I started giving “planner tours” back in high school. Friends wanted to know why I carried it everywhere, what I wrote in it, and probably if I had any tips that would work for them.
My planner has evolved over the last 25 years, and with so many people looking to integrate paper and digital tools as they manage the details of their personal and professional lives, I thought this quick tour would be helpful.
This post has been created so you can skim it in two minutes or less, but I also provided some in-depth answers, in case you want more.
Of course a paper planner isn’t going to be the right fit for everyone (I know plenty of people who do all of this digitally), but hopefully the ideas shared here can help you decide what will work best for you. Enjoy!
The Planner Itself
I have a thing for FranklinCovey. It started when I was 13. This specific planner is a FranklinCovey Compact Size with Blooms two-pages-per-day inserts (I just keep 30 pages in there at a time so it stays slim).
Here’s why I love my paper planner:
- It doubles as a wallet—holding my driver license, credit cards, library cards, checks, stamps, Post-it notes, thank you cards, receipts, photos, etc.
- I can see a lot of information at a glance.
- I can brainstorm and plan while sitting in meetings and it doesn’t look like I am “sitting on my phone.”
- I can color in it with markers. (It just makes me happy.)
- It calms my brain to actually use pens and paper.
Some people worry about carrying a big planner around all the time. And I get it. That’s when I would recommend the pocket-sized planner (super tiny…just like a wallet), or I would suggest you email yourself reminders or voice memos when you are out and then put that information into your planner when you get home and you are keeping your emails at zero.
My Google Calendar
My Paper Calendar Supplement
Although I don’t use the two-page paper calendar included with my FranklinCovey planner, I use the Prioritized Daily Task List to record date-specific tasks that need to be checked off by the end of that day.
In this example, you can see the following tasks that had to be done (or at least assessed/thought about) that day:
- Outline post/planner tour
- Discuss kids’ schedule for Thursday-Saturday event
- Check on health insurance sign-up
- Send check to painter
- Finalize dates for live event
I work on those tasks throughout the day, and before I go to bed that night, I make sure they are all finished.
If they are not finished, it means I either planned too much for the day or I had unexpected things pop up. In that case, I do forward one or two things over to the next day’s calendar. ***The key is NOT to rewrite things over and over every day, so I try to just make a super short list and then get it done as quickly as possible.
And see that column for your appointment schedule?
Sometimes I “create my day” in that column—sketching out my appointments from my Google calendar, brainstorming when the best time would be to implement those tasks on the left, and filling in time for my nap, meals, family time, reading, exercise, etc.
And then that paper on the right is my note-taking and dreaming space. I use it to outline meeting agendas, grocery lists, price quotes, ideas, and goals.
Before I go to bed, I look at those notes to see if there are any tasks or commitments associated with them, and then I record them in the appropriate places. I also photograph those pages (if they are important) and upload the photos into Evernote, which will search my handwriting. (Is that not awesome?)
My GTD®-Based Next Actions
David Allen’s best-selling book, Getting Things Done®, is what locked my FranklinCovey planner into place.
I used to write 60 things on my task list. And then when I didn’t do ANY of them, I rewrote all 60 the following day. (You know what that’s like…)
Now I have only those things that MUST be done on my task list on the left, and all those flexible tasks I WANT to do go inside my pouch page finder, labeled by context:
- to discuss
- phone calls
I color-code those, and I do keep every color marker in the zipper pouch at the front of my planner. Because it makes me happy.
Looking at the example above, you can see the kinds of things I do when the context presents itself. This is a WEEKLY list. I just move the bookmark from day to day, and then everything should be checked off by the end of the week. If it isn’t checked off, that most likely means I planned too much. I create a new Next Actions list each week during my Weekly Review, and the goal is to never rewrite a task. (I rarely reach that goal, but it’s still my goal.)
Asana and Evernote—for Current Project Lists, Project Support Materials, and Routines
I have an entire podcast about Asana and a full tutorial on Evernote inside our Steps to Everyday Productivity Program, so I won’t recreate all of that here, but the basic idea is as follows:
I keep all my business-related projects totally in order inside Asana, using the categories…
- “In Progress/Waiting”
- “Next in Line”
Asana is awesome. You can upload photos, add links, set deadlines, outline full projects, and share tasks with a team. I use that strictly for LearnDoBecome.
Then Evernote holds my personal Current Projects List, plus images, documents, agendas, etc. that I need for ANY of my projects—work or personal. Evernote also holds pretty much everything I would want to access from my phone or computer (besides private passwords and confidential stuff).
So What Does a Typical Day Look Like?
First thing out of the gate (after my personal morning routine) is to look at my Google calendar to see what HAS to be done.
Then I work from my Evernote Routines List and my paper planner task list–and fill in the gaps with Next Actions.
Sitting down to work for a few hours a day is on my Routines list, so that’s when I utilize Asana and move forward on my business projects.
Evernote is there to support me every step of the way. I’m usually in there at least a dozen times—creating new notes and accessing past notes.
The day is fluid because my life is full of activity and I want to be able to adapt to the needs of family, friends, team members, and neighbors. But I do set boundaries to accomplish my work and take breaks (because otherwise I lose my mind).
As I’m typing all of this out, I recognize there are a lot of details and moving parts here. And honestly, I’m not trying to complicate things, claim perfection, or insist that everyone needs to do things the way I do them.
This is simply the process that helps me keep track of everything on my plate. And it’s colorful! And stress-free! And it kind of makes me giddy.
Feel free to post additional questions or ideas in the comments (I’ll answer as many as I can), and if you’re feeling excited about revamping your system, check out the announcements below to find out how you can learn more about our productivity system here at LearnDoBecome.
As a quick review…here’s a little image we put together…Thanks and happy planning!!