9/7/15

Making your tools work for you: My Planner

Despite all the digital tools out there to help us manage our time, plan our days and track our to-dos, I can’t seem to get entirely away from paper.

There is just no substitute for writing a list, checking things off, and seeing your week laid out before you on a paper that leaves room for scribbled notes and reminders. There is no system as flexible and adaptable as a paper and a pencil. 

Having had many years of experience trying out the various planners on the market, I have developed a strong sense of what I like in a planner. And I’ve finally concluded there is no planner on the market that is just perfect for me. So I made my own. (I think I got this instinct to make my own from my dad, who has designed his own elaborate digital system for managing his to dos and calendar.) 

A curious friend asked to see my self-made planner, so I’m posing it here in case it’s interesting to any of you as well. 

I designed it in Google Sheets. I print it out on regular paper at home, and use a glue stick to paste the pages into a cheap spiral notebook from Staples. It’s not particularly pretty, but it works for me.

Here is the left side of the two page spread:

Starting at the top left corner, here is what I included and why:
  • I like to write down the top two or three things that will make my week great. (They must be things I have control over.) If all else fails, I make sure I do those few things and the week is a success by definition.
  • Below that, I have a box for my weekend plan. I notice that if the weekend arrives and I haven’t put any thought into what we’re going to do, we tend to have a directionless and frustrating weekend. This box reminds me to make a plan.
  • Space for notes. This could be a reminder, a quote I heard, or an address I copied down while on the phone. 
  • Below that, my Dailies checklist. I keep track of what I’m committing to do every day, and check off that I did it. I like to see those rows fill up with "X" marks. (Examples of what might go there: walk 10k steps, post to the blog, write in my journal.)
  • Along the bottom, I have room to list my “inputs” which could be books I am reading, podcasts I’m listening to, events I attended, or important conversations I had. These inputs become fodder for my writing, and I have space to the right of that to jot down writing ideas as well. 
  • The heart of the page contains the daily columns, with time based slots at the top to block out when I’m going to do what, and a “to do” list below.

The right side of the spread finishes out the week and provides space below to plan projects that span more than one day.


I am a big fan of tweaking routines and systems and tools to fit you best, and not settling for something that's only sort of good. I hope you enjoyed this peek into my planner and that it gives you the courage to adapt, tweak or replace your tools with ones that fit you best.

3 comments:

  1. Laurel, I really like this system. I especially like "this week will be great if" and the "weekend plan" very interesting. this is super useful to me and helps me think about my own weeks. COOL!

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  2. Love this! I'm going to try it!

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