Planner Problems? 10 Questions To Ask Before Making Changes


Thinking about making big changes to your planning system?  Sometimes big changes are necessary to make it work.  But other times it’s better to resist the urge and ride it out – just in case the changes aren’t really necessary.  If you’re not sure whether your planning system should be changed or left alone, these 10 questions might help you decide.

1.       What’s not working?  Before you start making any changes, figure out what you don’t like or what isn’t working.  Once you have that information, you can decide if the system needs abandoned or just tweaked.  Sometimes one small change makes all the difference.

2.       How long have you been unhappy?  If it’s only been a day or two, or even a week, you should probably wait to make any changes.  If your frustration continues, you can probably safely assume your set-up needs work.

3.       Has your life changed?  When your life changes, your planning system might need to change, too.

4.       If your life has changed, are the changes permanent or temporary?  My life changed big-time recently when we put our house on the market.  Selling our house means more cleaning, more picking up and an unpredictable schedule because of showings.  I’m embarrassed to say I did have a knee-jerk reaction yesterday regarding my planner.  I tried to fit one more appointment in the tiny box on the monthly calendar and it wouldn’t fit.  I said:  “This size planner isn’t going to work.  I can’t fit everything on here.”  But if I switch to a bigger size because I have more appointments right now, when the house sells and life goes back to normal, I won’t need a bigger size anymore and then I’ll want to switch back.  So rather than change my system due to temporary circumstances, I need to figure out how to make my current system work.  Unless I’m okay with temporarily moving to a bigger planner – which I’m not!

5.       Is your planner too small?  If you keep track of a lot of information and truly can’t fit all of it in your current sized planner, maybe it’s time to switch to a bigger size.  But before you do, here are a few more questions:

  • Do you really all that information in your planner or can you eliminate some of your information or sections?
  • Do you want to carry the bigger size around or will you decide it’s too big and end up leaving it at home?
  • Do you really need more room or just want it?

6.       Is your planner too big?  If you’ve been carrying a large planner but find that you don’t need all the space or you leave it at home because it’s too heavy and bulky, maybe it’s time to switch to a smaller size.

7.       Does your planner meet your needs?  Figure out what you need your planner to do and then determine if it’s meeting your needs.  If it isn’t, can you tweak your current system so that it does?  If it doesn’t meet your needs and can’t be tweaked, then change it.

My daughter dealt with this recently.  She tried using a custom page per day in her personal Filofax, upgraded to custom 2 pages per day and realized neither of the daily formats was meeting her needs.  Daily pages were overwhelming and she needed to see the week.  So she switched to a vertical weekly format we created for her and is much happier.

8.       Have you personalized your planner or are you using it as is?  If you’re using it as is and it’s working fine, that’s great.  But if it isn’t, there are lots of things you can do to personalize it.  If you’re not sure how to begin, check out the articles in the time management section of this blog and the many articles and videos on Philofaxy.   While you’re there, you’ll discover a whole bunch of other blogs about planners.

9.       Is there something else going on?  Confession time.  I’m going through peri-menopause and it’s kicking my butt.  I’m dealing with brain fog, lack of focus, indecision, fatigue, etc.  As a result, I’ve been struggling big-time with my time management and especially my planner.  After years of using one planner faithfully, these days I find myself going back and forth between two planners and multiple planner formats.  Despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to choose a planner and format and use it for more than a few days.  This is not me.

After talking with my doctor this week, he put me on an anti-depressant.  I’m not exactly depressed but because of the difficulties I’m having due to menopause and ADHD (ADHD can get worse during menopause), I need help to clear the fog and feel like myself again.  I’m optimistic that once the medicine kicks in I’ll be able to get this planner mess under control.

But back to the question.  If something else is going on, it might be a good idea NOT to change your set-up until you figure it out.  Chances are the system you’re using will be fine once you can solve the underlying issue.  If you make a change, you’re liable to do like I did and end up making a big, fat mess.

10.     Is it possible you’re just bored?  Some of us, when things start rolling along smoothly, get antsy and want to change for the sake of change.  If that’s you, DON’T DO IT.  Instead, try to make some little changes that make it more fun.

  •           Get a new binder.
  •           Add some washi tape and stickers.
  •           Use a different colored pen.
  •           Make new page dividers

If you can stick it out, the boredom will probably pass and you’ll be fine again.

So what did you decide?  Is it time for a change or time to stay put?

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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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27 thoughts on “Planner Problems? 10 Questions To Ask Before Making Changes

  1. One of the problems I have is that planners are left-brained organizational tools, and I’m right-brained. I need a small amount of structure — not the huge amount most planners have. I’ve bounced back and forth, in part, because I need to keep track of things like appointments and I also want the planner to be pretty — and I usually get too structured and pretty, or little structure and ugly! I settled on an Arc, which has separate parts that I can purchase (or in my case NOT purchase!).

    1. Sounds like a great compromise. And it’s good that you know what you need and were able to find a solution. I’m a bit like you – I need flexibility within structure. Too much structure is bad. Too little is bad. Finding the balance – that’s the tough part. Sounds like you did it!

  2. Hi Patty – I would like to know (this is why I get frustrated) is how to reduce a page that is in a Word document (8 X 11) and then make it fit into my Franklin Covey Compact binder with out jeapodizing the layout. I’ve tried and tried and I must be doing something wrong.

    Do you have any tips on doing this?

    THANK YOU! I love love your blog!!!!! Jennifer

    1. Jennifer: I think your success in reducing the page is going to depend on how the page was designed and what’s on it. What I’ve done to reduce an 8-1/2 x 11 page to fit my Franklin planner is this:

      Change the layout of the page to landscape.
      Create 2 columns with 2 inches between columns.
      Change the margins of the page to .5 for the top, 2 for the bottom and 1.25 for the right and left margins.
      That will allow you to have 2 copies of the new page on one sheet of paper.
      Then make adjustments to make the 8-1/2 x 11 page fit.

      Another option would be to take the page to a copy center and simply reduce it until it fits. My printer will supposedly do that but I haven’t figured out how to do it.

      Or you could create a new page yourself that matches the format you want. That’s usually what I do.

      Does that help?

    2. I found my page of hints and tips that came with my FC inserts, they say:

      “Reduce regular 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages to approximately 64% for Classic size, 56% for Compact, and 42% for Pocket.”

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  3. Patty, its funny that you say the menopause has affected you planner use etc. I’m pretty sure I an a planneraholic, just recently it seems that my urges to try a new system seen to come in a monthly cycle, not too dissimilar to the other monthly cycle that rules my life! Hormones eh!?
    Have used to many set ups its getting embarrassing. Love your down to earth articles and inspiration 😀

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Jo.

      As far as hormones, I’m learning that anything is possible! Unfortunately. Every time something new happens, I check the list of menopause symptoms and there it is! So who knows – maybe your monthly planner woes are from hormones! Maybe that should have been one of the questions: “Does your planner discontent come at regular intervals?” or something like that. 🙂

  4. Patty this is wonderful advice! I have to admit I’m guilty of the last one the most I think. When things are working well I take it for granted and get bored and want to try something new. Then everything falls apart!

    For your current situation with so many things to schedule, have you tried using weekly pages in your planner? They will allow you to write more scheduled events each day than you have room for in your monthly, and you can still use your daily pages like usual. You only need weekly pages while you’re super busy, and it wouldn’t require any major changes to your system. Just a suggestion, what do you think?

    1. I actually wondered about that, Laurie. I might play around with it later and see if I think it would help. I definitely need more room to write appointments these days but just putting them on daily pages won’t work. I need a bigger view. But I’ve always loved the weekly view. I don’t think of my life in terms of months but of weeks. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  5. It seems like this is the story of my life lately. A5 or Personal? Back & forth. Which calendar format? I can’t seem to settle on anything. I think I need to just pick one and stay with it for more than a week!

    1. Let me know if you figure it out. Sometimes I think we get stuck where we just can’t make a decision. We’ve gone back and forth so much we are incapable of making a decision. That’s how I feel. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t decide. I feel your pain.

  6. Great post Patty. My planner just wasn’t working for me and I couldn’t figure out why. Eventually I realised that lined pages made me so ‘anxious’ to write everything in the ‘right’ place that I became indecisive. When I switched to unlined paper, my mind seemed to ‘free’ itself and I was able to write again. Some people are fazed by a blank page, but I just see endless possibilities. Must be the creative in me!

    1. Isn’t it amazing that something small like that can make such a big difference. I know exactly what you mean. On my homemade pages, I don’t have lines. But recently I added lines thinking that would make the pages better. But I HATED the lines and immediately re-made the pages without lines. I felt that the lines stifled me, too.

      It’s good that you figured it out so you could get your planner working for you again.

  7. I have moments where I am kist to stressed to think about it and the filofax goes on the shelf (sometimes for days) and then I get disorganised and *need* it again. If it remains untouched then I didn’t really need it.

  8. Hi Patty,
    I came across your blog tonight and had to laugh out loud as I thought, “Wow! I’m not alone.” I’ve always had a planner obsession but lately, it’s gotten much worse and I didn’t relate it to my peri-menopause at all until I read this! I told my husband the last night as my head spun with 1,000 things running though it, that I thought I had A.D.D. No kidding. We even started looking at the treatment options and looking into finding a Dr. on our insurance plan. I have no idea if I have A.D.D. or not, but I do know my hormones need adjusted. I’m on BHRT already (after a hysterectomy) and definitely think I need a little tweek as it’s a fine line to be at an optimal level. Anyway, thanks for the laugh. I’m glad I am not alone in this “issue.” LOL!
    P.S. – You may want to follow Suzanne Somers and Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD on FB, if you don’t already. They’re both experts on women’s health issues and they are great resource. Maybe you don’t need an antidepressant? Maybe natural (not synthetic) hormones would do the trick? I know that than other than recently, I’ve felt great on them. Who knows, they may work for you? I’ll get back to you on the A.D.D. thing.
    I also liked your FB page. Thanks for the post, I look forward to reading more!

    1. Robin, thanks for your comment. I can certainly relate to everything you said!!! You made me laugh.

      I’ll check out Suzanne Somers and Dr. Northrup – I haven’t really done much research on menopause related issues. I probably should.

      So glad to have you as a reader.

    1. I still have the Malden but I’m hanging on to it. My daughter and daughter-in-law both use Filofax and would be really upset with me if I sold it. Plus I still think about switching to it.

  9. Great post. I may actually print it out and put it in my planner. I’m a big believer that your planner needs might change as your life changes and try to be intentional about any changes that I make. However, this post gives me some concrete questions to ask myself when I’m considering making changes–especially when I’m dealing with “brain fog…indecision, fatigue.” I feel like that describes how I’ve been for most of my life–you’ve got me worried about how much worse those traits are going to increase in the coming years!

    1. Uh, oh! Well, just remember that everyone’s different. Maybe those brain fog traits won’t increase for you. They’ve leveled out for me since I started taking a low dose anti-depressant. I’m going to talk to my doctor about the possibility of going off the meds next time I’m in there. I don’t want to take them forever – just to get through this rough patch with menopause.

      But it’s definitely a good idea to step back and ask those questions before making changes. Glad the article helped.

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