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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Using monthly planners

I've had several people ask me how to use monthly planners, so I thought I'd give a brief tutorial.

Monthly planners come in various forms: monthly wall calendars, monthly pages in your weekly or daily planner, or monthly planner books (like the Moleskine Monthly Notebook or Quo Vadis Monthly 4 planners).

Monthly planners are great for overviews of deadlines, bills due, birthdays, holidays and other things that are coming up in the future. They give you a big-picture view of what's going on over the next several weeks.  Monthly calendars are also a great way to plan your entire year.

A question I get often is, what do you write into a monthly calendar that you would or would not necessarily write into a weekly or daily planner? Great question!

I found out the hard way that it was too much to write all appointments, events and plans into a monthly calendar as well as weekly and daily. I just couldn't keep up with that level of detail in all those places at once.

What works best for me is to write fixed dates into my monthly planner. Bills due, upcoming deadlines, holidays, birthdays, travel, etc. Also farther-off appointments like doctor and dentist appointments go into my monthly planner pages.

I don't look at my monthly planning pages every day. I really only use them when I need an overview of what's coming up.

Monthly calendars are also great for easily seeing patterns. Something I've done in the past is to record exercise on the daily spaces in my monthly calendars. I color code exercise (in green, for some reason) and just write C for cardio, S for strength, or A for abs. This gives me a very quick overview on how consistent I'm being with my exercise. A green letter every day means I'm doing great. Big gaps mean I need to get on it.

This technique can be used for anything that you'd like to do regularly: writing, reading, crafting, etc. Marking your activity in a monthly calendar can show you at a glance how consistent you're being with your activities.

Jerry Seinfeld famously uses his "don't break the chain" technique where he marks an X on each day he writes. Not wanting to break the chain is incentive for him to write each day. A monthly calendar (especially one that's on the wall in a place you see often) would be perfect for this.

What else do you use monthly calendars for?


  1. I use my monthly calendar for an overview, too. It helps me see at a glance if I'm too busy for another appointment! It also reminds me of upcoming events I might have forgotten. But the bulk of my writing is on my daily pages. I don't think I'd want to be without the monthly, though. That big picture is very important!

  2. I used to use monthlies like this too. I have found though, since I started using the Filofax inserts w/ the week on 2 pages in columns that I don't use them much any more. The FF has the current month and next month at the bottom of both pgs. I circle dates in different colors: green for pay days, red for bill dates (car pmt, etc.) and then put appointments and such on the weeks. I honestly am not missing the monthlies like I thought I would.
    I still use the heck out of the monthly at work though (Planner Pad) because I can easily see work deadlines if I put them there.

  3. I use them the same way too. I use them as an overview of what's happening in the month, together with highlights for important days (birthdays, anniversaries, public holidays etc) or to mark important deadlines that may be coming up.

    I mark out vacation times as well, so I know at a glance when I'll be away (I use the weeklies for itinerary planning in these instances).

    Don't think I could ever live without the monthly.. it gives me an instant overview of my life into the future, so I know what can/cannot be planned.

  4. Love the idea of trying not to break the chain and using colour coding to monitor patterns of activity/inactivity. I will have to make a note of that :o)


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