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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There are no rules

Ok, everybody take a deep breath. And let it out. Good. Now let's talk.

I see a lot of people stressing out online about their planner situation. Believe me, I hear ya, I'm continually stressing out over mine. Why does it have to be so difficult? It doesn't, actually. I think we're doing this to ourselves.

When it comes to planners, there are no rules. Really, there are not. It's just paper. You can use it however you want. You can write in your appointments, or not. You can use it as a journal, or not. You can carry it everywhere with you, which is the best situation, but if you leave your planner on your desk all the time and that works for you then go for it.

There seem to be a lot of new-to-planners folks out there right now. Either they've never used a planner before, or they are coming back to it after using digital. It seems like a lot of these folks search the web for blogs and videos for advice on how to use their planner. After being snowed under with people showing more about how they've decorated their planners than how to use them, planner newbies come up for air feeling frustrated and confused. It's no wonder.

I want to address a few issues about using planners:

1) Let me be clear here: decorating a planner is not using a planner.

I don't want to make anyone angry, but it's the truth. That's great if you like to decorate your planner, but that's not the same as using it to plan. If you have a planner as your creative outlet, that's great! But you should still be able to plan in it (or in a separate planner). Even the most gorgeous planner is useless if it doesn't help you plan your life. So remember not to get sidetracked decorating to the point where you neglect the planning and doing.

2) It takes experimentation to learn what works for you. What works for someone else might not work for you, and vice versa. You have to figure out your own needs, then practice using planners until you find what works for you at that moment (see below!). If you need help finding your perfect planner, these posts will help you determine your needs.

3) The planner that worked for you last year/ month/ week might not work for you this year/ month/ week. It's ok to change planners mid year, mid month or whenever you need to! I know people who use big intensive planners during their busy times of the year, and little pocket planners in the summer or when they aren't so busy.

4) There are no rules on how to use a planner. Yes there are time-management techniques that work for some people, but they might not work for you. Maybe you need a structured planner system, but maybe you don't. Don't look online at people's elaborate systems and think you need to recreate something similar for yourself. Start with your own needs, and figure out your system from there.

5) It's okay to use your planner differently week to week or day to day. Some days are busier than others. Some days you need your planner to crank it out, and other days you might just write your grocery list. That's okay!

The bottom line is, don't take it so seriously. Again, it's just paper. It won't solve all your problems or make you happy or do the dishes for you. You have to do all those things yourself.

So let's all please try to remember there are no planner rules we have to follow. Feel like scribbling out your schedule? Do it. Want to fill your planner with sticky notes? Whatever works for you. Tired of lugging around your big planner? Try a smaller one.

There are no rules! It's YOUR planner, do what you like with it!


  1. An excellent post Laurie and I completely agree with your last sentence: "It's YOUR planner, do what you like with it!"

  2. I agree that there are millions of blogs & videos of decorating ideas & flip throughs, but when you throw all that aside there are so few that show/explain what a planner's real function in life is.

  3. I couldn't agree more! I have a lot of questions via my blog and Instagram from planner newbies and I always finish the conversation explaining that you can do whatever you like. Your planner. Your rules.

    Charlie x

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  5. Excellent points! Thanks for another helpful post.

  6. Absolutely!!! I'm struggling to make my fabulous planner for tracking work for me this year, partly because it's not fully set up yet, and partly because I have so many other things to do at the moment, tracking other stuff really isn't my main priority. Currently, the main things that are working for me are my work notebook which I use to make sure I always have a full list of all the things I need to do, my Filofax, which to be fair is pretty much a glorified appointment tracker, but it's always open on my desk at work, and a Moleskine notebook where each weekend I try to brainstorm all the things I need to get done and attack them. It's mainly just firefighting to be honest, but it's getting me where I need to be at the moment. :-)

  7. Decorating a planner is not using a planner.

    I just wanted to hear that one more time. :) I don't mind decoration, but I would never carry around something just to decorate! I don't have time (or space) for that nonsense!

    1. I loved hearing it too. Mostly these days I can tell in advance which videos are going to be scrapbooky instead of planning oriented and I just skip. Sadly there are hardly any left to watch.

    2. Indeed! This is my favorite line from this post; it says it all! While some decorations are very nice to look at, it just would never work for me. It's too much to look at, and therefore would distract me from actually using my planner, which for me, is the entire point of having -- and using -- one. Well said, Laurie!

  8. I can't agree more! Decorating a planner is not using a planner. :)

  9. Love this post!

    I purchased my first ring planner as of this year and I can´t get enough of watching planner videos on youtube for inspiration. But you are right, I find myself skimming over the ones that just show how they decorate their pages and I try to find like crazy those that actually plan inside their planner.

    I decided to start my own channel and show how I use my inserts and what works better in regards to what I want to track in my life in case you´re interested ^_^.

    #therearenorules (you should make a hashtag for this!)

  10. Sometimes I think it's better to create your planner FIRST and then start watching the videos and reading the posts to learn how to use it better. There are so many choices out there that it can get overwhelming. If you decide what you want and need FIRST, then it might be easier to resist temptation to switch later.

  11. Great post! About six months ago I pulled out my fifteen-year old Filofax Pocket and started using it again. I find that writing things down is easy and faster than pecking them into my iPhone, and it really helps me remember them. I just graduated to a KikkiK A5 size, and looking for sources for A5 sized inserts, I started watching YouTube videos, and quickly become overwhelmed. I mean, I don't shop at Michael's or Joanne's, I don't do crafts, I've never scrapbooked, and I don't even know what Washi tape is, so you can imagine my confusion.

    Meanwhile I'm still searching for the perfect A5 notepaper so I can track my Goodreads reading challenge or write down new words. Like "washi tape." ;-)

  12. So needed this today, thank you!

  13. I own a 20 year old consulting firm and use a a combination of the Mission Control and Bullet Journal systems in an Uncalendar for tracking meeting notes, questions, ideas and meetings. I'd be absolutely mortified to pull out something bedecked with washi tape and stickers, though I did finally break down and got an Erin Condren cover (mostly because the cover it came with is so flimsy after having been dropped into and drug out of my laptop bag so often).

    In most cases, the videos have been terrible for learning how others USE their planners. This was a real issue with the Uncalendar with all its vast expanse of empty boxes, graphs and numbered lists.

    I agree with the other writers who wondered whether people are using their planners as craft journals or scrapbooking projects. I do know of artists, though, who use blank notebooks to capture images in pen or watercolor. They just don't include laundry lists among their images.


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