Monday, November 18, 2013

Rethinking the DIY Planner for 2014


Although it's only November, I've already started thinking about my plans for 2014, particularly about how I can be more productive and organized in the new year.  I've been relying on my DIY planner a lot this year, and it's made me happy to have a system that suited my needs so well.  But my productivity system has evolved over the year, and now my planner no longer fits me quite as well.  As the year draws to a close, I've been thinking about making some radical changes to my DIY planner for 2014.  Some of the issues I have with it include:

  • My productivity system has grown beyond my planner - I now organize my master to-do list on the computer, because it makes it easier for me to shuffle around the order of tasks by cutting and pasting rather than rewriting the entire list.  I also have a separate, monthly to-do list that I keep on a pad of paper, not in my planner at all.
  • I'm not using all parts of my planner - I rarely touch the Notes or Reference section.  My To-do List section has mostly migrated to the computer, as discussed above, and is confusingly organized.  I used to refer to the Goals section during my weekly reviews, but I've gotten out of the habit of doing that.  The only sections I really use anymore are the weekly and monthly planning pages.
  • My weekly layout doesn't work for me anymore - I've been using a layout that allows me to plan my day hour-by-hour, but I usually end up not following that schedule exactly anyway.  I originally thought of trying a different layout, but then I realized that there were all these other issues as well, so I think that would only be a temporary fix.
  • Finally, I love the flexibility of being able to add and remove pages from a ring binder, but I also like the permanence of a bound journal - With a bound book, I could combine my planner and my journal, which would cut down on the number of notebooks that I need to use, something that's part of my ongoing project to simplify my life.

I've been reading about the Bullet Journal system, and it looks very appealing.  I like that it is a simple system that I could easily modify to suit my needs, and that it would allow me to incorporate a planner, journal, and sketchbook into one notebook.  And instead of buying a new notebook for my Bullet Journal, I could simply use one of the Rhodia Webnotebooks that I'm currently using as journals.  I have been using one of my Webbies since September of 2010, which is rather a long time for me to be keeping a journal, and I would be glad of an excuse to use this notebook more often and fill it up.

I'm still nervous about the idea of giving up the system that has worked so well for me this year, even though I know I could easily change back again if I needed to.  Luckily, I still have over a month to decide what my system for the beginning for 2014 will be, and I certainly welcome any of your suggestions or ideas.

Have you tried the Bullet Journal?  Are you making any changes to your planner system for 2014?  Do you even use a planner, or do you survive without one?  Am I totally crazy to be spending this much time thinking about this?

13 comments:

  1. Your planner system looks pretty sweet. Thanks for sharing! I find that my systems, too, end up changing over time. I attempted to use the Bullet Journal, too. I also like that it's in a bound book and that you can combine everything all at once. However, one of the main things I didn't like about it is that it's hard to incorporate things for forward months. What I ultimately have ended up doing is setting up a journal with the front section as a calendar, each page being a month and set up as in the traditional Bullet Journal way. And then I have a to-do list section after that. Then, starting from the back, I have lists and notes, and various other things - all the "fun" stuff. I've got those little page marker tab things to mark the current month's page, and the pages in the back that I use the most, and the ribbon marker marks the to-do list. This seems to work better for me than the traditional Bullet Journal, which seemed to involve a lot of flipping pages back and forth, and I didn't feel very organized with that method. Whatever you end up doing, I wish you luck!

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    1. Thank you very much for describing your system in such detail, Anna! The lack of any future month planning in the Bullet Journal has been worrying me as well. I usually plan my blog posts months in advance (I'm kind of obsessive about it!), and I currently have a section in my ring-binder planner filled with monthly pages for the following year. I don't think I could live without that kind of monthly planning, so I really like your idea of making the entire first section of your journal into a calendar. Though because I've already filled out pages for the first 6 months of 2014, I may simply stick those pages in the back pocket of my notebook or somewhere like that to avoid having to copy them out all over again.

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  2. I don't think you're obsessed at all. I use the week between Christmas and New Year that is usually dead at work to decide my organizer plans for the new year. You're just a better planner than me! My work requires me to calendar electronically for work appointments but for 2013 I tried a Google Calendar and then went to paper diary as I liked the reflection value and permanency of paper. Unfortunately I can't combine my personal on my work Outlook so I think I'm destined for multiple media types. All the more need to organize. My to do management is a pocket Clairefontaine journal that serves me well but I would like to combine it with a paper appointment diary, and integrate electron features of my iPhone that I haven't discovered yet.

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    1. I usually use that week as well to review the past year and make plans for the coming year. By that time this year I hope that I will have made a firm decision on what my planner system will be! For a couple years in high school, I used a Palm Pilot as my planner, but that's the extent of my experience with digital planning systems. There definitely are advantages to both; the digital method is nice because it doesn't leave you with any paper that you need to store or recycle.

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    2. I'm constantly trying to figure out how to organize all the information I keep track of and I have yet to come up with anything that I really like. I use a spiral bound notebook for daily stuff, but then my to-do's are on a separate piece of paper AND I've also started a notebook with dividers supposedly to keep track of my master to do list and to do's. I do a good job of confusing myself...

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    3. I know about confusing myself! I think that - for me at least - one step towards less confusion is minimizing the amount of "stuff" (lists, notebooks, etc.) that I need to keep myself organized and keeping it all in one place. Having regular routines to look over my lists, reorder them, and remove items I have completed or that have become irrelevant also helps. It's a constant process though - I'm always making small changes to make my system work better for me.

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  3. I'm really looking forward to hearing how you resolve this, Heather. I have always admired people who seem to be able to keep their planner and journal in one volume -- I really love the simplicity and organic chronology of such a system -- but I've never been able to make it work for myself. And you also mentioned the desire to integrate your sketchbook, too! That would seem so ideal to me -- that complete integration of all parts of your documentable life! I hope it works for you, and I'll be paying attention to your ideas! Good luck! (Don't worry -- there are a lot of us who obsess about planners, etc. :-) ).

    - Tina

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    1. Thank you, Tina! I'll try to remember to post an update about how things are working out for me once I'm a month or so into the new year. I've also long admired people who can keep just one notebook that is both planner and journal, though I'm still not sure if this is going to work for me, especially since I've more often been the kind of person who has multiple notebooks on the go at once. Combining my sketchbook into the same notebook really might be too much to ask for, but I am at least going to give it a try!

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  4. I tried the bullet journal in August and love love love it. It was not even hard to make the change from Circa.

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    1. Thanks for letting me know that, sharmon! That sounds promising and gives me hope that it will work for me as well...

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  5. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the bullet system after you've used it for a bit. I use a combination of iPad and bullet-like system. My meetings and appointments are on my iPad calendar and I use an app for errands and to-do list. I've been using an app called Notability to write down notes and various thoughts, etc like a journal but even though I can write using a stylus, I miss using a pen and paper. This year, I'm going to try using paper again but still have to give it some more thought.

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  6. I also started using the Bullet journal method a few months ago, and I have been extremely pleased with the flexibility it allows me. I use mine as both a planner and a journal at times, and thought I do use it almost daily, I don't feel as I though I've "wasted" a day if I don't use it. The one issue I've had that I'm still working through is how to record tasks I want to remember for the future. Right now I'm still relying on my wall calendar and/or iPhone to help me with these, but since my iPhone recently decided to delete some of my Notes, I would prefer to go completely analog. I've used planner and journals for most of my 30-something years, but I've found that this method is by far the best use of a blank (or I prefer grid) notebook or journal. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on it!

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    1. I like that idea of not feeling that you've "wasted" a day. Sometimes now I won't fill in my daily schedule in my planner, and then I feel bad, because I do feel that I've "wasted" that space in my planner. It would be nice to have a more unstructured space that wouldn't make me feel that way.

      As for recording tasks for the future, I usually create a list somewhere (a dedicated page in my notebook, an insert in my planner, a file on my computer - I've used all of these) and add to it whenever I think of something. If I don't have the list with me, I'll just use any scrap of paper and transfer it over later. I think a blank notebook would work well - I think the most important part is to keep these notes all in one easily accessible place, and to refer to them often.

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