The elusive planning system

Does anyone out there wonder if they are missing out on their ideal planning system? Yes, we talk about tweaking, changing planners and approaches, but what if there is something out there that is perfect for us and we just don't know it? Maybe there are just so many possibilities that we may never know. Does anyone feel they have hit on THE ONE so far? Just curious. I sure wonder if I am missing out on another whole world of systems. I know the short answer is that is what the DIY planner is all about. It's like being in a massive candy warehouse but overwhelmed as to what to choose. Thanks for listening.

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Once upon a time..


Once upon a time I thought as you do, that there must be a perfect system out there for me. I have come to the conclusion, though, that it is not the medium but the method that is important. And if I'm not willing to put in the time to sustain the method, the medium is irrelevant.

It might be a giant candy store, but if your problem is that you don't know what your favorite flavor is, none of the candy is likely to satisfy.

So, look within. Figure out how much overhead you are willing to sustain--and we're talking about years, here, not days or weeks. The system you choose has to fit within your preferred level of effort. After you figure out how much effort you really want to put into the system itself--creation, periodic refresh, daily maintenance--then you can worry about the aesthetics and format.


Well stated

Thanks Shris. That was well stated. I think I tend to be impatient with my system and really not concentrating on the method. I do know that I am getting bits and pieces here and sometimes a profound thought that I can use and I really like when that happens. This isn't a "race" and maybe i should just look for the joy in the journey instead of wanting to "arrive" so desperately at a destination. I think of this as a hobby in part anyway, which is why I love this site.

Maybe this is like fine wine that takes time to develop properly. OK ! I think I can do this ! Thanks again.

On purpose


My journey was more of a general restlessness every so often. I'd try a system and get restless with it--vaguely dissatisfied. It would spur me to look for something else to try. And I tried a series of different things, and the switches to new systems got faster and faster and faster until...I started throwing out that which was not helpful and kept only what was truly working.

I can't say I've found my final system yet. I can say that there are parts that are working and parts that aren't working so well. The ones that don't work will soon be candidates for the round file.

Every time I switch, I think I've found the holy grail. But really, I don't think there is one anymore. It's not that there's a perfect system for me--but I am finding pieces that work and discarding bits that don't. In the end, maybe that will be the perfect system. But it definitely isn't going to be something prepackaged from the big planner vendors, that's for sure.


Don't get distracted by pretty things.

My problem is that I get sucked in by pretty forms and nice planner covers. Yes, it's nice to have attractive tools, but you can't let it override your actual needs.

I find myself filling my notebook with very specific forms, because I think they're neat-looking, and then using just blank paper instead. Like my grocery list. I've found I am far more likely to use an index card rather than "waste" a pretty checklist form for it.

Just something to keep in mind...

The Platonic ideal is not ideal

I too used to think that there was one perfect planning system for me. Pocket diary, PDAs, TimeManager, Covey's 7Habits I have tried them all. None has proven to be the one and only perfect system. Now I've stopped tryng to find that Platonic ideal. Such a thing does not exist. Primarily because the Platonic ideal suggests that everything is static so it can be modelled whereas life isn't; instead life is vibrant, dynamic, full and constantly changing. No planner system can fully capture that vibrancy and dynamism.

My approach is to take the best bits of all the schemes I've tried and synthesise them into something for now. Knowing that what has been appropriate for the last five years will not be appropriate next year (if my job application is sucessful). Things will need to change and be adapted to new situations. Perhaps the new will be simpler such that an old style diary is sufficient or could be so complex that additional resources are needed to support my work. Currently my planner contains various sheets of commericial pages but with as many blank sheets too for those ad hoc situations that life throws at you; be it the need to write a shopping list or make notes of a theology lecture or record a crime one has just witnessed or jot down a thought for posterity. No system can capture that rich tapestry. Where there is repetition I might look for an example (in any system D*I*Y Planner, FranklinCovey, GTD, diary pages, TimeSystem, TimeManager, Harvard) and adapt/adopt it for my needs. Occasionally I'll feel the need to create my own pages because I can either not find anything in existing systems or my needs are so personal there never will be something to plugin.

In essence my view is that Plato talked a load of bunk about the ideal. And my wasting effort trying to find the ideal planner is a waste of my life; like spending so much time planning that there is no time left to follow those plans. For me it's better to plump for one scheme and take what I need from it adding other things as and when they become useful or an easement.