A Look Into How My Planner Helps Me Juggle My Life and Family
I have been a planner junkie for most of my life. When I was a kid, I made to do lists. I would put tasks like “do homework, read a chapter, make the bed” on my to do list. I kept a planner when I was in college working 35 hours per week and going to school at night. And of course, I keep a planner now, in my busiest season, as a working mom with two young kids who volunteers at school and in the community.
I have tried many planner systems over the years but the one I am currently using, I’ve been using for two years with a little tweaking – which is a long time for a commitment-phobe like me.
Before I landed on my system, I tried electronic systems, combo electronic and paper systems, the ARC planner, various paper planner layouts and the bullet journal system. I sometimes changed planners halfway through the year. I use my planner daily, most days, and I find that I get more done when I actually keep up with it.
Benefits of Using a Planner
If using a planner isn’t a natural inclination to you like it is to me, here are the reasons you should give it a try.
- You won’t forget what you need to do. If you have a habit of forgetting what needs to be done, your planner can help you remember – provided you check it regularly!
- Writing things down allows your brain to release the information. I have a really good memory but for some strange reason, I only remember what needs to be done when I lay down to go to sleep. I also go through periods where I’m so overwhelmed with all of the things that need to get done that I wake up at night thinking about them. When I commit my list to paper, I’m less likely to do that. During particularly busy times, I keep a notepad next to my bed in case I wake up with a new to do.
- When you use a planner, you can plan ahead. I can plan for spring break and summer break better when I have a planner. I can look ahead and schedule summer camps and keep track of which camps my son is registered for which week.
- Planners help you track various aspects of your life. My favorite planner function is the ability to track both work and personal information. I can keep a running list of our favorite hotels in my “Family” category and a list of my professional goals in my “Goals” section. I’m not two separate people. My brain deals with family and parenting issues even when I’m working so why should my system be separate.
My Planner System
Now that I’ve shared the benefits of using a planner, I’ll share my personal planning system. I have a hybrid planner and bullet journal system.
I have been using my Franklin Covey Classic size binder. Over the years, I have tried smaller planners without much luck. While I liked that they were more compact, I hated having to write tiny, or not being able to fit my info on the calendar. I am also left-handed and trying to write on the opposite page in a tiny space drove me insane.
Before purchasing the Franklin Covey binder, I used the ARC planner (same size). I liked the ability to move pages around easily but I didn’t like the weekly view and I never found daily pages that I didn’t have to print myself. I’m not creative and I don’t have a lot of time to play with different layouts, so I prefer being able to buy what I need all at once and not have to make any changes.
I love the monthly calendar. I use it to keep up with the obvious, like days off, extracurricular activities and set engagements. However, I also use it to plan out our family activities for the month. If I don’t actually plan an activity, we end up spending the weekend at home, doing not much of anything. While I definitely like to save space for spontaneity and downtime, I don’t want to spend all weekend every weekend obligated to others or doing nothing but chores.
I also use my monthly calendar to track pain days (see my post on my chronic illness), my husband’s travel schedule and my medical appointments. I can look back at my calendar to determine if there are too many high pain days, which may mean my medication isn’t working well.
When our weekends are super busy, seeing it on paper helps me scale back. We may bow out of a non-essential gathering in favor of spending time together as a family. I may turn down an invitation even if we are free to give my family downtime.
While I also keep all of my appointments on my digital calendar (I use One Calendar) because it syncs with Google and my iPhone), I rely on my paper calendar for planning. I refer to my digital calendar when I’m out and about so that I don’t overbook myself or my family.
Daily Planning Pages:
I have tried various layouts over the years and by far, my preference is the weekly planning layout. Even when I’m not extremely busy, I still prefer the daily layout. For some reason, I can’t seem to plot out my day well on the weekly layout, particularly the horizontal weekly layout.
While I by far prefer the daily layout, I find that I have a tough time planning my day when I don’t know what the whole week looks like. For example, if I have a medical appointment, I know that a chunk of my day is lost, so I plan errands and administrative tasks on that day since I won’t be very productive when I have to start and stop.
I didn’t want to have to purchase weekly pages in addition to daily pages, so I’ve started doing my own, similar to bullet journal layout. I really need to take the time to create it on my computer since I hand draw it weekly.
I lay out the days of the week and have a small section on the side for my to dos. On the backside, I started doing a bullet journal layout I found online that helps me prioritize upcoming activities and keep track of long-term goals. This has really helped me make sure I am doing something towards my long-term goals every week.
My Book of Lists:
I really wanted to like bullet journaling. I see all the rave reviews online and it seems like such a productivity tool. It seems like such a smart way to keep track of everything all in one place.
The two main reasons it didn’t work for me are that (1) I am not crafty or creative. I kept falling behind on setting up my weekly plan. I would forget to add the day’s to dos. I started resenting the extra work. And really, I love love love my already pretty planner.
While I had no problem abandoning the daily, weekly, monthly spreads, I still liked the idea of keeping track of things all in one place. So, instead of a bullet journal, I have a book of lists. I make lists of books I want to read, books I think my 7 year old would like, hotels we like, medical issues, tests and treatment changes, favorite recipes and more and more and more. I finally have one place to put all the little things I want to remember but don’t want to waste planner space on!
If you haven’t given planners a try but you want to find a way to stay organized, I highly recommend giving it a try. There have been times where I didn’t use my planner, moreso because it was a style that didn’t fit me needs, and I found that I was not only less productive, but more stressed out. Since I had to rely on my brain to remember everything, I could never just relax and forget about work or home projects. Having a planner has helped me be more productive and less stressed.
Buyer’s Guide: My Favorite Planner Tools
These are some of my favorite planning tools. It is extremely important to use tools that suit your needs. I have bought many planners over the years and the planners that got the most use were the ones that fit my own needs.
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