Is your planner pretty or is your planner functional?
Here’s how to tell:
- If you buy stickers and highlighters, colored pens and washi tape, and planner inserts, and planner covers, but you haven’t completed one big goal this month, your planner is not functional.
- If you spend more time decorating and setting up your planner than you do setting up your goals and working on those goals, your planner is not functional.
- If you have more habit trackers, mood trackers, bucket lists, to-read lists, cleaning lists, pen holders, dangly charms, glitzy dashboards, motivational quotes, and task cards then you do functional monthly, weekly, and/or daily pages, your planner is not functional.
- If you can rattle off all the Etsy stores that you buy all the pretty decorations from, but you still have to write out reminders for basic daily hygiene like brushing your teeth (which should be a mindless habit by this point in your life) your planner is not functional.
- If it takes you ten minutes to fill out all your habit trackers each day, your planner is not functional.
It’s Okay, We All Fall Prey
We all want that one planner that will give us the best layout that gives us the best plan of attack for our day. We are bored with the old stand-by basics that sometimes work, sometimes don’t, so we Google “Planners.” And we find a slew of new and different styles we have never heard of before: Bullet Journal, Happy Planner, Erin Condren, Tul Planner, Passion Planner, Panda Planner, and on and on. And then there are all the sizes and binding options to choose from. It’s no wonder we want to try them all.
When we get lost deciding on the best planner, we go to Pinterest. Let’s make this short, Pinterest is Hell. Everything that should be simple is taken to the extreme.
It’s the same for planners. We discover items that seem like helpful necessities but in reality are portals into never-ending rabbit holes.
- Dashboards: plain or with quotes, with tabs or without, with glitter or without glitter, thickly laminated or thinly laminated.
- Trackers for things we never knew we should track, water intake, moods, what we’ve read, what we’ve watched, the weather, how much we’ve slept, how well we slept, if we went to bed on time or woke on time, and how the dog feels each day.
- Washi Tape for decoration or for use in color-coding. Stickers for use in decoration or color-coding. Stickers for the weather, for birthdays, for doctor appointments, for “me time”, for any non-essential thing you don’t really need to mark.
We add motivational quotes because we’re sure they will help us stay on task (even though the only time we read them is during a flip through to show other planner people how beautiful our planner is).
Then, one day, we realize we can’t fit a full year of planner pages in our planner because we don’t have enough room. The pretty stuff takes up too much space.
WHAT TO DO? Well, it’s time to detox and make your planner functional again.
Unfortunately, it’s like an addiction. Once you start with all those pretties, you have to see and feel the agony it’s causing in your life before you change your ways. If you don’t have a goal to work towards then you probably won’t feel the need to change anything. But, if you set goals at the beginning of the year and haven’t hit your targets, then it’s time to detox.
Here’s the 5-Step Plan:
STEP ONE: Pick a planner.
Preferably from the collection you already have on hand. Pick one. Often times life and work overlap, so having planners for life, work, exercise, cleaning, etc., takes time away from your tasks as you run back and forth to get the right planner. And, yes, if you have a carry-all planner that you then transfer to all the other planners, that redundancy is a major time-suck.
STEP TWO: Put in the necessities that you need.
Do not add things you think you might use. Only add what you use. For example, I love the look of some weekly layouts. However, I never use them. I need monthly layouts for planning ahead and seeing what I have on my agenda each week. Each evening before bed, I plan my next day. That plan for me is similar to the basic Ryder Carroll Bullet Journal Method. That’s it. I then have plenty of room for tasks, my main MUST-DO task to reach my targets, notes for anything that crops up during the day, etc….
STEP THREE: Eliminate habit trackers, or at least, most of them (keep no more than two).
Habit trackers are fine for much-needed things like keeping track of physical or mental changes after starting a new medication. But most habit trackers are full of false hopes and can increase the feelings of “failure.”
The false hopes come from the trackers that we put in for daily tasks we already do. For example, brushing our teeth. Most of us have been doing this since a young age. So it’s a fluff habit. Something that we know we can scratch off at the end of the day. That gives us the false belief that we are doing well because one tracker is marked off all week. However, the main habit that we really need to hit comes up sparse or empty.
The feelings of failure come from not doing as much as you hoped to do. When you have too many habits that you are starting at one time, you set yourself up for failure. Looking at the empty spots you feel the need to “do better.” The thing is, When you are trying to make changes in your life that will be meaningful, it’s best to stick with one change at a time and when it’s a habit (that is, when you just do it without thinking about it), then you can train yourself on the next habit. Atomic Habits (written by James Clear)calls that Habit stacking.
Nothing good comes of trying to track so many details that we can’t keep up with them all. Plus, in order to try and keep up with all the lists and trackers, we have to take away from another area of our life to devote the time to it. Where’s that time coming from? Family? Work? Exercise? Sleep?
STEP FOUR: Fill the void with goal tasks.
When we feel the emptiness of the pretty, we must change our focus. The best way to do that is when the feeling creeps up, we should acknowledge it, and then work on a goal task. Eventually, when the empty feeling arises, we’ll heed the cue to work on our main task of the day. By the end of a week, we’ll feel accomplished by how much more time we’ve invested in our big goal.
By the end of the month, we may be exceeding our goals. At that point, we know we have a functional planner at hand.
STEP FIVE: Bask in the gloriousness of supreme productivity.
The feeling we get when we complete the tasks we need to in order to keep forward momentum on our goals is indescribable. For me, I hated trying to locate information when I needed it most. I long to be as organized as and to access information as quickly as, Kayleigh McEnany. She has no fluff in that binder and she flips to the pertinent section within seconds. I’m not quite that organized yet, but I’ve been able to flip to information within 15-seconds. The only reason I could do that is that I keep a year of information in my planner at a time.
TO SUM UP
More planner pages, less fluff. Your life will be much more organized.