There are SO many planner choices out there these days that it makes it really hard to decide which one to choose. And even after you choose, you’re still drawn to other options . . . in case it’s THE ONE.
I stuck pretty faithfully (not perfectly) with my Franklin Covey Compact for years but then I hit a wall and wanted something different. I played around with different options until it made my head spin. I got so desperate to choose that I tried some really crazy stuff, like:
- Choosing a planner and then having my friend take all my OTHER planners to her house with strict instructions not to give them back.
- Choosing a planner and then having my friend take all my OTHER planners to her house with strict instructions not to give them back unless I paid her an exorbitant return fee.
- Choosing a planner and then getting rid of everything else.
- Letting my husband choose based on all the stuff I’ve said about what I need.
- Letting my 4-year-old granddaughter choose.
- Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
- Making a list of all my choices, numbering them, and then letting random.org choose.
- Keeping a log about my planner changes. Every time I wanted to switch, I had to write down what I was using, what I wanted to use, and why.
- Texting my accountability partner every evening with a list of the planners I used that day (hoping to shame myself into choosing).
Did any of that work? Yes, it all worked – for a while. I don’t know if I haven’t found the right planner for this time in my life or if I just enjoy trying all the different formats.
But the bottom line is that switching from planner to planner isn’t good for me – it probably isn’t good for any of us.
- We waste time re-writing information.
- We waste money buying planners we don’t end up using.
- We waste energy stressing over our planner when we could actually be doing stuff.
So what’s the solution? I don’t know if there is one, but here are a few ideas I came up with based on my own struggles:
1. Accept the fact that this is the way it’s going to be and make it as painless as possible. For example, one thing that’s been a problem for me is my financial information. I keep it in my planner. But I can’t keep re-writing it for different size planners. The solution: I took it out. It’s not in my planner anymore. That gives me the freedom to move around more easily.
It’s also helpful if you can stick to one size. If you’re going back and forth between sizes, you have to re-write information. But if you stick with one size, you can keep your basic information as is.
2. If you have information you REALLY need, put it somewhere else. Then if you switch planners, you’ll still have that information in a safe location. My husband’s work schedule is a good example. He’s self-employed and we have to keep a log for tax purposes. I usually write it at the top of my planner page, but if I’m switching pages, it can get lost. So now I have a post-it note in my planner and I keep track on that. If I switch planners, I just move the note.
3. Eliminate choices. When I used Franklin Covey all those years, I wasn’t 100% happy all the time and there are lots of gaps in my planners (when I was trying something else). But I pretty much stayed with it because I didn’t have many options. And back then, it never occurred to me to make my own pages.
So if you’re having trouble choosing, one strategy is to eliminate every option except one. Then when you want to switch, you don’t have anything to switch to. Yes, you can buy new stuff but you have to make an effort to do so and you might be able to talk yourself out of it before you take the plunge. Plus it’s a lot easier to tell yourself to “MAKE IT WORK” if you don’t have other options readily available.
4. Stop looking at other people’s set-ups. When you look at other people’s set-ups, it makes you unhappy with yours. And before you have a chance to think it through, you switch. If you must look at other set-ups, only look at the ones that are the same or similar to yours. You can get ideas to tweak your system but you won’t be tempted to switch completely.
5. Figure out EXACTLY what you need from your planner. Then only consider systems that fit your needs. Several times I’ve tried a system that wasn’t even close to what I needed. But I saw someone else using it and wanted to try it, too. Of course, it didn’t last. So only try the other systems that match your list. That will automatically eliminate some options.
6. Keep TWO planners. Normally I wouldn’t recommend this, but if you absolutely can’t decide, keep one book with all your information (A-Z tabs, notes, projects, finances, etc.) and another book with your calendar and to-do list. Then if you want to switch calendars/to-do systems, you can just switch that planner and leave the other one alone.
7. Slow down and think it through. Sometimes making a change is a good thing. My daughter-in-law tried several different formats at the beginning of the year (that’s not typical for her – she doesn’t usually switch around) and then discovered Lime Tree Fruits weekly/daily combo and that was it for her. She’s been using them faithfully and hasn’t looked back. And that may be the case for you – one of these many options could be THE ONE.
But . . . when you’ve been doing a lot of switching, it often gets to the ridiculous stage where you’re switching multiple times a day or multiple times a week. When that happens, switching isn’t usually legitimate. Switching has become a hobby or an obsession rather than an honest effort to find a format that works. I speak from experience. You have to find a way to stop the madness and step off the planner merry-go-round.
Sometimes that means choosing a less-than-ideal format and just making it work – at least temporarily. You might need to put yourself on a planner diet for a while just so you can get your head back to normal. Then when you’ve calmed down a bit, you can go ahead and start thinking about your choices. Or maybe, just maybe, you won’t need to because the one you made work is actually working.
But the thing is . . . if you’re switching formats more than once a day or a couple times a week, you might need to take a break from the madness. When you get to that point, it’s nearly impossible to choose. You have to put some space between you and your options – at least for a while.
8. If you just can’t decide, then stop stressing over it and have fun with it. The truth is, there are a lot of cool systems out there and it’s fun to play around with them. So just do it. Don’t bust your budget, but try what appeals to you and make it fun.
I have a friend who used to switch all the time. She shopped a lot and frequently found cool planners on clearance. So bought them, used them awhile and then switched to something else. She didn’t spend a lot of money and she never stressed about it. She just had fun (and stayed organized!).
So what’s your story? Do you struggle to commit to a planning system? What crazy stuff have you tried? Could any of these ideas help you?
Other time management/planner articles are available here.