I recently discovered the Productive Flourishing website by Charlie Gilkey. As I've said before, I do live under a rock so if everyone else already knows about Charlie's website, please forgive me! But if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go check it out.
Charlie is a productivity guru who also, hang onto yourselves, designs planners! And these aren't just any planners: they are designed to foster maximum productivity for out-of-the-box type people. His planners are designed for people who are freelancers, creatives, and other types of people who work to task rather than to time.
Most planners that I've seen are time-based, meaning the planner gives you the times which the user then fills in with tasks and appointments.
Charlie's planners are different. They are marvelous at getting you to think of your goals/ projects/ big picture, then help you figure out what you need to do in order to achieve or complete those.
He sums it up so well on his website: "You don’t need a system that helps you watch the clock. You need a system that helps you get your stuff done in the time that you have." Man, you can say that again.
I have to admit it took me a couple of days to get my head around these planners because they are like nothing I've seen before. They come from a different angle than traditional planners.
You can get some of these planners for free each month on his Free Planners page. Or, you can buy (for an extremely tiny price for the great planners you get) his complete Premium Planners for the entire year.
There are several different planners to choose from based on your needs, and they are designed to work (beautifully) together or individually:
The Annual Strategic Planner gets you thinking about what you want to accomplish this year and to break it down by monthly benchmarks. Similarly, the Quarterly Objective Planner helps you figure out what needs to be done each quarter to work toward your annual goals. Both of these planners come in the Premium Planner packs.
Each month has a Monthly Action Planner that helps you define your objectives for the month and plan around scheduled events.
There are two types of weekly planner: the Freelancer Workweek and the Weekly Action Planner. You can use them together or individually, depending on your needs.
The Freelancer Workweek lets you see the big picture of your week, all your projects and deadlines. It also helps you get a handle on how much you need to work on each project during the week. It's designed especially for people who need to track billable hours on multiple projects, so if you need to do that then definitely take a look at it.
The Weekly Action Planner is a place where you can capture all of those random tasks that you need to accomplish during the week, then helps you decide when you can get them done.
I think the Daily Action Planner (scroll to pg 2 after you click through) is my favorite. It helps you learn how much you can (or can't) accomplish in one day. But best of all it helps you focus on that day's goals and projects and keeps you from getting sidetracked (which I do all too easily). Each day's page allows you to keep in mind that day's goals/ projects, what tasks you need to do to fulfill them, and when you're going to do it. It even has a space to isolate those unplanned tasks that come up during the day (that are often urgent). Genius. The Daily Action Planners come in the Premium Action Planners pack along with the Weekly, Quarterly and Annual planners.
A technique that the Weekly and Daily Action Planners use is called Heatmapping. Basically you figure out what times of the day, and what days of the week, you are at your most productive and/ or creative. For example, I do my best work from 8:30-10:30 am, so I should schedule my writing during those times. If I tried to compose a blog post at, say, 2pm it would be sheer drudgery because that's my sleepy time.
Speaking of blogs, another wonderful planner he has is the Blog Post Planner and Calendar. The Planner is great for helping you break down your blog ideas by type, so that you have a variety of categories of blog posts throughout the month. And the Calendar lets you schedule those so you can see if you have too many of the same type in one stretch of time. It's great for helping you balance your content and avoid over-scheduling (or the opposite, too-long gaps) in your blogging.
As with any planner system, these have some pitfalls to watch out for. Often (as with most things in life) the good things and the pitfalls are two sides of the same coin:
The Coin: There are so many planner types with views from annual down to quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily.
Heads: This system helps you think about your main goals/ projects for the year, then funnels your energy all the way down to what you need to do TODAY to work toward it.
Tails: So many layers of planning can get overwhelming and redundant if you use more than you need.
Solution: Play with the planners for awhile to see what you need. Maybe you only need a Monthly planner and Daily planners. Maybe Annual, Quarterly and Weekly will do the job for you. Maybe you will benefit from using all the planners together. You decide. Which brings me to:
The Coin: This planner system is very personalize-able.
Heads: You make it what you need it to be. A certain box on the page doesn't fit your needs? No big whoop. Adapt it to whatever you need it to be. Or ignore it. It's all up to you.
Tails: People (or maybe just "I" but I think people in general) have a tendency to make personalized systems overly complicated.
Solution: Take a deep breath, and think about what you really need to see on your page and what is extraneous.
Because these planners are so flexible and can bend themselves to many different uses, give yourself some time to play with them and decide how they can best work for you. And the best part is, maybe you need to use them one way this week/month/ quarter, and a different way the next. You can do that easily.
Charlie's website has a ton of content on productivity, time management (more like sanity management for some of us!) and loads of great advice. When you have time you should look around and get some inspiration.
And coming soon: an interview with Charlie himself! Stay tuned!