My Favorite Tips for Using My Paper Planner | Giftie Etcetera: My Favorite Tips for Using My Paper Planner

Saturday, May 4, 2013

My Favorite Tips for Using My Paper Planner

My paper planner addiction is irrational, but some of my favorite planner tips are quite rational (or so I tell myself lie to myself).  These tips should work for most planners, especially binder type planners (like Filofax, Franklin, or Daytimer).  Different little tricks work for different people, so I am not insisting that my way is correct, but it's what works for me.  (Ignore all of that.  My way is correct, dammit.  Correct.  In completely unrelated news, I should see a therapist about my little planner addiction.)
I won't number these (even though my OCD is yelling, "NUMBER, NUMBER") because I might not have an even number, and then what?  (I counted after I wrote the first draft.  I had twelve.  What kind of number is twelve?  It's a stupid, non-top ten number, that's what.  Ridiculous.)

Also, some of this repeats my last planner overview.  Shush, it's totally worth repeating.

Use a Planner Small Enough to Carry Everywhere

This is the same advice every single Professional Organizer gives, right?  But it actually takes some thought.  

I carry a Franklin Compact size planner.  (The normal sized placemat is for size perspective.) 

I have a pretty, small, neat handwriting (and a ton of humility, right?), so I can use a smaller planner.  My work mostly consists of Stay-at-Home-Parent duties, volunteer work, and substitute teaching, so I can get away with a smaller planner.  
When I was lawyering full time, I needed a bigger planner than this one.  (I have since retired my beautiful, brown leather FC Classic sized planner to a Household Notebook, but that's a post for another day.)

Whatever size you choose, make sure to choose how you will carry it.  When I worked as a lawyer, I carried my work bag most places and my diaper bag (for the then baby sized child, not for my own diapers) everywhere else, so I carried a tiny purse and put my planner in the work bag or diaper bag.  Now, I carry a big purse that fits my planner.  If I ABSOLUTELY can't carry that big purse (at the zoo, for example, or a wedding), I carry a little notebook to jot anything to go into my planner later.  

Understand, that only happens once a month or so.  If you find me, you usually find my planner.  (I did once leave my planner at a hotel.  They called and let me know an hour into the drive away.  I drove back immediately to pick it up.)  Which brings me to my next tip...

Write Your Contact Info in Your Planner

Go ahead.  Do it right now.  Add the following words: REWARD OFFERED.  Include at least an email address or phone number.  (You don't need to include your physical address, and probably shouldn't for safety's sake.)

Have an In-Box and an Indicator for Processed Papers/Items

Many planners have two places to keep papers in the front cover of the planner.  Mine does not.  If yours does, I recommend making one your in box and one your hold/outgoing box.  If yours (like mine) does not, you can improvise by putting papers in binder clips (to indicate papers have been taken care of) AFTER they are processed and noted in your planner.

I also put my blank notepad right in the front to use as an "idea" in-box.  This is particularly nice when I cannot write something on the proper page in the planner.  For example, if I am cooking and cannot stop, I can jot "milk" on the blank page to remind me to buy more milk.

The key to having an in box is to have a regular, routine task that reminds you to empty it out and process it.  

The other key is to not use the in box unless you HAVE to.  Note that my blank notepad is blank.  If I check the mail and it has a wedding invitation in it, I can RSVP yes immediately, write "buy gift" on the task list for the week before the wedding, and write the date of the wedding on my monthly planner.  I can then put the invite itself (if I don't want to copy the info on it) in the binder clip, since it has been processed. The in box is ONLY for times when you cannot process the paper/incoming information.

Put All Appointments/Time-Specific Events in One Place

For me, that place is my monthly page.  Details about the events go elsewhere in the note section (which my planner has) or the weekly pages.  I guard this space.  It tells me where I have to be and when.  If I don't NEED to grocery shop at 9 a.m. on Thursday, grocery shopping does NOT go there.

If you have a high appointment (say, more than four appointments most days) kind of job, consider weekly pages for this and use daily pages for details.

Have Three To Do Lists

MONTHLY - For me, this means anything needed to be done by the end of the month.  If there is no deadline at all, then it is not a task and should go in your Planner Files (known to others as the address book) under the title Maybe/Someday.  I keep my monthly tasks lists at the end of each month, before the next month's divider tabs.  

Some people have complained to me that they never look at monthly tasks.  The solution is to include things you must look at in those lists.  For example, my bar dues are on the June list.  If I don't pay them timely I lose my license to practice law, so you can bet I check these lists.  A weekly task to glance at the monthly planner near the end of the month might also work.

WEEKLY - For me, this means anything needed to be done by the end of the WEEK.    My particular planner pages have a slot for each day of the week and one extra slot, which is where I keep my weekly list.

DAILY - Some things are day-specific, but not time-specific.  For example, I have to send a dollar to school with my kid on Monday.  I have to grocery shop on Tuesday (or have a good backup, anyone?).  Those things get written in the daily slots.  

Have a System of Dividing Up Today Visually

Because the daily slots in my weekly planner are really the go to for what needs to be done today, I divide them, spatially, into blocks.

Visually, it's easier to remember things if I can see the DUE stuff in the first part, today's stuff in the main part/middle, and want to get to today or fyi items (like a note that my husband is working late) in the last part.

Circle Recurring Tasks/Appointments

That way, you will remember to rewrite them the next time they need to be done.

Keep Everything Non-Location Specific in Your Planner

For example, my monthly budget/checkbook entry is just a piece of lined planner paper behind my monthly task list.

I keep a simple hole-punched envelope behind my checkbook entry to hold receipts that need to be filed at home.

Have a Future Planning Page

Use the Address Book Dividers As a File

But...only use for filing stuff still in use.  Otherwise, it gets thrown out or put in paper files at home.

And...only use about four of the letter tabs (like AB, GH, MN, and ST).

Oh, and don't forget, create an index or you will never find anything!

For any files, I put the boxed FILE NAME in the upper right hand corner, along with the date.  This trick makes filing so much easier.  (I apologize for the sad, sad lighting in this picture, but I don't want the entire internet to see my personal information.  The point is that the box pops out at you.)

Use Project Lists

A project has a real ending date, but requires many actions steps.  I make an index, just like I did for files.  The next date that I need to work on a action/task from that project goes on my daily, weekly, or monthly tasks list, circled so I remember to note the next action once I do the first.

I use these for everything.  Examples include first day of school, planning a party, setting up a big meeting involving travel, and shopping for Christmas.

Keep Sticky Notes in Your Planner

I don't use them often, but when I do, I need them.  I also keep a black pen for filling out forms, even though I only write in my planner in easy-to-see green.  (I also recommend easy-to-see purple, blue, or maroon.)

Let me know your favorite planner set-up tips.



Mag said...

Like your sense of humor! Especially about the "diaper bag,"--so glad you clarified that! LOL

What grades do you substitute teach?

I subbed for 4 years--a "glutton for punishment!" :)

Would like to see an entry done on your Household Planer set-up. I am always interested in looking at these for ideas.

Right now, I am deciding what planner to take with me in my work tote. I have some old ones from the past (not filos) that may do the trick.

I keep my Household/Personal Planner open on my desk at home. I make my own sheets which is a 2 page week spread. I have been using this idea for years because I could never find a planner that was layed out the way I wanted. My husband can see it, too, if he wants to know my schedule.

Giftie Etcetera said...

My household planner is a work in progress. That's code for it's been on my to do list forever and isn't done yet. :) said...

Great tips. I do a lot of those things, too.