I’ve been asked more often here lately about my thoughts for planners. I think it’s a natural response at big transition points like a new year to want to set yourself up for success. No one wakes up each day aiming to be mediocre, right? We want all the resources we can find that set us up for success each and every day. The first question I like to ask people when they ask me about my planner preferences is – Are you going to use it? You can spend all kinds of money on planners, but if you aren’t going to use it then that money would be better spent elsewhere (or saved).
If you’ve never used a daily planner before I suggest that you get yourself a cheap $0.79 spiral bound notebook or any other notebook you can re-purpose for 14 days. Think about what you want to capture in your daily planning. Do you need to capture meetings by time block? Do you need a quick view of the month or week? Do you want each day to have it’s own page or spread, or have a spread with multiple days? Do you need a to-do list? Do you want a weekly theme, affirmation or inspirational quote to be included? Are you introducing new habits (like meal planning) that you want to track progress with? Are you using this as a productivity tracker? What other things do you want to plan for daily (workouts, water intake, kid’s appointments, Bible reading, blogging)? Maybe you know you want to have a habit of planning each day, but you have no idea what to include. In that case Google “daily planner” and do some research on content different daily planners include. You can look at images online for different planners to spark ideas.
Don’t want to create your own daily planning pages? There are lots of free printable templates you can test in this process. Google “free daily planning template.”
In your cheap or re-purposed notebook, or on the printable template you selected, set the intention to plan for 14 days. If two or three days pass and you find that you want your daily planner to include something new – then include it. If there are things you thought you needed to track daily that you find you aren’t tracking then take those things out. This is YOUR planner and you can customize it every day until you have the core of the elements you want to plan for. Now that you’re at the end of your 14 days answer these questions:
- Did you find that you set your plan for the day in the morning or were you retrospectively reviewing the things you did/didn’t do that day?
- Did you find the daily planning exercise meaningful or was it just another “to-do” added to your list?
- Look back at the past 14 days of entries, are there things you wish you had captured or things you captured that you don’t need to?
Daily planning is an opportunity each day to set your intention so that you stay on track with your goals. If you don’t have a vision for where you want to go and a plan for how you’re going to get there – chances are you’ll never have the opportunity to live that vision. In question 2 above, if you didn’t find this daily process valuable, failed to complete your daily plan for each of the 14 days, or found it to be just something else you needed to work into your already busy day – I would encourage you to re-evaluate why you started the process. If you have a desire to create a new vision for yourself, to re-program habits, to track progress in a plan you’ve already started – make daily planning a priority. In my opinion, planning is best if done first thing in the morning because it sets your intention for the day. You can then keep a pulse on if you’re meeting that day’s intention as day progresses and flex as needed when issues or other priorities arise.
There are literally thousands of planners available on any budget. If you don’t get in the habit of using a daily planner and know what you want to plan for then you can waste a lot of money buying all of the wrong planners. So, again, if you didn’t complete your daily planning each of the 14 days and you’ve re-assessed the need for daily planning then try again. Before you spend any money on a planner, get in the habit of using a daily planner and know what types of things you want to plan for and track each day. Start again. Plan daily for 14 days making adjustments to the template you’re using. Keep doing this process of restating why you’re planning daily, understand how you like to plan your day until you have a clear vision of what you like and what you don’t like in a daily plan. You have your daily entries from your notebook as a guide for things you tried that didn’t work out and things you wanted to incorporate and maybe changed how you captured that each day.
Now that you’ve established a daily ritual of planning your day each day and know how you like to plan each day – now you can start looking for planners. WARNING: This process of finding a planner can be overwhelming. Don’t get frustrated and settle for a less than perfect planner. You’ll be back to square one – not using it – in no time because it doesn’t work for you. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you start looking for a planner:
- Does it matter if my planner is hard cover of soft cover?
- Do I like a wire-bound notebook or do I want a solid, lay-flat spine?
- Do you want a re-usable planner cover that you can purchase and switch out the inner contents as needed?
- Will this planner stay on your desk or will you want to throw it in your bag and carry it with you?
- *Don’t freak out* Do you not want a physical planner at all, but maybe an app you access on your phone or computer?
Again, there are thousands of planners available – do your research and find one that will work for you. Google “planners”, “daily planners”, “productivity tracker”, “goal setting planner”. Visit your local bookstore or office supply store. Michael’s and other craft stores also usually have a great stock of planners at the start of a new calendar or school year. If a virtual planner or planning application is what you’re after read reviews, you can search for planning and productivity apps to see what’s out there. If you have friends or co-workers that have a daily planning habit, ask them what planner they use. Don’t settle. If push comes to shove take some time in Microsoft Word to put the planning template you created for your 14 day test period into a template that you can print copies of and put those copies in a spiral bound notebook or have them bound at your local office supply company. Who knows you may perfect that template and introduce a new planner to the world.