Monday, May 19, 2014

When is it just too much?

Seven years ago I was struggling to use my Filofax as my everything-in-one planner and reference book. I was desperate for ideas on how to make it work.

Nobody I knew even used a planner, so I couldn't ask my friends. I searched the internet desperately for information and inspiration. This was back before Steve joined Philofaxy so posts there were few and far between (which didn't keep me from checking every day in hopes of new content that would bring me enlightenment). Quo Vadis Blog was one of the very few planner blogs I knew of, and I read it regularly. But that still didn't give me what I was searching for.

Not long after, Steve and I both were invited by Nan to join Philofaxy as regular contributing authors. Soon after that I started this blog as a further planner outlet. There were a few other planner blogs floating around the internet, some came and went.

Fast forward to now, when the internet seems to be flooded with Filofax blogs, videos, Facebook groups, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Everywhere you look you can find content showing how people set up their Filofaxes, how to print your own planner pages, decorating, use ideas, etc etc. If you are looking for planner advice now, it's easy to become overwhelmed.

I'm seeing this more and more these days: people go on buying sprees and shell out massive amounts of money hoping to find their Perfect Planner, only to have buyer's remorse and turn around and sell their new, unused binders shortly after.

Or people get overwhelmed with printing their own pages, ending up with reams of unused pages and having spent loads of money on printer ink.

Or people get sidetracked with decorating their pages and end up frustrated with their planner not actually working for them, despite how beautiful it is.

Or people go into a downward spiral of switching between Filofax/ Moleskine/ Midori/ Hobonichi/ whatever other brands of planners they try and fail to click with.

The real problem begins when people try to figure out what might work for them and they spend hours watching videos and reading blogs and get overwhelmed by all the possibilities. This causes people to spend way too much time and money (and frustration) on things that might be great for other people but don't work for them.

A better approach is to figure out what you actually need your planner to do for you. Don't watch any more videos. Don't read any more testimonials on how wonderful Planner X is for someone else.

Once you think you understand your own needs, focus your search on what would fit those needs. This will limit your search and help prevent overwhelm.

I've written several posts on how to find the right planner for you. First you must remember there's no Perfect Planner. You need to find something that works and that you generally enjoy. If you need help figuring out what you need your planner to do for you, take a look at my post on this topic. This will help you focus your search. If you need more help, take a look at the other posts on my Find Your Perfect Planner page.

Remember, what works for other people might not work for you. And what worked for you in the past might not work in your situation now.

Step away from the You Tube videos and the Facebook planner groups. Take some time to decide what you really need. Experiment a bit with different types of planners. Hand-draw your own planner pages in a notebook or on pages that can go in your binder to try a format before you spend the money on it, or create your own pages.

Have you become overwhelmed by the flood of planner videos, posts and groups on the internet? What has helped you step away and decide for yourself what you actually need (and don't)?


  1. Laurie,
    I'm so glad you wrote this post! I've been around the Plannerisms and Philofaxy world for going on 3 years now and I think this post was Divinely inspired because I think it needs to be heard by many.

    I was fortunate that I tried all out all the different binders here in the US thanks to thrift stores. I figured out very inexpensively that a zip planner won't work for me, I'm a slimline gal for my daily planning, and I like an old school leather binder.

    Most of all, I love the idea of encouraging people to draw up their own planners--which is what I've done for the past 3 years and it works great for me.

    Don't get me wrong--sometimes it's fun to view what others are doing. But sitting down with a pen and paper and writing out what I needed was really what helped me the most.

    FABULOUS POST, Laurie!!!

    1. Thanks, I'm so glad you like my post! I keep seeing more and more people online expressing frustration and overwhelm. I hope it helps people take a breath and reassess. :)

  2. Great post Laurie!

    I have started to ask myself two questions:
    1. Have I missed any appointments?
    2. Have I forgotten any to-dos?
    If the answer to both these questions is no, then my system works and I can get on with doing fun stuff in life.

    I think there is a tenancy to perfectionism in the planner community, and when it comes down to it, a planner is just that - it helps you to plan your life, so you can do nice stuff.

    1. I fell like I'm exactly in this kind of position - tendency to perfectionism, the irresistible need to look not just for the smartest but also for the coolest and cutiest planner. I do have my own system right now and so far it's working properly, but I can't help it, I feel this urge to look around on the internet to find other possibilities, other experiences, other inspirations. I should focus more on the 2 points listed above (appointments and to dos) and just leave the rest aside, but it's so damn hard!

  3. Yes, I was searching for something "perfect" but after drawing out every page I've seen come along in the past two years I have written down what it is I need in a planner. "The perfect planner" isn't there, but I do know what comes in second best and know that's where I need to stay, I keep trying to think of ways to "tweak".

  4. What I really notice is issues with what I like to call "recipe" people. Some of us just cook; we will read a recipe to understand basic technique and ingredients, but then just wing it (baking excepted, of course!). Other people NEED a precise recipe. They cannot deviate and need to see/follow exact directions with precise measurements.

    When we use planners, I see that people will purchase the exact same binder as one they've seen in a video, and then set up that binder exactly the same way. I am thinking that these are recipe people; they need someone to show them how to do it, they need to follow directions. They may hit on something that works, or not. Or it may be working fine but they see something that looks better.

    I personally cannot use someone else's system for my needs. If I see a good idea in someone's planner, I may implement that idea into my own but I will not chuck my system and replicate the other person's system. That would be madness!

    I believe that a certain amount of planner chaos is, in fact, a procrastination tool. We fiddle with planners so that we can avoid something we don't want to do. When I sense that I am procrastinating on something I try to figure out why; sometimes I just don't want to do it. Other times it involves cold-calling someone which makes me extremely uncomfortable. Other times I don't want to do it but can delegate it or just delete it. If I find myself doing major planner fiddling, I try to figure out what I may be trying to avoid.

  5. Great post, Laurie. I think that when planners were discovered by scrapbook and art journal folks, planners (mostly Filofax) became a fad. Fads burn out & I don't expect this one to last. Those of us who want to explore different ways of organizing our lives through our planners can feel confused by all the various arrangements set up by people who aren't so much planning as expressing themselves creatively in their planners. It's a matter of keeping your priorities straight and only investing your time in watching videos or reading articles that are geared to your particular planning needs (i.e. if the word "decorating" is in the title of a video, I skip it). And it's also a matter of making a firm commitment to using a system for at least 3 months before deciding to change it. It's just too much stress to have your yearly records scattered amongst different sizes and systems of planning.

  6. I am kind of a stationery nerd. I love looking at videos and blogs of planners, art journals etc. However, it is a hobby and apart from the occasional tweak if I come across an idea that suits me I rarely change my own system during a year. When I went from full time job to no job I had a minor crisis but once it was sorted, that was it.

    My plannerisms planner plus notebook is still working brilliantly for me. I agree with Josh in that changing things around is a way of avoiding doing something you have planned to do. For me I did this constantly when I used a Filofax even though I didn't realise that's what I was doing at the time. That is why I chose a bound planner for 2014 despite loving the look of a well used filofax. It is no good looking brilliant if it doesn't work.

    So I will continue to look at planner videos and blogs and may even save up some ideas for next year, but for this year at least my system is working and if it ain't broke...

  7. It's seriously like you read my mind writing this post. I used to anxiously wait up until the wee hours of the morning for Philofaxy's Webfinds to be posted on Saturday. I read through every single article and watched every video without fail, but eventually it got to be too much. Istarted saving posts and videos to watch later and had hundreds of articles and videos saved at any given time. I don't use a paper planner anymore, but I adore the planner community which is why I stick around. It wasn't until recently I started going through things and really thinking "Do I actually want to read/watch this or am I just saving it to say I read it?" Don't get me wrong, I love that the planner community has grown so much recently, but at the end of the day, there are only so many unboxing, decorating, or hour long updated setup videos one can watch, and I do believe I've reached my limit. This past week I saved only a handful of posts or videos that caught my eye, and I'm not sure if I'll bother watching the almost 80 videos I have saved to watch later from the past 3 months.

  8. Great post, Laurie! I have often thought about this. When I found the compact planners and separated information into different notebooks and binders, I found the perfect system that works for me. Apart from switching binders once in a while, and tweaking here and there, I haven't changed my overall daily planning system in a long time. It works perfectly for me, so I'm not about to change that up just because something works for someone else.

    With that said, I still do read many blog posts and watch a few videos here and there just because I have an interest in what works for other people. And sometimes I can adapt something I've seen into my own system. I used to read each and every post that came my way, mostly out of solidarity to fellow bloggers with similar interests to my own. But the sheer number of posts these days just overwhelms me, and there's just no way I can keep up. I still subsribe to hundreds of blogs, and I scan the titles to see what interests me. But the number of posts I actually read is very little these days compared to how many cross my line of vision.

    I agree with much of what was said here -- people tend to jump on the bandwagon without really assessing their needs, spend tons of money, time, and frustration trying what others do, and it doesn't work for them. In many cases, I've seen people start blogs, go gangbusters on posts and videos and tweets and Facebook comments, and just disappear as quickly as they appeared. I think a lot of that has to do with systems that ultimately end up not working for them (though this is just a guess). And while decorating planners is fine if that's your thing (not my thing, however), it's not really what a planner is intended for (organizing one's day and time in a way that makes them more productive). So perhaps people think that a nicely decorated planner will help them get and stay organized. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn't because people have to really want to get organized, and that will only happen with a system that works. And one has to figure out what they need from a system first.

    Much of what I see today isn't so much about PLANNING or productivity, which is where my interest is, as making a cute, artsy display of things. I'm not trying to put that down, but a person needs to figure out which one to focus on. In my experience and from what I see on other blogs, it doesn't always work when the two are put into one system. They spend too much time making their planner busy, not getting other things done, which negates the entire purpose of the planner to begin with. (If you buy a planner specifically for scrapbooking and the like, and not so much to keep organized, then you're right on target.)

    I have found that in life in general, the fewer options I have to begin with, the better choice I can make. When I'm overwhelmed with options, I tend not to do anything.

  9. Great post Laurie, I notice more and more people going through various trends then coming back to Filofax and then mixing it up with something else. Makes me feel almost sea sick watching people going through so many changes in the space of weeks.

    Me I've been sticking to using more or less the same set up for two or three years now. It works for me, it might not be fashionable, it is still in a Filofax or any other ring bound system that works with A5 or Personal pages.

    I hold my hand up and plead guilty to overwhelming people with so much content on Philofaxy and via Web Finds.

    I considered having a 'day off' but I hate the thought of what people would think if there wasn't a post every day!

    Some of the sentiments are very similar to my thoughts in this post from last year:

    1. Steve I didn't mean to say you are overwhelming people with content on Philofaxy, quite the contrary: Philofaxy is the rock in a swaying sea of planner overwhelm! Pinterest, Instagram and You Tube are the main culprits. Also there are dozens of people with their own Filofax blogs now, which amazes me when not so long ago I could hardly find any content on the topic at all. I think it's a combination of the growth of social media, and the products themselves.

      And yes I agree with your article you linked to: many people spend so much time fussing with the planner itself, they seem to forget about the planning, and especially the ultimate goal of doing, altogether.

    2. I agree! Both Plannerisms and Philofaxy are my mainstays for good, solid organizing information!

    3. Hi Steve! Right now Planet Millie has an "on vacation" post up. I think if you want a day off, just make a Filofax page like the one for FFAT but write "Gone Fishing" on it. That way everyone knows nothing happened, you just chose to skip. It's like the "this page deliberately left blank" notes in paperwork.

  10. I agree with PaperMeister that this post was Divinely Inspired. I have been struggling with a To Do list dilemma. Where does my work To Do list go? Where does my personal To Do list go? How do I keep up with all the papers my kiddo brings home from school... from sports schedules... From church. I've been trying to find the perfect free printable for a home organization binder and have become extremely frustrated that no one has EXACTLY what I need. Create my own, you say?? That's a perfect idea! I'm perfectly capable but with the resources available online, I tend to assume that everything has already been created.
    I'm taking your advice and designing my OWN organizational tool for keeping important papers and ongoing To Do lists. Thank you so much for writing this blog post!

  11. This is generally the way we choose computers...what is it you want the computer to do? Not how many GB does it contain... The philosophy is still good with paper planners. What do you want it to do for you? Not how many different pages does it contain...

    The added distraction can be the whole tweaking, making it cute, who does it better, has a better system thing.

    Somewhere you have to find your spot.

    And Steve, no one would kill you if you skipped a day and didn't post. Honest. There is so much out there to read in other places we wouldn't mind.

  12. What's ironic is that there are at least 2-3 blog posts this week talking about dealing with frustration, change and overwhelm with the solution being buy more binders and watch more videos. ???

  13. I am a Filofax beginner still searching for the best system for me an yeah, it's a bit overwhelming. But it's also great, so many ideas - I'm trying not to get lost and not to look too many videos and read too many blogs, but trying one system, seeing if it works for me and once in a while, peaking if there's another idea for me. At the moment I'm trying the DIYfish-system for two weeks with selfmade templates - if I don't like them, I'll just have spent the ink for 4 or 5 prints, that's okay I guess.
    I'd like to have a few decoration ideas which aren't too distracting from the content - so it's okay for me to surf around and look for input. I'm really excited about the possibilitys of my new Filofax, and I'm happy about the opportunity to see so many ideas in the internet!

  14. "A better approach is to figure out what you actually need your planner to do for you. Don't watch any more videos. Don't read any more testimonials on how wonderful Planner X is for someone else."

    I absolutely agree. I was going to write a post about "planner comparisons" and make that exact point. Don't pull what you want from others - figure out what you want and THEN find the one that most closely fits your needs. Otherwise you'll end up flip flopping and switching formats all the time.

    Great post, as usual, Laurie. Except you beat me to the topic!

  15. Very good post. I am a grandma and retired and still love to keep a planner/ journal. Even though I don' t work I still have things to keep track of. Gr kids, church, and home life.
    I have found a few ideas from Pinterest, but mostly I do my own thing. I use 28lb half sheet for my everyday journal pages. Blank pages. Work best for me as I like to incorporate a little art work and color on my pages. I so agree it does not work to try to do what someone else is doing. Every one,s day is different and so should your planner be just right for you.
    Love your blog!

  16. I love your blog :) #JustSaying

  17. This is a very insightful post. I'm glad you talked about this.

    In my experience, most of the time, when something accidentally falls through the cracks, I don't need to overhaul my entire organizer or buy a new one. Instead, I think:

    1. How did I overlook this? Did I forget to write it down? (If the answer is yes, then it's my fault, not my planner's.)
    2. I wrote it down but it wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I didn't see it when I was looking for it. What happened? (This is also my fault, not my planner's.)
    3. If I did write it down, and it was in the proper place and I still didn't see it, then I need to tweak my already highly-customzed 2PPD, to assign a permanent space for such an item, and items similar to it.

    That would be a tweak. I do this by using indie boxes, and if it works for the rest of the month, that indie box gets incorporated into the new planner pages for the succeeding month. No need to go out and spend loads of money on a buying spree for binders.

    I still watch YouTube videos and blog posts about other people's planner setups and planner unboxings from time to time, but mostly for entertainment. Sometimes I pick up a useful idea or two. And I always find it amusing to see how much washi tape a person can have.