5 Ways Your Planner Can Help you ACT Instead of React



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Do you act or react?  “Acting” is definitely a less stressful way to live but most people spend their life RE-acting.

What is reacting?

  • Being late to an appointment because you’re gathering the stuff you need at the last minute.
  • Being late to an appointment because you can’t find your keys or bag or items you need to take.
  • Paying fines on library books because you forgot they were due.
  • Running out of gas because you didn’t realize you were low or didn’t take the time to stop and fill it up.
  • Getting arrested because you forgot to pay your speeding ticket (this has not happened to me, by the way).
  • Having your electricity shut off because you forgot to pay the bill.
  • Paying an exorbitant amount of interest because you signed up for the no interest for one year financing but then made your payment late.

Besides the embarrassment, financial hits and other consequences, reacting also makes you feel like you’re always behind.  You’re reacting to all the things life throws at you instead of acting in advance.

How do you get ahead?  How do you become an actor instead of a reactor?

1.       Have a planner, calendar or electronic device and use it faithfully.  It won’t work if you don’t use it.  And if you don’t use it, unless you’re one of those naturally organized people, you won’t be ahead of the game but running behind.  Carry it with you.  Put it out where you can see it.  Set reminders on your phone to check it.

Planner Page

2.       Write everything down!  If you stop and pick up library books, write on your calendar when they’re due.  Then put a note a few days ahead reminding you to return them.  If you sign up for an account and have to choose a user id and password, write it down.  If you think of something you need to do, write it down.  Don’t rely on your memory.  It will fail you!

3.       Look ahead.  If you don’t look ahead in your planner, tasks and appointments can still catch you by surprise.  It’s good to have a day when you sit down and look at the coming week, make notes about what you need to do and observe appointments.  If you need to, put extra reminders in your planner.

Here’s an example from my planning routine.  My husband rented a piece of expensive equipment for a job he was working on and he had a set amount of time before he had to return it or we be charged a very expensive penalty:

  • I noted the date due on my calendar.
  • A week before the equipment was due, I put a note on my calendar.
  • A few days later, I put another reminder.
  • After the equipment was shipped, I wrote the tracking number in my planner.
  • I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking.
  • On the actual due date, I put a note on my calendar to check the tracking to be sure it had arrived on time.

An example from my library routine:

  • After I go to the library, I put on my monthly calendar the date the books are due.
  • Then on the daily page, I put “did you return library books?”
  • A couple of days before they’re due, I put “library books due 12-26-13”
  • After I return all the books due that day, I put a mark through the note on my monthly page so I know I did it.

4.       Use questions instead of to-do’s.  Did you notice on my library example I put “did you return library books?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be told what to do.  Sometimes my to-do list feels more like it’s bossing me and then the last thing I want to do is whatever is on that list.  But a question feels less offensive and less bossy.

I know this strategy is dumb, and I don’t use it for everything, but sometimes I have to do crazy things to keep myself motivated and on track.

5.       Put follow-up in your planning system.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in a long time, but when I did, I took extra steps to keep myself out of trouble.

  • I recorded the date due on the appropriate planner page.
  • A week before the ticket was due, I wrote pay the ticket. 
  • The day before the ticket was due, I checked my bank account to be sure the check had cleared.

While paying the ticket was important, making sure they got the payment was just as important.  Follow-up can save you a LOT of trouble!!!

Another example is a 0% financing for one year deal.  If everything goes well, they’re a great deal, but one tiny mistake and you’re in serious hot water.  We took advantage of one of those recently.  To stay out of trouble, I set up automatic payments delivered four or five days ahead of the due date.  A couple of days before the due date, I check to be sure the payment was made properly.

Paranoid? No, just careful.  I’ve had too many things go wrong to trust the system.  But I do trust my planner.

So which are you?  A reactor or actor?

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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13 thoughts on “5 Ways Your Planner Can Help you ACT Instead of React

  1. Very timely! as I find myself implementing all of your steps for number 5. Having just received a Red Light camera ticket (ouch!) I already have the check in the stamped and addressed envelop with a note on the day in my planner ‘drop ticket payment in the mail’. 😉

  2. Thank you! I really appreciate the thought and work you’ve invested in refining your own organizational skills. Even more, I’m grateful you are sharing this with the world and desperate, panicking women like me. Keep up the great works. Oh, and btw, I love the suggestion of rewording commands as questions. BRILLIANT in a humble disguise!

  3. Lurker lately but just wanted to say I love your blog! I love that it is so down to earth. You could write a book!!!! (After your remodel is done of course lol) thanks for so much inspiration!

  4. I’m definitely a actor. I prepare for everything, especially where finances are concerned. I not only write down when the bill is due but a week and day (or so) prior, I write down to pay it. Then I check my account(s) online, and reconcile my accounts (all of them) when my statement arrives. It might be a lot of extra work, but it makes me feel better (bonus) and I know that there is nothing outstanding that will get me into trouble (double bonus).

  5. Very good post! I fully agree with your points. I am relatively new to using a planner and cannot describe what a revelation it is. I still screw stuff up from time to time, but not often and I can manage any fallout better because I’m on top of things.

  6. I love these tips, Patty – especially the one about using questions. I am working my way back into making good use of my daily planner and these will be helpful.

    I am definitely a re-act case – I’ve done (often still do) many of the things on your opening list. Those are all too familiar scenarios and that’s why I’m working so closely with my planner. I tried the technology approach, but it didn’t help me – kind of made things worse, really. Call me old-fashioned, but I love the paper version!

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