The (almost) Perfect Planner
Having a great planner is like going to the gym with new gear from Athleta. It's not actually making you go or work any harder, but doesn't it feel that way? The reality is planners don't magically make you more productive, they work as much as you make them work. I've tried a lot of different ones and I've found that my needs are constantly changing. What worked in school didn't once I was job searching, and then what worked for that doesn't at my 9-5 gig. That's why DIY planners are ideal, even if you find something perfect for right now, chances are you'll outgrow it sooner rather than later. Letting myself change and grow your layout depending on what I need adds some much-needed flexibility to my life. Here's what I'm currently working with:
Bullet journals are usually gridded paper, but it gets a little messy for me so I prefer to apply the same techniques to lined paper. If you like to draw and are halfway decent at it unlike me, you could do the same on blank sketch paper and really get creative. I got this Designworks Inc notebook from Riley Rose for the very nice price of $15. It has a loose binding which seems weird at first but lets it lay flat and is life-changing. The cover is trendy marble with the phrase "my dreams and projects" in French, only the slightest bit corny.
Erasable pens are a must because I am far too much of a mess for permanent anything. In fact about five minutes after I took the above photo, I decided to move my gym day from Wednesday to Monday. Colored gel pens make color-coding easy and these are friction erasing. You could easily make a simple layout with a ruler, but I opted to pick up this 4-piece set of templates for some added organization. Okay, it was because I wanted to make it pretty. A couple of banners go a long way! I don't use all of them but it's nice to have the options. Some you can trace, others you really have to fill in, so I have a small pack of colored pencils coming soon. What can I say, they make me smile.
The first and most important thing is my weekly schedule, I mark it hourly from 8am-8pm, and when I need an increment I just put it in as :30. This week, the day of the week is below because I forgot to put it on top. Oops! I do a loose color-coding, purple for meetings, blue for projects, pink for tasks, green for errands and teal for personal. IWhen I need a larger chunk of time, I use brackets to remind myself to set Clockwork Tomato, a Pomodoro app on my phone.
For sleep and water, I try to chart how well I do. Since I'm an Excel nerd now, I'm all about the secondary axis. It saves me space. Other habits that are just about doing something once a day are tracked in this super cool arrow shape from my template. It's a visually interesting way to keep track of my reading, making my bed, stretching, and going through my bedtime routine. Workouts are shown with a honeycomb, each hexagon as 30 minutes. I like being able to see it build the more I do.
I'm not convinced the menu section is working for me. The whole layout got just a tad on the over-zealous side. Plus I could use a bit more space for my projects at tasks. I like being able to separate things that are just a few steps and ones that require more time and revision. A simple color change works there, but they're ultimately the same type of thing. It also helps me separate it at a glance of my day, do I have a lot of small things to do or am I buckling down on one? Also a little smushed in is my reminders, errands and such, and contact list. All too often I tell myself I should email this person, call this customer service and immediately forget. Last is my spending tracker, which is small because I'm an optimist. I haven't decided how I want to work that out yet, so I'm trying some trial an error.
This planner is perfect...almost. Like I said, that's the best part of a planner like this. I need more space for my various to-do lists, so I might move all of my schedules to one side and take a whole page for to-dos and trackers. The biggest thing with a planner like this is to keep playing with it and keep perfecting it. I take an hour in front of the TV on a weekend to make next week's layout, I think about what I liked and what else I need from it. That's exactly what makes it perfect.