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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Planner Set-Up Review: Top Ten Tweaks To Improve Your Planning

We are in the second weekend of the new year. That means, for many of you, that you have been using your current planner set-up for almost two weeks. You've been using it long enough to know if your set-up is working, but not so long that you can't make some smart changes to make it work even better for you.

To help guide you through your planner set-up review, here are some questions to ask yourself about your planner.

TIP: Don't just ask the questions. Answer them - and fix the problems!

1. Is your planner's cover durable, effective, and easy-to-carry?


My planner is made of a blue dyed leather. The leather is getting a couple of tiny distress marks, but only the nice color variation that comes along with leather. Every now and then, the buckle on my planner slips out of place and gets stuck on my purse, so I am training myself to snap it closed without jostling the buckles. It's fairly easy to do, actually, so I am leaving the purely decorative buckle on for now, but keeping the option of removing the buckle altogether on the table. Finally, my planner is light enough, with thin enough leather, that it is very easy to carry.

For now, I am quite happy with this cover and certainly don't plan to change it this year.

2. Are your inside pockets working for you?

I like the way papers that I need to carry with me are tucked behind the front pocket, but are in a limited space so that I am forced to make choices about what I keep with me.


I don't like the way doctors' appointment cards are just stuck in the card holders, so those are going with other pending papers in the inside front cover pocket. That way, I can, at a glance, see which papers are unprocessed (the ones in the smaller, cut-out slot behind the business card slots in the above picture).

TIP: If you keep all unprocessed stuff in the same place, separate from things already written in your planner, your designated "in-box" area will serve as a natural reminder to process those items regularly and avoid missing something important.

3. Is your dashboard working for you?


I actually am tweaking my dashboard a little. For me, my dashboard is simply some blank paper. I used to keep it in front of the clear plastic that you see in the above picture, so that I could use it as an in-box for quick thoughts or a brain dump area. But with my new planner, the papers seem to tear out too easily if they are not protected. So behind the fly-leaf goes the dashboard from now on. It's a little thing, but it's working that way now.

TIP: Do not be afraid to change your set-up to fix problems. Changing a set-up is cheap and easy - and you can always change it back.

4. Are your tabs working for you?

I do like how wide and clear my tabs are and that I have side tabs for categories and page markers with top tabs for today and weeklies. But I am struggling with an aspect of my tabs. I used one template to make all of them, and as you can see here, they are all right behind each other.


I'm going to make new ones soon that vary in location of the label, so that I do not have this problem. Since I cannot do that this morning, it's going on my task list.


TIP: You don't have to fix everything today. Just review what needs fixing and schedule a time to fix it.

5. Are your sections, other than your monthly/weekly/daily pages, working for you?

I have several sections: Projects, Master Tasks, Future, and Notes.

I particularly like my Projects section, but I am realizing that I have several very active projects and a few less active projects. The projects are listed in order, and for no apparent reason at all, I put numbers in front of them.


I am changing these numbers to make them priority letters. (I have Frixion pens, so I can just erase and rewrite.)


Now I have A, B, and C level priorities (with A as very active and C as not active) and a list of now inactive projects to move to my Notes section. This should really help me decide what to work on when I am processing my projects.


NOTE: I do not have time right this second to rearrange the projects, so I made a note on next week's task list to take care of that.

6. Is your monthly/weekly/daily layout working for you?

My monthly pages have plenty of room for appointments. They would only need to change if I got a job that was particularly appointment heavy.

I love, love, love my weeklies, particularly now that I have a household list in the center of each week. That extra page makes a huge difference. Daily pages would be too much, but I needed a little more than a weekly spread.



I am not completely happy, though, with the square at the bottom of each week, where I put my week-specific but not date-specific tasks.

Things that make it to that list are important enough that they cannot just stay hidden on my master task list. But they get shuffled from week-to-week because none of them are important or urgent enough to merit a certain day. And, well, it looks messy, which is discouraging.

I think I fixed it, though.

I am adding a "hot list" to my extra household page with those things on it. (Notice the tick marks that show how many times it is recopied.)  I think that will work better for me. I'll add tick marks when it moves to the next week. And if the list gets too long, that's just a sign that it is now critical that I work the list.


In the meantime, the weekly box will be for things that will need to be put on a future weekly hot list (like ordering a gift that I don't want to order now and pay for early) and for notes about the week (like how I had three massive asthma attacks this week).

7. Are you carrying too much with you, making your planner bulky with stuff that you are not really using?

I'm not.

8. Are you carrying too little with you, leaving you wanting a supply or planner page that you don't have with you?


Given my new found need for hot lists, I am going to start carrying some of those with me.


9. Is your inside back cover being used wisely?

I adore this little Notes Put Simply memo pad (from the Target Dollar Spot) for leaving notes to teachers when I substitute teach or planning a particularly bust day.


10. Is your planner working for you?

I did not write this question just to amuse my OCD with a nice round number like ten. I swear!

It's just that you really need your planner to work for you, and if something is not working, even if it's not on my list of questions, you need to fix it.

Your planner should be your trusted friend.

Let me know in the comments if you have any problems that I can help with to tweak your planner. And remember to share this post to help out your planner friends (the people ones, not the leather ones {grin}).

Etcetera.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I really love youre setup and i do the same. But i constantly put one month of day pages in. Because my problem is the notes. Through the day i get phonecalls or messages that i want to keep for futere reference. And i want to know on what day i get the message. I can not put them on my weekly but i want them there in sight.i hope you understand me. Forgive my english i am no american.

gr. Rianne

Giftie Etcetera said...

I used to keep a running phone log at my desk, when I worked a desk job.

Just date, time, TC (telephone call) from/to person, and a brief note. It was just a running list, but it really helped me. Maybe you need a section like that.

Giftie Etcetera said...

I used to keep a running phone log at my desk, when I worked a desk job.

Just date, time, TC (telephone call) from/to person, and a brief note. It was just a running list, but it really helped me. Maybe you need a section like that.

Kristina said...

I am having an issue of using my planner. I forget to bring it with me when I leave, I never open it when at home. I definitely have some reorganization to do with it, some of your suggestions are exactly the changes I need to make but how do I make it so I can't live without it?

Giftie Etcetera said...

Have you read this entry? http://giftieetcetera.blogspot.com/2013/08/tricks-to-make-yourself-use-your-planner.html

One of the things that really makes me carry my planner is using it for budgeting. I'm forced to open it and look at it when I spend money (sadly, everyday).

Kristina said...

Oo I hadn't but I love some of these suggestions one of the things I want to add is a food journal. This would definitely require me to take it everywhere. Thanks!

Kristina Rall said...

Sorry if you've gotten this question a million times before. I looked but didn't see the info. Where did you get the owl and arrow page markers you have on your household and weekly pages? Thanks!!!

Giftie Etcetera said...

I ordered them on amazon, but Barnes and Noble has them, too. The owl is on the front and the arrow on the back.

Jessica Emerson said...

I really love your blog! These posts have really helped me a lot in rethinking my planner layout/set up over the last few weeks especially going into the new year!

I have a Filofax, but actually haven't switched over because I like the weekly layout in my spiral notebook better. (But I still have it tucked into a BlueSky folio from Target!)

Homemakersdaily.com said...

Love the idea of tick marks to indicate how many times an item has been carried forward. I'm going to start doing that!

Anna-Marie said...

What planner is this? I love it!

Giftie Etcetera said...

Franklin Covey Boston (blue) in Compact size

Anna said...

A few years ago I was using a Franklin Covey compact, and didn't have quite enough space. So I changed to something else spiral bound, then several more changes- nothing was quite right. I have a Franklin Covey Classic cover that I picked up for $2 (brand new) in a thrift store with everything but calendar pages. So now I'm going to try that, and I am getting lots of ideas from your blog. :)
I like to have planner that go from July-June, so I'm getting ideas now- maybe a little soon, but I'm leaving the US for the jungle in a couple of weeks so I want to make sure I'm ready to go.
Thanks for all the tips.