All I Ever Learned in Life I Learned from Planner People

by Dawn Paoletta

June 2019

It’s a funny thing about stories. Generally, we, as human beings tend to like stories. Stories are the basis for the foundations of the world and are in many ways foundational to who we are as people. Our stories define us, connect us and inspire us. It has been said that love makes the world go ‘round, but I’d dare argue, it’s actually the stories about love that make the world go ‘round. That being said, and this article being shared with a certain group of people, who have a kinship surrounding their own love stories about planners, journals, and notebooks will afford me the opportunity to share my story. Which probably, in one way or another, will remind you, or your own story. At least in the world of planners and such.

So, we begin. Once upon a time…OK, no. But, don’t all stories start out this way? Too cliché? Fine. Let’s try this: In the beginning… wait, what? Too epic? Ugh. Let’s just start AT the beginning of my planner journey. As in before, what many of us acknowledge as “falling down the rabbit hole” or the place many of us now dwell, with Alice.

The first time I found my Inner Planner Person and recognized this as part of my identity was when I purchased my first planner. This coincided with my first “real job”. Although at the time, many did not consider Personal Training and Exercise Instruction as valid jobs, this was the Stone Age, after all.  I would be working in a variety of places such as offices, homes, and gyms. My trusty spiral-bound notebook was about to be retired.  I like any almost twenty-year-old realized with a new job came new responsibilities, and new needs for support in thus mentioned responsibilities. This would require a trip to an office supply store. I spent some time in the local Staples caressing the few choices available. I finally settled on a Day Runner and happily went about my new professional way. So began a love affair to remember.

Soon I was balancing school, work, and more responsibilities as I continued my journey. More obligations and commitments. More demands and expectations. I also added competitive bodybuilding to my schedule- this was the eighties after all. Now, I found my days overscheduled, and priorities scrambled. I answered to teachers, bosses, training-partners and clients. I needed something to help me figure out realistic schedules, and when enough was enough. Enter Franklin Covey.

Franklin Covey and the principles set forth in the basic planning system helped me along during the next years as I managed multiple roles and learned to balance my personal and professional lives. You might say I was set for life. But that would not be true at all. Because although Franklin Covey offered a variety of pages to have and to hold, I was about to run into the 90’s and a local businessman who I became friends with would introduce me to another type of planner. Hello Filofax.

My dear friend, Brian and his wife ran a small office supply store and he became my first “planner pal”. Brian had fine writing instruments and all the latest from around the world and was conveniently located on Thayer Street which is the hub of activity near Brown University. This afforded him a steady clientele. I lived close by and you can be sure I hung out and chatted with Brian, though I wasn’t quite enamored with many of the wares he shared at this time in my life. But Brian did talk me into buying a Filofax. It was tiny, Lime Green, and expensive, in my opinion. In a moment I jumped into what Brian said, was the superior planning system and product, and certainly I should have one. Sure enough. I did.

I don’t recall whatever did happen to that Filofax, and eventually Brian’s office supply store went the way of so many other small businesses. But I knew Brian and I were kindred. There was no-one else I knew that could talk about this love for stationary and office supplies growing within me but him. He got it. And for that I was grateful.

On through the years and job changes, I stuck close to my Franklin Covey roots. I had opportunities to attend many Franklin Covey workshops, with friends and business associates. I found the many tools offered through the company to be helpful, especially for my personal struggle with working with realistic time contexts and priorities. I tend to run in forty directions at once, full speed ahead. I learned a great foundation for managing my crazy self in real time so as not to drive everyone around me crazy -through the Franklin Covey approach. I still have a special undying affinity for Stephen Covey and all things Franklin Covey.

In 2011 in a moderately over trained state – I confess I was doing too much, too many directions, per usual-between teaching multiple classes, and volunteering for my daughter’s Field Day -I ended up with a serious tear to my Hip Complex. My work in a local corporate office gym was halted. I couldn’t walk. The recovery was long, and it was during this season of life for the first time I found myself …GASP… PLANNERLESS! Of course, I kept to my journaling. I seriously lamented the wasted Franklin Covey dated planner pages I was not using during my recovery. But there wasn’t a lot to plan. Physical therapy, watch the birds, rest, watch the birds, physical therapy- this was the sum of my days.

During the recovery time between 2011 and prior to returning to work in 2013 I discovered Jenny Penton and Planner Perfect. I literally put Planner in the search bar, and she came into my life. One of the greatest things I took away from Jenny during this period of my life was moving away from pre- dated and printed planner pages. I loved Jenny’s energy and her message resonated with so much of what I tried to communicate with many of my female clients earlier on. Suddenly I had no need for the pre-printed pages I formerly loved from Franklin Covey. I learned I could DIY my planner life.

As I returned to routines, obligations and working again in fitness, I did feel a pull to have some sort of planner again, with ability to forward plan. I discovered Disc-Bound planners at Staples and for awhile I did a bit of a combination of making my own pages and using some pre-printed pages and planners. The desire to have the One Book to Rule them All became a theme in my life. Of course, the reality of this is ever elusive and an ever-present struggle.

It was around Fall of 2013 when the next big thing to blow my plannerly mind would hit. It started with a regular reader of my blog asking me about Bullet Journaling. It seemed overwhelming as she described it. I had the same response I first had with Brian’s introduction to the Filofax. It was a skeptical response I admit. But after watching Ryder Carroll’s video repeatedly ADHD fashion for a few months, I decided to experiment. Ryder’s Bullet Journal made sense to me. But as one who feels like an old dog leery of learning new tricks, I was cautious. Ryder’s original presentation offered enough flexibility with some general structure and basics that allow for a simple approach to the system. I found the Bullet Journal Method to be a useful journaling practice and addition to my planner and journal use. What I took away from Ryder’s method was the ability to take some of the material that would get lost or bogged down in my long journaling entries and give them an accessible place of their own.

I think it’s fair to say in retrospect, everything I ever learned I learned from Planner People. That’s my story, friends. And I’m sticking to it. What’s your planner story? Let me know in the comments- I’d love to hear!

Dawn Paoletta is the author of Journaling for Discovery and Delight – Creative Prompts for Your Journey and a self-proclaimed Planner Tramp. She loves to juggle words, chug coffee, journal excessively and abuse hashtags. She believes caffeine enhances her personality and sporadically serves up spontaneous journaling prompts on Instagram.  She continues to blog, sharing her passion, poetry and prose at Enthusiastically, Dawn.


7 thoughts on “All I Ever Learned in Life I Learned from Planner People

  • June 5, 2019 at 5:12 PM

    Love this, Dawn! the planner journey, the planner people, the bumps in the road, the planners! 🙂

    • June 5, 2019 at 8:50 PM

      Thanks, Sylvia! I could write a whole book about the lessons and interesting people I’ve met along the way…so many stories. 😉 Thanks for reading!

    • June 5, 2019 at 8:51 PM

      Thanks, Sylvia! I could write a whole book about the lessons and interesting people I’ve met along the way…so many stories. Thanks for reading!

  • June 5, 2019 at 8:24 PM

    Hmmm…my planner journey began abruptly and unexpectedly in March of 2016. Oh I have always used some kind of paper planner, but only to keep appointments. In February of 2016 I suddenly began to have intense unbearable pain in my hip or at least I thought it was my hip. Come to find out 8 weeks later after finally finding a doctor that believed in me and promised to help and began to explore every possibility of where and why I was having pain I was sent for an MRI. I laid in the MRI machine and I was done, I was ready to give up. When the scan was finished I was once again told that my doctor would contact me in a couple of weeks with the results. I painfully hobbled to my car and had decided I was going home to never leave…the pain was unbearable. 10 minutes later as I’m unlocking the front door I received a phone call with very scary answers…but at least I had answers! The caller explained that he was the radiologist and was looking at my scans. He began to question if I had fallen, and continuously pressured me to answer questions about how I had been abused by my current boyfriend! BUT…I hadn’t been abused in any way, shape, or form since leaving my second husband. I could tell he didn’t believe me…he sternly told me to go directly to the ER. He had discovered that I had a double fracture of my pelvis on the right front and back. To this day the only explanation we have is that having had gastric bypass surgery pack in 2003 had left my bones weak and malnourished. I had fractured my pelvis simply by walking, or taking the stairs, but it could only have been stress on the pelvis. All the testing of my bone marrow, my blood, practically every test you can imagine care up with some issues, but nothing that would have caused the fracture. I have never been the same, physically I remain in constant pain daily and I am now disabled and will not be released to return to work.

    So with endless appointments and testing and a year of bed rest I began my journey with my personal, creative, mindful, friend…my planner! To this day it keeps me motivated, gives me a sense of worth, holds not only my plans, but my daily pain, my appointments, my words, thoughts, and feelings.

    • June 7, 2019 at 5:35 PM

      Hi Ginger, Oh my Dear! I am speechless. Thank you for sharing your journey. I am sorry for the twist of events your life took, but I am so glad you have positive ways of encouraging yourself, and I DO hope you are also surrounded by the love and support you need otherwise for your journey. My heart goes out to you, as pain is not an easy companion to have around on a regular basis. So you fit your journaling into your planner as well? That’s wonderful. THanks again, for commenting and sharing your planner story!

      • June 9, 2019 at 7:32 PM

        very nicely put Dawn, Yes my heart too goes out.
        ….Ginger…your story is very moving. Kudos for your report of finding such motivation!! Blessings.

  • June 9, 2019 at 7:30 PM

    I found planner peace in 4 TN style binders. The ‘big’ thing I relate to in your writing Dawn, is that part about having a place to keep things separate from the long ramblings. Less does get lost now! I like Bujo. It is brilliant. I kept moving on from that one book he uses [to my envy]. So #1A5 for the ramble #2A5 for the month and days. #3HoboWeeks for weeks #4standard size TN with inserts for watercolor washed pages for either Scripture writing or commonplace book entries and/or a bit of scrapbook stuff or a bit of poetry.
    Trying my hand at one Book July in the past left me a neurotic mess [and I am barely busy in my daily life at all.]


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