This is probably going to be the strangest planner setup article you’ve ever read. But maybe the most interesting, too? Well, it’ll definitely be an experience. I just hope that when you’re done you don’t think I’m a nut case.
Many of you know that I used a Franklin Covey Compact two pages per day for 20 years.
The first 15 years I didn’t realize there were other options so I stuck pretty faithfully with my FC (fewer options is better when you have ADHD). My recollection is that I used it faithfully. But my archives and my best friend say different. My archives show gaps in use. My best friend says I’ve always struggled with my planner.
Until about 5 years ago, I made it work. It served me well enough that I was able to keep my ducks in a row, for the most part. But 5 years ago life started getting crazy. I won’t bore you with all the details but let’s just say I went from a well-ordered life (at least that’s what I remember) to a crazy one. Life became very unpredictable and difficult to plan. And my FC compact started driving me crazy. I tried anything and everything to get it to work but I just couldn’t.
I started exploring other options – like upgrading to a FC classic size (5-1/2 x 8-1/2). I liked all the space but I didn’t like carrying that giant planner and looking like a nerd. I tried Filofax. I bought a personal Malden and day on two pages inserts. But it was too small. Are you seeing a pattern here? I sounded like Goldilocks and the Three Bears – this one’s too small; this one’s too big. It seemed like the compact was just the right size. Only it wasn’t. And I was tired of it. 20 years is a long time.
So I struggled. I can’t tell you how many nights I sat on the couch with three planners on my lap. I asked my husband’s advice so many times he can practically recite the speech while asleep: “Just pick one. What is so hard about a planner setup? Any of them will work.” And the rest of my family just rolled their eyes when I mentioned my planner struggle.
At the end of every year I started panicking about which planner I’d use starting January 1st. I desperately wanted to pick one and stick with it. But then January rolled around and I was no closer to choosing! I just felt more pressured. By the time February arrived I was completely depressed because I wanted this to be the year I decided. Oh, wait. I did decide. But then I changed my mind. Sometimes multiple times in the same day.
And here we are again. I have to decide because I’m driving myself (and my family) crazy and my ducks are NOT in a row!!!
So I analyzed my schedule and my needs and realized that most of what I do every day is the same. And between my household routine and my blogging routine, I don’t have much time left. So I created a custom page for my Filofax that included routine tasks with a few lines for extra tasks. Those few lines were to remind me that I don’t have much extra time so I shouldn’t write much. I also included things to do sheet on the left side for all the other stuff I think of that needs done sometime. That sheet travels with the daily page. Notes about my day go on the back of the page. I also borrowed an idea from Raine of limetreefruits and added a “De-Brief” page at the end of the week where I can write a summary of my week and a few thoughts about how I can do better the next week.
I used these pages for a couple of weeks and was very excited about them. But then I noticed a problem (of course). Using this planner setup I wasn’t getting the extra things done and some of them were important. Also, I had several days that fell apart and by the time I had a chance to catch my breath, I was completely overwhelmed and had no idea what to do next (thank you, ADHD).
And that’s when I realized that as much as I love the personal Malden Filofax with my custom pages, they will not work for me. I need a different planner setup in order to function effectively with a chaotic schedule, ADHD issues and all my responsibilities.
Drum roll please. And the answer is . . .
Franklin Covey Classic with Two Pages Per Day
Are you disappointed? Were you expecting something . . . well, different?! I know. I was disappointed, too. But after much analysis, this is what the doctor ordered.
Here’s how I’ve been using it:
I divided the to-do section into three parts.
TOP: Must Do
BOTTOM: House Dailies
Then when I have one of those days when I go from Plan A to Plan M and I don’t have a clue what to do next, I just look at the Must Do category and pick one. It doesn’t even matter which one. If I happen to get all those done, I can choose out of the other sections or not choose. It doesn’t matter that much since the Must Do’s will be done.
The best part of having the page divided this way is that it’s easier for my ADHD mind to compartmentalize. That’s the problem I was having with the custom pages in the Filofax – because of the small pages, all the tasks ran together and when I needed to see what to do next, I couldn’t. That’s not necessarily going to be the case for everyone – that’s just me!
I’m also marking the schedule page so I can see at a glance when I have time to work on my Must Do’s or other tasks. On this particular day, I was free for a little while in the morning but then I left to pick up the grandkids. From 11:00 to 1:30 I was either traveling to get them and bring them home or feeding them lunch. The time from 4:00 to 8:30 was when they would be up and expecting my undivided attention. With my schedule marked this way, I’m able to see exactly when I have time to work on tasks. In this case, a little time in the morning, a few hours in the afternoon, and after 8:30 when they go to bed.
I might end up using the very bottom section for my menu but for right now I have it up at the very top. Once again this is the planner setup that works for me. It might not work for everyone.
I’ve divided the Notes page into two sections. The section on the left is for notes – anything and everything that comes up during the day. The right side is my food journal. I’ve increased my activity lately and now it’s time to clean up my diet. The most effective way to keep a food journal for me is to have it right on my planner page where I can see it every time I look at my planner. If it’s in a section at the back, it’s easy to ignore. But right there . . . I can’t miss it!
I’m also using the Progress Task List made by Franklin Covey. It allows me to write all the other tasks I think of directly on the page finder and that also is in clear view so I don’t forget there are other things to do besides the ones on my list. But they’re in a designated location so they don’t overwhelm me.
Here’s another sample:
So this is my planner set-up for 2014. I hope. Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted – unless I’m too embarrassed to admit I changed again. And if I do change again, it’ll probably be right back to my FC Compact . . . which is actually looking pretty good right now . . . you know, just the right size. Just kidding. Mostly.
How about you? Do you struggle choosing a planner setup and/or format?
More time management/planner articles are available
in the Time Management Index.