Life of the Planner Challenged

This post comes from from Sonia G Medeiros and Lisa Phillips, who asked about the planner I’m using on Twitter.  You see, I’m planner challenged.  I didn’t use one at all until a few years ago after I managed to scheduled two doctor appointments at the same time.  What invariably would happen is that I would buy a new planner and after a few weeks, it would go to the planner graveyard.

A tornado with fists punching out of it.We’re having to make do with less, and I keep getting new things added to my plate, some of them quite diverse and unrelated to each other (time management books tend to forget that the managers are delegating to another person).  It was hard for me to keep track of everything, and standard ‘to do’ lists did not work.  My schedule sometimes was out completely out of my control.  I might have an emergency and suddenly the entire day was gone.  The result was I’d look at how much stuff was accumulating on the list and feel like I’d gotten into a wrestling match with a tornado.

In 2012, I went through 10 planners (while I may have typos in the post, that number is not a typo).  I kept hopping from one to another, trying to find something that worked.  But most of them were different in appearance but really the same thing.  It seemed impossible to keep track of so many different things, some of them quite small.

Which is where the PlannerPad came in.  I’d seen it before, passed on it, but I ran across a mention of it in a blog.  The PlannerPad has a vertical ‘to do’ list across the two of two pages, with each column a category.  From that ‘to do’ list, it funnels into the second row where you pick what you need to get done on a specific day.  Below that is the appointment area.

One of the things I discovered right away was that I had to limit each of categories to no more than 3-4 items, and I could only have up to 4 items per day — and only if one of the items was simple, 2 minute item.  More than that, and I started having problems with being able to do it when the world tilted on its side and went off into crazy land.

Though I should note, I’ve included writing in the categories, and that’s not counted as the 3-4 items.

A black hole
The black hole of doom

The big change I had to make was putting things into categories.  I’ve always tried to do things as they came in, especially if they were small.  I also do better if I bounce around some.  I’m not someone who can do one thing for hours and hours without feeling like the character in The Scream.  But as I got assigned more and more stuff, bouncing became a freaking black hole of doom!

Initially, I tried sticking post-its in the book so I could just write them down as I got to that week.  But that ended up being overwhelming, so my next step was a simplified ticker file — five folders, one for each day of the work week.  Then I can group stuff with its category in the folder.  The big or important stuff gets on the vertical list, and the small stuff just gets lumped in with it.  But I still have to work to put a new item in the tickler file and wait instead of jumping on it.  Once I put it in its category, I don’t touch it until that day.

Must … resist … must … resist…

Once I get it into the folder and out of sight, I’m okay.  Both the PlannerPad and the modified tickler work together mostly.  I’m still figuring out what works for me with this.  After the first week, I went to highlighters to mark off when something is done, and this week, I decided it would help me to make sure I used to same color highlighter for the week to keep from it from seeming too chaotic.  But what I have noticed is that I don’t forget it.  I take it with me, and I remember to open it.

What’s your planner life like?  I hope it’s not as scary as mine!  What’s worked for you?