To chronicle my planner sickness, I have decided to detail my epic search for my Perfect Planner. My sister deserves a round of applause and a cookie for putting up with my planner insanity for years, and reading in painstaking detail billions of emails full of my angst in choosing and using planners. In 2009 alone I have used 13 different planner formats/ brands. Yes, this is sick. Allow me to explain.
1) When 2009 began, I was using my Filofax A5 Finsbury binder with the horizontal week to view planner format. In 2008 I had switched from the Personal size Filofax planner to the A5 size to have more room to write. But, the A5 book was too big for me to carry around, especially while traveling.
2) So I switched to an A5 bound day per page book. Where I live, most people use this type of book and I am fascinated by what they write in it. Meeting notes, phone numbers, directions, everything gets jotted onto that day's page. I love the idea of having such a detailed record of my day to day life. But, the hard bound A5 book was also too heavy for my liking.
3) So I ordered up a Time Traveler day per page book. I used one of these for all of 2005, which was a year when I had very little that I needed to plan, but a lot to record. I think that was the first year I can remember in more than a decade that I used the same planner every day for the entire year. I really liked it at the time, but the binding was very flimsy and started to fall apart before the year was even finished. And this was a book that didn't go in my bag much, just opening and closing it each day did it in. But, it has spectacular full-color maps, which I love, so I got another one for this year. I used it for about a month and had to abandon it because the day per page format didn't allow me to plan ahead. I have to see a week view.
4) At the same time I ordered the daily Time Minder, I also ordered an Exacompta Daily Pocket planner. On the website where I ordered the Time Minder I wasn't absolutely certain that the planner was daily and not weekly. So I ordered the Daily Pocket as a backup. I used an Exacompta Daily Pocket for some of 2001 and liked it at the time. When the Time Minder turned out to be a daily for real, the Daily Pocket became sort of redundant. Except not really. Because even after I abandoned the Time Minder entirely, I continued to use the Daily Pocket on those really busy days when my head was swimming with tiny details. The book really is small enough to fit in my pocket, so I can carry it around everywhere I go to jot down those little details before they escape me.
5) When I finally came to terms with the fact that I have to have a week view, I ordered up an Exacompta Visual weekly planner. Big plusses: the week view with the days as columns is very organized; the monthly calendars at the beginning of the book are extremely useful; the book is a portable size and the paper is scrumptious. But, after only about a month it just wasn't working for me because the tasks boxes on the weekly page are too tiny to contain all of my weekly tasks.
6) Because the Visual didn't have enough space for lists each week, I busted into my full size Uncalendar Lifestyle planner. Uncalendars are undated so you can start any time, and they have a motivational approach to goal setting that I really like. Uncalendar's website says things like, "Have your eye on a goal? Uncalendar will take you to it!" (Be sure to check out The Training Room on their website, it has lots of time management and goal setting tips you can use with any planner system.) It has this feeling of understanding that you are motivationally challenged (at least I am) and the planner promises to carry you along to help you reach whatever goal you want. It sounds really great, and I have used Uncalendars a few times in the past. But this time I decided that the full-size book is too big. I have tried their half-size planner in the past and didn't care for the format, so I found myself searching yet again for a different planner.
7) and 8) My sister uses a large Moleskine 18 month weekly notebook planner, and convinced me that I should get one. Problem was, it was only spring, and the 18 month didn't come out for a few months yet. I could have gotten a 12 month weekly notebook but they only come in soft cover or red hard cover, both of which I hate. I have to have the black hard cover, nothing else. So while I was waiting for my 18 month to arrive, I hacked a large Moleskine sketchbook that was lying around unused to make my own. I used my hacked planner, which worked pretty well for me, all the way until my Mole arrived. Then I went on a trip.
9) On my trip I took my Mole planner (which was in its very first week, beginning of July) and my trusty Filofax. I had wisely put the Filofax week view planner pages corresponding to the weeks I would be on my trip into my Filo, for whatever reason. While on the trip I found myself using my Filo instead of the Mole, and remembered all the reasons why I had fallen in love with Filofax in the first place. Mind you, I hadn't used a personal size Filo as my actual planner (only as an address/ reference book) since early 2008, and I abandoned it at that time for the A5 Filofax for more writing space. But while on vacation my Filo and I had a glorious reunion.
10) So after I got back home I was determined to use my Filo as my planner. And I quickly realized all the reasons why I stopped using it in the first place. So to try to make it more useful I started using the week + notes format, because I don't have many scheduled appointments but I do have a lot of tasks each week. While I was using this format (which wasn't working out all that well for lack of space each day) I discovered:
11) the Filofax Family Organizer (which is available in the personal size in the UK but not US, so I ordered it off the UK website). The Family Organizer is a great idea, with loads of forms to fill out for family information, reference, scheduling etc. The weekly pages have little boxes for each member of the family for each day. This would be great as a supplement to my own calendar, to see where each person has to be each day. But it was far too tiny to use as my main calendar.
**Mind you, each time I tried one of these and it failed, I went back to my Moleskine 18 month planner (which by now was in full swing) and back-filled all the things I had written each week. So at least if I had to look up something I'd done (which I have to do often because I have a terrible memory), I didn't have to search through a million different books to find it. This Mole size and format works pretty well for me with the entire page each week for lists and notes. But those tiny spaces for the weekend days are an ongoing problem. After each planner failure, I used my Mole for a few weeks until the next planner caught my eye.
12) Recently I received as a gift my "Dream Filofax," the personal size Deco in Ivory. It. Is. Gorgeous. I mean, it's crazy-beautiful. When I got it I was determined to figure out a way to make it work for me as my planner, small page size be damned! The Deco came with the Filofax Cotton Cream Week on 2 Pages (which is so classy looking it requires capital letters). I used this format for awhile back in 2004 and it worked okay, despite not having tons of space for my weekly lists. This time I used it for a couple of weeks and realized that I wasn't getting anything done. I had to put some of my lists behind tabs in other sections of my Filofax, and in general it just wasn't a large enough page size for me to see everything at once. So my Deco is now my main reference book, and back to my Mole I went.
13) Next week my new Quo Vadis Minister begins. I will test drive it for the week because I am very curious to see how it works. But I will hold off on actually transferring everything over into it until January, because we are traveling over the holidays and I need to be able to reference all the info I have written in my Mole from my last trip (back at the beginning of its use in July). So Mole will go with me on my trip, and then in January I will re-evaluate: will I stick with my Mole (which, as an 18 month goes all the way through the end of 2010), or switch to the Minister?
In general, my Moleskine works pretty well for me. I like having one page for scheduled items and the other page open for lists and notes. It's a great combination of a portable size book and a large enough page size. Yes those weekend day spaces are annoyingly small, but I can write on the notes page to make up for it. It works well for me most of the time. And yet, I feel compelled to give the Minister a shot. It is much more structured and organized than the Mole, with more room to write each day. Even though my Mole is working for me just fine, I can't help but wonder, could the Minister be my Perfect Planner? I won't know until I try.
To be continued...