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This is the time of year when I reorder my planner, as well as refills for those of my kids/team who use paper planners. This year, I found myself rethinking my planner use situation. The shot above shows a pretty typical week in my planner. I have lots of notes — which I can probably find again when I need them, but I have to search through the planner. I have appointments and deadlines in the dated boxes, but often those boxes are blank, and I let notes spill over into them. Said notes are often disorganized, and I probably should write them up in the CRM, neatly and with the tasks sorted out and assigned, but I don’t take the time to do that.

I take this with me to meetings, so I avoid putting any personal things in — which means I have no to-do list for the non-work part of my life, just cryptically scrawled-in appointments and occasional important notes which are very hard to find again.

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I also have the planner above, sent to me for review, which has a very good goals -> actions format, plus daily spaces broken down into tight time increments. It’s mostly empty, because — while I like the goalsetting aspect — it doesn’t have space for notes and it’s not attractive enough to take out in public as my leather-bound planner is. I gave it a great review, but it isn’t practical to have two work planners. Either I have to duplicate everything, or (and this is what really happens) I use the second planner to make goals and steps kinds of plans, and they don’t get into my daily planner and I don’t make the progress I should.

Of course, I also have a calendar in my phone and multiple tracking sites online, but that just makes it worse from the point of view of planning and tracking goals, actions, and habits.

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So this year the planner company had something new in their catalog. A sort of scrapbooking approach to planning. I checked it out online and in the course of my research found many creative uses of this type of planner — and a mass market one designed by the same company that created this product line for the larger company I order my planners from. I am tempted by this planner, though it might make me look eccentric in business meetings.

So I started thinking about how I use my planner now and what might be the ideal planner.

  • The calendar is still important, because I don’t always get my appointments into my phone calendar or Outlook, but I am pretty good about writing them into my planner.
  • The note-taking part is obviously key, because that’s what takes up most of the space in my current planner, but a more organized and indexed approach could be more effective.
  • The goal-setting part is very important to me. I’ve taken this approach to my life for decades, and it’s one reason I’m as productive as I am.
  • I like the GTD approach to to-do lists, with a master list rather than daily to-do lists that often just get pushed on to the next day… or week.
  • Since over the past year I have shifted to thinking in terms of habits more than action steps, I want a habit-tracking element. I have a planner like that in PDF form, but printing it out and binding it is not appealing. The physical version is not currently available.
  • It matters to me that my planner be attractive, and that it feel like a quality item. I spend a lot of time with my planner, and it should be a positive experience.

Neither my old planner nor the new one I contemplated had all the features I need.

But I did find that Etsy is chock full of options for habit tracking stickers designed for the scrapbooking type of planner.

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So I hied myself to my local big box craft store and bought one of the mass market ones, the Happy Planner, as well as a nice boxed one for my daughter-in-law elect. I figure she’s a teacher, she’s going to have fun with this stuff. She also has a wedding to plan, and this is a Christmas gift that she can personalize to suit her own tastes.

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But I bought one for myself, too, an 18-month version. It’s two months till Christmas and then just a week till New Year’s, and I have actually done pretty well with my goals this year. But I want to step up my fitness and weight loss, not lose ground over the holidays. Two months is enough time to lock in a couple of habits that I haven’t fully achieved yet. It’s also long enough to determine whether having a fun, creative planner for my personal life might help me to use my work planner more effectively, and whether this type of planner would, in combination with my current planner, provide all the things I want in a planner.

It can also help me keep the holidays smooth and fun, even though this year there may be a lot more moving parts than usual. If it turns out that it doesn’t work for me, I will choose something else for 2016 without feeling as though I wasted this one.

This planner is put together with plastic disks, so it’s easy to change it around. I pulled out the months of 2015 that have already passed and I ordered the home planner set from Amazon to add in instead. This flexibility seems just right, and I am planning to add some more elements to my DIL-elect’s boxed set, but the planner is not exactly sturdy. I don’t know whether all the elements will stay in place for a full year or not, if I carry it around with me that way I do my current planner. If I use it only at home, though, perhaps just keeping it on my nightstand and spending a little time on it every evening, it should be okay.

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I’ve ordered some habit stickers. In the meantime, I’ve set up a little spot to track two high-priority habits that I haven’t yet reached: 10,000 steps a day (I’m currently at about 7,000 a day, so one more walk or Wii Fit session a day will do it — I just need to carve half an hour out of my schedule), and consistent clean eating.

Having a separate personal planner might help with my work/life balance, too. Pause here for wild, maniacal laughter.

In any case, I plan to document my new planner experience for myself at this blog.