by Billie Ross
I have been an avid planner user for a number of years. My first Franklin Covey planner was purchased for me by my employer at my first job out of college. That was when my love of order began.
As life changed and evolved I, like so many others, found that my planner couldn’t keep up with all the areas of focus in my life. How do I track multiple schedules? How do I track multiple to do lists from multiple inlets? With so much to do, how do I simply find time to rest and relax?
My journey began by reading all the productivity books I could find; Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Kevin Kruse’s 15 Secrets Successful People Know about Time Management, and listening to the corresponding podcast, Extreme Productivity. It was around this time I found Carie Harling’s YouTube Channel, Dispatches from the Frat House, and realized there are many forms of planning, and one size does not necessarily fit all. However, many parts can make a whole.
Some people operate from a monthly calendar without any other means of tracking. Some people only need a weekly schedule. Some people need one page per day. Some need two pages per day. I find that many people use some combination of all of the above and that life and seasonal changes dictate how and when you use these systems individually and collectively.
For myself, I was carrying an A5 planner for work to track my schedule and work-related tasks and a classic size planner to track my personal schedule and home-related tasks. As life would have it, my personal schedule often bled into my work schedule because of commitments with my children, doctor appointments, or sports and school events. I was basically duplicating my home planner into my work planner on a weekly basis. I needed one system that worked for my entire life and was portable enough to carry with me on a daily basis.
I began to incorporate the most important pieces from all the systems I had been studying. The system I have developed for myself takes what I think are the best parts of all the above-mentioned authors and combines them into one efficiently hard-working system. Let me walk you through my planner system.
My monthly calendar is a purchased set from Day-Timer from the Kathy Davis Design collection. I love these monthly calendars so much. They are tabbed for easy use, beautifully designed for each month, and they allow me just enough space for that high-altitude overview of my month.
All of my calendars are color-coded: Orange represents my husband, blue represents my son, pink represents my daughter, and green represents myself as I am always on the go. Work items are jotted in basic black. My favorite pens are Pilot Frixion pens because they are bold in color and completely erasable. My favorite highlighters are Zebra Mildliners. I could not use my planner to its full efficiency without these tools.
Next are my weekly calendar pages. This is my take on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People worksheet. To create these pages, I purchased the Undated Weekly Calendar in Half-sheet size from Plannerpedia on Etsy. I added a tip in of the Undated Weekly with tracker in TN size from Plannerpedia.
I created an overlay to represent all of my roles as a wife, a mother, and an employee. I also jot in any BHAGs and MITs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals and Most Important Tasks.) This is where I determine the most important roles and goals for the week ahead and I fill in my and my family’s schedule as I know it. This view, in color code, gives my whole week at a glance.
On the back of the tip in is the weekly tracker from Plannerpedia in TN size. I created an overlay for tasks I want to accomplish weekly including house-keeping chores, laundry, exercise routines and the 5 focused priorities for the year.
There are also two additional pages of grid paper for notes and journaling when necessary.
Next are my daily pages. These are the real work-horses of my planner system. On the first page of my dailies is an area for my @work and @home lists. This is my take on David Allen’s GTD system. This is an area for “in” where non time-sensitive tasks can be noted until accomplished. Items for work belong in one column; items for home belong in the other column. These are tasks that are not time sensitive or day specific. They can be moved from this list and completed throughout the week or weeks ahead as time permits or as they become time sensitive.
My daily pages were purchased from Plannerpedia on Etsy as the Undated Daily in half size. I created an overlay with time stamps specific to my own schedule: 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m are on the left side with a corresponding area for a task list. Because this is my basic work day, any appointments or meetings are noted in the correct area, with daily work tasks listed alongside.
The right page is time stamped from 3:30 p.m. to midnight as this is the “after-hours” portion of my day. I also note pickup and drop off times for my children, doctor appointments, school events, and my daughter’s work schedule in this area. The corresponding task list contains and helps track any items I need to complete for my family that day.
The overlay also allows me to track all of the following items:
- Appointments and meetings
- My family’s schedule
- Tasks and action items for both work and home
- Weather for the day
- Any necessary notes
- Reminders for my 5 focused priorities for 2018
- Daily tasks such as journaling, devotions, and exercise
- Any meal plans for the day or evening
- Water intake
- Any additional necessary errands
In addition to monthly, weekly and daily pages, I also have project pages for work and home. These are basic outlines for long-running projects for work, and long-running projects for home. Again, I took the undated weekly pages purchased from Plannerpedia, created an overlay for project titles, and I filled them in with individual tasks and next actions. As each task is completed, I mark it off the list and know I am ready for the next action. This keeps projects on schedule and easily allows me to see which actions are next.
At the end of my week, I have created an additional overlay where I complete a series of questions for a weekly review. This information is my take on the Full Focus Planner by Michael Hyatt.
The questions I ask are:
- What were the big accomplishments for the week?
- What tasks were deferred and why?
- What tasks were delegated, to whom, and what deadlines were assigned?
- What items are in “waiting for?” Are there deadlines?
- Which of the 5 focused priorities need more attention? How can I improve next week?
- Which projects need more attention? Are there upcoming deadlines?
- Next week: Are there any major appointments? What preparation needs to be made beforehand.
As you can see, my planner is a combination of many great systems. I simply decided which parts of each spoke most to me for my life and integrated them into one complete system — many parts making one efficient whole.
Billie has been married to husband, John, for 26 years and is a mother of two, ages 17 and 13. She works part time for the company her husband co-owns and spends her free time jogging, cleaning, attending events with her family, playing with her dog, and obviously planning.