Friday, January 30, 2015

Why your planner isn't working for you

When you're experiencing Planner Fail, sometimes it's your planner's fault and sometimes it's not. Here's how to figure out if it's user error, or if it's time to go shopping for a new planner.

Planner's fault
  • Wrong size: If the planner is too small, there won't be enough writing space. If it's too big, you might not want to carry it around with you.
  • Wrong format: For example, it's difficult to do time blocking in a horizontal untimed format, you need vertical timed days. Also, it's difficult to effectively plan ahead in a day per page planner, a weekly format gives a better overview.
  • Wrong aesthetics: Maybe you're embarrassed to use it in front of people because of the size or design, maybe you don't like the paper or the cover, maybe the font is annoying to look at. Whatever keeps you from using your planner means it's time for a new one.

Not your planner's fault
  • You don't look at it: It's closed. As my sister says, "A closed planner is a dead planner."
  • You don't have it: It's in your bag. You left it at work/ on your desk at home/ on the bus. You need to decide on a place in your every location where you can leave your planner open and visible. When I'm working it's open beside me. Otherwise when I'm home it's on a book stand in my kitchen.
  • You don't write in it: Figure out why you don't write in it (see You Don't Have It and/ or Wrong Aesthetics). You need to treat your planner as your go-to landing place throughout the day. Keep it with you, keep it open and write in it (and look at it) often. Write your scheduled items, update them when they change, write tentative plans and things to do. One of the Great Planner Truths is, The More You Use It, The More You Use It. It becomes more and more useful the more it's used.
 Are you using your planner effectively? If not, is it your fault or the planner's?


  1. Time blocking is my favorite way to plan now, but its been a challenge to find a good vertical weekly layout that is both portable and has sufficient space for notes and data. The one I chose to go with is the Inner Guide 2015 Planner, which has a large page size (opens to 9x16 but it is spiral bound so you can fold it back to work on half a page at a time) and plenty of space for monthly and weekly lists plus a page per month for journaling in the back. However even this is not up to the whole job at hand, so my compact FC binder is used for all those lists needed when out to doctors and shopping. I've got a 2 page per day in there for capturing daily notes, too, Wish I didn't need to use two systems but right now that's how it rolls. They both work well for their differing purposes and actually it's not difficult to carry both in my bag. However I may design my own for 2016. Am taking notes now.

  2. It's almost always my own fault. Planner use seems directly related to my happiness in general. If I am happier, I use it more, and stay happy. But if my week is tough, I use it less, and get sadder.

  3. Since the early 1990's I've been using the DayTimer pocket size spiral-bound 2 page per day format. I use this system as my one and only calendar for planning work and family commitments. I use the "Insight System for Time and Life Management" as developed by Dr. Charles R. Hobbs. I received this training from DayTimers in the late 1980's and have used Dr. Hobbs' methods and system ever since.

    However, it appears that age is creeping up on me: I'm finding it difficult to write (and read) small script. So the pocket format has become increasingly confining. Consequently, I found myself using my planner less and less. So much so in fact, that I was becoming completely bunglesome! That's why I finally decided to make the change this year to a larger format.

    I chose the Franklin Planner compact size. Its pages are only 1/2 inch wider that what I was using before, but the line spacing is larger and that 1/2 inch in width does make a difference. I'm back to using my "DayTimer" for weekly and daily planning and capturing events and information as they occur during the day.

    I like the fact that the ring binder lets me add a better "grass catcher" page/s. And I like that I can also type out nicely formatted unifying principle pages to filter the grass catcher items into prioritized daily or weekly action pages that I can snap into the appropriate day.

    The only con of this system is that the binder is too large to slip into a pocket. Oh well, that's a small trade-off to loosing the control that consistent planner use affords me.

  4. Yes, this is what it is! I now know why my erin condren planner is not working the way I want it to. I love it so much, but I feel embarrassed to use it in front of other people. There is no decoration whatsoever apart from the colours of the planner itself, and I only use black or blue pen, but still. It does not say "30-something professional who knows what she is talking about". And I am always seen as much younger that I am anyway.
    Know of any planner that has the same or a similar layout in a more classy style?

  5. Yes! This is why my planner is not working the way I would like it to. I have an Erin Condren planner, and while I love it myself, I am embarrassed to use it in front of others, especially at work. I just does not say "30-something professional consultant who knows what she is talking about". I don't do any decorating and only use black pen, but even so the planner itself is very colourful. Do you know of any planner with a similar layout, but a classier style?

    1. Plum Paper offers a subdued palette and some elegant cover choices; it is just about exactly the size of the EC and can be customized.

  6. BRILLIANT POST, Laurie! Thank you. I needed these tricks today!