How My Planning System Has Evolved



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I’ve been using a planner since I got married, 33 years ago.  My first planner was simply a 3×5 week-at-a-glance calendar.  I really didn’t have much to write down so it worked fine.  And back then, there weren’t very many planner options that I was even aware of.

I was at the office supply store one day for work and saw a 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 3-ring notebook.  The cover was red vinyl.  There were no pen loops or fancy pockets.  But I fell in love with it and purchased it that day.  And that’s when I really started using a “planner”.

By then I had a little more to write down so I was using a 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 week-at-a-glance calendar for my appointments and a few notes.  I began using the notebook for information.  The notebook contained finances, contact information, birthdays, notes, ideas, etc.  I left my calendar at home but I carried that notebook with me EVERYWHERE.  I remember my friend, Linda, asking me:  “Why do you carry that thing everywhere?”  I told her:  “Because I never know when I’ll need it.”

week-at-a-glance planner

I had been working full-time as a legal assistant in a law office.  But then I got pregnant with our first child, struggled with health issues and at 6 months along was confined to bed.  I developed toxemia and our daughter, Rachel, was born 10 weeks early weighing 2 pounds 2 ounces and measuring 13 inches long.  She was in the hospital for 2 months.  If you’ve ever had a premie or know someone who has, it’s a tough time because you just don’t know how things will turn out.  One day everything’s fine and the next there’s something wrong.  We were so happy when she was given a clean bill of health and sent home with us.

But that started a new phase of life.  Now I was a full-time homemaker and had no idea how to fill my time.  It didn’t help that I had ADHD (I didn’t know it yet).  So in order to keep from wandering around the house all day, I started making a daily to-do list in a steno pad.  Now my planning tools included my red notebook, my week-at-a-glance calendar and my steno pad.  The only thing I continued carrying with me everywhere was my red notebook.

My daily to-do list consisted of anything that popped into my head.  I usually filled the whole page but I never felt pressured to get everything done.  It was really more like a checklist to keep me from sitting around doing nothing.  I had certain things I did every day – like tidy and sweep and make dinner – but the rest of the tasks I did when I could.  I highlighted tasks as I completed them and then the next day re-wrote what I didn’t get done.  One benefit was that after I had re-written something several times I tended to just do it so I could get it off the list.  It worked very well.  And as an added bonus, my 10-year-old neighbor, Aimee, who liked to come over often after school, would either help with the kids or do something on the list.  She’d look at the list, pick something, do it and then mark it off.  Can you say “lucky me”?!

steno pad to-do list

By then we had a second child, Danny, born 25 months after Rachel.  Life started getting a bit more complicated and my planning system wasn’t working well.  I tried a lot of different variations but nothing really worked.  That’s when I discovered Franklin Covey.  A friend of mine at church had just purchased a compact Franklin Covey and I was in love!  I wanted one so bad!

So David and I and the kids drove to the local Franklin Covey store (back then it was Franklin Quest) and I purchased my first Franklin Quest planner.  It seemed SO expensive but I was sure it would be worth it.  It was a compact burgundy vinyl binder with original two pages per day.  I was SO excited!  That was 1993.

Franklin Quest Binder
My very first Franklin Quest binder.

My FC planner became my ONE book.  I had worn out the red binder and replaced my week-at-a-glance with the new Franklin Covey planner.  When I got my planner, FC also provided a cassette tape teaching how to use the system.  I listened to that tape SO many times that I knew backwards and forwards how to use the system.  I thought it was brilliant.

Franklin Quest

Franklin Quest Monthly Calendar

I started out using it as designed and gradually modified it to suit my needs.  I also saved every year’s pages and still have them.  They are a treasure trove of information about my family.  I would never voluntarily part with them.  I think that’s one of the best parts of the system.

Franklin Quest Monthly Index

About seven years ago, life began changing rapidly.  Our son got married and moved out.  I went back to work full-time.  Our first grandchild was born.  Our son and his wife moved back in with us for 1-1/2 years.  I quit working and came back home.  I started this blog.  Our second grandchild was born.  Our daughter got married.  Menopause.  Moving.  ADHD.  And that’s just some of it.  Life had been fairly steady and predictable up to that point but suddenly it was changing faster than I could keep up and my planner didn’t seem to work anymore.

And that’s when I hit the planner quagmire.  Since then, I’ve tried:

Filofax Personal 2 pages per day
Filofax Personal week on two pages
Franklin Covey Classic 2 pages per day
Franklin Covey Classic with homemade pages
Filofax Personal with homemade pages
Franklin Covey Compact 2 pages per day
Franklin Covey Compact with homemade pages (3 or 4 different formats)
Life Mapping Inserts by Fish
Bullet Journaling in Filofax
Electronic planner (briefly)

Currently I’m going back and forth between Filofax Personal with Fish Life Mapping Inserts, my tried and true Franklin Covey compact 2 pages per day and homemade pages in the Filofax.

Filofax with Fish Life Mapping Inserts

Franklin Covey

Filofax with custom inserts

I want you to know that it’s hard for me to admit this because I like to think of myself as “organized” and all this flip flopping seems unorganized and embarrassing.  I know I’m not the only one who does it, but I hate it.  I’ve never struggled like this and I don’t like it.  It’s inefficient and ridiculous.

I recently read a post by Laurie at Plannerisms (you can read it here) about this topic and she brilliantly said:

“It doesn’t end until you decide to end it.”

I wrote that on my daily planner page for at least 2 weeks because it was so profound and so true and so simple.  However, I still haven’t “ended it”.  But her words are true.  It won’t end until I end it.  I have the power to do it by simply making a decision and then making it happen.

So in case you’re interested, that’s how my planning system has evolved.  And even though I’m in the midst of a planner quagmire, I won’t give up.  I need my planner!

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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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21 thoughts on “How My Planning System Has Evolved

  1. love this post, Patty! I need to write something like that too, unfortunately, my first planners are very far away from me, at my mom’s house. Haven’t you use a planner at school?
    I also wanted to write that for me changing the inserts are not a problem,’ I enjoy it. I have FC DO2p (just like you, I blame YOU for my burning desire to buy them!;)) FF DO1P, wO2P several different kinds, all kinds of monthlies, and, as you know, I made my own inserts – I have different videos on my YouTube channel MySummerTouch about that. I have noticed a pattern I use inserts, they work well for me, then they start to get on my nerves, and I stop looking at my filofax. Then I put other inserts, and start to use my filofax again. Life goes in cycles, and my planner goes in cycles. I have accepted it, and have peace in my mind now!

    1. Clara: I did not use a planner at school. I’m not sure how I kept track – maybe just wrote it down on notebook paper. It’s been too long ago and I don’t remember!

      I think you’re right that it doesn’t have to be a big deal to change inserts. What’s wrong for me is that I’m changing “planners”, too – flipping back and forth between sizes. That creates a problem with continuity and archiving. If I could stay in one planner size, that would solve the problem and I could flip between inserts as often as I wanted.

      Yes – definitely planner cycles. I can see that clearly when I look back at my old planners.

  2. This is a great post, Patty! It makes me so nostalgic for my own Franklins – which I used for years just like you (not always saving the past years though, sadly!). I think it’s the allure of Filofax — they are so much sexier — but really the FC system is such a good one. I’m using an Erin Condren Life Planner these days, but there are limitations!

    1. Claudia – I’m surprised you were able to switch from a ring bound to a spiral bound. Plus the Erin Condren is so big! I received the new Franklin Covey studio planner (similar to Erin Condren) but I can’t switch to spiral. There are certainly advantages to it but I love my ring bound planners.

  3. So glad someone else struggles too! I also started using a planner 31 years ago and your journey sounds so much like mine. Right down to predictable life becoming chaos. Add into that retirement from a lifetime of full time work-screech!!!! I am pretty faithful to Franklin Covey, even though others have been in and out. Just ordered the 2page per day because my retirement suddenly has gotten busy. Thank you for posting your journey. Good read.

    1. Do I count as faithful if I never wander far from my Franklin? It’s usually fairly up to date even though I’m using other planners, too (something I do NOT recommend). Maybe that’s a sign that I should just stay with it. Is it because it works best or because of habit?

    2. Do I count as faithful if I never wander far from my Franklin? It’s usually fairly up to date even though I’m using other planners, too (something I do NOT recommend). Maybe that’s a sign that I should just stay with it. Is it because it works best or because of habit?

      And yes, going from a predictable life to a crazy one is a definitely challenge that I haven’t mastered yet.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your planner journey with us!! It helps so much to see how your planner needs have evolved over the years. I hope you find planner peace soon!

  5. homey – quite a journey! will post link.
    hope you’ll let us know when you decide.
    question – if it’s so hard to decide between the two, does it really matter? aren’t they about equal?
    best wishes

    1. Doug, you made me laugh because that’s exactly what my husband says. “Just pick one. They’re about the same anyway.” However, for some reason which I haven’t figured out, it doesn’t seem to be that simple. I don’t know if I’m a perfectionist (I don’t think so), enjoy the conflict (I hope that’s not it) or if it’s something else completely. I think if I could figure out the “why”, I could probably fix it.

  6. I’ve been on the roller coaster myself and find myself landing repeatedly at my 2 page per day FC compact – it just plain old works. I haven’t found anything that works better. The problem for me comes when I get bored with using it. But switching to something else isn’t the answer. I don’t know what the answer is – yet.

    1. The FC system does work really well. I think some of my problem is what you mentioned – after 20 years, I’m tired of it. I want to use something different. I’m bored. But nothing works as well as FC – at least for me.

  7. Patty,
    Thanks for sharing your journey. I have been trying to find a system that works for me too. I was just diagnosed with adult ADD (it took me until age 46 to figure that one out) so I like reading your posts on how you deal with those challenges. Thanks again.
    ps I too had a premie. My first son was born 8 wks early & weighed 3lbs 15.5oz at birth. He was born early because I came down with toxemia too. He was in the hospital for 5 wks, 3days. I agree that it was a tough time. 28yrs later you would never know he was a premie.

    1. Jodi – Oh, wow! I’m sorry you have ADD but I’m glad you know what you’re dealing with now. I haven’t been officially diagnosed but years ago I read the book, “You’re Not Lazy, Crazy or Stupid” and nearly cried all the way through it. I knew something was different about me but I didn’t know what it was. I was NOT the same as the other moms and when I talked about my struggles, they looked at me like I was from outer space. When I read the book, I was just so relieved to know that I really was different and what it was. I’ve been educating myself and developing strategies to cope ever since then.

      My daughter just turned 29. She’s pretty short – only 4’11” but I think she would have been short anyway. I’m only 5’3″. Otherwise you’d never know she was a premie either. Those were scary days!!! Have you had any long term effects from having toxemia? I’ve battled with high blood pressure ever since then. Combined with a family history of high blood pressure, it’s a battle I’ll fight forever I guess.

      If you ever need any help, Jodi, or want to talk, email me and I’ll be happy to listen or help, whatever you need. Have you read the book, Your Life Can Be Better by Doug Puryear? It’s an awesome book – the most practical book I’ve read about dealing with ADD. Here’s the post I wrote about it:

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