Contributed by: Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed., (Posted on
Organizing Consultant & Coach
www.neatliving.org and www.neatliving.net
Choosing a planner to help you organize your life can be a daunting
task. Not only are there hundreds of types and styles to choose
from, choosing a planner that will work for you is very dependent
on your organizing style as well as on your personality and
information processing style.
Assess Your Style & Needs
personality style greatly affects how much time and effort you will
put into using your planner. If you try to use a planner system
that doesn’t work with your natural style, more than likely, you
won’t use it. So don’t try to change yourself! Don’t buy a planner
just because it looks good or because you think you “should” be
planning your days according to a particular system. Instead,
choose a planner that works WITH your style. For example,
- Are you a creative type who likes to be spontaneous?
- Are you action-oriented and naturally tend to prioritize
- Are you a planning minimalist or do you plan everything?
- Are you a “hands-on” learner? (If so, your planner will need to
actually feel good in your hands. You may also be the type who
needs to physically write things down to remember them.)
Your lifestyle and work demands are also important
considerations in deciding what kind of planner you need. For
- Do you make a lot of appointments?
- Do you mainly do project work?
- Do you need to see your days in great detail?
- Is a page per week or month enough?
- Do you need to track a lot of deadlines?
Other factors to consider when choosing the right planner
for you include:
- How mobile does your planner need to be?
- Where will you keep it?
- Do you need it to fit in a briefcase or purse?
- How often do you need to refer to it and update it?
- Will you be comfortable with it and actually enjoy using
- Does it seem intuitive to you?
- How patient and skilled are you with technology?
Decide on Technology or Pen & Paper
Technology is great, but it’s not always the best choice for time
management, so don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if
you have tried an electronic system or PDA and not done well with
it. You are not alone! However, if you don’t want to take the risk
of losing your calendar, technology does have the advantage of
allowing you to back it up. So if you want the security of a
backup, but still want to use paper, you may like using an
electronic calendar that you can print out such as Outlook, Google,
or Yahoo calendars.
List Your Selection Criteria
can range from free to hundreds of dollars. To help you choose
wisely, create a personal checklist of criteria for selecting your
new planner. Think of features you would build in if you were to
design it yourself. For example, your criteria list may include
that your planner must:
- Be simple and intuitive to learn
- Cost under $50
- Be easily portable and lightweight
- Have a built-in reminder system
- Have plenty of room to write in each day
- Have space for my to do list and goals
- Let me see a week at a time
- Make easy for me to quickly see my availability, etc.
If you have never used a planner before, start with a simple,
inexpensive one to get to know your style better. If are currently
using a planner, make a list of what you like and don’t like about
it and add those criteria to your list. It’s unusual to try several
planners before finding the one that is perfect for you.
Popular Calendar Options
Here are a few planner options that I have found work well for
myself and for people I work with.
- Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft Outlook is a great option if you want to have the
advantage of using the computer to enter recurring appointments and
reminders for events such as birthdays, oil changes and dentist
appointments, yet still have all the advantages of a paper calendar
such as being able to quickly see your availability when clients
call to schedule appointments.
I use my computer a lot so Outlook is a great option for me. But, I
also need my calendar to be portable and actually prefer pen &
paper for scheduling my time. I love technology but have no
patience for inputting things in PDAs! So, I print out my own
calendar using Outlook. I used Outlook’s flexible Printing Options
and created a custom template for my needs. I chose the one week
per page layout with the days in linear columns. I leave a couple
inches of space for notes and reminders at the bottom of the page.
I print out 4 - 5 months at a time and keep it in a thin,
lightweight binder so I can take it with me and have pockets to
hold papers I need to take with me. What I like about this system
is when a page gets messy due to multiple changes, all I have to do
is reprint it!
- Planner Pads
Another simple, inexpensive, yet very effective planner system is
Planner Pads (www.PlannerPads.com). I used them for years before
converting to Outlook. Everyone I know who uses it loves it. It’s
great for people who want a simple, flexible system with a week per
2 pages and lots of room for notes and To Do’s.
Great for moms or anyone who schedules many people, or is currently
using multiple planners. It has a grid for tracking 5 separate
people or projects every day / week. For example, you can use one
of the columns to track family meal plans. (www.busybodybook.com)
This a creative planner / calendar designed by moms for people who
prefer to see the whole month and have room for multiple
appointments in a single day. (www.thinkbin.com)
There are many other planner systems out there that could work
great for you. Whatever you choose, the important thing is that you
© 2007 Ariane Benefit, M.S.Ed.
Organizing expert Ariane Benefit is the founder of
Neat Living, www.neatliving.org, an organizing consulting firm
which has helped hundreds of people transform their lives and have
more time for what's really important to them. Her mission is to
inspire people to simplify, clear clutter, and get organized just
enough so they have more time to enjoy the things they really love!
Visit her popular Neat Living Blog at www.neatliving.net
for more insightful and creative organizing strategies, lifestyle
tips, makeover photos, product reviews and check out her FREE Neat
Living "Do-it-Yourself" Organizing Library, too!