As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently in the process of revamping my planning system after experimenting with a bullet journal ‘inspired’ setup for the past 4 months—read more about it here. Traditionally, I’m a ‘functional planner’ meaning I like simple, dated layouts that enable me to write down and track as much information as possible. So, for now, I’m back to using my dated weekly pages. In addition, I’m also trying to determine my planner setups for next year. In this week’s blogpost I share my thought process for reviewing, tweaking, and choosing a planner setup for the upcoming year.
The biggest struggle most plannernerds have is finding a planner that serves all their organizational needs. As someone who’s been using planners for the past two decades, I strongly believe that FIRST you have to understand your planning needs (what you need to keep track of) as well as your planning ‘style’, THEN look for a planner that has a layout to support it. Most people, however, follow these steps in reverse order: first they buy a planner then try to make it work for them. Last year, I wrote a blogpost that explained step-by-step the process I recommend to help identify your planning needs and style so you can CHOOSE the planning system that works best for you—read more about it here, here, here, and here. All that said, let’s jump into my thought process for selecting planner setups every year.
One or Multiple Planners?
I’m a working mom managing a family 4—8 if you count the ‘fur babies’—with both a regular ‘day job’ and blog/YouTube ‘side hustle’. Some of these life areas overlap, some don’t and some require tracking/documenting a lot of information while others do not. As a result, I’ve determined that my ideal setup would involve using a planner dedicated to managing each of the following 4 major areas:
- work (day job)
How did I come up with these 4 areas? To begin with, my day job follows a set weekly schedule and there aren’t any tasks or activities that ‘spill over’ to my personal time; I also have to manage multiple projects. As for my blog, YouTube, and social media activities, my technique for planning and tracking is very different than how I plan and track work or personal items. Next, the most complex life area I manage involves personal, family, home, and fitness because there’s a lot of overlap and coordination required among them. Lastly, I need a portable, condensed version of my personal/family schedules for reference ‘on-the-go’ to avoid any conflicts when making future appointments.
So what do I need to manage in each area? I find it helpful to either create a list or draw a mind map when trying to figure this out—see my results below:
- Work: timed schedule (for meetings), task lists (daily, weekly, monthly), notes section (for meeting minutes, reference information, project details, weekly project updates, yearly accomplishments, yearly training completed, etc.)
- Blog/YouTube/Social Media: monthly editorial calendars, statistics (monthly, yearly), post/video ideas, task lists, notes, site maintenance tracker, daily/weekly/monthly routines, yearly goals, project tracking, etc.
- Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: monthly and weekly overview of appointment/event schedules, task lists, notes, habit trackers, exercise/steps tracker, home projects tracker, goal planning, etc.
- On-the-Go: monthly calendar with personal and family appointments/events, monthly index logs (read more about it here), errand lists, on-the-go notes, etc.
Ah, the million dollar question! I have found the best way to determine what type (ring, disc, bound, coil) and size (pocket, personal, A5, letter) to choose depends on: (1) how much information I need to capture, (2) if I need to add/remove pages, and (3) if I need to carry other papers, items, and/or supplies. Once again, see my results below:
- Work: ring or disc so I can add/remove calendar and note pages; letter size because A5 did not provide enough space to write things down in the past or carry the supplies I needed
- Blog/YouTube/Social Media: coil or bound is fine because projects usually span a year and therefore can be easily archived for reference; ideally an A5 size because it provides a lot of writing space but is still portable enough to travel with if necessary—letter size would be too big
- Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: ring bound to easily add/remove weekly pages (monthly pages always stay for reference) and note pages throughout the year; A5 size to provide enough writing space, decorate (if inspiration strikes!), and hold bills, papers, and other important information; due to it’s size and bulk, this planner usually stays home; if there’s not much going on, a personal size ring bound planner will also work and double as an on-the-go planner
- On-the-Go: either personal size ring bound or A6/personal/B6 Slim/standard booklet—easier to travel with than the A5 size described in the bullet above
This is the other million dollar question and the cause of much frustration if you get this part wrong. Over the years, I’ve learned which layouts work best in which environments that also compliment my planning style. I’m an avid note taker, list maker, and ‘big picture’ person so for my 4 major areas, these are my ideal layouts:
- Work: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; week on 2 page vertical layout with a Monday start and a condensed weekend (Saturday and Sunday are stacked in one column); each daily column has a timed schedule spanning 8am thru 6pm and lines for tasks/notes; there’s a separate column for weekly tasks; lots of lined pages for notes
- Blog/YouTube/Social Media: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; lots of lined/dot/grid pages for creating monthly index logs, task lists, goal and project planning, notes, reference information, etc.
- Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; week on 2 page vertical layout, Monday start, with Saturday and Sunday separated and the same size as all the other days of the week; each daily column is blank and unlabeled; there’s a separate column for weekly tasks; some lined/dot/grid pages for notes
- On-the-Go: yearly overview for current year and next year; a month on 2 pages with Sunday start and a separate column for monthly tasks; a few lined pages for monthly index logs, a ‘future log’ for capturing appointments/events beyond the current year, and quick notes on-the-go
Planner Product Selection
After going thru my thought process described above, the last step is choosing which planner products to use. I approach this step in two ways: first, I try to ‘shop my stash’ (use items already in my collection or design/create them myself) and second, I try to choose the most effective, affordable option. At this time, I’ve made some choices but not all—see below:
- Work: I’ll be using my existing Martha Steward letter-size, disc bound planner with my own custom designed pages
- Blog/YouTube/Social Media: I’ve chosen the Erin Condren Deluxe Monthly planner which has just monthly calendars (I don’t need a weekly or daily layout), an abundance of blank pages that I’m planning to use in a bullet journal style, and monthly project planning layouts—learn more about it here
- Personal/Family/Home/Fitness: ***no selection yet (still reviewing several options)***
- On-the-Go: ***no selection yet (still reviewing several options)***
October is almost over—can you believe it!—so I still have some time to finalize my selections. As I said before, I believe the most important part of this process is taking the time to really think carefully about what you need a planning system to do for you before jumping into buying the next ‘hot product’—it’s hard to resist, I know!–but trust me, it will save you a lot of money and frustration in the end. In the next installment of this blogpost series, I’ll start going into more detail regarding each planner setup I’ve selected to use next year. If you’d like to read about my previous planner setups for the start of this year, read more about it here, here, here, and here plus a bonus post here. 🙂
What about you? How do you go about selecting a planner? What are things you look for in a planning system? Have you chosen your planner for next year yet?—if so, which one and why? Please share in the comments below and don’t forget to like, share, subscribe!
Until next time, 🙂
♥ LilD ♥