I Heart My Planner

Yes, it is 2012 and I am still using a paper planner! And, if you know me at all, you know I don't like having any paper cluttering up the place. I even had an iPad-like tablet computer back in 2004 before anyone knew what a tablet was. It even had a "pen" and Franklin-Covey software to emulate the paper planner with my own handwriting electronically, but that didn't work either. There is just something magical about the paper planner. I have strayed many times over the past 20 years when a new gadget, app, or system would come out and I really did feel a sense of guilt. My planner had been my BFF through so many highs and lows in my life.

People who know me virtually really well give me strange looks when they meet me in person and see me (of all people) break out a paper planner in meeting, but then they are always intrigued at my calmness and ask me a ton of questions about it.

What I have come to realize is that our life planner system is just way too important to leave up to a virtual cloud. And, although to the untrained eye it may just look like a bunch of notes, appointments, and task lists - the planner is really a blueprint for creating our entire lifestyle. It contains and lays out all the components, plans, and goals that it takes to create the life we want neatly in one place. So you I grant you permission to cut your electronic leash and try working in the clean open space paper allows.

You will not only look more professional using the planner, but have a tremendous confidence that you know where everything is at all times, have a clear head because you use your planner as a "dumping ground" - keep track of things in your planner and then you can completely forget about them until it's time to handle them. And, eliminate ALL stray papers.

Here are some common objections I get when suggestion my stressed-out clients try going back to a paper based planner system:

"I must sync my calendars online so my whole team has access to it. How do I do that with the paper planner?"

If you must sync calendars with your team you can have an assistant (traditional or virtual) update the online calendar for you a few times a day. You should be planning ahead right? At least a day in advance. For example, I don't let my assistant or online calendar book anything for the next day as a general rule (unless it is a big opportunity). For most of us, we don't have a life or death situation at work tomorrow and Oprah isn't calling us anytime soon. There should not be too many last minute items that you need to add to your calendar immediately. Give yourself that space. If there is anything that is an emergency just email your assistant to add it to the online calendar or add those very few and far between last minute appointments yourself.

"The paper planner is so much bigger than my phone! Do I have to carry that thing around all the time?"

Yes, isn't building a successful career, arriving gracefully and on-time to appointments, having visibility of your entire month, eliminating all scrap paper and sticky notes and mail, etc. more important that saving a little space in your workbag? Do you like to be in control and plan monthly or weekly to avoid just reacting to your day and filling it with busy work? Besides, I've seen your big fashionable handbags ladies! This planner will fit and eliminate the paper clutter in your purse and on your desk.

"Having everything in my phone is efficient for me."

Have you ever been trying to set date or meeting with someone and they have to click around 20 times to see if they are available? Or, have you tried to make an appointment on the phone with someone, but couldn't get to your calendar because you are on the phone with somebody and the calendar is in the phone? Have you ever lost all your data due to a software update to your smart phone? This is a personal decision, but I feel so much pressure and stress trying to get my electronic calendar up on my phone while someone is waiting for me to see if I'm available. Then, I'm always in a rush and type the appointment in wrong - most likely not even for the correct time. Myself, I just like to flip to the appropriate month's tab, write the appointment in and get on with life.

Things to consider when deciding to go to a paper planner system:

  • Having a planner that doesn't fit your own style, that you don't enjoy using, or that is overly complicated means that you probably won't use it or get the most benefit from it.
  • Your planner needs to be portable so you can take it everywhere. Yes everywhere - even if you sometimes leave it in the car you can get it quickly when needed.
  • Your planner must be customizable. This is why I favor ring-bound planners over spiral bound model. If you can't customize it to fit your business and lifestyle needs perfectly you will end up with multiple notebooks and paper clutter.

Your planner must be able to handle:

Appointments & Events - Time driven meetings. List them on the two-page monthly tabs and then your daily appointment schedule as you plan for the upcoming week

Tasks - List those "things to do" that are not time driven like an appointment is

Notes - (one page per day preferred) When you're organizing papers, if you have a planner but still write yourself notes on yellow post-its and napkins all over the place, you will continue to be stressed. So using your planner for everything means NO little post-it note reminders all over your computer, NO piles of invitations or clippings from the paper about activities you want to do... everything goes in your planner!

Reminders to Yourself - For example, make yourself a task note 7 days before the wedding you are attending to purchase, wrap and ship the gift.

Projects - Big projects can be listed in a separate section in your planner and broken down into tasks so they don't clutter up your daily task lists before you are ready to focus on them

To Dos/Errands Lists - Your basic out and about errands list... remember to batch your errands!

Goals - Have a specific space to write out the big picture and dream.

Tolerations - A whole other subject for an article. See our upcoming Ezine article about tolerations.

Contacts (this is the one exception thing you can keep in your smart phone if you don't want to have the A-Z contact tabs in your planner. Contacts in your phone make it easier to dial and change if when someone changes their information).

Your planner can also be customized to house a variety of information to simplify your life and enable you to have all vital information at your finger tips. We do of course, have some suggestions on what to use the extra tabs for a healthy and productive lifestyle such as:

  • Mileage Log - The easy way to keep track of your odometer readings for your taxes.
  • Client Intake Forms - A new prospect calls and you flip right to your intake form and gather all their info in one place.
  • Food Journal - If you are writing everything down after you eat it maybe you won't grab that extra cookie.
  • Time Journal - Feeling off track with your time? Start jotting down everything you do after you do it and see where the leaks are in your time bucket.
  • Expenses - Record them while you are out and about and then send to your bookkeeper.
  • Gym Class Schedule - pilates, yoga, Zumba! Most gyms have a printed schedule you can shrink to fit and punch holes for the planner.
  • Usernames & Passwords: It seems like everything has a username and password now-a-days! Keep track of all of them on under one tab in your planner.
  • Menu Planning for the Week w/Shopping List - You will be less stressed, eat healthier, lose weight and save a tremendous amount of time if you plan a weekly menu for your family and create a shopping list from the menu. No more guessing "What will I ever make tonight for dinner?" or having to run through a drive through!
  • Gift Lists - List your friends and family and then when you are shopping and spot a good gift item jot it down here.
  • Hobbies - Create Lists of books you would like to read, movies you want to see someday, bird watching guide, place you want to visit, wine tasting notes, helpful tips from magazines (so you don't have to tear out that paper!) etc. That way when you find yourself with nothing to do you can take a look at your list or refer back to something.

Here are the essential items to get your started:

  1. Classic Size Ring Binder
  2. Daily Pages in a design that appeals to you
  3. Two-Page per Monthly Calendar Tabs
  4. Storage Case
  5. Starter Pack with Compass and Compass Cards
  6. Clear Zipper Pouch
  7. Extra Note Paper or Half Sheets
  8. Seven Hole Punch

When you are just starting out and learning the planner system, you may feel like it is a lot of work and that it is just too cumbersome for you. It actually takes 21 days to make something a habit so keep at it! Use your planner for everything!

We all know that having clear roles, goals, and values creates our lifestyle. By having everything in one place we can check in with ourselves yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. By bumping up your to-do list against your roles, goals and values, you may just find that a lot of tasks cluttering up your to-do lists can be simply eliminated. You will be more focused on what really matters most! How freeing this is for you!

I've been using the same planner system since high school. Yes, high school... don't laugh - get your kids started on this habit now and watch their grades soar and the scholarships come in!

Using your planner for everything takes an enormous load off your mind!

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