I can’t believe it’s December 30th and that 2013 is almost over. Can you? I love this time of year for many reasons, but one aspect of the New Year that makes me ecstatic is the fresh slate that the changing calendar brings. It’s a new year, a new chance to plan, a time for new beginnings, new systems, better organization, fresh goals.
I love organizing and can’t function without a calendar and plan and so the end and beginning of each year normally find me frantically scrambling to revamp my time management systems.
This year (and especially this fall, after becoming self-employed) I tried to do everything digitally, with my calendar and lists entirely on my phone and computer. Mark and I have a shared Google calendar so that we don’t cross our wires; my teaching schedule means that I am on the road a lot more than in front of my computer. It made sense to try to use a system that I could access from my iPhone.
To be honest, it didn’t work that well. I felt less organized than ever and a couple of important things fell through the cracks. I hate forgetting or losing things; the feeling of being disorganized sends me into a mild panic. (Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not.)
I also love to set goals, track progress, and watch to-do lists shrink. Because typing things into my phone or computer was more work than jotting notes down on a piece of paper, I made fewer lists and set fewer goals (and thus, accomplished less). Again, not the ideal.
So my big lesson from the latter part of 2013 was this: I need a manual system.
There are probably a lot of incredibly successful people out there who have entirely digital systems, but this girl needs a good ol’ pen and paper. I’m useless without a physical calendar and list.
I am always on the hunt for the perfect planner or planning system, but this time around, I decided to try creating my own custom system that contained exactly what I needed. So I set to work. I’m so excited to share the system with you (beginning tomorrow!), but today, I’d like to chat about planning systems.
Here are 7 things that a planning system needs to include in order for me to be effective:
1. A weekly calendar, with each day broken down into hours. Simple blank space isn’t as helpful to me as a day broken down into actual time slots.
2. Some daily planning space that is not time-oriented. Writing deadlines, birthdays, tasks that need to be accomplished but that can happen late at night or early in the morning – every day includes some kind of non-time-constrained activities. An effective planner should have space to incorporate these, as well as the time-sensitive activities.
3. Lots of white space. I’m a doodler, a jotter, a note-taker. I think of important to-do’s at random moments; if I neglect to write it down, I forget about it completely.
4. List space that can be used flexibly. We all make shopping lists, menus, email lists, honey-do lists, broader goal outlines . . . a good planner provides space for different kinds of lists.
5. Inspiration. Who wants to use a boring, black-and-white planner? I am much more motivated to use a system that is pretty, bright, colorful, and incorporates quotes and artwork. If I like looking at it, I’m more likely to use it!
6. Large size. I’ve tried using the small pocket-size planners, but to really be effective, I need a large, binder sized planner. This might be problematic for someone who only carries a small purse but since I normally carry a larger bag to accommodate my teaching supplies and camera, having a larger system isn’t an inconvenience.
7. Customizable. I like experimenting with new printable systems; space for menu planning, book lists, blog mapping, and brainstorming is a must. Everyone has different specific needs an space for personalized additions is an important part of an effective planner.
Now I want to hear from you! Do you prefer a digital or a manual system? What does a planner need to include to help you be most effective?