The Planner Challenged

Ever had nightmares about showing up at the wrong time for a class?  That was me, in college.  I’d dream I’d lost track of one of my classes, and realize I hadn’t attended it the entire semester and was failing!

Time is something I’ve always had difficulty with.  In school, I did the work early so I didn’t have to worry about the deadline.  I’ve also worked a lot with memory because I’ve had trouble making planners work.  They’re made for left brainers.  I like to see my calendar parts in big chunks so I get the bigger picture, but a lot of the planners put the days in a more linear lefty format that hides them from me.  Those that give me the bigger picture are often insanely tiny, assuming that I will write neatly in pencil in very tiny letters.  I’m lucky if I can find a pen in the same color twice in a row, and besides pens are fun!

Most planner advice focuses on being efficient.  Liz Davenport advises, “Write EVERYTHING down, not just “really” important things, not just business things and not just what is convenient. Write down EVERYTHING!”  If I did that, I’d survive a week (maybe), and then I’d put the planner out of my misery.

But I’ve accepted (grudgingly, she admitted) that I have to keep one.  The convincing reason was when I scheduled two doctor appointments on the same day at the same time.  I’m currently using Day Runner’s Poetica.  It’s my fifth planner this year (yes, it’s only February!).  The feel of the cover appealed to the kinesthetic me, and the page design appeased the visual spatial me (which is the more fussy part).  I was very glad their 5 1/2 size left off the numbered appointment slots!

My immediate goal is getting into the habit of looking at it.  I’m only recording things that I will need to have with me (i.e., hotel confirmation number), things that I will forget, appointments, and time spent writing.

What’s your experience with planners?  Do you have any tips for the planner challenged like me?

9 thoughts on “The Planner Challenged

  1. danzierlea

    oh… oh no…
    The planner IS my archenemy. I have yet to find one that works well for me. I’ve got one of those “uncalendar” things they sell at the university bookstore, which is useful because it’s got various shaped and colored blank spots and lined sections and no dates or numbers. I can easily leave it in the car by mistake and find it next April and jump back into it without wasting a bunch of pages labelled March. But a pen won’t fit in the spiral binder, which is a must-have for me.

    My daughter’s school has the year calendar printed on magnets every year, so it sticks to the fridge and I can use a sharpie to write on it (mainly a big X when the year’s done). I’ve tried big box wall calendars, carry-along planners, a simple notebook dedicated to my schedule… everything I can think of.

    The big thing I’ve learned? Nothing works if I forget to use it. Anything works if I make a point of using it. I went three months on one last fall–a new record! 🙂 I had to put post-its on my door to remind me to use it, but I did, and it worked… till I left the planner in the car by mistake…


    1. Remembering to use it is the hard thing. Unfortunately, it’s not true that if I do something for six weeks, I’ll change a habit. It can undo itself at any time. Right now, I’m just making the basic goal of trying to look at it regularly.


  2. Felicia Fredlund

    For me I try to use planners occasionally, but if I have a regular schedule I’ll know it by heart in a week or two (because I check it a lot and I remember numbers easily).

    Things like doctor’s appointments and similar I make sure to add into my cellphone’s calendar with a reminder the day before and/or on the day of the appointment. I also make sure to keep a paper close by with the date and time (I have a tendency to double check I remembered the date of appointments right).

    But then I have all these regular and semi-regular tasks. As I said I don’t really need a planner for uni schedules and such, but deadlines for a whole course and such I want in easy reach.

    Planners doesn’t work very well for me either. Instead I usually look for good to-do-list programs/apps. Right now I’m using and I’ve been using it since new years. I really like it. I can add repeatable tasks so I don’t have to add them every time. I can say that I want to things once a month, maybe every 22nd of every month, or once a year, etc. I can even add which time I’ll have to do the task.

    With todoist I’ve successfully changed several habits of mine. I usually use the webside for adding tasks, but for keeping track of them I use the integrated app with Google Chrome (my web browser of choice).

    I don’t know if it’ll help you, but if you haven’t checked it out before it might prove what you need. When I try to find new planners and such I always think about what I need from them and choose from that. I needed a system to easily add tasks and not have to add them for every day if it is a everyday task.


    1. I’m afraid I’ve never been able to work with to do lists. I’ve tried a number of different variations, but what ends up happening is that things come up and I have to push items back and back. Suddenly there’s a lot of them and I start getting overwhelmed. When that happens, I start tuning the items out.


  3. kristylyseng

    I’ve had dreams similar to yours where I’m back at school and I just realized I never attended a class. Or else I’m trying to attend to a class and I can never find it, so I end up failing. The funny thing is this happened AFTER I was done school. lol

    The only time I used planners was to mark down what we had for homework in high school/college. Lately I’ve bought myself a whiteboard tile, which I stuck on the side of my wardrobe conveniently located next to my desk. I’m reserving it for big projects only. It is a relief to write down what I need to work on instead of carrying it around with me in my head 24/7. And the beauty of the whiteboard tile is I can wipe it off and use it throughout the year without having to bother with calendar dates.


  4. I’ve finally settled on the one that comes with MacBooks and syncs with my phone. I have different colors for each family member (three kids usually needing to be two places at once!) and it’s easy to repeat, copy or set an alarm. The computer version has a column for Things To Do … that I tend to ignore. 😀 But I do try to keep everything on it — from appointments to things around town I want to try to attend to reminders of when to make my next appointments (handy for those once or twice a year things). And since it syncs with my phone, I can easily check my calendar when someone wants to go do something — as long as I’ve remembered to plug my phone in recently! =)


  5. First of all, I can TOTALLY relate to those dreams. I still have them sometimes. Usually, the scenario is something like…I have not attended class all semester, and I missed the drop date, and I don’t even know where the class is, and there is a final! And sometimes…it is more than one class. Usually History or Math…not sure why.

    I have tried every planner on the planet I think. I usually am good about keeping them up for a few weeks, and then I forget. So…I have finally given up on paper planners, probably for good. I use Wunderlist to keep track of my “to-do” list, and I put appointments on my calendar on the computer…and the rest, I don’t worry about anymore. So far, its working!


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