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Monday, June 24, 2013

Planner help for the "unorganized"

Recently a reader emailed me asking if I could write a post to help folks who are "unorganized" to use planners.

First, let me clarify. "Unorganized" is not the same as "Disorganized," in my opinion. "Disorganized," to me, sounds completely scattered with no order. "Unorganized" has the potential to become organized.

Second, a disclaimer: I am not organized. My house is not tidy. (In fact, I like it cluttered. That's just me.) I never know where I should put things. I have piles on my desk because I'm out of sight, out of mind and if I put things away I forget about them. Just about the only place I AM organized is in my planner, and that's because I have to be. If I don't write it down, it's gone. I have to write everything down.

So with that in mind, let me talk about whether I can help you or not.

There are three types of people, I think. Some I can help, and some I can't. Which one are you?

1. You need to write things down to remember them. You rely on paper, lists, your phone or whatever planning tool works for you. You work best if you plan ahead and write your tasks down so you can work through them.  (This is me.) If you fall into this category and want ideas on how to use a planner, or how to use one more effectively, I can definitely help you. Read on.

2. You keep it all in your head, more or less. These are the folks who never use a planner and really do keep it all in their head, or at least it seems that way. For these people, writing things into a planner is just a redundant extra step and the effort of remembering to write it, remembering where your planner is and remembering to look at it is more trouble than just remembering your stuff to do. My husband is like this. He never uses a planner. But, not actually. He uses Outlook at work to schedule meetings and appointments. He uses project-tracking software and budget software at work. I keep track of all our personal stuff and our kids' schedules, so he doesn't have to remember any of that. This system works for him and a planner isn't necessary.

If you are the type of person for whom writing it down is more of a hindrance than a help, I'm sorry but I won't be able to help you. Unless you fall into the third category:

3. You don't write things down, but you really ought to. These are folks whose lives previously were simpler and never needed a planner before, but as things get more complicated in your life you really do need some way to keep track of things. Maybe you've just started university and find you're missing exams and deadlines. Maybe you've had kids or started a new job where suddenly you have more to keep track of. If you're not used to writing things down, but you need to, I can definitely help you but only with effort from you.

If you aren't used to writing things down, but you need to, it will take effort to make it a habit to write everything into your planner, carry it with you everywhere, and look at it often. You'll have to look at it first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day at again in the evening AT MINIMUM. You'll need to write everything into it, everything. You'll need to plan your day the day before so you know what you're supposed to do each day and can prepare for anything you'll need to do or take with you that day.

I have written some posts already on using your planner that will be useful. My Using Weekly Planners post has the basics on how to effectively use your planner. That post is part of my How To Find Your Perfect Planner series.

Patty at Homemaker's Daily has written several posts on effectively using your planner, you should definitely check them out. Her post How To Avoid Planner Overwhelm will help you figure out the basics of what you need, and you can build up your planner usage from there.  Use Your Planner! will help you get into the habit. Strategies For Making Your Planner Work Well For You will help you take the next step. And definitely don't miss Advance Planning Prevents Unpleasant Surprises and 5 Examples of Planning As You Go to learn how to use your planner to really plan, not just react.

The posts linked above have a lot of information and tips on effectively using your planner. Is there anything else you would like me to cover, more generally or more specifically? I'd be happy to do a post on anything you think would be useful. Either post a comment or send me an email: Laurie at Plannerisms dot com.

What are your tips on effectively using a planner?


  1. Hi Laurie,

    Such a nice post on effectively use of planners,

    According to me you can keep a record of relatives coming birth dates so on birthday you can wish them first.

  2. Great post, Laurie. Thanks for linking to my stuff.

  3. Thanks for this great-looking blog! I've just discovered it and plan to browse around and read everything. I'm a #1 person....definitely need to write things down or I'll forget, even five minutes later. Lol.

    My problem is finding the perfect planner. Kind of like the perfect purse, I'm not sure it actually exists. In a planner I need a monthly page because I need to see the big picture. But I also need daily pages but not necessarily dailies that have hourly time increments. And also I do not like the planners that go from July to June. I want January to December, although July to December would be okay.

    Is there hope for me? Lol.

    Pouring another cup of coffee now and reading about planners. :)

    1. Hi Lorraine, sorry for my late reply!

      If you mean you want a day-per-page planner with monthly calendars, my two favorites are the Time Traveler daily:


      And the Quo Vadis Journal 21:


      If you'd like more suggestions, please feel free to email me! I love hearing about people's planner needs and helping them come up with solutions. Laurie at Plannerisms dot com. :)

  4. My tips for right-brained creatives trying to use a planner:

    Keep the planner as simple as possible and use just enough structure to keep organized. And that amount may be far, far less than what the rest of the gurus say. Too much of time management advice is for left-brained, and a lot of planners are designed to accommodate them.

    Don't just pick it for the aesthetics. Unfortunately, the prettiest of planners also tend to be the most left-brained of them. The reverse also is often sadly true -- the more functional the planner is for a creative, the more ugly it tends to be (i.e, cheap black cover, unappealing pages).

    1. Linda:
      Please explain? What kinds of planners are good for right brained?

      I haven't been able to use a planner for more than a week for like 6 months or more. I have NO idea what's wrong with me, but I know I'm missing notes/things I need to do because of it.
      --planner fatigue?

    2. Try a monthly calendar first. It gives an overall big picture that's very right-brain friendly. Just point appointments on it -- things that must be done that day, like a doctor's appointment. I use the Arc, mainly because it generally looks good and I can take parts I don't need out.

  5. Thank you for all of the useful information. I think planners and calendars are great tools if you know how to use them. I am a planner wannabe I see people with big beautiful overflowing planners and I get very jealous. Jealous of their busy lives and the ability to organize it. I start out well. I get everything at that time organized in a planner then find the planner in a drawer 6 months later. Help me have a big overflowing beautiful planner!

    1. The thing about using a planner is, you have to use it every day, at least twice per day. You have to write in all of your plans, as they come up. Many people get a planner all set up, but then they don't go through the daily maintenance of it. My guess is, if you find your planner in a drawer months later, you might not actually need to use a planner. If you really want to use one, look into one you can use for decorating/ journaling/ scrapbooking. There's loads of blogs and videos online about these things. Here is a post I wrote for Quo Vadis blog for new users on how to use a planner, it might be helpful for you:



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