Addicted to Planners
I confess that I am a planner junkie. I’ve probably tried dozens of different planners over the years. From dollar-store agendas to Daytimer, from teacher’s grade books (for schooling) and a calendar to ones claiming to cover homeschool and everything else, online, offline, free printable and purchased downloads, I think I’ve tried every variation possible. I’ve even tried to create my own.
There are so many to choose from. Every store that sells school supplies also sells agendas and organizers. And just about every mommy blog has something to help with your time management. From traditional calendars to bullet journals, there’s a style and planning system for everyone.
How do you know which to choose?
As with everything else, the answer is always “It depends”. Choosing a planner is a personal experience, based on a number of factors. A family with a lot of medical needs will need a different kind of calendar system than a family who have two fulltime working parents. A large family will have different needs than empty-nesters.
What do you need to plan?
The first thing to consider when choosing a planner is what you need to include in the organization. If keeping track of housework isn’t an issue for you (because you happen to be naturally organized and tidy — if that’s you, teach me your tricks!!), but you do have a lot of game times and practices to remember, then you might do better with more monthly calendars than daily tasks.
Style and art?
The second thing to think about for your planner is how much art, inspiration and color matters to you. For me, the artsy stuff, while gorgeous and I admire it very much, is distracting from the matters at hand. I’ll get lost in the inspiring quotes, and forget about the appointments that I need my planner for in the first place. So I absolutely must avoid the colorful, inspirational, picture-filled planners, if I want to get anything done. You may get utterly bored with just plain black and white lines and boxes, so if it’s pretty you’ll use it more.
Complex or Simple?
Third, check how complex your needs are. If you need to keep track of school events, ballet class, housework, meals, a work schedule, baseball games, football practice, piano lessons and doctors’ appointments… you may want to get a downloadable one that you can customize. (Or you may want the one I use… keeping reading for more details.)
Once you’ve gotten an idea of what kind you need, then you can look around. Obviously a budget might come into play here. There are plenty of free and low-cost printables around; some that even allow you to edit on your computer before printing. My favorite sites for printables include Get Organized, Hey Donna, Andrea Dekker, and Mom’s Tool Belt. However, there is still the cost and hassle of printing and figuring out how to bind the pages together. Do you want to continue to tweak in a binder? Get it coil bound or sewn at a local copy store? Use a duo-tang or folder and staple?
Or maybe you want to avoid the paper altogether, and you’d like something on the computer, like Cozi or Google Calendar, which are free to use, sending you regular reminders on your phone or email. Some online planners can be shared or updated by more than one person, making them ideal for couples who want to keep up with the logistics of a home and family together. Often, online planners will have purchase prices (as in apps) or subscription fees.
Then there are pre-made, pre-bound planners that you can purchase. Sometimes you can get the binder or executive portfolio and purchase refills, as in Daytimer or the Franklin Covey planners. There are prettier ones, such as Erin Condren or Passion Planner.
My Personal Pick: the PlannerPad
Finally, there is the one I use. With my busy life, and my need to keep track of everythingI can in order to stay organized, I use my planner to track:
- my work
- my blog
- kids’ extracurriculars (sports, classes, lessons)
- social events
- my garden
- all my kids’ doctors’ appointments (5 kids means a lot of appointments, even if only once or twice a year!
- visitation (I am a single parent, after all.)
There’s a lot going on, so it was a real struggle to find something that fit everything. This is why I love my PlannerPad. So many reasons to love this planner. The way it sets up just works the way I think. So it seems natural for me to write it, review it and actually remember the things I put on it.
Let me explain. The main pages are a two page weekly spread. It begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday (which I love, because it means I can keep track of visitation weekends easier!) At the top of the spread is the first row of columns. These are blank, with a title line, and several lines underneath. You can use these for anything. They are on top of the daily titled columns, so you can match up with the days if needed. Or you can categorize them according to the areas of life, areas of interest, priorities, to-do lists, people, types of tasks, or however suits you best. I organize mine according to to-do lists (or next action lists, per GTD philosophy).
The second row is untimed daily columns, with each day of the week on the Title line. These make great places to put the things you want to accomplish on each day without actually specifying a time for those tasks. I take my tasks from my next action lists and divide them onto my next days’ list, when I review nightly. I also keep household tasks on these lists, and note meals for each day.
The last row on the bottom is the timed daily columns. These are ideal for all those appointments and deadlines I need to keep track of. They also help me visualize my day, so I color block these times. Doctors’ appointments, kids’ extras, social events and my work deadlines all end up on here, along with blocked out time for school, chores, and work hours.
I love this “funnel” concept. I go from the next actions I’ve determined in each of my areas of life, to putting them into specific GTD time slots. It makes it easy to set goals, and figure out when I’m going to work on each goal.
Planning ahead options
There are also monthly pages for a month-at-a-glance scheduling and planning ahead, and blank notes pages, for future reference. I usually use those for the reminders of “I want to do that this month, but I don’t have the date/time yet” kind of events, like vacations, festivals, family activities, seasonal chores, or personal goals.
There is an online option that does the same thing, but I’m a paper-and-pen kind of gal. I get immense satisfaction out of crossing off the to-dos, and I find it much easier to jot down things of interest or change things around on paper. It gets messy, at times, but my life is messy at times, so my planner is a real reflection of my life.
Have a Planner!
No matter what planner you choose, having one helps keep things in order. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed at life, frustrated because you keep forgetting appointments or stuck because you don’t think you have the time for the things you really want, using a planner can help change all that.