter what I’m doing. I spend most of my day looking at this screen and I can’t see a good reason not to use it. Still, planner-el (along with RemindMode) works just like any Franklin Covey or GTD planner. It can adapt to whatever method you want to use and make things easier. Oh, and I lied. While I have used it to set up tasks for myself each day, I haven’t really spent that much time scheduling those tasks or keeping track of how much time I spend on them. But after reading enough planner books in the past and then coming across the same advise in a “staying focused at work” post (that I read while not focusing on work), I decided to give it a try. So, tonight I’ve set up some tasks for myself to get done tomorrow and I’ve scheduled them out. I’ll let you know how it goes.