Too many planners

The problem with planning nowadays is there are too many options.

Sometimes my soul yearns for the simpler times when our only choices were either some type of Filofax or we could buy a standard diary from a Woolworths type shop.

Now we have planners rather than diaries – bound or spiral or looseleaf.  It seems like every other Kickstarter campaign is for a planner. And the number of inserts that are available? I laugh at my younger self actually using the inserts that came with the Filofax. But as well as your Filofaxes and your Franklin Coveys and your Paperchase, there are so many Etsy stores that sell printables or printed inserts. Desktop publishing has a lot to answer for.

But with greater choice comes greater procrastination. I spend so much time looking at different planners and trialling different inserts. I repeat information in several planners just to test what it looks like with different layouts. I admit there are other things I could be doing with my time. Each time I change my Filofax binder or Erin Condren inerchangeable cover or swap out the dashboards I’m taking some time away from doing things that are actually productive. The joke is we spend so much time planning or planning out our planners we don’t actually DO anything.

How much of this is true? Are there really people who don’t get anything done because of their planners? Wouldn’t these people be the type who wouldn’t get things done anyway? If someone is actually using their planners primarily for planning does it really get in the way of doing?

I don’t miss appointments or events and if a task has a deadline it gets done. So what if I change my planners with the seasons or try a different planner every week. It’s one of my hobbies. My planner addiction really doesn’t stop me getting things done.

But it would be easier with fewer options.

Being Busy?

Most of my days are really busy with a packed schedule. Take this day in January for example – I woke up and did my morning routine which consists of getting up to date on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube and getting ready for the day. This took about an hour. I then had sheduled in time to catch up on my TV shows and Netflix which took around 4 hours. After that I scheduled an hour for a leisurely lunch and some more YouTube. Then it was a crazy afternoon.

In fact here’s a picture of my schedule.

  

As you can see there was, like, only an hour of my day unaccounted for.

Okay so I know this isn’t actually a busy day. I know you can have a full to do list and even schedule out every second of your day and not really be busy. But then I’ve never been one of those people who think being busy is some kind of accomplishment.

In the working world it seems that being busy is an indication of how important you are. But stay at home parents and homemakers often complain they have no time and that they’re busy, as if it’s something to be proud of. To be honest, people who complain about being busy all the time because of the NUMBER of tasks they have to do are probably indicating to me how ineffective they are at prioritising, or worse, how inefficient they are.

Obviously there are times when people are genuinely busy. A person who holds down two jobs while studying and being a single parent can claim to be busy. But on a smaller scale, if you have two events at the same time then you can’t attend one of them because you’re already busy. The same is true if you have an urgent deadline on one task so you’re busy and can’t go to a meeting or work on another task at that time. But these are examples of time constrained busy-ness.

Always having something to do or having somewhere to go doesn’t mean someone’s a busy person. More importantly, it doesn’t mean they’re a useful or productive person.

A change of mindset is needed where people stop thinking being busy is something to boast about. Don’t be busy, be productive.

Time Management Basics – Schedule Your Time

I’m the first to admit I’ve murdered time a lot, particularly over the last few years. (I suppose I should feel grateful he’s still talking to me and I’ve not been punished with an endless tea party.)

Recently I’ve been wasting a lot of time reading books, watching videos and generally immersing myself in all things to do with productivity and time management. I’ve always been a great believer in working smarter not harder, which is born from my innate laziness but luckily translated to efficiency in the work place. I used to get overwhelmed purely because I chose to juggle too many balls, but I was fairly realistic about the time I had available; just unrealistic about I wanted to use that time for.

Anyway I decided to put all my ‘research’ to some use and I’ve started a time management/productivity series on my YouTube channel My Kind of Organised.

I start with a video about scheduling time. It’s really an exercise in being realistic about how we spend our time. People seem to think being busy is a sign of their worth. As if being busy is the same as being productive or efficient or even happy. The reality is, for a lot of people we have a choice over how we spend our time. We may have activities or tasks to fill up every waking moment but that doesn’t mean we don’t have time for other activities – it just means we choose to prioritise our time differently.

Here’s my favourite example, and it comes from the planner community I love. I often see Facebook comments or even YouTube videos where the person says they wish they had time to decorate their planners, they’re just too busy. Frankly, if they have time to log on Facebook and make a comment about decorating, they have time to slap some washi and a couple of stickers on a piece of paper. However they choose to do something else with that time e.g. spend it on social media instead. And that’s a perfectly acceptable use of their time.

We tend to think time is in short supply because we value all our activities with the same level of importance, whether it’s going to work, spending time with family, taking a bath or being a content creator. In this video I suggest we look at the activities that form our week and prioritise them. I talk about ‘tiers’ as a way of framing priorities. I use outsourcing as a way of thinking about discretionary time even though I completely appreciate there are many reasons why someone wouldn’t want to outsource an activitiy such as caring for children. You could simply ask “could I realistically being doing something else with my time at this moment” but that doesn’t necessarily create levels of priority.

Here’s the weekly layout I use, in case you’re too busy to make your own

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Planner Review – First Look at the Day Designer by Whitney English

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When I first heard about the Day Designer it was marketed at ‘creative entrepeneurs’. Although I had no idea what a creative entrepeneur was, I was pretty sure I wasn’t one so the planner slipped out my consciousness. Now, however, according to the Day Designer website

Day Designer is the perfect planning tool to help you organize your life, and starting creating balance. Busy women from all over the world began embracing the Day Designer day planner in 2012. Whether you’re a mom, an entrepreneur, a busy executive, a creative, a student, or a blogger, Day Designer offers features never-before-seen in a day planner

(It’s nice they’ve managed to broaden their market.)

I’d been thinking about getting a day planner and naturally I was quite curious to discover what these never-before-seen features are so I ordered one from Etsy.

They do ship internationally but shipping is almost as much as the planner itself. It may be worth looking at a group order if you are international because shipping for a second planner was only around £7 more.

There are a choice of covers but the planners aren’t customisable. The Day Designer has a very simple layout and is predominantly black and white throughout. Because the layout maximises the space available, there is very little scope for decoration.

Despite what the website claims, this planner is quite bulky and I don’t think it’s portable for your everyday commuter on public transport.

The Day Designer offers more than just daily and monthly pages. It starts with pages to help define your core and align your goals

Core
yes, my page did come wrinkled and customer service offered me a small refund. Customer Service is very good by the way.
You are guided to think about your Purpose, Principles, Passions and Powers and then define your ‘strategic brand plan’. Completing these pages is supposed to help with goal setting for the year. To some extent these pages remind me of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits but somewhat waffly with more navel-gazing.

After defining your core you get a 2015 year at a glance over two pages.

Each month has a gold tab with a notes page

Tabs

These pages seem to be made from a thicker glossier paper than the rest of the planner, otherwise I would have used them for pen tests.

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The monthly spread has good sized boxes. They’re Sunday starts which may be an issue for those in the UK (or anywhere else where Monday starts are usual). The notes column is on the left hand size and the top right hand page has a box for goals.

Each month also has an Authenticate Challenge. Here’s an excerpt from March’s

‘a big part of authenticating your brand is telling your story in a translucent way, in order to build connections and trust with your audience. Can you identify…struggle areas that might be connective points’

Um…translucent isn’t it?

After that are the daily pages

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Each page has a quotation at the top. This is followed by a series of boxes.

The first box is for deciding the top three daily goals in ‘Today’s Top Three’. I really like this concept. Obviously not never-before-seen, or created by Whitney English, but helpful for focus.

The next boxes are

  • Due
  • Dinner
  • Dollar
  • Don’t forget

After these boxes there is a schedule which runs from 5am to 9pm. Because of this, there isn’t a huge amount of space to write against each hour but I think the space is adequate.

The column next to it is labeled “Other To-Dos’. The instruction page suggests this list should be used to record the interruptions or things that need to be moved to another day. To me, this suggests that day’s to-dos should be in the Today’s Top Three or Schedule boxes.

I personally don’t like my To-dos to be too prescriptive in terms of time of action so I would use the Other To-Dos column to list my tasks generally. Also isn’t it duplication to list your interruptions on that page rather than record them on the day they need to be done?

Finally on the daily pages there are boxes for Download and Daily Gratitude.

The dinner box, like in the Emily Ley Simplified Planner, makes me think the intention is for this planner to be used for both work and home and I like the fact the schedule runs from 5am to 9pm because that makes it more suitable for use as a single planner for truly busy mums.

I don’t quite get the use of the Don’t Forget box. What should be written here that isn’t a task or goal? Unless it’s to record an activity relating to someone else which doesn’t directly impact you, like ‘Don’t Forget husband abroad’. I don’t really know.

The weekends are combined.

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I’m generally not a fan of this. It’s a very lucky mother who has her weekends free, and in this case, apparently doesn’t have to make dinner because instead of the 4 ‘D’ boxes we now have

  • what worked
  • what didn’t
  • next week
  • don’t forget

Yet again, I wonder why ‘next week’ has a small box in the weekend rather than just writing those tasks on a specific day. Although this does raise one weakness in the daily planner in that there is no weekly overview.

At the end of the daily pages is a 2016 overview in column form with a small amount of writing space against each date so there isn’t a lot of scope for future planning.

I know that comparisons are made between the Day Designer and Simplified Planner. Instinctively I prefer the Day Designer. Actually its format reminds me of Franklin Covey inserts rather than the Emily Ley. I could probably live without all the authentication but I can see myself using the Day Designer as part of my planning system for 2015.

From the website –

Day Designer® offers:

  • Portable Size: 9 x 9.25″
  • 12 Months of Dated Pages
  • Heavy 50# White Paper
  • The Original Daily View Format
  • Dinner, Gratitude, Top 3 T0-Do prompts and more!
  • Month-At-A-Glance
  • Year-At-A-Glance
  • Combined Weekend Pages
  • Daily Inspirational Quotes
  • Inside Front Cover Pocket
  • Durable Cover (wipes clean with a damp cloth!)
  • Gold Corner Protectors
  • Sophisticated Brass Wire-O Binding
  • Made in the U.S.A.

In addition, each Day Designer® comes with a year-long subscription to the exclusive private Day Designer® planning community, and a complimentary download of the Define Your Core E-Workbook.

I also bought the undated Day Designer mini which I can do a separate review about if anyone is interested.

I have bought the Well Designed Year workbook because I’m currently going through another productivity phase but I’ll do reviews on productivity tools on my other blog Ru Undiluted.

Planning for 2014 – Part 2 Potential Planners

This post may be out of date within hours of it being published since I’ve spent the last few days tweaking and reworking my planning set up for 2014.

I started thinking about this year’s planner set up in November 2013. I thought seriously about what my planning needs were and how I could best find a system that met those needs.

Not really.

I have lusted after Erin Condren Life Planners for a couple of years but I thought they were just too expensive for a planner that probably wouldn’t meet all my needs. So I bought a cheap colourful planner with a similar layout from an Etsy shop printed it and put it in an A5 ARC.

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Only it was clear almost immediately that the planner wouldn’t work out because there wasn’t enough writing space (could be an issue with my printer though).

At this point I did start thinking about what I’d be using my planners for. Function was about to prevail over form. Basically I needed

  • a daily to do list
  • a strategic/long-term project planner
  • a weekly scheduler to cover blogs, studying, exercise, meal planning and writing

My initial thoughts were I could continue to use the daily dockets for my to do list and A4 ARC for my project planning, even though the latter wasn’t really working for me at all. So what I really needed was something to use as a weekly scheduler.

My mind kept going back to the Erin Condren planner and I realised although it may be a lot of money for a planner, with shipping to the UK costing almost as much as the planner itself, I could afford it from my personal budget and it was worth trying it out (otherwise I would always wonder whether it was as lovely as it seems). So I placed an order. Yes there was a financial risk if it wouldn’t meet my needs but this wasn’t an impulse buy.

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I’m thinking about doing a separate blog post or video about how I’m using this planner but basically on the monthly overview pages I use a blank sticker to represent a scheduled blog post (blue – readwritereview; pink – cleanseandtone and purple is this blog) and I use the weekly planner to record the proposed post topics and other stuff.

I thought I’d continue to use my daily dockets but make them A5 size and insert in my EC planner as needed but it didn’t give me scope for much forward planning.

UncalendarI then bought the Uncalendar thinking it would be better to have daily to do lists in one planner rather than using loose sheets but after a while I realised using 3 planners seemed a tad unnecessary.

Early this year I got a real hankering to use a Filofax again. I don’t know why. Last year I fell out of love with them a bit but I started watching Filofax setup videos on YouTube and knew I needed a Filo back in my life. So once again function was going to have to follow form.

Since the A4 ARC hadn’t worked out, I decided to try using my A5 mustard Finchley as my project/task planner and use the daily dockets in the same binder to record my daily to dos.

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and since then,, using my EC planner for weekly scheduling and my Filofax for daily to dos and strategic planning has remained constant. I also use a notebook to supplement both planners.

However the exact Filofax and the way I’m doing my daily planning keeps changing and I’m currently on incarnation number 4. If I ever use the same set up for more than a couple of weeks I may do a post on my Filo setup too.

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