Why so many {planners} and how to use them?

It is true that many of us, people who love using and carrying a planner sometimes use one too many, but why so many planners? You may ask. Using more than one planner, for many of us, goes beyond practical reasoning, yet to us planner-nerds it totally makes sense to have more than one, and we probably use more than one planner simultaneously. Planners may also fall in the category of “accessories”, just like people have more than one purse or shoes, many of us also have more than one planner.

In my case, I have been using a planner since high school when I was having problems getting myself organized and keeping up with all the assignments, studying, handing out papers, quizzes and what not. In high school I had to enroll in this course to learn to organize my life – that back then felt like a very complicated life, little did I know. In that course, the teacher taught us how to manage our time in such a way that we would have time to go to school, do sports, be social, get good grades and yet have time to study and comply with our assignments. Many years later, now in my mid thirties,  I realize that what I learned in that class has stayed with me up to this day. The tools I learned in that short course, are tools that I used through high school, undergrad and grad school and now, as a professional-working-mother-wife-volunteer-want-to-do-everything-adult-woman.

It is common sense, you could say, that we should dedicate slots of time to different tasks and try to avoid those tasks that might only seem like a waste of time (like watching too much TV, spending too much time on Facebook or Instagram, etc). These days there are many more distractions at a hands’ reach that I had back then. Even knowing that we should be working on the tasks written on our “To do” list, we just don’t do it, we procrastinate and/or leave things for the last minute (cough,cough), but sometimes, when life happens and things around us change or when major events happen such as changing jobs, changing our routines or simply life goes a little faster than usual, we find ourselves almost losing our mind because we can’t cope with everything that needs to get done by the end of the day, week or month. For me, I became a mother six months ago and suddenly my days are longer (the nights a lot shorter) and yet I have less time to do all the things that I need to do. Not only do I need to take care of my child, but also make sure that my household, my job, husband, my dog, the house and everything is in order without mentioning the activities I do on the side – together with husband’s activities.

Let me share a story with you: I recently had to take my child to his bi-monthly doctor’s appointment, I rushed through the morning, got him ready, took my dog out for a very very short walk, packed my things for work, got myself ready, rushed to the doctor just to find out that our appointment was scheduled for the next day (!) Has this ever happened to you? Well, as a new mom I find myself doing things like this more often than not so I decided that I needed a planer, ANOTHER planner. Until then I only had had a planner, a large (fabulous) moleskine that was using exclusively for work and sometimes for personal things, I was also using a regular notebook to keep track of certain projects that happen sometimes in my life and husband’s life. But life was simple and the hard disk in my mind was large enough that it allowed me to remember most things I had to do. With one planner I was able to juggle my work matters and some persona things just fine. Even when I returned to school, my little moleskine made it through until the end! Now, not only do I have to remember my own life but the lives of three more beings without counting my own extended family matters. 
Somewhere while I was watching a You Tube video by a beauty blogger, who also became a mother around the same time I did, she mentioned that she was using a planner where she could divide the page into different sections, one section for each one of her family members, plus other ones pertaining to issues she’s working on. To this planner you can add more sections to manage things such as your blog, your household, your baby’s life, your finances, etc. A light bulb went on above my head and when I heard her talking about that particular planner I though ” I have to have this planner”. So I bought it, it is the Plum Paper Planner, family format. It made my life easier as I had to take out of my moleskine some of the issues that were not work related.

Some time later a friend of mine from Australia also heard that I had gone back to my loving stationery things and since my birthday was approaching she sent me a Kikki-K planner, which I think is fabulous and beautiful, now I use that planner for all issues pertaining to finances. I also got myself an A5 Hot Pink Domino Filofax which I love because of the size which is great to manage my blog and other projects I am working on. All in all, yes, I do have one too many planners but by having each one of them I am able to separate the different aspects of my life and put them into different categories, I avoid having “stuff” laying around and also, my mind is clear because I have different “drawers” for different things that I know I need to get done. Now I know where to find a receipt, where to find our doctor’s appointments, where to keep track or our spending or savings and where to work on a calendar for my blog or other projects. I know where things are and where to find them at all times, including my son’s pediatrician’s email address. Yes, some discipline is involved but overall, having different physical spaces for different things allows me to keep track of deadlines, upcoming projects, important dates and everything in between.

Now there is also something that I need to address, in this age and time many people tend to use their phones and computers as “planners”, this is fine if it works for you. I tried using my computer and email applications as a calendar to keep track of meetings and other appointments but it didn’t work. I ended wasting too much time trying to find an email address or a phone number or a name from someone among all the clutter in my inbox and other folders. Also, I didn’t always have access to an electronic device with internet access so that I could write down a meeting that had just been confirmed or a phone number if it had been given to me right away. I ended up scribbling stuff everywhere on random pieces of paper or somewhere in a notebook, then recording it onto my electronic calendar and making sure that I had set up a reminder. Electronic planning tools just didn’t work for me. Besides, you also have the batter issue or the access to the Internet issue. I am a paper person who tends to remember things much better when these are written down, recorded and visualized. If your electronic device works for you, then go ahead and continue using it by all means!

I still have my little moleskine which I love but it is less cramped and stuffed, I now use a general to do list that I use a way to transition between work things and personal things. On these lists I keep things that I need to do while on my way to work, for example, go to the bank, deposit money, go to the post office, call the baby sitter, and other errands. It works for me! 

If you are someone who has never ever used a planner but you would like to try using one because you feel you could learn to manage your time in a more effective way, I would recommend you to consider buying one. There are many planners out there in different price ranges, different sizes, styles and even formats. You have them with pre-set inserts, with inserts that you can remove, with inserts that you can customize or even without inserts like the new Webester’s pages planners. A planner will serve different purposes like the following:

1. It will help you have a visual representation of how your days or weeks look like and what you need to accomplish by a certain period in time.

2. It will help you keep track of your tasks and to do lists
3. It will help you organize your days by allowing you to appoint tasks to specific times of the day or keep track of your appointments and avoid forgetting them or double booking them.
4. It will help you have a centralized place where you can find information pertaining to different areas of your life such as personal appointments, family matters, financial records, personal projects, deadlines, important tasks to do, things to remember and the list can go on and on.
5. When you write things you remember them better than when you don’t and I would even say that it gives you accountability to actually get things done!
I know that, specially now there is a big buzz going on about the coolest most fabulous planners in the market (like the Kikki-Ks, filofaxes, van der Spek, Kate Spade, etc) but I can assure you that even a $4 planner that you can buy at target or your local stationery shop will do just fine if you learn to acquire the discipline to use it.
This said, you don’t necessarily need to buy more than one planner. I didn’t have more than one planner until recently but if you do decide having more than one, what can you use the different planners for? Some ideas for using more than one planner are, for example:

– finance management

– project management
– work
– personal life or family life
– specific projects that you need to manage or keep track of
– student planner
– as the 43 forlder system developed by David Allen (Which I also use in a modified way)
– for bullet journaling
– for jounaling, and the list goes on.
My advice to you, however, if you have never used a planner before is: Stick to one planner and learn what works for you. Not all planning formats work for everyone, you need to learn what works for you by doing it. For many of us, the “planning journey” has been a long one and we are yet to find THE perfect planner but we have learned, through trial and error, what formats we like, what helps us remember things, where to place certain inserts so that we use them properly or what inserts or formats we really don’t use at all. We learned by using one planner, and I also think that for many of us our first planner was never an expensive filofax or a midori notebook. Many of the planners and planning systems that we use today are the result of developing habits when we plan and by using many tools throughout the years, there really is no way around it.

Conversely, if you don’t give up and actually manage to use your planner every day until the end of the year I guarantee you that you will start seeing changes in how you work, manage your household, your finances and how aware you are of your time and how you manage it. You will not become super effective the first week, but you will learn and you will improve. 

There are many many videos online that can help you learn more about different formats that are out there, and which one might work for you, before you decide to venture in buying a planner. You can also read blogs and other posts created by many blog gurus out there who are great at explaining how to use a specific planning system or what tools you can use to complement your existing planner or planning system.

Remember, whatever planner you decide to buy and use, it won’t work if you only use it once! Be disciplined and keep at it, and most of all, have fun! Be fabulous. 

E M Jorden

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