by Andrea Ann
I assume that you enjoy planning and all things planners if you are reading this magazine, so if you are anything like me you love a new planner. Just the thought of seeing the new releases from my favorite planner companies for the academic and calendar year is enough to get me giddy.
Personally I’ve always been a tad obsessed with notebooks and pens. As a kid I preferred shopping for all my school supplies over actually attending school. My first planner wasn’t until 2013 when an employer offered to purchase a leather ring bound Day-timer planner for me. I loved the look and feel of it but didn’t use it after a few months and hadn’t been bitten by the planner bug quite yet. In 2015 I was introduced to the Eric Condren Life Planner via a Facebook post; an acquaintance was writing about the excitement of the new ones coming out, I instantly thought to myself I must learn more about this. Well that’s when I officially dove down the rabbit hole of planners. Since then I’ve tried 5 different types of planners. Yes you read that right 5 planners in 3 years I most certainly have a commitment issue with planners and as they say the rest is history.
After dabbling in the planner community for a bit I feel it’s time to reassess what I expect out of my planner and if I am living my plans. The Collins Dictionary defines planning as the process of deciding in detail how to do something before you actually start to do it. That’s pretty straight forward although I always have a good way of complicating the uncomplicated.
I have observed two types of planners, one that plans upcoming concrete event such as appointments, vacations, lunch dates and any other plans that are date specific. The other uses their planner for all of those events plus goals, tracking habits, meals and mile long to do lists. I’m definitely in the second group; my planner is a bit like a tornado of ideas, goals, notes and appointments. I’ve come to realize this hasn’t served me well.
To me there’s something exciting about putting pen to paper and writing out my goals and dreams in the same planner that I have my dental cleaning scheduled. My thought was this way I can reread my goals when looking at my appointments each day and I’m less likely to fail. I was wrong. I’m also guilty of living through my planner, a bit of a written daydream that includes lots of writing and plans. So after using formal planners for 3 years I have to ask myself, I’m planning to what end?
I believe planning helps me feel in control and eases my anxiety about whatever I’m planning but in truth the only thing that really eases my anxiety about plans and projects is following through with those plans. Referring back to a long list of to dos only to see that I crossed off a couple is defeating and discouraging. The truth is many times my plans begin and end inside my beautiful planner.
I don’t believe this is because I don’t know how to plan; my gosh, I’ve read far too many articles and books and listened to podcasts that provided ample information about how to best plan out your day and goals. So knowledge is not the issue instead I think this is more of an action or lack of action issue. It’s much easier to plan out my life on paper than it is to take the necessary steps to live those plans. Don’t get me wrong I think writing down plans and goals is very important but for me if all I’m doing is spending time writing and no time doing, was the planning really helpful? In my case I would have to say no.
I tend to put too much emphasis on the planner itself and not enough on my own habits and systems. (habits and systems, if that’s not straight from a self help book I don’t know what is!) With each planner I purchase I think to myself, this one is going to change my life and make me so much more productive. The truth is no planner can do that, a planner is just my tool to assist me but I still have to do the work. Having a good system is critical but looking for a planner to change my life is always going to disappoint. Does this mean I’m not excited to change out my planner for 2019? No way! I will still enjoy choosing my next planner or insert and I’m sure this will be a hobby I will enjoy for many years to come I just know that it’s me that will change my life for the better not the paper I choose to write on.
So what do I do now? Well my usual first thought would be to go online and look for a new system, watch a planner video or read a self help time management book but not this time. I’m going back to the basics and will use my planner for my concrete appointments and scheduled events along with plans that are practical and reachable. I won’t be turning my planner into a space where every thought and goal must be recorded and then scheduled. Instead I will spend my white space wisely and I will resist the urge to sit down on Sunday and plan out every day for the following week only to feel like a complete failure by Wednesday.
Now I return to my original question I asked myself, I’m planning to what end?
I’m planning to make my life easier not harder. I’m planning to stay on track and show up where I’m supposed to be on the right day at the right time. I’m planning to enjoy a bit of me time with my pretty pens and paper.
I will also remember the advice given by a friend 10 years ago, as I sat at my kitchen table reading yet another self help book he looked at me and said, “At some point you have to stop reading and start doing”. In this case I need to stop reading my own plans and go outside my planner and do just one of them.
If you can relate to any of this I hope you too can find your way out of your planner and into your life.
~ Happy Planning ~
Andrea Ann is a paper obsessed mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.