Ah, that eternal quest for planner peace. I see it a lot on Facebook in the various groups I am in. Should I change size/binder/layout/stickers…? Will this give me planner peace? It really concerns me when I see such angst over a planner. It is just a planner, some bits of paper bound together in one way or another. It shouldn’t be causing stress; it should be making life run more smoothly so you can enjoy your time doing other things. If you are constantly adjusting, tinkering and worrying about the aesthetics of your planner, it will never work for you and all you will do is get frustrated as planner peace eludes you.
In order to reach planner peace, you need to understand what a planner can do for you. What do you expect from your planner? If you are expecting planner peace to bring you everlasting health, wealth and happiness, then you may well be disappointed. It really doesn’t matter what a good planner looks like, as long as it works. It can be a collection of used envelops if that is what works for you. The key is that you need to use it and trust it. I’ll be upfront here; I am not a decorator of planners.
I understand the need for a creative outlet, I have one in my blog, but I can’t have a lot of clutter in my planner, otherwise I can’t work out what is happening. That isn’t to say decorating is a bad thing, I admire some of the beautiful decoration and calligraphy I see, but I think it should be something that develops (if at all, and there is a strong argument for separating planning and crafts) after you have settled into a planning system which works. Remember, your planner is yours, so what it looks like isn’t important.
You are judged by your actions, not by how well illustrated your to-do list is!* Nobody has ever said someone was a bad person because their planner was a scribbled mess. If you are worrying about what it looks like, then you are adding an extra layer of planner complexity, which won’t support planner peace in any shape or form.
In order to reach a point where you are not tinkering with your system, you have to decide what it is that you want it to do. When I was setting up my system after I had a major life change and left my corporate job to run my own business, I thought this through, with the help of one Mr D. Popely.
Here are the things I wanted to achieve, and therefore needed my planner to help me with:
- Build my business by producing reliable and high quality work for my clients. Key to this is to be where I am supposed to be and to control time allocated to different client projects
- Manage Blog editorial
- Manage MS symptoms by keeping a closer eye on health data to understand which actions have a positive and negative impact
- Develop meditation and other habits to support health and wellbeing
- Reduce reliance on iPhone (I was spending too much time looking at it for reminders).
What I need to record:
- Time Blocking – I need to understand what time I have allocated to projects (work and personal) so I don’t over book myself
- Appointments – I need to know where I am supposed to be and at what time
- Blogging – I need a record of scheduled blogs posts and ideas for future posts
- Health – I need to record health data to help manage my MS
- Good Habits – I need to record how consistent I am being with exercise, meditation and other health habits. Record for as long as the habit is forming, and then stop. Replace with next habit.
- To-Do lists – Write time dependent to-do in planner (eg. When client invoices are due). Write repeating to-dos on a sticky flag and move them (eg. Put out rubbish).
I set this up and then I used the system for 2 months, yes, 2 months. Day in, day out. Even when I felt unsure I kept going. I didn’t look at other people’s planners or set-ups. I kept with what I had devised. It takes up to 8 weeks to develop a habit, and I believe that planner peace takes just as long.
After the 2 months I reviewed against the following criteria:
- Did I manage my project time appropriately?
- Did I attend all my appointments?
- Did I blog and post regularly?
- Am I recording health data and can I make sense of it in order to draw conclusions about what is a positive impact on my health?
- Can I see how I did at developing my good habits? Can I make sense of the data to work out what throws me off track so I can avoid that pitfall in the future?
- Did I complete all of my important To-Dos?
- Did I feel in control and understand all of my commitments?
In my case if the answer to all of these was yes, then my planning system was working. And it was. No stress, work was done and delivered, my to-dos were done, and all the things I need to do to keep me well were happening too. Interestingly, since implementing this system I have spent far less time worrying over my planner, which gives me more time to work on my health, spend time with my loved ones and do nice things! The pages are plain, simple, and work for me. Planner Peace.
So, when thinking about planner peace, don’t worry about the binder, or the colours or anything else. Just ask “am I getting done what I need to get done?” If the answer is yes, then you have planner peace. Then you can let rip with the stickers. ☺
*Which is a good thing as I draw like a 4 year old.
So do you consider you are at 'Planner Peace' yet?