Saturday, May 30, 2015

How to choose a planner for a new upcoming situation


I've been seeing online a lot of people who are about to go through a transition and are looking for advice on which planner to choose. This is actually a big challenge: finding a planner that will work for you in a situation you haven't experienced yet. It's hard to know what you will need before you're there. But those of us who like planners and planning want to have a system set up before we start, so we don't have to spend the first week(s) in our new situation with the added stress of having to figure out our planner setup.

Maybe you are starting grad school or a new job. Maybe you are having a baby, or going from kids at home to kids at school. Maybe (like me) your kids are getting older are starting new activities along with ramped up homework and school trips. Maybe you are moving internationally. (If you are, feel free to contact me, I've moved internationally a bajillion times and know the drill.)

Whatever your new upcoming situation, here's how to figure out a planner that will work for you.

Option 1: Choose a planner that has worked for you in the past:

Even if you haven't been in the same situation before, you might try a planner that worked well for you in similar circumstances. For example, if you had a really busy time in the past and are about to be really busy again, use the same planner you used then.

The year I was really busy working full time, taking graduate classes, applying to graduate schools and getting ready to move, I used a Septanote academic year planner. Years later when I moved internationally with my family, I used a Trinote (which has the same format January-December). That format (vertical days with space for lists) worked well for me during busy, transitional times.

Option 2: Use a planner that works for other people in the same situation:

In my online research on Uncalendar planners I discovered several nursing student message boards asking which planner works well during busy, pulled-in-all-directions nursing school. Over and over again people recommended the full size Uncalendar. Search online and ask people who do what you are about to do what works for them.You might even find planners designed specifically for that situation or profession.

Option 3: Experiment:

Experimentation doesn't have to mean the expense of buying and trying lots of different planners. The only thing that matters right now is page layout and size. Focus on those. Covers, accessories, everything else can wait.

Start with the page size you will need (or think you will need) and draw up or print a page layout in that size. Do you like the look of a particular planner's page layout? Draw up a few weeks' worth to try out and see if it will work for you. You can do this with a few different types and use them sequentially (or even simultaneously if you can keep them synched) to figure out what might work well for you.

Once you have figured out the format of pages you need, then you can figure out what type of book will hold them. Below is a summary of your dilemma. You need a balance of flexibility and portability. 

Bulky and heavy--------------------------------------------------------------------Lighter/ more portable
Ring binder (Filofax etc.)       Travelers' Notebook (booklets in cover)          Bound book



Flexible use-----------------------------------------------------------------------------More rigid use
Ring binder (Filofax etc.)       Travelers' Notebook (booklets in cover)          Bound book

Be open minded. You might need to try something you've never considered before.  And in the end, you won't really know what will work until you are in the situation and living your new life. If you get rolling and discover the planner you're using isn't working, give yourself permission to try something else.

Have you been in this situation before? How did you figure out your planner setup?

25 comments:

  1. In a way, I'm going through it now. I went through way too many planners from October until about March, and I realized some of it was anxiety from the situation. I'm trying to start my own publishing business on the side, so it's a pretty big life role. I didn't need a planner to schedule everything down to the minute (which is pure misery for a creative right brain person), but I did need something to record when I did something (for the tax side) and appointments and the occasional notes.

    What I didn't need was a structured appointment entry for the days or to do lists. Those two sections I can't even repurpose for something else. There's something about them that makes me want to ignore the planner entirely. I also didn't need creativity prompts, project planning, or quotes (all staples of the planners for creative).

    It really came down to about three things: 1) Open space and slightly structured but not too structured, 2) Large size (8x10) wirebound, and 3) It has to be really colorful.

    Even BlueSky didn't make it on #3. Their designs are actually a little too conservative for me. I went into Staples in March. The planners were just about out there, but there was some Staples brand ones left, and those met #3. One of them I didn't care much for the design, but another I did, so bought that. I didn't like that it didn't have tabs for the month though, and it still has the compressed Saturday and Sunday (which seems to be generally a problem). I figured I'd get it out of the way, then look again when the academics came out and see if one was better. But when the academics starting coming out, I realized I was okay what I had. I used Post-It tabs for the tabs, and the notes section could be converted to Sunday and the split weekend section for Saturday, when I needed it. But it did turn out that page background design was really important.

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  2. I have also learned it is better to guess bigger rather than smaller, for me. I prefer bound books so I find it easier to cope with extra space on a page than to run out of room and try to add post-its and so on.

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  3. This was such a timely post as I am wondering what to do next. I should only have one kid to homeschool & he may be the only one living here soon. Appts. are the same three every week with only an occassional diviation. My unknown is that I would like to go to college. So anyone out there homeschooling, going to college, & a Flybaby? What do you use?

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  4. Sudden medical emergency of family member necessitating a very long travel experience and likelihood of this repeating has proven that I need a basic notebook, and the Moleskine cahier proved wonderful. I could fold it in half, take notes as I walked, and just generally use it as a bullet journal (except I had no time for bullets and learned I do better with angular notes, very large writing for emphasis, boxes, circles and arrows). Then I needed a lightweight, small format, easy open, fold back weekly planner with emphasis on list space. This I did not have with me and I missed it every day. Then, once at home, I needed a ring bound planner with sections for health notes, contacts, etc. into which I could dump all the data collected in the cahier. Am very glad for the cahier. When things got hot and heavy I simply could not take the time to enter notes onto a formatted page.

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    1. Hi Christine, I'm sorry to hear about your family member's medical emergency. Glad you have a system that works for you in such a stressful time.

      I would really like to know what your lightweight weekly planner is with the list space, whenever you have time.

      Best of luck to you and your family!

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    2. Hi, Laurie. The emergency was my Mom having a stroke. She dodged a bullet and is going to be OK but it was dicey. The planner I use is the Daytimer Family Plus in letter/A5 size. It has space for lists at the top and notes on the left. Spiral so it folds back. Not a lot of day space but I use the cahier for that, as needed. Drove 2800 miles in 11 days. Still recovering!

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    3. Sorry, notes on the right. I'll figure out left and right eventually.

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    4. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply Christine, I appreciate it. I'm so glad your mom will be okay!!!

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  5. Hi Laurie!
    I love your plannerisms agenda but collins don't sell it anymore... Where else can I get it from?
    Thank you!

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    1. Hi Alicia, I'm glad you like the Plannerisms planner! Collins is the only place it's sold and they are all sold out for this year. Sorry!

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    2. Thanks for your quick reply. I will sure get the 2016 one! :)

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  6. Hello there Laurie,
    I just found this blog and I love it. I'm sort of in this situation now. I am a dedicated Franklin Covey user and was all throughout grad school. Historically, I've used the Monarch. This is a wonderful planner and I love it because I can easily print off project information and place it right into my planner with the hole punch.
    My quandary is that I'm thinking about downsizing to the Classic size. My Monarch planner is HEAVY. Since I'm a professor, I carry my planner, a laptop and several notebooks/books with me on a regular basis. Fortunately, I have a wonderful TUMI brief which holds it all but man it gets weighty. I'm thinking the classic might be nice so that I could carry it all in a more compact and much lighter package. I'm just scared that I'm going to miss the easy convenience of the Monarch (although it does take up space at departmental meetings).

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    1. Hi Christopher, thanks for your comment! The good thing about the Classic size pages is they are exactly half the Monarch size, so you could still print out full size pages, fold them in half and put them in, or your could print them at 50% (if you can read the small fonts) and put them in your binder. I hope this helps!

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    2. Ahhh, so that does help to know. I'll give it some thought since it's only June but may end up switching at the end of the year. It sure would make it easier on my back and using my planner in cramped spaces like planes and conference rooms.

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    3. One more thing - I know on your front page that you don't include technology in your blog but have done a post for those of us who integrate both a paper planner and some sort of technology? I'd be curious as to what you and others do to this effect.

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    4. Sorry Christopher, I don't personally use any electronic calendar apps. In the past I used Outlook for work but that was just on my work computer (not on my phone or in my personal life). I know there are loads of people who use a combination of paper and their phones. I won't do a post on it, but if you google it or look around the Facebook groups you'll find lots of info. Good luck!

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  7. I'm in that situation now. We're adopting (yay!) It comes with a lot of unknowns, but I want to be as prepared as possible. I'm trying to simplify to something smallish that can be easily tossed in a diaper bag. I've been using all electronic planning stuff for a couple of weeks. It works, but it doesn't feel like me. I've learned that I can get by without all the extra notes and lists I was carrying around as long as I have plenty of room for daily schedule and to do list. I immediately thought of Textagendas,but they don't start until August. Sigh...

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    1. I took suggestion #3 to heart this afternoon and drew a mockup of what I think will work for me right now. I'm setting up the real thing now in one of old standby Graphic Image refillable journals :) Thanks!

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    2. Beth congratulations on adopting! I'm so happy for you guys!!

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  8. Christopher, you can tell your printer to print two per page, which causes it to print your documents on landscape. Then just cut the pages in half. If you have muliple pages you can use the booklet mode too. I also prefer a secretarial pocket in the front of my planner so papers I receive can just be folded in half and saved their until I can tend to them. Also the secretarial pocket allows me to slip my mail in there as a #10 envelopes peeks out the top of my planner. This is a doable switch over, just know that you may need bigger rings than what you currently have in your Monarch.

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    1. Thank you Cassandra! I'm still on the fence. I like being able to just use 8.5x11 size pages and place them right into my planner. The only issue is the size though. It's just huge.

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  9. Hi Laurie,
    When my son was diagnosed with Autism a few months back I started searching franticly for ways to help him structure his day to day life and ended up on your site. I spend the good part of and evening and night browsing around your site and different planners. I got completely sucked in.

    I even found the perfect calendar - for me, not my son. (He now has a big blackboard on our wall with masking tape and my hand drawn symbols for what is going on that day. Quite a different story.) But my ipad died and with it the link history to the perfect journal. I've tried several times to locate the review again on your site but unsuccessfully. Also I found it at 2 p.m so details are quite blurry to me.

    What I have to go on : it is a calendar, which has notes on top, where you write your to-do's and space for events to be written in on the bottom. It has a weekly format. It could be customized to start the month, you ordered it in. It was made in the US and had a quite unpolished website. I remember that you didn't think that it would do very much for you, but since I spend every work day joggling tasks on 5-10 different projects, I loved the format, where I during our weekly planning meeting would be able to assign a task for a specific day while also having an overview of my appointments and meetings.

    Do you think you can help me out? Perhaps it rings a bell for you.

    Sorry for the long post but spending hours on your website and google hasn't brought my any closer to the calendar enigma I though I discovered that one late night. Perhaps I dreamt it all up?

    Have a lovely summer!

    Loa

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    1. Hi Loa, I think the one you are looking for is the Planner Pad: http://www.plannerisms.com/2012/04/planner-pad.html If that's not it let me know and I'll think some more.

      Interestingly, I ordered a Planner Pad (the pretty green one this time instead of black) to try when school starts this month. I have a lot going on so I thought I would give it a try.

      Note: Planner Pad planners start quarterly, not each month so you can choose a July start one to start using it now.

      Best of luck, and let me know how it goes!

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    2. PS their website is www.PlannerPads.com. They come in a few different sizes from really big to portable. And as a side note, their paper is spectacular. :)

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  10. Hi Laurie,
    When my son was diagnosed with Autism a few months back I started searching franticly for ways to help him structure his day to day life and ended up on your site. I spend the good part of and evening and night browsing around your site and different planners. I got completely sucked in.

    I even found the perfect calendar - for me, not my son. (He now has a big black board on our wall with masking tape and my hand drawn symbols for what is going on that day. Quite a different story.)

    I wanted to go back and by this perfect calendar, but my ipad died and with it the browser history to the perfect journal. I've tried several times to locate the review again on your site but unsuccessfully.

    When I would the calendar that one late night, it was 2 p.m, so details are quite blurry to me. That doesn’t make my quest any easier.

    What I have to go on : it is a calendar, which has project based notes on top, where you write your to-do’s, and space for events to be written in on the bottom. It has a weekly format. It could be customized to start the month, you ordered it in. It was made in the US and had a quite unpolished website.

    I remember that you didn't think that it would do very much for you, but since I spend every work day joggling tasks on 5-10 different projects, I loved the format, where I during our weekly planning meeting would be able to assign a task for a specific day while also having an overview of my appointments and meetings.

    Do you think you can help me out? Perhaps it rings a bell for you.

    Sorry for the long post but spending hours on your website and google hasn't brought my any closer to the calendar enigma I though I discovered that one late night. Perhaps I dreamt it all up?

    Have a lovely summer!

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