When Planner Tweaking Goes Wrong

Planner Tweaking

Planner Tweaking

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Planners are made to be tweaked.  No planner works perfectly for each life without a few adjustments.  But sometimes too many adjustments are made and things go terribly wrong.

I speak from experience.  Here’s what I’m talking about.

About 5 years ago I realized my planner wasn’t working for me anymore.  My life had changed and I needed something different.  So I sat down, analyzed my life, figured out what I needed and created a system that met my needs.  All was well for quite a while.  The new system did exactly what I needed it to do.

But then I got antsy.  I had some ideas I wanted to try – you know,to make my system even better.   So I played around with my pages, tweaking a little here and a little there.  And the next thing I knew, I hated my pages.  They weren’t working at all and I was on the hunt for something new.

What happened?  Did my life change again? No.  Did my carefully designed system quit working? No.  Did I get bored and violate the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it rule?”  Yes.

It might have been okay if I had only tweaked it a little.  But I just kept tweaking until I was completely dissatisfied.

And that’s the danger of tweaking.  If you do a little, like simply changing how you use the pages, you can usually get away with it.  But when you start changing the basics, especially if your system is working fairly well, you muddy the waters and create discontent.  And muddy waters and discontent lead to planner fail.

Should you never tweak?  No.  Should you never try to improve your system?  No.  But there’s a fine line between too much and just enough.  If you can find that line and stay on the right side of it, you’ll be fine.  But if you cross it, you’ll be drowning in planner chaos.

Do you tweak your planning system too much? Have you had a system that worked well but then for no apparent reason it quit working?  Do you know where the line is between too much tweaking and just enough? Has anyone else struggled with this or is it just me???


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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22 thoughts on “When Planner Tweaking Goes Wrong

  1. I am really having a hard time making something work for me. I NEED a big planner, but carrying one around is not working. I work outside the home, have 4 children, homeschool, and take care of my bedridden father, let alone dealing with my husband’s erratic law enforcement schedule. I keep going back and forth with different sized planners (I hate rings, but do not have the time to transfer everything into the next years’ planner), and it is driving me crazy!! I end up missing appointments, etc because I did not transfer everything correctly or got distracted. It has been a rough road, Instead of a planner, I need about 5 of “me”-s. Brenda

    1. Oh, my gosh! You have SO much going on!!! No wonder you’re going crazy. I don’t have a lot of experience with bound planners – my preference is ring bound. But I have a friend, Laurie, from plannerisms, and that’s her specialty. I’m going to have her respond to your comment. She will probably have some awesome suggestions for you.

    2. Hi Brenda, wow you are busy!! I hear you about the ring binder being too big. I struggle with that too: I need a big page size, but when I use the page size I need in a binder the resulting book is too big/ heavy to carry around!

      I have a couple of bound planner suggestions if you are interested, these have big pages but are slim and much lighter than the equivalent page size in a ring binder.

      Uncalendar planners are undated so you can start them any time at all. Their Full Size planner has 8 1/2 by 11 inch pages but is slim and not heavy to carry everywhere. They have loads of space each week for your schedule and lists, monthly pages, and notes pages. Uncalendar planners are available on http://www.uncalendar.com.

      When I’ve been really busy I’ve had success with the Quo Vadis Trinote planner. It has vertical columns for days and space on the weekly page for lists and notes. They are great for seeing everything at once, and again are slim and easy to carry with a big page size. You can see more about them here: http://quovadisplanners.com/catalog/trinote If you like it but would prefer an academic-year planner you want the Septanote: http://quovadisplanners.com/catalog/septanote And if you want an even bigger page size it’s the Prenote: http://quovadisplanners.com/catalog/prenote

      All of these planners let you see your days as vertical columns with space on the page for your lists, so you can see what you need to do each week and when you have time to do it. Let me know if you like any of these, or if not I can give you (lots) more suggestions. I’m sure we can find a planner solution for you! 🙂

      1. Laurie, thank you so much for the suggestions. I will look at them and see if something works out better for me.

        Yes, I do have a crazy schedule! But, I am determined to always have a little joy or fun to keep myself becoming negative. 🙂


  2. One of the challenges for me as a creative person is that a lot of the planners aren’t really designed for me and how I work (not to mention a lot of the general advice). Instead, creatives are often admonished because some of the things we do look like disorganization to the rest of the world. The result was when I started using planners, which was only back in 2007, I ended up going through a lot of them and trying to tweak them because none of them really suited me. Planner sites were telling me that, as creative person, I was doing planners wrong. Things like recording every single to do were horrendously bad for me. Where they helped a left-brainer remember what to do next, they overwhelmed me to the point where I didn’t want to do them.

    But I want to eventually write fulltime, and that requires record keeping for the IRS. Planners are a part of those records. So what I ended up with was a MochiThing, which has fun pictures throughout the pages (but not childish or silly) to satisfy the creative side, and I just use it as a record, rather than as a to do list or to track my days.

    1. Sounds like you know what you need, Linda, and that’s the important thing. I violate a lot of “rules” with the way I use my planner, too. But as you know, you have to do what works for you!

  3. I do tweak my planner but so far I‘ve tweaked it to perfection, and it’s all thanks to you Patty, Laurie from Plannerisms, and Phylofaxy. Before I found these sites, I struggled with organizing and planning. I am a homeschooler, so I fell into the trap of large formats and a lot of paper shuffling. My system was inconvenient and as a result, inefficient. And then I read your and Laurie’s articles. It hit me: I can create my own planning system based on my needs, like both of you did. So I: 1) made a list of my needs and analyzed them, 2) chose the format and the binder, 3) designed various pages, 4) cut them out and tried them in the binder. Then came the tweaking. I changed small details in page design several times until all worked perfectly for me. I have to say I am very pleased with my planning now. It’s been working perfectly for almost a year. I always think of ways to improve it, but have not done any new tweaking in several months. The system works. And you girls helped me with it!

    1. Sounds like you found the right balance between tweaking and leaving it alone. And I’m so glad Laurie and I could help. I think the very best way to use a planner is with custom pages designed for your needs and you’re the proof!!! Thank you for letting us know.

  4. After almost 30 years of using planners, I accept that the pre-printed ones work for me only “somewhat”. They were great when I was still working in the corporate world. That ceased when I went into self-employed status, so I used my own pages in conjunction with the pre-printed pages. That worked until I retired. Life still is busy for me. But I have figured out that my planner system has to work for me or I have wasted a lot of effort and money. I buy one set of monthly planner dividers from one of three publishers; and it must be something that I really like. I have undated monthly calendar templates that I can print for myself if I need them, or I can use a printed monthly calendar from my PIM program. I still have only one source for the printer paper, but plain will do in a pinch because I have the punch.

    where I typically have difficulty is with weekly versus daily pages. I have found the weekly planner page to be absolutely necessary, so I keep those behind each month’s calendar. But there are weeks when there is a lot going on for one or two days and it made no sense to buy a daily planner for that. So I started making my own. I have a column for the time-based things like appointments or other things that are actually scheduled, but most of the page is simply lined space that I can break up any way I need it to accommodate what has to be done. I have a straight edge page lifter in the planner to make the lines with a marker. I make a heading of some kind for the various sections, and leave enough room for short notes, if needed. If an item must be carried over to another day, I put a sticky flag on it so that I will attend to that when I do my planning time at the computer each night. I use color codes. I use color to please myself. I use good quality paper because I will archive the planner for tax purposes.

    Planners are a lot like shoes. If they do not fit, then the user is miserable and discontent. I do not like those feelings, so I do what makes me feel comfortable and effective.

    1. Love this comment, Dianne: “Planners are a lot like shoes. If they do not fit, then the user is miserable and discontent. I do not like those feelings, so I do what makes me feel comfortable and effective.” You are absolutely right.

  5. Hi, Patty! Years ago, right after I was diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type, I worked with a therapist who was also ADHD. One of the tools he suggested was a planner, then he looked at my planner and asked me “How well is that working for you?” It was working, but it was not working as well as I had hoped. It never really did. It was his suggestion that I take the steps that you have mentioned about making my planner my very own. Make changes, or even, redesign the things that did not work for me. I blame Jon for my plannerism situation. My daughter’s planner is a bit different than mine because her needs differ from mine. My son’s planner is very basic with a lot of blank notebook paper so that he can make his own Daily pages. I just finished putting together a wedding planner for my soon to be granddaughter-In-law. Each of us uses the planners differently, so I create what is needed after they give me the basics of the situation.

    It is like my situation with the Daily pages. I do not need them all the time. The pre-printed pages do not work for what I have going on around here. Solution: figure out what I needed to have and make my own. My next adventures in designing will include Washi Tape. They have so many terrific patterns and colors.

    There is one more factor and that is the texture of the paper. It must be really smoothe for writing on it. I hate feeling my pens scratch across paper. To me it is like fingernails on a chalk board. Eek! I try to use 20 – 22 pound bond paper. My local Staples stores loves my “thing” about paper products. LOL

    While I do enjoy the planner pages I create, it can be a lot of work getting to what I want. What I needed to do was to find a general layout that worked, then save it in a format that my computer could use repeatedly. What I am usually changing is the color of the lines or the borders or adding or removing graphics. Keep in mind that getting things to this point took me over 20 years and I been using planners for nearly 30. I even sound “old” to myself when I look at it that way.

    Tweak away! Make changes! But when you discover what works for most of your days, stick with it and just add a form/page for what does not fit in the normally used page. Keep the extra page clipped with the first page. use a larger type of sticky note on the back of the preceding page for “overflow” and permanently attach it when that period of time is done with.

    Thank you and your readers for their contributions to this discussion. Fresh ideas, layouts, designs, etc. are great!

    1. I’ve recently switched from using “daily” pages to using a “week at a glance” type page. I write down the daily tasks that need to be accomplished (start the laundry, feed the turtle) and have a check box for each day. Then I check them off as I go. I put another couple sheets of plain paper behind my “weekly glance” page- I write out daily to-do lists or notes to remember on these pages. That way, if I don’t need a note about Monday, I don’t feel like I should write something down just to fill out the page.

      I’m with you about changing the colors and borders- a fresh look seems to revive my planner, even if the actual pages are pretty much the same!

  6. As voluntary action I make not conventional insert for planned. All my insert are disposable completely for free on my blog! I wasn’t find nothing that was wracking for me and I evolve a my system, the Daydex, and I decide to condivide it with rest of the people that are searching a methods of time menagment flexible.

    1. Conventional inserts don’t work for a lot of people. I’ll have to check out your blog and see what your inserts look like. Thanks for sharing.

  7. homey – good post, sometimes good enough is good enough!

    but – I am still not getting your posts??? had to come over here and look it up


    1. Exactly – sometimes good enough is good enough.

      We’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with feedburner but so far we haven’t come up with anything. I think we’re going to switch email services very soon. In the meantime, you might try unsubscribing and resubscribing. Or subscribing again with another email address. Either one should work.

      Hopefully we’ll figure this out ASAP.

  8. Now that I’m getting more serious about blogging, I’ve added a section to my planner… but I’m still deciding if I need to add a blogging section in my weekly sections. We’ll see. That’s part of the challenge of planning binders- as your life and focus changes, the planner must change, too! The issue comes in when we get more interested in making constant changes than using an actual, functional planner!

    Great post!

    1. You hit the nail on the head – “the issue comes in when we get more interested in making constant changes than using an actual, functional planner.”

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