I think I have a plan(ner)

Most of you probably know how much I love a planner. A system. A tool for to-do lists and things to remember and generally an off-site back-up brain storage unit. And I’ve tried everything from scraps of paper to small spiral note pads in my purse to the Franklin system to online apps like Wunderlist and Toodledoo.

Different ways have worked for me at different points in my life. I started using… oh, I think it was At-a-Glance brand, when I was in college and was working at the same time. I kept that up until I was managing a big bookstore, and a co-worker showed me her Franklin planner, and I loved that and fell into its bindery planning system for a few years. That turned out to be what they also used at the Enginerding company so I kept using it. When we opened the yarn store I needed something that was both bigger and smaller than that and a friend recommended Planner Pads. I wish that layout still worked for me because I liked that system. But at that point I also started to need something that was in all my places every time I was there, and a physical planner wasn’t cutting it — it’s not like I wanted to carry it with me when I went out to dinner, but invariably at dinner someone would ask me about placing an order, and there’s no way after three mojitos I was going to remember that. So I started looking for online things because then I’d have it on my laptop for home and work, and could reach it on my phone if I wasn’t in either of those two places… and went through five or six of them before settling on Toodledo as my primary go-to planner/listmaker.

But do you know what I miss? ACTUALLY SEEING THINGS IN FRONT OF ME. Technology is great, but an online to-do list isn’t going to do get you to do shit if you don’t click that bookmark button and look at it. Oh, hey; it turns out I already wrote about most of this late last year: Get Shit Done. And do you know what’s been working out fantastic for me? THAT SYSTEM. A spiral notebook, a calender, and an online thing I can access wherever I am so I can take notes about what people want to order. But as I’ve been reading about The Bullet Journal, and spending far too much time on Pinterest looking to see how people use planner systems, I’ve made some changes to what my pages look like.

Here’s a closeup of a couple of weeks ago. This would have been a busy week just by itself, because there are a lot of alarms I have to set for yarn dyeing weeks that keep me on track of what stage the dyeing is in. That’s also the week my hard drive fried, and I had to take the desktop to Best Buy, tried to get by on a glacially old computer, and was saved by mom buying me a laptop to get me through (that I’m still using, and writing this on, because my fried computer isn’t back to me yet). And I got yarn club out, which meant about a day and half of solid, focus-only-on-yarn-club work. At one point Tim told me some troubling news from the bank (that has since been fixed) and I just stared at him and said, “I have to type in 47 addresses today and not fuck any of them up. That’s all I have room for in my brain. I can’t worry about this until after I get back from the post office.” And I had a vet appointment. And a doctors appointment. And have a lot of stuff I didn’t finish. And yet, still, I survived the week. (Although in truth, I might still be a little shellshocked.)

ANYWAY. The planner. I hope this size photo doesn’t break the sidebar. Personally I like a graph paper notebook; should you be looking into this, YMMV.

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(Business card really isn’t a shout-out, it’s just covering some financial information. But hey, if you want to check out my shop….?)

I’m not even going to try to pretend I did everything that was on my list that week. You can clearly see that there are things I didn’t check off. If you’re curious enough to look at the link to my previous blog post, you can see that was a yarn week as well. I’ve made some structural changes to the pages that have improved my flow a bit.

You’re probably asking… why. Why write this all out by hand? If I can’t find a published planner formatted the way I want, couldn’t I at least do all this in an Excel spreadsheet and print it out? Well. Sure. But then I’d have to find a hole puncher and a binder. And I’d have to redo it in Excel every time I changed a little something that I can just white out in the planner. And there’s something about… hmm. There’s something about doing this all by hand, analog style, that makes me feel more responsible for it. Makes me feel like I’m not just clicking a check-box on an online list, saying that I did something just to clear the screen.

Days of the Week I’ve discovered my magic number. The magic number of things I can have on my list of things to do that day that give a nice balance between “I feel productive” and “I feel overwhelmed” is five. Five things. I used to just leave five rows, but could FIT up to maybe 20 things on those five rows if I wrote really tiny — it was both scary and liberating to start using half the page so I can only put five things on there. Scary because “what if I don’t get everything finished” and liberating because “holy shit I don’t have to try to do twenty things today”.

BLD Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner. Because my wacky doctor wants to know what I eat, and even though I’ve tried to type that shit into an online app that I can then take in on my tablet and show her, I’m horrible at recording it. This week was so busy I was eating on the fly a lot, and I forgot to write a lot of it down. This is probably the section of the planner I think works worst.

Every Damn Day Shit to do, every day. Walk the dogs. Clean the cat boxes. Stuff that yes; I could use the repeating scheduler in Toodledo and check off a box every day, but I feel more responsible towards not checking a box I hand wrote and am more likely to try to do better, make more time for it, next week. It also helps me, to have these things to do EVERY day, to keep my daily five-things in check. I would be more likely to pile things on to a particular day without chores staring me in the face at the same time. The only downside of this layout is that sometimes I do things but forget if I’ve done them – if you water the plants every day, what stands out about them? If I forget to check it off and can’t remember if I did that or not…. do I check it off anyway?

Overall This Week Things that I should get done at some point that week, but that don’t necessarily have to happen on a specific day. This is great for days when I finish my five things but still have time left in my work day.

Notes for This Week Exactly what it says on the tin. Notes from that week. Phone calls, custom orders placed, things I think of and want to research later.

Pinterest A list of things from my site that I need to pin something from, on specific days, because I’m in this creative business group and Pinterest is a big part of it. Also if I don’t, I’ll forget to pin something from my own site, which is kind of the point of me having switched to a business account.

HaldeCraft Images Sort of like the Pinterest list, it’s to remind me at some point that week to change out the photos on the sidebar here, the banner on my website, etc. etc. I have this to do every week, but don’t feel completely beholden to it weekly. Every other week is fine. If I had something else that I did every other week, I’d switch out this list for the other one on alternate weeks.

Week dates and work subject The dates that week, and what my subject is. The subject-by-week is still working out well for me; much better than trying to divide up a week into four different subjects. I’m still not finishing everything as fast as I want, but I don’t feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions — it’s easier to say, “well, I wouldn’t be working on that this week anyway.”

I’m using Google Keep right now for shopping lists, because it will sync to my phone so that when I’m out shopping, I actually remember — I’d love to use post-its, but have a tendency to either leave them by the desk (not helpful) or forget them in the car (also not helpful). And unless I’m going somewhere work-related, like Fiber-In, I leave my planner at home. I’ve been trying to get more concrete about telling people, when they ask for custom orders at dinner, that they need to email me. I try to be honest — it’s not them, it’s me, there’s no way I’m going to remember. Sometimes they even do email me. If they don’t… I shrug. Lost orders make me sad, but not sad enough to give up on guarding the hour a day I don’t NEED to be working.

3 comments

  1. It’s always interesting to see how people organize their tasks. For years after college I didn’t keep an agenda book, but I relied on it really heavily in school. Now that I have a few projects going on outside of work (blog, knitting, designing, etsy) I find the Bullet Journal to be REALLY helpful in keeping all the mental to-do lists for each different area of life out of my head and in one place. I don’t know if I get more things done or not, but I feel less stressed about it all with lots of lists.

  2. As you are probably aware, I am a listmaking planner using GEEK and I love nothing more than a peek into how other people use planners and lists and holy heck this post is everything that I love because it was written by someone I love. heh.

    I’ve been spending some time rethinking my filofaxes in prep for 2015 insert purchases or insert making. I think I’m moving to a bullet journal in my A5 but sticking to week on two pages for my personal filofax. (the A5 is for personal family stuff and the personal is for work, which is confusing but that’s how it goes.) Your post has just reaffirmed that move for me — but I still haven’t quite figured out whether I want plain graph paper for the A5 and then label it myself or dated graph paper and hell. I’m going now. Probably to surf some planner posts because that’s what I do. Heh.

  3. I’m so torn on how to plan. Part of me wants to rely on digital, because I know I will have my phone with me, so if it works on web and has an app, I’m set. But yet… there is something wonderful about pen and paper. Must review what I need to organize and make some plans!

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