Choosing the Right Planner for You
by Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.
Choosing a planner to help you organize your life can be a daunting task. Not only are there hundreds of types and styles to choose from, choosing a planner that will work for you is very dependent on your organizing style as well as on your personality and information processing style.
Assess Your Style & Functional Needs
Your personality style greatly affects how much time and effort you will put into using your planner. If you try to use a planner system that doesn’t work with your natural style, more than likely, you won’t use it. So don’t try to change yourself! Don’t buy a planner just because it looks good or because you think you “should” be planning your days according to a particular system. Instead, choose a planner that works WITH your style. For example,
- Are you a creative type who likes to be spontaneous?
- Are you action-oriented and naturally tend to prioritize things?
- Are you a planning minimalist or do you plan everything?
- Are you a “hands-on” learner? (If so, your planner will need to actually feel good in your hands. You may also be the type who needs to physically write things down to remember them.)
Your lifestyle and work demands are also important considerations in deciding what kind of planner you need. For example:
- Do you make a lot of appointments?
- Do you mainly do project work?
- Do you need to see your days in great detail?
- Is a page per week or month enough?
- Do you need to track a lot of deadlines?
Other factors to consider when choosing the right planner for you include:
- How mobile does your planner need to be?
- Where will you keep it?
- Do you need it to fit in a briefcase or purse?
- How often do you need to refer to it and update it?
- Will you be comfortable with it and actually enjoy using it?
- Does it seem intuitive to you?
- How patient and skilled are you with technology?
Decide on Technology or Pen & Paper
Technology is great, but it’s not always the best choice for time management, so don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if you have tried an electronic system or PDA and not done well with it. You are not alone! However, if you don’t want to take the risk of losing your calendar, technology does have the advantage of allowing you to back it up. So if you want the security of a backup, but still want to use paper, you may like using an electronic calendar that you can print out such as Outlook, Google, or Yahoo calendars.
List Your Selection Criteria
Planners can range from free to hundreds of dollars. To help you choose wisely, create a personal checklist of criteria for selecting your new planner. Think of features you would build in if you were to design it yourself. For example, your criteria list may include that your planner must:
- Be simple and intuitive to learn
- Cost under $50
- Be easily portable and lightweight
- Have a built-in reminder system
- Have plenty of room to write in each day
- Have space for my to do list and goals
- Let me see a week at a time
- Make easy for me to quickly see my availability, etc.
If you have never used a planner before, start with a simple, inexpensive one to get to know your style better. If are currently using a planner, make a list of what you like and don’t like about it and add those criteria to your list. It’s unusual to try several planners before finding the one that is perfect for you.
Popular Calendar Options
Here are a few planner options that I have found work well for myself and for people I work with.
I use my computer a lot so Google Calendar is a great option for me. If gives me the advantage of being able to set up recurring appointments and reminders for events such as birthdays, oil changes and dentist appointments, and I can set up multiple reminders for events to come to me via email.
What I love most about using Google Calendar is that I can access anywhere I go without ever having to synch. As a person with ADD, I find routine tasks excruciating, so I avoid them whenever possible. With Google, I never have to remember to synch my desktop with my laptop or my PDA!
The only sacrifice I made is that the printing options aren’t as flexible as Outlook, but I’ve grown so used to my online calendar that I rarely print it. I don’t have to because I can access anywhere that has an internet connection which is just about everywhere these days. !
Outlook was a what I used before I switched to using Google Calendar. But, I also need my calendar to be portable and actually prefer pen & paper for scheduling my time. I love technology but have no patience for inputting things in PDAs! So, I print out my own calendar using Outlook. I used Outlook’s flexible Printing Options and created a custom template for my needs. I chose the one week per page layout with the days in linear columns. I leave a couple inches of space for notes and reminders at the bottom of the page. I print out 4 – 5 months at a time and keep it in a thin, lightweight binder so I can take it with me and have pockets to hold papers I need to take with me. What I like about this system is when a page gets messy due to multiple changes, all I have to do is reprint it!
Another simple, inexpensive, yet very effective planner system is Planner Pads (www.PlannerPads.com). I used them for years before converting to Outlook. Everyone I know who uses it loves it. It’s great for people who want a simple, flexible system with a week per 2 pages and lots of room for notes and To Do’s.
Great for moms or anyone who schedules many people, or is currently using multiple planners. It has a grid for tracking 5 separate people or projects every day / week. For example, you can use one of the columns to track family meal plans. (www.busybodybook.com)
There are many other planner systems out there that could work great for you. Whatever you choose, the important thing is that you USE it!
© 2007-2009 Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.
Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed, Coach, Author & Blogger is the founder of Agile Life Design and Agile Productivity programs for healing chronic disorganization and overwhelm from the inside out. As a Life Design Coach, ADHD Coach, Productivity, Organizing Coach, she specializes in working with “outliers” – people who are exceptionally sensitve, multi-talented, intelligent, and highly technical or highly creative, people with ADD and anyone who feels they are chronically overwhelmed, exhausted, and / or disorganized.
She guides people in agilizing their lives and making the challenging “course-corrections” needed to conquer clutter, change habits, and take charge of their lives.
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