19 August 2015

Guest post - Defining Planner Peace (Or how to stop tinkering and get on with other things) by Helen Fennell

Thank you to Helen for this thought provoking post. 

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? 

26 comments:

  1. Excellent post! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! I agree with everything you have said, I think there is a very similar post on my blog when I was feeling the same.

    I have found that after all the angst I caused myself seeing everyone else's planners and the beautiful decorations I have finally reverted back to the way I did things before I found the planner community, but with some added tweaks. I used to use basic Filofax inserts and there was absolutely nothing personalised, it didn't even occur to me that I could do that! Now my planner has photo's and beautiful dividers that offer personalisation but my actual planner part is basic and WORKS, just like it always did.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, I agree with the previous comments, an excellent post! I'd never considered personalising my planner beyond having it set up in a manner which worked for me. Having used a FF for almost ten years I've only recently 'discovered'' Philofaxy, and it's been such a discovery!! I have tweaked my layout using tips from previous posts and am finding some of the ideas extremely useful. I've loved all things stationery for as long as I can remember and started using colouring books for adults before it became a "recent" phenomenon and am now planning on utilising some of my favourite pictures/patterns to make beautiful dividers. I'm giving my daughter her first FF in preparation for university next month and have encouraged her to start reading this amazing blog too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, I agree with the previous comments, an excellent post! I'd never considered personalising my planner beyond having it set up in a manner which worked for me. Having used a FF for almost ten years I've only recently 'discovered'' Philofaxy, and it's been such a discovery!! I have tweaked my layout using tips from previous posts and am finding some of the ideas extremely useful. I've loved all things stationery for as long as I can remember and started using colouring books for adults before it became a "recent" phenomenon and am now planning on utilising some of my favourite pictures/patterns to make beautiful dividers. I'm giving my daughter her first FF in preparation for university next month and have encouraged her to start reading this amazing blog too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yes, I agree with the previous comments, an excellent post! I'd never considered personalising my planner beyond having it set up in a manner which worked for me. Having used a FF for almost ten years I've only recently 'discovered'' Philofaxy, and it's been such a discovery!! I have tweaked my layout using tips from previous posts and am finding some of the ideas extremely useful. I've loved all things stationery for as long as I can remember and started using colouring books for adults before it became a "recent" phenomenon and am now planning on utilising some of my favourite pictures/patterns to make beautiful dividers. I'm giving my daughter her first FF in preparation for university next month and have encouraged her to start reading this amazing blog too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent poet, Helen. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very interesting read Helen, thank you! I think I will follow the steps you took and attempt to do the same for 8 weeks and see what happens!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent post,Helen. I'm putting the finishing touches on a very similar blog post, but you really hit the nail on the head. Yes, we need to be happy with our actual planner because it's going to come with us just about everywhere, but it's the 'system' inside that runs your life like a well-oiled machine. Your steps for determining what goes inside based on your current needs and encouraging those to stick with it for a month or two before reviewing is sage advice. I'll definitely be sharing this. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would say about 98% of the time I have planner peace. The other 2% of the time I think my angst is self inflicted. I spend too much time looking at other peoples planners and worrying why mine isn't so nice.
    I am not going to stop looking as I have picked up some ideas that have made it into my planner and have worked for me. The cost of getting these great ideas it occasionally fearing that my setup isn't good enough.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Excellent post! I agree with everything you said.

    I think people rely too much on how others use their system and try to adapt things because "it looks good," rather than "that would really work for me." In too many cases, I think people don't know what will work for them and they try too many things without really give any of them a chance. In addition, if one is truly using a planner as a planner (as opposed to something similar to a scrapbook), they need to figure out a system before worrying about the decorating. But, I am a non-decorator, so perhaps this is easy for me to say.

    Since Filofax released the compact binders, I have had planner peace. However, even with changing binders fro color, layout, and size, the heart of my system has pretty much stayed the same since starting. I have changed from weekly inserts to daily to two-pages-per-day and back to daily. Monthly inserts have always been a part of whatever day/week layout I had going. But the HOW of my planner has always been the same. And that's because it works for me. I am tempted every once in a while to try something that works for someone else, but it's usually a small tweak and not an entire revamp.

    You have great tips here. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just what I needed to hear today and exactly what my husband keeps telling me.

    Sorry about the ms. My daughter-in-law was diagnosed with it a year ago.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Very well said. I've been using the same set up since 1994 although sometimes in different planners (desk calendar vs. ring bound personal), and it works very well for me. Sometimes simplicity is best. This has carried me through my military career, personal life, children, education, job searches, moves from one country/state to another, lifestyle changes, etc. When all else falls apart my planner serves as a touchstone for keeping focus.

    I do like the colorful hole reinforcements. If I have to look at it all day I want it to look happy.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I agree. I feel "planner peace", in its aspects, is now a stationery hobby distinct from ring-bound planner systems and use. Complete with its own Facebook group, some vernacular, and discussions in blogs, this blog included, and YouTube. This is not a bad thing. To each their own.

    Planner peace discussions follow an oft-shared theme that the hunt can be fun, and here I agree! For me it misses the mark, however, because of an excess of angst and joy over detail. I want to see the photo, wish you happiness...then, tell me the specifics of the design of your newest binder: before its used, predict what may be the challenges and benefits relative to your particular use. To your setup as it is now. You've changed inserts: your first impressions of those as well, and how those impressions have or have not changed from month to month of use. And share the specifics of comfortable margins (for writing room, comfort, or aesthetics?). These considerations extend the joy of a new acquisition further than the unboxing.

    These are my interests, yes. And I offer that thoughtful discussion of these particulars can offer more of a lasting pleasure over the long haul...and keep the hunt both fun and productive.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm glad you all like it. I don't want to do down what others do with decoration, I think it is lovely. But the amount of angst and stress caused by not getting everything perfect is really troubling.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Excellent post. I have returned to ring bound planners after 9 years using a combination of Moleskine A5 diaries and electronic planning. I threw my A5 personal and pocket planners in the bin because I had not used them for several years. I have been using a cheap Paperchase personal planner with MO2P and WO2P inserts since November 2014. The personal size binder meets my needs regarding portability and the inserts provide enough writing space. If I have an unexpectedly busy week / day, I can easily insert an undated page / to do list. I have tested different insert layouts and know what works for me. My Paperchase planner has served me well, I know what binder size and inserts meet my needs. I use my planner every day and I am looking forward to upgrading to a VDS standard Touch Me with 30mm rings when they are available. I don't understand the concept of "planner peace", but if it means discovering which binder size and inserts layout/design works best for you, that's a process of trial and error. It's a voyage of discovery!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Such a thoughtful post. I have planner peace, and you just confirmed it!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I really enjoyed this post. I've always been interested in learning the functions of other people's planners, the tips and strategies they use or the categories they include. I've gotten a lot of helpful hints here by reading others' posts. I've learned that for me, the format of the page is the most important thing. I need a vertical layout so I can block out time and see how long things will take. A horizontal format doesn't help me in daily planning. Understanding which page format made sense or "worked for me" was the key to planner peace. Everything else is gravy.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for an excellent guest post, Helen!
    I admit that from time to time, I quite enjoy changing binders but I rarely tinker with my set up as I know what works for me. Your post has been a timely reminder not to mess with what I already have :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I enjoyed reading this. Definitely some food for thought. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm agreed. I'm disagreed. Hahh :)
    I'm agree: Searching the planner peace is not about what color, brand etc is the binder. What washi tape I use in my planner. I also don't use decoration for only decorative purpose. Decoration can be functional, for me help icons, colors, stripes of washi tapes (what means something, like more day events) - I wrote about even this week about this a blog post :)
    And disagreed:
    Finding the right planner/setup should be so simple as you write. But not all people is so conscious as you. For example me. I don't exactly know, what I want/need. I have to try. For me searching the planner peace is to find the right bound (disc/ring/spiral/normal notebook?), the right size (as small as possible for the portability, but enough big to have space to write), and the right layout - it's affects also the first too. I think my brain works very different as others or I want to think that maybe ( :D), I'm a little bit crazy, but it is not only bad, it's also good, that gives me creativity, and energy searching new and different ways in everything, also in planning. My search begun for 1.5 year, I know today more clearly what I want as for a year. I'm not sure that my journey is ended or not, I'm trying a new layout again. And I wish to be that the last version.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails