Now’s a great time to think about a new planner for the coming year. This week we look at some things to consider in choosing (and using) a planner.
A few thoughts about choosing–and using–a planner
If you are struggling to get through your to-do list, maybe you need a planner! As we wrap up this year and go into the new one, I thought it would be a great time to talk about planners – some things to consider as you’re choosing one, and how to make the most of it.
What is a planner?
At its most basic, a planner is a resource/tool used to manage appointments and tasks. You can also use it to capture goals, journal memories, and plan projects. You all know I love my digital tools, but in this episode, we are talking mostly about paper planners.
What purpose does it serve? What can it do for you?
A planner is a place to capture information and ideas, to get it out of your head and onto paper.
What can’t it do?
It can’t identify what’s important to you.
It can’t take action for you.
It only reflects back to you what you put into it.
To achieve results, you have to find or create motivation to act (For previous episodes on the topic of Motivation, check out Ep.40, Ep.179, and Ep. 227)
But the planner can be a place where you create a road map and an action plan
What to consider when choosing a planner
- What do you need to manage – Tasks? Activities? Appointments? Ideas? Memories?
- Do you need portability or space for detail?
- Big-picture view (such as a month at a glance)
- Detailed planning (a week or day at a glance)
To be useful, it has to be…
- Functional (so it can do what you need it to do)
- The right amount of space
- The right layout
- Portable if needed
- Appealing (so you’ll actually use it)
In considering the options, ask yourself: do you want maximum flexibility (e.g., a blank notebook you can format and design to your own taste and purpose) or maximum guidance (dated, formatted pages and sections for specific purposes)?
Formats and types and sources
- There is a huge variety at Half Priced Books!
- Bound, 3-ring, disc-bound
- Pre-made, self-made
- Dated, undated
Tips for using it well
- Be consistent – develop the habit of writing everything in your planner
- Be persistent – choose one and stick with it for at least 6 months
- Be realistic – recognize what you can accomplish in a day/week/month and don’t try to overdo it. Don’t try to fill every minute. We all need breaks and downtime.
- When you plan, include time for things that feed and nurture you.
- Spa day
- Lunch with a friend
- Tea and a good book
- Sometimes a hybrid system works best. A digital calendar can ping you in time to prepare for an event
Planner utilization ideas from the TPW Facebook community
- Consider layout, size, and portability. Think about whether you want a structured or unstructured layout. Draw out the layout you need or want.
- Put all appointments immediately into a digital calendar, and move them into paper planners as you plan your week.
- Use colored pens to color-code each area of your personal life and/or business. Coordinate colors on your digital calendar.
- Use washi tape to decorate or mark important days or days off
- Use post-it flags as page-markers.
- Know how much things take to do, and know how much time you have in the day or week to be productive.
- Put recurring tasks digital planners and write out to-do lists in a note-book instead of carrying a planner.
- Designate separate digital calendars for different areas of your life. For example, use Google cal for bills to pay, and BusyCal for work schedule and appointments.
- Watch planner unboxing and flip-through videos on Youtube for inspiration.
- Design and print or draw your own layouts.
Planners that TPW community members chose:
- Leaders In Heels Planner
- Living Well, Spending Less Planner
- Bloom Planner
- Plum Paper Planner
- Franklin Covey Binders
- Archer and Olive
- Leuchtturm or Moleskine notebooks for Bullet Journaling
- Agendio Planners
Thank you to the TPW Community for contributing great ideas to this conversation: Cara J., Cristy H., Kim R., Maryann K., Kelly M., Elizabeth N., Christine H., Elizabeth C., Maggie S., and Jennie L.
My personal planning system
- Master Task List: Omnifocus
- Digital Calendar
- Bullet Journal – I draw a weekly spread each Sunday and use different colored markers. I draw two-page spread that has a block for each day of the week, and a small section or to-dos, and a small section or items I want to remember for the coming week.
Thoughts on the planners I have bought
Of the three I looked at, this was the least structured. Most like a bullet journal, but with a section for a line per day journal, and perforated habit trackers at the end that can be taken out and posted in a visible location. Elastic band to keep it closed, 2 ribbon page markers. Pocket in the back. A small section with guidance on ways to use the journal.
More structured, but undated. You can start any time you want. Planner with various sections, including month at a glance, weekly plan, daily pages with space for your big 3 tasks for the day, appointments and time blocks, other tasks, and notes; pocket in the back, elastic band to keep it closed; 2 ribbon page markers
Not as portable – 8.5×11 spiral bound with sturdy rigid covers and an elastic band to keep it closed. A great desk planner with tons of space for planning. Starts with pages to guide a review of last year, then planning pages for the coming year, focusing on your values and priorities. It guides you to set goals for the year, then break them down into quarterly targets, and provides a place to block out time for your ideal week. This one is dated, with monthly/weekly/daily views. It was designed for writers, but any creative could use most of it, and it takes a holistic view of life.
- Susan is a best-selling author and was a guest on the podcast in episode 181.
There is no one right planner that will magically change your life; Any planner can work if you use it consistently.
It’s a tool; make it work for you, rather than accommodating a format because somebody else says it’s awesome or it’s designed or recommended by someone you admire
Planning is important – be thoughtful and intentional about how you use your time. But planning is not doing. It’s easy to use planning to procrastinate, trying to have the perfect planner and the perfect plan before we begin. If we want results, we have to take action. Choose a tool, use it to get the outlines of a plan, and then start. We can adjust the plan as we go.
What do you think?
Do you use a planner? What do you like about it? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
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Hope Halperin says
I enjoyed this episode a great deal. All the episodes are great.
Regarding planners, I just went back to using a paper planner again. I will still use a calendar such as iCalendar for appointments, and important dates because of the alarm feature. I also find I prefer to use paper and pen to get my thoughts out.
Another thought is to scan what is important into Evernote because it is searchable and that is a great feature to be able to continue using.
Thank you for the kind words, Hope. I’m glad you enjoyed the episode. I agree that Evernote is a great place to store important materials that you’ll want to reference again. Is there a particular paper planner you’re using that you recommend?
Hope Halperin says
I am so sorry that it took so long to reply to you. I just saw this while glancing at show notes. I am currently using The Simplified Daily Planner. I like using it, although I’ve only been using it since August . I had bought a weekly planner from Inkwell Press and found I didn’t like using it. I didn’t enjoy the format (but fortunately I never bought the binder). Mine is an academic, but that is only because I could not wait till January for a planner.
I am now writing bullet journal style which is easier to read. But I think I would still be inclined to scan some of the information into Evernote so I am not carrying around the notes that will not fit into my planner.
Laura L. McClellan says
Thanks for sharing that, Hope. I’m glad to hear you’ve found a system that’s working for you.