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Friday, July 8, 2011

Planner tips: using weekly planners

Here are some techniques I like to use when I'm using a weekly planner:

1) Write weekly goals on your weekly page. Find someplace on your weekly spread to write your goals for the week. Be brief, but specific. "Run 3 times this week" is a goal. "Finish reading" the book you're on is another one. "Complete the paper" that's due next week is an excellent goal. Keeping your weekly goals in front of you all week makes it more likely you'll follow through with them.

2) Schedule tasks to reach your goals. Once you know your goals for the week, you can figure out where to fit them into your schedule.  When are you going to do those three runs? Write it in.  Schedule time to complete that paper. Find a couple of evenings in your week to settle in and read that book.  Having goals is great, but they won't get done unless you take the next step and actually make the time to do them.  And being able to check off those goals at the end of the week is a great feeling.

3) Keep a task list.  This can be on your planner page if you use a week + notes format planner, or in a separate notebook.  You can create categorized lists like @Phone or @Computer to streamline your communication time; or you can write lists in chronological order like 1) Look up website to check availability of hotel, 2) Write down hotel phone number, 3) Call hotel to book, 4) Print out hotel reservation sheet (or whatever your multi-step task list consists of).  Remember, you'll be working from your main list on non-scheduled tasks.

4) Write all appointments into your planner, EVEN (ESPECIALLY) UNCERTAIN ONES. Use pencil on uncertain appointments if you want.  But make sure you capture every scheduled item on your daily spaces to avoid scheduling conflicts, to know when you have time available, and to be able to see when you will get things done.

5) Arrow over undone tasks.  This is especially easy if you use a format with days as vertical columns.  Anything that doesn't get done today gets arrowed over to tomorrow, to avoid re-writing. It's also a great visual cue: the more arrows you have either means you are over-scheduling yourself, or you are procrastinating too much!

6) Keep your planner open in a prominent place.  Whether it's on your desk, kitchen counter, or wherever you spend most of your time, be sure your planner is open to the current week in a place where you can consult it often throughout the day. The key to using any planner is to look at it often throughout the day. 

7) Highlight important events, deadlines, due dates etc.  You can write these things at the top of your day's space in a prominent place, write them in red ink, circle them, or use a colored highlighter. Whatever your preferred method, make sure important events are as visible as possible so they don't get lost in all the other writing on your pages.

What are some of your planner usage tips?


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