September 12, 2016

Choosing the Kind of Paper Planner for Managing Your Time: My Road to Planner Peace

Time Management Tools: I prefer the old school paper and pen approach.

Productivity and time management are popular topics these days – but most of the stuff that I read on the web has to do with software.  Calendars like those offered by Google; task lists and project management that can be coordinated between phones and laptops through online tools like Trello or Asana.

Sure, I use Google Calendar.  I like it.  However, when it comes to keeping track of my time, from my calendar for the week or month, to how I will be spending my day, I prefer to use pen and paper. 

That’s right.   I use a physical planner made of paper, and I don’t use a time management system that appears on a screen. 

Why I Like Paper Planners Instead of Online Time Management Tools

Why a paper planner?  I enjoy them.   It’s fun to use a paper planner.  Fine!  Okay.  I love pens.  

Pens!!!  Blue ink, black ink, green, red, or purple: always a fine point, preferably an extra fine.  I like to write as much or more as I like to type. 

Plus I like buying pens.  Using planners is another reason to feed my pen habit.   

Some people like shoes, I like pens. 

However, I do think that working with a paper planner works better for me.  It makes me stop and think in more detail about how I will be spending my time – it’s too easy for me to type in an entry here or there and keep going without much thought.

Writing the events into the paper planner’s calendar makes them more of a commitment, somehow.  

Deciding how I am going to delegate my 10 hour work day between three rush projects is less stressful for me when I’m using pen and paper. 

Maybe I’m strange in this; maybe not.  I just know what works best for me, and it’s not keeping track of time on a computer screen. 

Different Kinds of Paper Planners and Finding Planner Peace

Not that dedicating myself to paper planners for my time management has been the end of the road in decision-making here.  Nope.

Why?  For me, once I got to the stage of deciding I would be using a paper planner, then I had to decide which kind of paper planner I wanted, and which system I preferred.

There’s a phrase to describe this process:  it’s the search for “planner peace.” 

And I’ve learned that if you do find your planner peace, don’t get comfortable – as time goes on and your life evolves, that peace may evaporate and you’ll be back on the hunt again. 

Not to say this doesn’t have its perks. For one thing, you may have more excuses (ahem, reasons) to buy fun things like stickers … and pens!!!

6 Kinds of Paper Planners - My Reviews

There are all sorts of paper planners out there.  Here are six that I’ve personally tested and liked, for various reasons.

Franklin Covey Planner

I used a Franklin Planner for many, many years.  The most that I ever did was change the size.  I’ve had them all: Classic, Pocket, Compact, and Monarch.  The key thing about using a Franklin Planner is the system it provides:  you are working with a planning system set up to sync with Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  

You can use these paper planners without reading the book or going to the Franklin Covey classes, sure, but these planners work best if you understand them as tools for this approach to time management.

What I like best about these planners:  the time sheet feature, where you can keep track of your day as it progresses.  Reminds me of my years as a Baby Lawyer, writing down my time on my time sheet each afternoon before I left the office. 

DayRunner Planner

The Day Runner Planners are designed to compete with Franklin Covey.  They cost less.  Similar additions are available for purchase, too: things like contact Information lists; lined paper pads; pocket dividers; etc.

You can get them at your local office supply store, which is really convenient.  (And it’s so near their pen aisle.)

BlueSky Planner

When I first veered away from Franklin Covey-esque Planners, and I admit to feeling a bit rebellious in doing so, I bought a Blue Sky Planner at Border’s Book Store.  Since Border’s is long gone, that should give you a hint on how long ago this happened, right?

Mine was pink.  It was pretty. 

How did it work for me?  Well, it was a change. Here, there’s a spiral ring binder system holding your planner’s inner workings together.  No ring binder like the Franklin Planner, which I did come to miss.  I like adding things into my planner – it’s not the same to clip or tape something into a spiral bound planner as it is to punch holes and insert it into the rings.  I like that.   

However, I did enjoy the ease of use here.  Less muss and fuss.  I didn’t have to ask myself if I was “SharpeningMy Saw” (a key component of the Franklin system). 

However, it didn’t offer me a daily time sheet and I missed it.  Plus, I started making my own To Do Lists on separate paper (or index cards), which I clipped into the Blue Sky Planner.  That got bulky and hard to control.

So, my search continued.

Tools for Wisdom Planner

My next step in my search for planner peace was a Tools4Wisdom Planner.

I bought this one off of Amazon after searching online about planners for a bit.  It seemed to combine what I liked about the Franklin, which is the ability to keep track of my time during the day, with the more informal and light approach to time management.

It had pretty graphics with inspirational quotes, for instance.  

And while it was another spiral binder, I was willing to get it a try.

I don’t think it lasted the year.  

Happy Planner

After the Tools for Wisdom fiasco, I tried using online time management tools for a bit.  It didn’t feel right for me.  I wanted to go back to paper, but not to Franklin Covey – though I was leaning toward returning to them when I discovered the Happy Planner.

For many, a Happy Planner is a less expensive alternative to an Erin Condren planner.  I get that.  

However, I was none too sure about using one of these whimsical planners, where a new world of stickers and washi tape (what, washi tape?!! Oh my!!! Fun stuff!!!) was open to me.

I suppose you could put some washi tape on a Franklin Covey planner, and I did try it.  It felt bad.  It just seemed wrong somehow.

But washi tape on a Happy Planner?  Zowie!  That was fun.  Stickers on a Happy Planner?  Ditto.

I bought a Happy Planner with a coupon at Hobby Lobby for around ten bucks.  That's simple living, folks ... and I was happy right off the bat, when I compared that price tag to a comparable Erin Condren! (Not that they aren't nice, of course.)

I'm so grateful for that Happy Planner.  I learned that having this planner freed me somehow, allowed me to be creative in building my monthly plan, or weekly plan.  

This was fun, and it brought me back to that planner more and more often just because it was a pleasure to work with all this creative stuff.  I used it more.  I got more done.  That's key.  

Now, Happy Planners don’t have a time sheet function.  That’s a problem.  However, they do come in a format that breaks each day into “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening,” which I like.  So it has time blocks, but not the actual hours. 

There are horizontal spreads and vertical spreads (I prefer the vertical).  And they do have a nifty ring-binder like method of holding the pages together.  See those gold gizmos on the side in the image?  Martha Stewart likes these gizmos, she sells a planner version with its disc-binding at Staple's, I believe.  

As for the Happy Planners, they do make me happy.  I still use one today, but they aren’t the ones that I think are bringing me planner peace.  At least, not by themselves.  

For that, I’m able to pick up just about any paper notebook because I’ve discovered Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling with a Moleskine

Today, I have a blue Moleskine notebook that I call my “Blue Brain” and here I track my goals, my projects, the meals I eat, well … just about everything.  I use all sort of pens here, and I get to try out my cursive handwriting as well as doodles, too. 

I have a second basic notebook, leather and a Moleskine-wannabe, that I use specifically for my daily stuff.  Each day, day by day, is recorded in here. 

My month at a glance remains in my Happy Planner.  Ditto my Week at a Glance.

But the guts of my day gets recorded using the bullet journaling method.  This includes diary entries as need be. 

Keeping track of all my personal stuff that I will need over time goes in the Blue Brain. 

This is working for me … for now.  

Have I achieved planner peace?  Maybe I have.  I think so.

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