I made a huge to do list for today. I just can’t figure out who’s going to do it. – Unknown
I detest planners – my road to hell is littered with them. Over the years I have bought expensive ones, printables and bullet journals – in fact, you name it – I’ve tried it. Really, I think there should be a support group for we failed planner users – it could be called P.A.G.E. – Planners Are Generally Enraging …
And I have been beyond enraged with them – in fact, my rage would follow a familiar pattern – around September time(ish) all the new planners would hit the shops and start giving me the glad eye. Naturally, I would vow to ignore them but then the twitchy fingers would start and off I would head to the nearest stationery shop for ‘Just A Look.’ But, of course, it went far beyond looking – I would flip pages – taking in the vista of boxes to be ticked, trackers to be filled, motivational quotations to be read and, before I knew it, I would forget my promise to myself and buy yet another bugger.
Home I would trundle with my newly purchased planner, convinced beyond all reason that finally I had found ‘The One’ – I would then hunker down, replete with something hot and milky, flipping through the pages all over again, as I plotted my bright new future that was surely contained therein. My good intentions usually lasted less time than the hot drink, whereupon my new planner would be put on the shelf until guilt made me pick it up again and try to plan.
It wouldn’t take many days for me to start getting angry with myself because I had already become a little lackadaisical in the box ticking department, and failed miserably in setting my 15 million daily gratitude mantras (okay, probably only three … but seemed far more …).
Rather ironically, I even dallied to a state of despair with mood mandalas. I have no idea why I thought I needed a mood mandala. I have three moods – ‘Blessed’, ‘Benign’ and ‘Batshit’ – There is no necessity whatsoever for a circular, whirly, swirly pattern to track them – I’ve learned what sets me off and what I should do about it – I don’t need it in black and white, or even seven colours of the rainbow.
Yet another planner bit the dust …
I’m not alone – I used to be a member of a couple of forums where planners were the thing – members used to fall into two groups – those who loved and utilised them to the very best of their ability and, indeed, seemed to thrive beyond all reason in cramming as many different trackers and titbits in as they could. Then there were the rest of us. We were the ones who fretted like fury because we couldn’t draw well enough, or wasted precious time searching for the holy grail of task trackers to perfect our lives.
The problem I have with them is that they clutter up my mind – there are simply to many pages for this and that which, in my opinion, clouds the purpose of planning – namely to be organised, set goals and action both.
I once bought a set of printables which, although beautiful, ran to sixty pages, and I found myself one weekend trying to complete them. I didn’t finish because by about page 20 I realised that what I was doing was completing someone else’s concept of fulfilment – trying to chase life through their ideas and not my own.
Once I got to grips with that realisation, I cut down to the barest minimum possible to enable me to spend more time on the doing and less on the writing down.
Now I have said that, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that my planning regime consists of a spreadsheet containing a master list, three sheets of paper and a two page cloud based Word document.
My spreadsheet – and lord love it’s every million plus rows, (no I haven’t filled them all but I’m sure working on it …) is my bible. It contains every idea I have. If and when an idea goes live I can just slot in steps across the sheet as they come to me. Naturally, there are many that will never see the light of day but they are there – just in case!
I have the three sheets of paper on my pinboard – with my working tasks –
These contain my overview for the year, quarter and month.
Every October I have my Look Back, Plan Forward weekend, which is always the weekend that the clocks go back. The process starts in September when I ponder what I want to do in the following year. I divide my year into four quarters – Inceptus (Begin), Futurus (About to be), Assurgere (Grow) and Perfectus (Accomplish). Each quarter I have no more than three main projects running – I simply cannot handle more than that, or I would spend too much time going off on a tangent. I break down what I need to do into a more detailed overview for the quarter and then for each month.
My online Word template looks like this –
I spend no more than fifteen minutes at the end of each day filling in my schedule for the next day. The writing planner on the left is just to keep in mind what I should be working on. The colours in the middle are software colours – I do a lot of work with all kinds and the colours are representative of each programme, so I just jot a note into any one of them to remind me what to incorporate into my schedule.
Lastly, there are my Fundamental Five – this is my daily worklist – the five items that I factor into my day. I arrived at five because less didn’t help me achieve enough and anything higher was just too much.
And that is it! – A system that enables me to keep moving forward but also allows me time to satisfy my fickle tendencies. Not for everyone, I’m sure, but having come relatively late to a creative life and opportunities to fulfil my dreams – I’m simply not prepared to faff the paperwork. There are a couple of things that do help me, though – I don’t need much sleep and have no family responsibilities.
That may not be the case for you but I believe everyone, regardless of responsibilities, can still find the time to plan what they want but need to go about it in the best way possible – one that completely suits their needs and without getting piled up with paper in the process.
A good starting point may be to have a look at what sort of things you need to keep track of and then prioritise the most important to you. Below are some suggestions – I’ve gone with Duty (day-to-day stuff), Destination (want to achieve) and Decoration (least important). Headings are quite up to you – I did consider Priority, Progress and Piffle or Foremost, Feats and Fluff!
The important column for me would be Destination. Duty and Decoration can take a hike. If, say, Duty would be your priority then perhaps start by populating your draft with the top five things you need to deal with on a regular basis and build from there. Decoration, I believe, should contain the things that perhaps you would like to add once you have everything else ticking over nicely … unless, of course, tracking the weather really is your ultimate dream …
If it helps to narrow down what you need, ask yourself three questions –
What do I need to track?
Why is it important to do so?
How will I do that?
Then start to plan – but maybe bear in mind the following –
- If you think that you want to try and all singing, all dancing planner or have a go at bullet journaling – do so. There are thousands of people out there who use them and absolutely love them. However, if you find that it still seems like torture after about three months – find something else.
- Printable are fine, if that’s the route you want to go down, but don’t start with pages and pages and make sure you have a decent printer – there is nothing more demoralising that tatty, faded looking printouts.
- Planner envy is completely demotivating!
- The function of a planner is to plan your action, not replace it!
Sounds like a plan …