Many of us carry planners. Unfortunately, only one in twenty uses it effectively. For many of us it is more effective as a doorstop than as a calendar. Therefore, I feel compelled to write these simple, easy-to-follow instructions for EFFECTIVE use of a planner. For those of you who prefer electronic devices, skip to the last paragraph.
What are the components of an effective planner? Four things are absolutely necessary. Are:
– Month tabs for the whole year
– Daily pages for two months
– A page finder to bookmark today
– A future planning calendar
The most popular size is 8.5 “x 5.5” (preferred by 80% of users). The month tabs should be two pages each so that you have enough room to write. Daily pages should consist of two pages for each day. One side is divided into two columns: one for to-dos and another divided into hours for appointments. The other page is simply lined for you to take notes of things that will happen that day or that happened that day. The last page (s) in any planner should be “things that are beyond the scope of this book” so that you have a place to record ANYTHING, no matter how far into the future it is spread.
Your planner should be the one-stop-shop for everything you’ve promised someone you would do. This includes promises to co-workers, clients, family, friends, and even yourself. Yes, you will mix business and personal, but you are not schizophrenic – you have a life, so have a planner.
Write EVERYTHING, not just the “really” important stuff, not just the business stuff, and not just what’s convenient. Write EVERYTHING! The most important thing to write is interrupted interruptions. What is an interrupted interrupt? Here’s an example: You’re on the phone with Stanley and he’s asking you to email him addresses. “I’d love to,” you say, hang up the phone, go to your computer and start sending Stanley instructions. Suddenly, Josephine bursts into her office yelling, “Mrs. Peabody is in the lobby and we can’t find her file!” Instantly, Stanley is forgotten and Mrs. Peabody now demands his full attention. If you remember that you forgot Stanley’s instructions, it will be on the way home that night, or when you sit upright in bed at 3 AM. The moral? ALWAYS take a second to jot down “Stanley’s instructions” in today’s to-do section before moving on to the Peabody crisis.
If you are mindful of keeping a good record, give up the illusion that you still have a reliable memory, kick the habit of post-it notes, and abandon the system of tons of things to do later, your productivity will be gone. it will increase and your stress will decrease. 95% of the papers on your desk, the post-it on your monitor, and pink phone bills can go straight to the trash. 95% of them are just reminders. Actually, you don’t need the paper, you just need the reminder. When you write down what to do and when to do it, 95% of all that clutter goes straight to the trash / recycle bin. Admit it, that system doesn’t work anyway!
Your goal, like a busy air traffic controller managing hundreds of planes a day, is to have a single radar screen to observe. No post-its, stacks and memory. The average business person has eight different systems for keeping track of what they need to do and where they need to go. How many do you have? Interestingly, this simple paper system was invented by Benjamin Franklin over 200 years ago because he had trouble keeping track of everything. Ben’s was the best system then and it is still the best system today.
Some of you may be wondering about those fancy electronic devices. Studies have shown that it takes more time and more discipline to maintain an electronic system than a paper system. Also, at this time, 60% of people who switch to electronic systems are finally going back to paper. There may come a time when electronics are faster and easier than paper, but it is not today. I don’t know about you, but I ALWAYS choose the quickest and easiest method!