Use Your Planner, Especially When You Don’t Want To!

Filofax Unused

Filofax Unused

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Have you ever had one of those times when you were either discouraged or frustrated and you didn’t use your planner?  You left it closed on your desk or in your bag? And while your planner was sitting on the sidelines, your life was spiraling out of control?

Those times when you don’t want to use your planner are probably the times you need it most.  Even if you don’t use it properly, having it open and visible can be helpful.

Here are three reasons why:

1.       Your planner most likely has your appointments and important things you need to do, like pay a bill or mail a birthday card.  Even if you do nothing else, having it open and visible will remind you of those things you MUST do.

2.       It gives you a place to write notes or record information.  If it’s open and visible, it will be easier to jot things down.  Then when you need the information, you’ll have it.

3.       Having your planner open, even if you’re not using it well, will still make you feel better than if it’s closed on your desk or in your purse.  And if it’s out and visible, you just might end up using it more than you think.

And then there’s the to-do list…

When I’m struggling with my planner, this is the part that annoys me the most.  Usually I’m really busy and my schedule is chaos so making a to-do list seems like a big, fat waste of time.  It’s discouraging to make lists, day after day, and never get anything done.  That’s usually when I want to chuck my planner.

And having a to-do list when you’re stressed can make you feel like your list is bossing you, and nobody likes to be bossed, especially when they’re stressed.  So you don’t make a list.  But here’s the thing, you’re the boss – not your planner! You get to decide what to do and what not to do.  Writing things down simply helps you remember.  And when it’s on paper, it’s out of your head, and that helps reduce stress. Ignorance is not bliss.  Not writing it down doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Filofax Used

So if you’re going through a tough time and you’ve abandoned your planner, you might want to get it back out, dust it off and start using it again. Your planner is designed to help you keep your life in order and keep you from feeling out of control.  But it can’t do a thing for you if you’re not using it.  And honestly, using it half way is still much better than not using it at all.

Have you abandoned your planner?  Why?  Are you better off or worse off not using it?

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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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29 thoughts on “Use Your Planner, Especially When You Don’t Want To!

  1. I had a Frankin Covey, which I abandoned. I took the class and it was very inspiring, but in hindsight, the planner — and the system — had too much structure for me. I carried it around for quite a while and never even opened it. The thought of writing appointments into tiny slots on a daily page or trying to pick to dos was enough to kill it off. Prioritizing? Forget it! Putting A, B, or Cs is a concept I’ve never understood. If it’s important it’s done or getting done, and if it’s on my radar, it’s important. In fact, that’s been one of the problems. I’ve gotten stuck with a lot of little jobs at work, and some of them are 1) requirements to do, but management doesn’t really think it’s important, or 2) Management needs to assign someone to do it, and that’s me, but compared to my other tasks, aren’t that important to me. (Which I think hits one of my major problems: the bureaucracy).

    I’ve begun to wonder if what’s being taught for time management doesn’t meet with how the internet has changed things.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Linda. You have some interesting thoughts.

      I, too, struggle with the ABC method of prioritizing. I never could get the hang of that, mainly because I co-mingle my daily stuff with my out-of-the-ordinary stuff. How do you prioritize between making dinner, vacuuming the floor and doing laundry? I couldn’t figure that out. But when I only put “extra” stuff on my list, prioritizing was easier. But that’s not how I do it.

      I was so frustrated at not being able to prioritize that I had a friend come over and show me how she did it. She was great at it. But it didn’t help. So I don’t do it that way – I have my own method.

      I have read lately that some of the traditional approaches to time management don’t really work anymore – mainly because we’re SO busy and life is more unpredictable than it used to be. At any rate, I’m created planner page that work for my life. They work better than the pre-printed ones.

      Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. “Not writing it down doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist” hahaha! Isn’t that the truth. When I don’t write stuff down because I haven’t opened my planner it probably means not only does it exist, but it will definitely rise up to bit me in the butt! Another great post, thank you 🙂
    Also: Linda is seriously right about tm not meeting up with the way the internet has changed things! How do you mix paper tm with Evernote/Pocket for example? Urgh!!

    1. Oh, yes – not using the planner definitely means it will rise up to bite me in the butt. Every single time!!!

      I might have to think on the idea that traditional time management doesn’t work anymore and try to come up with something. Wow! I sound arrogant, don’t I?! That’s not exactly how I meant it. Maybe I should just leave it at – I’m going to think on that.

  3. Hi Patty! I always enjoy what you have to say about time management. I used a Franklin Covey system for years but stopped around five years ago when I went to a more electronic system. I’m super visual and tactile so I really miss the hands on approach to a pen and paper schedule and am shopping around for a new system. Is that purple system you have pictured above new? I thought I remembered that you used a green Franklin planner system. The Martha Stewart calendar system looks beautiful and is very simple too. Like you and Linda mentioned above, it is tricky to figure out a priority system, especially if you are a stay at home parent/caregiver/business owner because the lines get a little muddied. Still, an imperfect system is better than no system!


    1. Lisa -I’ve been using the green Franklin Covey compact for years! But I really want to try something different. I’ve been playing around with Personal size Filofax for the last year but I think I’m going to give it my best shot. I like the smaller size and the binders are amazing. I’m also using my homemade pages these days. The pre-made ones just don’t work for my life. I would prefer to use them but I can’t make them work. I need a system designed for my life. You can read about my pages here:

      and here

  4. I really love your planner and time management posts, Patty. I was a long-time Day-Timer pseudo-user. I say that because the formats were good in theory but never really worked for me. I ended up switching to a monthly view – I love seeing my month at a glance – because I could structure the time the way I wanted it. Problem? No room for notes, lists, or anything else – those little boxes are only so big. I am starting over with a planner this month, but with a combination of the monthly page (because I really just need that view) and daily pages that are much simpler. I figure I have a month until school begins again (almost) and can see how well this works for a couple of weeks.

  5. I have always prided myself on keeping things organized( for the most part) In my head. Since I started blogging I am coming to the realization that something has to change. What I am doing is, in fact, not working. I am very much overwhelmed with the thought of shopping around for a planner. I would love to hear some suggestions on where to start.

    1. Have you thought about making your pages? There’s nothing like custom pages to really work for your life. And if your life changes, it’s easy to change the pages. Here are a few articles that might help:

      This is how I used my Franklin Covey planner:

      You can also look at and There’s a LOT on those blogs, though, so be careful not to get overwhelmed.

      If you have more questions, please feel free to comment again or email me. I love talking planners!

    2. Hi Andrea, I have used lots and lots of planners. As Patty mentioned, on my blog I have reviewed a lot of planners but it can be overwhelming to wade through all that information if you’re just starting out. I like helping people figure out what they need from a planner system and give suggestions, so if you’d like to email me with your ideas of what you need from your planner I’d be happy to suggest some options for you! Laurie at Plannerisms dot com.

  6. I’m going to have to go back and read through some of your planner posts. I realized today (20 minutes before a meeting) that I didn’t have a planner for the new school year since my old one had run out. Yikes!

  7. I’ve been having this a lot this summer. It’s easier for me to use my planner during the school year when we are on a schedule and I have to get things done before the kids get home from school. But but nature I don’t like schedules or routines, so this summer when we don’t have any set schedule it’s been hard for me to keep in the practice of using my planner. I don’t want to look at it. I just want to go outside and have fun! But I found out the hard way that things fall apart quickly when I do that and I have that awful feeling of not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing. So, I have to stay on task and keep using my planner so that everything runs smoothly!

    1. Laurie, have you thought about still using your planner but just not writing as much down? I have really, really busy Thursdays so I hardly ever write anything down. But I still have my planner out in case I need to jot something down. But for Thursdays I only plan the necessities. I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe you need to PLAN some fun. Knowing that you’re going to want to do fun stuff instead of work all the time, write it down on your planner even if it’s something vague like “do something fun with the kids today”. You know you’re going to, so put it on there!

  8. The resonates deeply. A couple of years ago when I was working on a difficult and stressful contract, I found myself having trouble with my sleep. Not only would it be hard to get to sleep at night, but I’d be awake too early, all the actions and conversations I needed to undertake swirling around repetitively in my head. One evening, on the train coming home, I opened my Filofax to a blank note page and wrote down all the things that were on my mind and that threatened another difficult night. I used single words or short phrases and fitted it all on a page. I moved that page to the front of my binder, knowing I’d open it when I got back to my desk in the morning. That night I had a wonderful, restful eight hours of sleep. It’s a technique I can’t recommend too highly.

    1. I absolutely agree, Ray! I’m just like you – if I don’t write things down, they swim around in my head and keep me awake and stressed. That simple act of writing it all down makes all the difference! Glad you got some sleep!!!

  9. Great Post. I wholeheartedly agree. There are times I want to chuck out the planner (due to frustration – usually with my to-do list), but it is always better to keep at it. Even if you don’t want to.

  10. Thanks for a great post (as always)!
    In the past I’ve gone through many short periods of planner fail & been very tempted to give up on pen & paper. And I’ve found that I’ve always been worse off without my filofax as it’s so convenient to grab it whilst I have a cuppa to work out what’s going on.

    1. It easy to get discouraged but I’m the same as you – I’m much worse off without my paper planner, even if I’m not using it quite right.

  11. I really wish I could decide on a system. I go back & forth all the time. I used a franklin compact when I was younger (before smartphones) and was under organized. I have gad my calendar on google for years now but I miss important things so I decided to go back to paper. Then I couldnt stand not being able to lay my planner flat so I went to erin condren planner but I miss the daily pages and most recently I listened to a franklin covey training specifically formatted for my profession as a beachbody coach and I’m inclined to switch to completely digital. I am having such a hard time maku ngelou up my mind and have spent so much money on planner items. Whats a girl to do?

    1. Did you read my post from Sunday about how to choose a planner (or switch)? It outlines some ideas that might help.

      It is hard – especially when you’re torn between electronic and paper. Sometimes you know exactly what you need to do but you can’t make yourself do it because . . . well, I don’t know why. You’d think that if you knew what you needed, you could just do it. But it doesn’t seem to work that way.

      Sometimes I think the biggest problem is all the choices we have. If all you had was your Erin Condren, you’d make it work. If all you had was your phone, you’d make it work. I used Franklin Covey compact for 20 years because it’s all that was available to me. There were a few other choices but they were pretty much the same thing. Now there are TONS of options, and for most people, it’s the options that cause the problem. You just commit to something and then you see something that looks better. With a car or house, you can’t switch easily. But with a planner . . . just get another one and try it. If it doesn’t work out, get another one. So I think for most of us it’s all the choices. Choices can be good but they can also be VERY BAD!

      Keep me posted on what you decide. And what is a beachbody coach?

  12. It’s funny…but I ditched my planner because I had no time for it, but I just realized that things have only gotten worse because of that!!
    Ok… out comes the planner again! Thanks for reminding me to put it back into use! Very insightful article.

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