If you're not writing in it, it's just taking up space

now that's a lot of plannersRaymond Gilford (aka Shuttercat7) is a long-time OCBoP (Obsessive Compulsive Buyer of Planners) and a sometimes WiP (Writes in Planner). He hopes that in writing this article there is someone else out there who can't go in a store without stopping by the calendar/planner section.

Welcome to the true life confessions of a Texan who spends a lot of time saddlin' up. Our first encounter with the need for organizational tools begins when we're kids. It starts out roughly the same for all of us. They call our name. We answer. They hand us money. They start telling us what they want. We nod our heads dutifully. Then we head out the door. Somehow, when we get to the store, what we heard doesn't translate well into what items we're now dropping into the shopping cart. Then we get back home we find ourselves in trouble because we forgot something, or several somethings. Next time, our parents send us to the store, with a list.

It's not entirely our fault... that first bout of forgetfulness. No one taught us about making a list. Kids don't spend their days making lists. We were more into checking out the latest toy or candy or Cap'n Crunch box while our mom or dad, usually mom, was doing the actual shopping. We were too busy, riding in that shopping cart, pulling things down into the basket for mom to put back on the shelf to notice that she had a list with her. Schools didn't help much, either. When I was there they didn't require dayplanners. They were list-oriented. They pushed spelling bees...rote memorization...memorization and recitation...memorization ad nauseam. Memorization has its place. If you've studied a second language you know that better than most.


There is too much information coming at us for any of us to be expected to keep it all in our heads. Not writing things down is not showing everyone how good your memory is, it's playing a very risky game. I've stopped being impressed when the waitperson stands there and listens to our orders and then wanders off to the kitchen and ends up getting them all correct. I'd rather see her writing it on her forearm than handing me something I didn't order. Anything can come up to distract one from an intended task and that waiter could end the night explaining to the paramedics why the plates got switched and the guy allergic to shellfish tried to swallow oyster stuffing. Not remembering doesn't have to kill anyone or even land them in the hospital. It could just end up losing the company money or costing you late fees because you didn't get online and pay the credit card bill on time. It's always going to be easier to do rather than to explain why you didn't.

That's just lists...just one organizational tool and we can see that when it doesn't get used, consequences can be disastrous, but let's enlarge our perspective and look at organizational systems as a whole. Today "getting organized" is a catch-phrase. It's all around us, from public schools to gyms to boardrooms. It wasn't much of a part of the culture when I was growing up (1970s). It's a skill I am having to acquire and like most things in life it gets tarnished and rusty from lack of use.

Just like "physically fit" or "alive" or "well" or "married" it is not a static or objective condition. Once you get there you have to work, sometimes even fight to stay. From cleaning house to organizing any work space you have to keep cleaning, filing, putting things where they are accessible otherwise it will return to its natural state...namely chaos.

There's no excuse for not doing it. The tools are all around us. Several companies are part of an industry that makes sure people are able to purchase more products than imaginable. I've gone into office supply stores and watched people wandering back and forth looking at all the different stuff on the shelves. I used to be one of those people and I guess I still am from time to time. A few months ago I wrote the diyplanner dot com address down on the back of a 3x5 card and handed it to someone because he was frustrated looking at all the stuff vying for his attention.

Any system will only be as good as the consistency with which it is maintained. Unless I write the information down in the planner, it won't be there when I need it. To use myself as an example, I tend to go through the steps of putting together a planner (printing, cutting, chopping, punching, writing down dates) but a lot of the time I draw on that wonderful skill I learned as a teenager. I don't make the list. Then I start forgetting important details. Oh I can get through most days on memory alone, at least most of the stuff gets done, but the details, those things that should have been in the planner, aren't there. It gave me a credibility problem with both my managers and employees when I was a floor supervisor and when I was a property manager, there wee a lot of things I forgot to do and sometimes it gave me a credibility problem with the landlord and tenants.

I realize I have a problem with consistency in using my system. And that realization usually comes out in the form of me wandering into the OfficeShack (not a real store) seeing a new planner binder and buying it to use with my planner or wanting to buy a name brand calendar pack to help me "get back on track with planning. I remember thinking that I would buy a calendar page set from a certain manufacturer and then still use the DIYP site. All this stuff is counterproductive. It's not getting anything scheduled or done that needs to be done. Nothing is getting written down. And my ineffectiveness continues. I don't need another planner or another binder.

The solution, at least the only one I know, is to keep working the system, whether in whole or in part. I have to keep writing down the information, especially when I think it's something simple that I can remember easily.

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excellent post. I'm guilty

excellent post. I'm guilty of buying into the whole shiny shiny new planner system, writing down a list then putting it to one side.

I'm in recovery, too!

I never heard of time management and dayplanners till my current employer sent everyone to the Franklin Covey seminar years ago and I discovered how deficient I was operating on memory only. Now, I have SO many binders/sizes/brand names/formats.

Every time something new comes out (pages, binders, accessories), I think this is surely the one PERFECT planning system. In reality, ANY system you consistently use is perfect. The key is using it consistently and I think I'm finally getting there...mostly. Could we start a support group???

Lists, actions, and review

I can write a list all day long...it's the review and actual action on the list that I'm still working on. When I'm not "in the groove," so to speak, in reviewing and checking off action items, I'm essentially carrying a beautiful levenger notebook with a calendar and lists -- not actually p-l-a-n-n-i-n-g. I love filling in all of the calendar cells and to-do pages. For me, DOING the task and day-end or week-end review is the hardest part.

Me too.

You'd think that, with all the money I've spent on planners and refills and pretty covers over the years, I'd be organized by now. And I'm not. I did all right when I had a job, although things dropped through the cracks pretty frequently. Now that I can't work I hardly even bother to make lists -- even though I have plenty of stuff to do.

On the bright side, I look at my planner/notebook addiction as a hobby these days. Also, I have enough Circa supplies that I can put together new notebooks and planners without spending any money. (I am so very glad I bought a stack of 2007 agendas when they were $3 each! I have plenty of covers because of that.) This is a huge improvement from my buying new Dayrunners/Day-Timers/FranklinCovey/et al. every time I wanted a new planner. Switching sizes was expensive! Whereas right now I'm trying out Circa compact size, with nothing more than a $3 cover and some hand-cut printer paper. I dig it.

But yes, I need to actually use a system. I'm trying, with this latest iteration. At least I'm managing to keep track of my appointments in it...

[ blog | photos ]

But would you talk to no one?

I agree totally with the idea of having restaurant wait staff write things down rather than mess up an order, but I wonder if any restaurant has thought of trying something different? How about putting a digital voice recorder on the table - I'll put in my order and they can pick it up. If there's a question on my order, it should be on the recorder.

I expect, however, that more people going to restaurants prefer a personal touch rather than another digital device.

Sunday morning I had

Sunday morning I had breakfast with friends at an extremely busy restaurant where the wait staff took orders on a wireless Ipaq. The orders were transmitted back to the kitchen instantly and more accurately than if they were scribbled down on a notepad.

I'd seen applications for using an Ipaq for receiving produce at a restaurant, both updating the inventory at the local restaurant and also transmitting to the home office accounting software that the goods were in.

I didn't feel that the service was any less personal, and it didn't seem to be any problem to give us separate tickets, which was nice.


What restaurant?

Poor Richard's Cafe in

Poor Richard's Cafe in Plano, TX, at Park Blvd and Avenue K.

Great quotable quote

"...spends a lot of time saddlin' up" What a great quote, and I need the admonition (if you don't mind me taking it that way). Planning can be more fun than doing, but doesn't usually lead to getting paid. :-)

Some of us are lucky...

I'm one of the lucky few who get paid to do planning in my job. There was nothing quite as good for getting rid of my planning cobwebs as someone who can stomp on me (like the giant boot in a Monty Python cartoon) checking how good my plans are and if the work's getting done. So I've had to learn how to move from 'the joy of pure planning' to 'keeping to the plan'.

The main thing I learned for my personal planning was to start small and add things to the process gradually. So, I could put everything into my planner but what's important is to have it open on my desk every day with the important information I need to know in front of me.

The best way I found to do this was to accept 2 things -
1. a used and ratty looking planner is much more successful than a pretty, pristine planner. So now I can walk past all those pretty planners in the stationery shops and only look back once. :)
2. just because I can record something in my planner doesn't mean I should record everything about it in my planner. What's important to me is the trigger information I need to know to get something done, while the details of how to do the thing are kept elsewhere. So if the details change my planner doesn't always change.

I thought I was the only one

I thought I was the only one ! Then I found this amazing site and now realize that there are more planner nuts than I ever imagined. My first planner was purchased at age 17 for about $15.00 It was a nice little agenda deal with calender, weekly planning page and phone tabs. It had a place for a mini- legal pad and really worked for me back then. I ran a small service business while in High school)and it became my "control pad" that ran my business and life.

Next I found a vinyl, Velcro snap day runner for about $50, moved on to a leather magnetic snap Day runner a few years latter and stayed with the Day runner Brand for about 5 years. Then came the Franklin Quest (now Franklin Covey) I once had one that the binder alone cost $170 in 1990. I have been using Franklin covey for 18 years now and recently bought a replacement binder off Ebay for $28.00 (it's New) . It's not as nice as my $170 one was, but that was really too big and bulky (though I toted it around for a decade. I got away from the Printed forms of Franklin Covey almost entirely after about 5 years of enduring their bizarre price increases. Paying $4.50 for 50 sheets of writing paper is insane and I use Mead college ruled filler paper from Office Depoe (item 498-899). It runs around $3.00 for 120 sheet and I normally buy it 5-6 packs at a time. I do still Buy the Tabbed monthly over veiw calender from Day runner, normally from Walmart for $6.00 (although Mead owns Cambridge planners & Day runner, so the forms are the same). I also occasionally replace my tabbed dividers and prefer Franklins , they last about three years before getting ratty. For daily planning and note taking I just use the Mead college lined paper. It's cheaper and I just write the date at the top of the page. Now that I have found this fine site, I have printed out a few forms and just used the Franklin covey classic 7 hole punch to make them just about perfect. I may buy another expensive leather Binder from Franklin covey, but I doubt it. The cheap $28.00 leather one from Ebay is fine and will probably last 3-4 years. If the zipper goes (the weak component) it gets dumpstered for the nicer Leather Magnetic snap Franklin Covey model.

One final confession: I did use the Franklin Covey software for 2 years and printed the daily sheets out all filled it. It has it's advantages and is neater, but how neat does a planning device need to be ? I also still hit the planner section just about every time I go into a Office Supply Store. I almost totally changed planning system this year and I'm glad I didn't, NOW. It's a tough life once you get caught up in this addiction, but then again I do see the payoffs in my life from using a planner. Having my goals written down in a "my life" section is imperative. Along with a written Strategic plan for my life. One of my goals for 2008 is to come to this site more and hit the planner section of Office stores less.

I'm taking day by day, (carefully tracked and recorded days) and I'm proud to see improvement.

Be productive or PLAN on It anyway,

Me Too!

Many many years ago I started using Day planner (I think) - You paid a small fortune for spiral bound monthly diaries and they "gave" you a wallet with your initials on it.
Then my employer paid me to attend "Time on my side" they thought it was about getting scheduling done - but it was really a Guerilla program that helped at the time to get my life priorities organised (it also made me feel when I wasn't "using" anything that I was just drifting. That system used 1/2 sized sheets and while they did have a mess o' supplies really didn't push paper (I guess that's why I can't find them around anymore - it was founded by Nicholas Ecconomo and I really liked his philosophy).

Next organisation wanted to standardise so sent me on Time Text (as used by president Ford) and they were pushing Paper like it grew on Trees (joke).

I moved into Electronics then had a dalliance with the free Seven Habits for MS Outlook. Then tried the Seven Habits for Palm Pilot (couldn't really get "into" it). Started to try electronics - Really liked an early versions of Commence (but then they spiralled off into Mega Corp Land).
I then abandoned everything - nature of occupation (which changed drastically). Came back and tried Ecco Pro (now a Free download) but was extremely frustrated with the problem of Two Saturdays - (Error in hard copy printout). Then tried Time & Chaos but discovered several problems with that. I went back to Ecco Pro when an amazing individual discovered the workings of Ecco - not only solved the Two Saturday Problem but added much functionality (SLANGH extensions).
My system (?) is to printout calendars (onto a full sized sheet) place into a leather briefcase with a 3 hole ring binder. (I had used a 1/2 sheet size pre-drilled but had "head aches" with print outs). What does this let me do? Well many of the DIY templates can be printed out for a full size sheet. I try to use them for miscellaneous items - ideas for stories, free sketching of menu/recipe/presentation ideas etc. I use the electronic form as a database and calendar - I can keep notes clipped from various things tie into spread sheets and so on.

So in closing I guess I have a real "Heinz" form of Day Planner. I use items from all over the place (one of these days I am gonna get organised). And remember Genius is inspired by works of Others while True Genius Steals!

My Life Section

I am glad I read this. I never thought of having a "my life" section. Mine is just calendar, to do, addresses and shopping notes. Thanks for the idea!

Planner Mania

As I sit here in my little office, with my bulky Monarch-sized Franklin Planner on my work desk, a compact and a Junior FP on the shelf behind me, a levenger full sized 3 ring planner with them, a current order for a Circa System, a circa sampler that I picked up at Levenger while on a business trip last week, and a full box of other miscellaneous planner systems in my storage, I cannot understand what has caused your obsession! Of course I'm on the DIYPlanner site in order to download and print a home-made system to put in the new circa stuff that I just ordered; but the joy is in the making of lists, the checking off, the filling of the new Fountain pens that are needed to write in such wonderful stuff.
I agree, however, that the most wonderful planner is the worn and tattered one, that fits like a comfortable old shoe......
I am JRLambert, and I am a plannerholic.


LOL. I can totally relate!

Long path


You can read about a lot of my planner iterations in this web site over the last year and a half. I've tried a bunch of formats and layouts. One I don't think I mentioned here anywhere was the mind mapping software. I tried using that as a dashboard for one of my projects, and it really helped me assemble all my gunk into one spot. It didn't last though.

Lately, though, I've discovered that I really don't need much of a planner. I have a schedule in outlook provided by my employer. Outside of work, I don't have many dated commitments. 90% of my work is 'do it now' or 'do it today' stuff, so most of it never makes it to a formal list.

What I have done is cultivate a PIM into which I funnel things I need to be able to reference. It's a software tool, and it gets all the meeting notes and action lists, the questions that need to be answered, and the answers when they arrive. I have a couple of rudimentary to-dos in it, mostly stuff I need to remember in a general way rather than schedule for a specific day. I always have my computer with me when I need to refer to this stuff, so the portability isn't an issue with it.

I have a 3x5 book that has my phone list and some password hints. It's just a little disc-bound thing, and it carries print outs from my PIM and contact lists. I also have a 3x5 jotter in my back pocket and a half-size pen in my front pocket to help me remember grocery lists and other temporary stuff.

Recently I printed out some grid paper in classic size to serve as a jotter pad. It's bound with discs and I hope soon to put it in a nice leather foldover cover, but for now it has plastic covers. It's just a very faint grid in my favorite size, and it's just a scratch pad. When a page is full and all the to-dos done, the page is going in the trash.

I really like the PIM for stuff I need to keep and be able to find later. I tried Evernote, but didn't really care for the 'ribbon' concept. I tried a TiddlyWiki too, but didn't care for the whole Wiki formatting concept. So now I use EssentialPim, the paid version. I like that a lot. It's simple and easy and when I feel like it, very portable.

So now the stuff I carry with me is very small--a 3x5 card jotter in my back pocket, a tiny contacts book for my purse. The rest of the stuff lives at home or work, or travels between but doesn't go elsewhere.

I'm sure at some point I'll get more stuff to schedule and start getting frustrated with my rather haphazard 'system'. Then I'll dig out my templates and mail merges and start using them again for a while. For now, though, I have less overhead and it's working.


Glad I am not alone

I too am a planner nut and have several planners but sometimes it is because I buy used ones and use various parts of them to put together the planner I use. Since I got my blackberry I used it for awhile and not the planner but I just cant get myself to give up on my paper planner so I am not going to try and fight it anymore. I have been using the 3 3/4x 6 3/4 size but not seeing much for templates for that size on this site so wondering if I am going to have to make myself get a bigger planner. As far as pages and stuff goes, I will sometimes buy the cheaper planners at the dollar store and use the pages in them because its cheaper than buying the official refills. I will also buy the plain note paper in the small size that fits my planner and use that for a lot of my writing and lists.If anyone knows rescources especially for tabbed dividers in my planner's size I would appreciate it. I would especially like to find 3 3/4 x6 3/4 divider templates so I can make dividers with my own categories. For now I am using post-its stuck to the edge of the pages.

Source for tabs

You might be able to use this hack for your smaller book - for my 5-1/5 x 8-1/2 size planner, I use a 1/2 sheet of cardstock, with an adhesive tab on it. They come in a little package @ Office Depot, and they're just like the tab-dividers you get for large binders, with the little papers in them. HTH.

Staples has a whole category

for Adhesive Tabs:
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson) ***

Thanks to both on DIYing dividers and tabs ideas and sources

I think the on-the-go Junior setup would benefit from lightweight cardstock dividers and adhesive tabs.

I can still get the plastic dividers for at home storage and organization.

Unfortunately, there is no Staples in my immediate vicinity, but the other big box office supply stores are close by, there is a Franklin Covey store and an independently owned office supply store.

Much fun will be had brainstorming the new portable junior size ideal configuration. :)