Beyond A Calendar: New Ways To Use Your Planner | Giftie Etcetera: Beyond A Calendar: New Ways To Use Your Planner

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Beyond A Calendar: New Ways To Use Your Planner

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Yesterday I was stuck in a dollar store, browsing to kill time while my husband and children got hair cuts next door. The store had a display of calendars. Understand, none of the calendars were anything that I would actually purchase. But I like to examine the features.

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For example, "mom" calendars these days have separate little squares for each family member. This confuses me. 

Mom either needs to know because she is driving/cooking/chaperoning/dressing the kids or she only needs an FYI - in my mind that means two columns are needed, not a random five columns. And what if she has more or less than three kids? I used a Daytimer Family Plus for a while, but the squares were a waste for me. (I loved the layout otherwise.)

What I really focused on, though, were the little pocket calendars. They are about the size of a checkbook and have little sayings or designs on the outside. Inside, they are simply a monthly calendar.

Honestly, for a person who has no stressful planner needs - doesn't input appointments on their cell phone, isn't running a household, isn't a student, and uses something like Outlook at work - one of these would likely succeed in keeping track of a schedule. Add a pretty, tiny notebook, and you might survive the world with a pocket calendar. Maybe. 

But a pocket calendar, or a wall calendar, for that matter, simply cannot do what a planner can do for you.

This is my favorite pocket calendar (not like the ones in the dollar store).

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A smart phone might work, if you use it in all the ways that a person can use a planner and if you aren't a person who learns from writing things down. But it would take a lot of work, strategy, and input. I, personally, don't like a lot of work.

A planner, on the other hand, is a tool instead of a mere calendar.

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With a planner, you can go so far beyond a calendar.

*Mind Dump

Experienced planners know what a mind dump is - taking everything that is bothering you or keeping you worried or awake and dumping it onto a piece of paper. Mind dumps are not a new idea. Counselors have suggested for decades that you write down your problems before bed (or at 3 a.m. when you wake in a panic). But instead of their silly notepad next to your pillow idea, try your planner.

Valuable ideas, thoughts, and reminders have been lost on random sheets of paper. If you dump your thoughts, but fail to dump them in a place where you can process them later, they are gone. How can you rely on that?

I brain dump directly onto my dashboard (a blank page at the very front of my planner).

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Brainstorming is different than a brain dump. Brainstorming is purposeful and generally limited to a particular topic.

If I am thinking of ideas for a blog, I might brainstorm.

At the beginning of setting up any project, I brainstorm. 

For example, for Christmas, I need to think of everything that I need to plan. Gifts, Santa, wrapping paper, parties, travel, decorations...everything gets brain dumped, but it's a topic-specific dump, without much filtering. Then, I organize the ideas and create a project.


Sometimes, you need a visual of a project. How long will each step take? What order should the outline of the legal memo take? A planner gives you an instant notebook, available to you whenever and wherever you are.


A smart phone doesn't let you draw a picture of what you are envisioning. Now, I know that many of you are not artists. But for those who need a visual, paper has a strong advantage over technology.

I don't draw beyond a rogue doodle, but I sketch charts for goals, to visualize progress.

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At a meeting? Meeting with the teacher?

A planner is an excellent place to take notes. I suggest a two-column approach.

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A planner allows you to put initial tasks, subsequent tasks, and follow-ups in that order.

That's pretty hard to do on a smartphone.


A planner lets you separate appointments, tasks, notes, and projects.

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I'm been trying to lose weight for a long time. The only thing that is helping me achieve that goal and actually working? My planner. 

I open it to log calorie intake and exercise. I make notes about what I can do to burn calories in limited time and which snacks are yummy and low-cal.


A planner gives you a place to record the confirmation number when you book a hotel, that you owe your sister $10, and that it's time to get your hair colored.


Finally, unlike mindlessly entering tasks or appointments on a cell phone, and planner, by its nature, helps you actually think about and plan what you will do. You have limited space and have to make decisions on the front end, when you are thoughtful, instead of in a rush later.

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Christine Cortese said...

Kristy, when I was using my spiral Family Plus I used those day spaces with the 5 lined boxes like this: The first one was urgent/appts, the next two were must do and the following two were could do - basically the way you break out your weekly day spaces. It actually works fairly well like that! I was just getting stymied by the 4 lines!

Unknown said...

I love my Family Planning Calendar with the columns for each person. I don't think I would have made it through the high school/university years without it! My husband travelled A LOT, older aged children have BUSY schedules. Especially when they still need someone else to get them places, it was fantastic to be able to see how everyone's schedules fitted together. Plus, it put responsibility back on them - if it wasn't on the calendar it wasn't happening! My husband got a column, mostly his was blocked out as he was overseas, interstate, or had work functions (also good for younger children with anxiety issues about where a parent is). I got a column so everyone knew where I was at, so some negotiation would be in order (be nice to me or the answer is no), even the dog got a column so we could work out if she needed to visit her doggy cousin if we were too busy. I didn't need this when the children were younger as all their stuff came through me. Teenager hood is a whole new level of planning! Things like exam block and major assignments - don't plan to have people over or to go away. Now we are out of that and I am considering going back to a more normal calendar - but I will miss it.

Bree said...

Kristy - interesting that I'm not the only one intrigued but stymied by the FamilyPlus layout. I tried the Letter size spiral and the Desk size ring binder. I wanted it to work, but I just don't think that way. I need to see my day linearly.

Thea - that's interesting insight into my potential future. You're right, all the kid scheduling at the younger years goes through me. Mine are 5 and 8, and I think the reason I've been struggling with planner layouts is because they do have commitments that I need to track and plan for, since they require adults to get there. It's a lot more to track, logistically. it's also why I've gone back to One Planner to Rule Them All.

One of the reasons I still like putting the schedule in a digital format is it is easier to see the overlaps.

One of my old bosses used a cheap pocket calendar, written in miniscule writing. He preferred the portability, the price, and he felt that when he filled a daily square, that was a sign he was over-booking himself.

Lisa said...

Great post as always. I find myself moving back to paper planning at work and for my personal life as opposed to using the notes and calendar apps on my phone or desktop.

When our server went down last week I was the only one who could access my schedule and contact notes.

And I can't make notes or access my calendar on my phone if I am talking on it!

Anna said...

The little pocket calendars would never be enough for me, but I do know some people use them. I have one I keep with our school stuff to mark attendance. (I'm required to keep it by law, but if someone were to check it, I want to have it in a separate place than my planner.

Anna said...

I always have a sense with digital things that they could be too easily hacked. I do have the fear that sometime I'm going to be evacuated and not allowed to bring luggage. Then I will lose what I have in my planner. It's probably irrational, because you are usually allowed at least a backpack.

Cori said...

When I was playing around with designing my own planner pages (for a planner size I no longer use), I set up a family style one as well, but mine had 6 columns: Work, House, Menu, Side Hussle, Personal, and Notes. My title cells were left blank so I could change them as needed, but those were the 6 categories I played with. Didn't last long though.