If you Can’t Decide on a Planner . . .

planner choices

planner choices

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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:

  1. Choosing a planner and then having my friend take all my OTHER planners to her house with strict instructions not to give them back.
  2. 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.
  3. Choosing a planner and then getting rid of everything else.
  4. Letting my husband choose based on all the stuff I’ve said about what I need.
  5. Letting my 4-year-old granddaughter choose.
  6. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
  7. Making a list of all my choices, numbering them, and then letting random.org choose.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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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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36 thoughts on “If you Can’t Decide on a Planner . . .

  1. Right on target as usual, Patty! Your suggestions are excellent, and I’ve already followed a number of them. A week ago, in a fit of terrible desperation, I got rid of most of my planners and inserts. I’d made a short list of what I wanted to keep, so the seeds of more madness are still in my planner cabinet. But I will not let those seeds grow this time. (#3- Eliminate Choices). After it was all gone I had a long think about the situation, to ensure that my basic planning needs would be covered (#5 – Figure out exactly what you need), and ended up using what I had at hand – a large monthly calendar, my resurrected Moleskin bullet journal, and a FC Harmony classic sized binder with all my project, household and personal files. (#6- Keep 2 planners, or in my case 3). Thanks for another thought provoking post!

  2. Love your posts! You are so spot on and practical! I too love frankin covey compact and the insides work great for me but what I get sidetracked on is when I see other brands that make FUN colors in their covers. FC could really take note and add a rainbow of colors! Especially in their classic and compact standard zipper style! Have you ever gone on Instagram explore and entered #plannerobsessed or #planneraddict or there are a whole bunch more tags and there are so many colorful fun planners that I hope are FC but never are. Mostly come from Filofax. Love your planner posts Patty! Have you ever posted pics on instragram of your planner and then tagged them #planneraddict ? Planner addicts would LOVE your planner. Lol. Thanks! Jennifer

  3. Oh, Patty! I am so relieved to discover that I am not alone with this problem. I started using a planner in 1981. It was a simple one that I bought at an office supply. I really liked having my calendar and planning pages all in one place. At the time my husband was getting ready to retire from the US Navy, our home was on the market, we needed to schedule the moving company; there were repairs to be made to the house; and a house full of stuff to sort through so we could make things easier. We moved from So. California to Arizona and started job hunting, house hunting; and handle the craziness that attends these things. Without that planner, I would have gone insane. I do use the A5 size planners. I was vision impaired at that time and I wrote in quite large writing. At the time, too, I simply ordered pages that I needed from Daytimer. Once I was settled, I thought that the use of the planner would slow down some. Nope! In 1995 I got my first Windows computer and began designing my own forms. Mostly, I use OP’s — other people’s — designs, but I do have some special pages that I enjoy having. Like your daughter-in-law, I like the weekly planner from Lime Tree Fruits. Not all of my weeks are so full of things that I need to have one of these for each week, but it is simpler to use the “fruits” forms than not. The rest of my forms are stored in spare binders or boxes. If I need them, they are available. I borrowed the notion of a “Dashboard” and I have my numerous lists in my planner. I keep a short collection of numbers that I might need. I have tried using the smaller version of the planner and found that it got too crowded too quickly. When I want a change, it is usually the cover that I want to change. I have a few here. My favorite is one from Daytimer that is a great sunshine yellow. I just bought a blue embossed one from DayTunner/Mead. I love color! I do have a black zipper binder, but black is not very exciting… My husband also uses a planner. His is a very “manly” brown, but he does use some nice pages from Franklin Covey. My daughters use Daytimer or Franklin Covey. My son prefers DayRunner. My grandson and his new bride are using my self-designed forms while they are deciding which type works best for them.

    1. That’s awesome, Dianne. And you are definitely NOT alone!!!

      I’ve created forms for family members to try out, too. It’s so satisfying!

      If I could find more binders I liked, I wouldn’t have a problem with switching back and forth. In my mind, it’s kind of like a purse. I use a purse for a while, then I switch. I might go back to it or I might not. But I can’t find any binders I like. I’m really picky and they don’t make many that work for me.

  4. Patty, are you at all familiar with Time/system planners from Europe? Have you ever used one? I just got their catalog in the mail…interesting.

    1. I looked through quickly and you’re right, it is interesting. I hadn’t ever seen it before. When I get a chance, I’m going to spend some more time there.

      1. So, I found a A5 Time/system binder, punch and two boxes of forms on eBay for $50. Looking forward to it arriving, especially since these items new off the Time/system website would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $250, maybe more depending on what forms I end up getting. A new leather A5 binder from them is anywhere from $149-199…choke! Very curious to see what I get–I think I’ll set it up and use it as my work planner.

  5. Hi Patty. I had a off topic question. Do you still shop on Saturdays for groceries? I tried to find your post on that topic but can’t find it. If you still are was wondering if you like it still? I Work 35 hours per week m-f 10-5 and am tired in the pm so that leaves sat and sun for shopping. Sunday I like a “day of rest” or planning for my week and not out shopping. That leaves Saturday for groceries and errands. Do you still shop on sat ? What is your routine that day? Thanks Patty! Your the best! Jennifer

    1. Jennifer – I looked for that post but I couldn’t find it either.

      I shopped on Saturday for a while but then I had to switch again – currently Monday which I do NOT like. I went to HyVee last week (I normally go to Wal-mart) and hit the produce section first. They were out of eggplant which I needed for a new recipe. Then they were out of blackberries which I needed for fruit pizza. But the kicker was when they were out of spinach which I buy EVERY week. I gave my cart to the produce guy and asked if he could put everything back because I was going somewhere else. I was polite and there wasn’t a lot in the cart but I couldn’t get what I needed so there was no point in wasting anymore time. That’s what I’ve found about Mondays – it’s picked over from the weekend.

      When I was working full-time, I always shopped on Saturday. It made the most sense and worked out the best.

      As far as Saturday, I really liked going on Saturday morning. It wasn’t any busier than any other time of the week and it was nice not to interrupt my weekly routine. Plus my husband is sometimes home to help unload groceries. I’ll probably go back to Saturdays as soon as I can. My schedule has been so weird lately that I just can’t keep to a set day. It’s frustrating since I went the same day every week for 30 years.

      My Saturday routine usually varies depending on what’s going on. My husband has been working lately. We get the grandkids Saturday evening and they spend the night and go to church with us on Sunday morning. Lately, since David’s been working, I’ve been getting them right after lunch and they nap here instead of coming later.

  6. The last 2 lines of your post just cracked me up! I keep INVENTING new planners’s systems for myself and trying them all. My golden dream was always to make something that would work in any lifestyle and situation, when you switch jobs, countries where you live, have kids, (that’s my life story), go to vacations, and it still works! The very last version is just perfect for me and for my preferred filofax size -a personal Malden. I never post anything about it because I am a perfectionalist and I want it to look perfect, and it never does in my eyes , but believe me, it’s there, doing it’s job! ( I use it with the conjunction of filofax pages)

    1. That’s what I wanted, too – a system that would work for any situation.

      I am NOT a perfectionist but I understand how you feel. You should still think about sharing your pages. I’d love to see them. I think it’s fascinating to see what other people come up with.

  7. Patty,
    Thank you so much for writing this post! I am the person switching several times a week! I go from a personal sized filofax I purchased from eBay for $12 to a classic size Franklin Covey. I switch from a week on 2 pages to a day on two pages. I struggle with this. I wish I could just decide!!!

    1. Sometimes it’s really hard -especially when you’re going back and forth between two sizes because you want the portability of the personal but the writing space of the classic. We’ve all been there. Have you analyzed your needs to try to figure out what’s going on? Sometimes that helps.

      1. Patty,
        I took your advice and made a pros and cons list of my Franklin Covey Classic and my personal sized Filofax. On paper I am clearly a FC Classic kinda girl. My pros for the FC (larger writing space, readily available inserts, ease of printing my own A5 size inserts, minimal paper wasted when printing my own inserts, small binders can be used for archiving) far outweighed the cons (it’s huge, it’s heavy, needs its’ own bag). While my cons for the personal sized Filofax (who can write in those WO2P spaces????, small ring size, can’t fit a DPP in with other stuff, need both month at a glance and week at a glance to process deadlines/appts., printing inserts wastes a lot of paper, seeing my week at a glance is overwhelming as it seems more than I can do in a week – a little bit of activity seems insurmountable, limited variety of inserts) far outweighed the pros (compact, lightweight, cute, fits in my purse).
        I see all of these adorable personal sized planners and desperately wished they worked for me. And maybe they will one day, but not at this point in my life. As a mom, wife, full-time teacher, homeowner, and doctoral candidate I just need the writing space and can’t be sucked in by the cuteness of the smaller size.
        So for now, my list is clipped into my FC Classic so I can refer to it the next time I think I can cram all of the goings-on of my life into a smaller planner.
        Thanks so much for this post and hopefully some long, sought after planner peace!

        1. Thank you for the update. I hope your problem-solving helps! And it’s always a great idea to keep the pros and cons list handy so you can refer to it when doubts hit, as they will! But it does sound like you made the right choice.

  8. Hello,
    Last year I switched set-ups so many times, trying to archive everything at the end of the year was a big mess. I still don’t know if everything that I wanted to keep is there. So I found this tip from Zen Habits: Stop playing with your tools. Stick to one system (or planner) for 6 months and at the end of that time, review your system to see if it is working for your or still relevant to your lifestyle. If not, then, and only then, make a change; if so, leave it as it is and keep moving. I set a date in my planner (June 23rd) to review my planning tools. Once I set that date, which I did when I first set up my 2014 system, the thought of switching up vanished from my head like magic! I will review on June 23rd, but I seriously doubt if I’ll make any changes because I’ve allowed myself to get truly acclimated to this one system.

  9. Oh my gracious am I having a time right now trying to find a planner that works for me! I’ve always relied on my mind but it’s becoming unreliable the more stuff I try to remember. I need to just make one work for me and stick with it and stop playing around.

  10. At this point, I use a desktop publishing program to design my own forms. I finally had to upgrade it when I got the new computer, so I am learning new software, too. Life stays interesting, to say the least. Since the big problem for me is having enough writing space for my handwriting, I really don’t have a choice on the size of the planner. What I get super fussy about is the fillers. I love color and changing colors is better than a single color scheme, which is how I got into making my own forms. All of them are pretty simple. Nothing is so “elegant” that I do not want to write on the pages. I also change the color of the paper when printing them and tie the colors into the color coding system that I use here at home. I did the same thing when I was still working in an office. The results were almost magical and I was able to stay on top of projects and client files with ease. Carrying my planner is handled by a huge tote bag, which also has my wallet in it and a purse “organizer” holding my medication, a small makeup kit, and other miscellaneous items.

    I have a huge collection of binders, but not all of them are planner binders. They are notebook binders that hold other things: Address book (complete), household notebook, refills of forms currently in use, holiday planner (undated), recipes that I want to try out, and one binder has our “What My Family Should Know” papers in it. I like “view” binders because they allow me to put labels in the cover and an insert in the spine making them easy to identify on my bookshelf.

  11. Omg I loved this post! Bookmarking and saving to come back to read the comment thread and as a refresher. Good common sense as always! Thanks!

  12. Hi, Patty, I did my time with trying to find what worked for me. I “landed” on “half letter size (A5”) because I like having enough room to make my handwritten entries. If I scrunch up my writing, I have a lot of trouble reading it. I like comfortable shoes and my planner has to be “comfortable” for me, too. I have tried various “systems” and am never really content with any of them. My financial stuff is in its own binder in my office. I keep my checkbook with me to write down entries when they occur even though I rarely write checks. I use Evernote on my phone to hold information like window sizes and other things like that, including filter sizes for the vacuum, the car, and other items. I don’t need that stuff overloading the planner.

    I do like colors, so that is where my “switching” takes places. I am down to about three layouts that work the best and the colors are easy enough to change. There is no “Best for Everyone”. or “One Size Fits All” in planners or much else. I did all of my “Find what works and I stay with it until it stops working. I mean, once you find what works, there is little reason to keep looking for something else. If it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it, right?

    Sometimes it is entertaining to try someone else’s forms or their method for arranging things in a planner, but there is a limit to how long that can be done before confusion sets in for me. I “stole” the dashboard idea awhile back and am really tickled with it. So much easier than thumbing through the planner. But my monthly, weekly, and daily forms are right where they need to be and I am still getting things done. Isn’t that the whole point of having a planner at all?

    Have I missed something? Probably, but I have done all of the adapting I can up to this point, but I have no reason to change things right now either. LOL. Thankfully, it is a pretty easy matter to make my own pages when I do need something that I do not already have stored in the computer. Did I mention that I love shopping for planner covers? That is a discussion for another time. Ha ha!

    1. “Sometimes it is entertaining to try someone else’s forms or their method for arranging things in a planner, but there is a limit to how long that can be done before confusion sets in for me.” This is exactly how I feel, too.

  13. So, I received the Time/system stuff from eBay…hoo boy. This system looks really complicated. I got a pebbled, dark brown leather A5 binder, a punch and two boxes of forms–one marked “Time/Design 1996” and one “Time/system 2006″…apparently the US branch of the company changed its name to match with the rest of the world. What I noticed right away was how austere everything is. With Franklin Covey, you can get frivolous forms like “Summer Plans” or holiday planning. Not so here! Time/system is all business all the time, and the forms reflect that; business meeting forms, expense logs, appointment schedules, project management forms, billing records. Everything with the exception of the brown binder is red, black or white–looks very serious. There weren’t a lot of instructions included, so I’m going to have to phone their customer service and see if they can do a Time/system for Dummies over the phone. Some of the forms I really have no idea what to do with.

    This is the first time I’ve worked with an A5 size, so that may take some getting used to as well. At least I can buy Filofax inserts for it if necessary.

    1. By the way, my issue with the binder is the tabs–you know, the metal tabs you press to make the rings pop open. On this Time/system binder they are rather small, and I have big thumbs, so getting the rings open is a little tricky, to the point that I’m tempted to do a Bad Thing and pull open the rings without the tabs (yes, I know that’s a no no, but I think someone else did it before me; one of the rings is a little gappy).

      I can see how this whole setup is probably aimed at some super-Type A European businessman…girls who decorate their planners with washi tape and Hello Kitty need not apply.

      1. I don’t like those small metal tabs either. I’m currently playing around with a personal size filofax and the metal tabs are small. On my Franklin Covey binder they’re bigger and I like that better. Oh, boy! Opening by the rings . . . I guess you do what you have to do.

        You’re funny – “girls who decorate their planners with washi tape and Hello Kitty need not apply.”

  14. Hey there! I’ve been reading your blog for a long
    time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Huffman Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

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