Happy Wednesday everybody, tomorrow is the Day-of-Giving-Thanks! The holiday season is officially here, and with it comes lots of important dates, to-do lists, and finals season (yikes!). Whether you love or hate planners, it’s times like these that require you to keep one just to stay sane for the next couple of months; personally though, I’m a big advocate for keeping a planner year-round. Planner-keeping is an art, and while a lot of you might already own a planner there’s a chance you’re not using it to its fullest extent. If you don’t have a method or don’t even own a planner, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice, but don’t worry! Below are five common mistakes you might be making with your planner (or five things to consider if you’re looking into owning one), just in time to to start working on your new year resolutions too!
1. You Don’t Own the Right Planner
All planners serve the basic function of helping you stay organized and work efficiently, however this purpose solely depends on the user’s goals: some people use planners to maintain good grades in school, others to keep up with meetings and work deadlines, and even others to track their food and exercise or manage different projects. Even within each category, some people like to have lots of colors and inspirational quotes and stickers in their planners, while others prefer minimalism, or even having the option of building their own planner. Because of this, there’s a million and one planners in the market, making shopping for one a difficult task.
When picking a planner, here’s a list of factors and questions to consider before making your purchase:
Purpose: In what context do you need your planner for? Do you only need it for doctor appointments and friendly gatherings, or high-stakes deadlines and meetings? Are you trying to keep track of something more specific like your health or finances or dreams?
Size: How portable do you want your planner to be? How much are you going to write in it? Visually, what size is most practical and efficient?
Affordability: What is your budget? How much are you willing to spend on a planner? This definitely depends on the aesthetic you’re going for, what material you want, and how durable you want it to be.
Time-Period: Do you need to plan our your day hour by hour, or are daily breakdowns just enough? How far in advance do you need to plan? Do you need to pick a planner where you can DIY your own time frames?
Aesthetic: While it may seem petty, it’s important to have a planner that you like to look at. Do you want colorful and cutesy, or plain and straightforward? Do you like leather hard-covers, patterned designs, or inspirational quotes? Can you add your own flare?
Focus on what you need; just because a planner has lots of features you didn’t consider before doesn’t mean it’s going to make you more productive. Too many features can distract you from doing what is most necessary for you. Also, keep in mind that your first planner might not be a success; with trial and error, you’ll eventually find a type that’s best for you. I think I’ve tried about five different planners before settling into the one I have right now (the Blue Sky Noteworthy 2018/2019 planner seen below).
Lastly, consider the possibility of needing more than one planner. While not the most convenient choice, some goals require more prep and detail than others. Two perfect examples, which I stated above, are project management and weight loss/weight gain.
2. You Never Write In It
This is obvious, but an empty planner is a useless planner. It’s tempting to just think you’ll remember everything that needs to be done and every meeting and event coming up, but our memory is not that reliable. In fact, our brain can only hold about 7 things at once using short-term memory; anything more than that, and you’re bound to forget. Conveniently, most planners are divided into monthly and daily sections, and some even include weekly overviews, giving you lots of opportunities to write stuff down. If all that blank space is overwhelming, you’re either being too critical of what gets to go on your planner, or you need to go back to #1 and pick a different planner.
As soon as something is scheduled, a deadline is set, or a to-do item is added, add it to your planner. If it’s helpful, set aside a period of time each week or every couple of days to organize yourself using your planner, cross out anything that’s been finished or that’s passed, and bring attention to tasks that require action or events/meetings that are coming up.
3. You Don’t Have an Organized System
If an empty planner is useless, a disorganized planner is even worse. No matter how long you’ve been using a planner, it’s critical that you find a way to streamline your use of it by evaluating stuff based on time, importance, category, etc. Establish a hierarchy for the items you put in your planner and stick to it, but also check regularly to see if it’s working and/or if it needs to be updated. Color coding, stickers and sticky-notes, and numbering systems are all helpful, but less is more, so don’t go overboard with add-ons. A good way to follow your system and stay coherent is to outline what each color, symbol, and order means. Also, don’t stray too far away from your own basic standards; that is to say, if you already associate some colors to certain levels of importance, stick to that standard and avoid confusing yourself. Same goes for any symbols or designs you use.
4. You’re Not Using An App
It might seem like double the amount of work, but overall it takes less than a minute to transfer deadlines and important dates from your planner to your online calendar. Unlike most planners, online calendars allow you to visualize your schedule easily by giving you an hourly overview of you day, making it a quick and easy task to add plans accordingly. Not only that, platforms like Google calendar and your phone’s calendar app provide features that your planner isn’t capable of, such as notification reminders, invitations, and a scheduling assistant for meetings with other people. Both are valuable tools that become even more powerful when used together.
5. You Leave It At Home
We’ve talked about wrong planners, empty planners, and disorganized planners; must I really touch on absent planners? If you’re not carrying your planner with you at all times, there’s no way it’s going to work out (which is why you must follow the size requirement in section #1 above). Tuck it inside your purse or backpack the night before, place it right next to the door, or hook your keys around the metal rings if you must; however you do it, make it a priority to pack it along with all your other belongings every morning before leaving the house. You will save yourself time, trouble, and embarrassment by having all your meetings, deadlines, and responsibilities accessible wherever and whenever.
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