It’s March. How many of you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution to get more organized? For me, getting organized always starts with my schedule. If I can bring my time under control, I better manage both home and work projects. Having the right planner is one tool that makes time management easier.
Just saying the word “planner” brings a thrill. There’s something about the promise of a more streamlined, efficient life that gets me every time. I’ll be honest, I’m kind of a sucker when it comes to planners. I’ve bought a lot. In this post, I’ll share some tips for finding the perfect planner for you.
I’ll start by telling you how not to choose a planner. Don’t choose one because of the cute butterfly or flower on the front. Don’t choose one because your sister loves hers. Don’t choose one because it’s on a display table on sale at Staples. Spend some time thinking about your needs and options.
With hundreds of options on the market, you may have to try a few before settling on one that works. But don’t feel pressured to get a digital planner. A paper calendar might work well for you. My sister, a grade-school teacher, is quite efficient with her pocket-sized two-year calendar. She doesn’t need anything more than to enter a few appointments.
However, my 84-year-old mother might need an electronic planner. She’s quite amazing, and oversees an important church committee on a state level. She’s attending meetings, traveling, and often needs more information besides a starting time. She may need to have addresses, names and phone numbers handy. She may need to remind herself of a document that she should take. A digital planner offers the flexibility she needs.
As demands on your life change, consider changing your planner. Remember, just because something worked years ago doesn’t mean it works today. Here are some principles for picking the right planner.
Be clear what you need to record. Make a list of elements that would help you be more effective. Research planners with those components. Here are some potential sections:
- To-do lists
- Project lists
- Prayer lists
- Meeting notes
- Grocery lists
Options for traditional and electronic planners. The best place to find options for electronic planners is the Internet. Search using the keywords “digital planners” or “electronic organizers” or any combination of those words. There are also online programs to help manage tasks. Some websites to start your search include:
- Remember the Milk
- Amy Napp’s Family Organizer
- A Life Well Lived
- David Allen, Getting Things Done system
- Franklin Covey
- My Life Organized
Have one calendar for work and home. Integrating work and home allows you to review your evening plans while still at work, and vice versa. It’s not marrying both; it’s connecting both. It’s unrealistic to think any of us can keep these completely separate. Being a realist by nature, I find it’s more logical to figure out how to make them work together.
Sync a digital calendar with your phone. Years ago I wanted a Blackberry because I liked the name. Now that I have one, I realize it’s got more benefits than a cute name. I use Outlook and sync it on my Blackberry and have instant access to my calendar, notes for appointments, contact list, and more.
Make the most of all product features. My MO for most technology has been to learn the least amount needed to get by. No more. Now, I force myself to learn all of the features and shortcuts of my electronic devices. I’ve learned something amazing: these designers are smarter than me. They’ve actually tucked all kinds of productivity tips into these devices. So get your money and effort’s worth, and learn all you can.
As you do your research for different planners, keep in mind the idea of making your own. If you just can’t find what you need, then maybe you need to create one. Invest in a 3-ring binder, tabbed inserts and page protectors. Learn how to use tables in Word or Publisher and design your own forms. There will be some work up front, but having a custom designed planner might be your best solution.
If you are curious, I’m currently using the planner created by David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done.” It was a bit of an investment, but it was worth it for everything I have to manage.
What type of planner do you use?