Was it just me, or was choosing a planner this year super overwhelming? I mean, I started looking for “the perfect planner” in late November and didn’t settle on the Sugar Paper Planner until the last week in December. I don’t know if the options are growing exponentially or if my indecisiveness is getting worse. It’s probably a combination of both.
Disorganization creates chaos
Before I jump into how I use my planner, I think that it’s important that you understand where my level of disorganization was and what it’s meant for my life and productivity. Looking back over last year, it’s apparent that much of the year was guided by whichever way the wind was blowing. I would make plans and not follow through because I’d forgotten to write them down. Or I happened up on the plans in my planner too late because I didn’t plan with intention. Throughout most of last year, I struggled horribly to get stuff done. And everything around me suffered because of it. I was stressed, my family was stressed from all the last minute changes, and my self-care took a nose dive. Everything, even stuff that I thought I’d planned for, was falling through the cracks. When this year started, I was determined not to re-live that epic mess that was last year’s disorganization. I decided to get my life together and organize my planner so that it’d work for me. Here’s how I did it.
Step 1: Pick the perfect planner…for you
The first thing I had to do was choose the perfect planner and I decided that, for me, the Sugar Paper Planner was what I needed. Last year, I had the Erin Condren Life Planner, but felt that I didn’t really utilize it as much as I thought I would. So, I decided against it this year. The Day Designer is beautiful and one day I’ll have one, but having started the year off feeling overwhelmed already, I felt that I needed something simple and straight to the point. Then I found the Sugar Paper Planner and it’s perfect for that. That being said, it may not be perfect for you. If you’re someone that thrives and does well with the hour by hour set-up and enjoy segmented pages with clear instructions on what goes where, The Day Designer or the Passion Planner could be it for you. If you enjoy color and prefer that your days are broken into morning, noon, and night, or something similar, Erin Condren will rock your world. It just depends on your needs and how you work best. This year, I needed simplicity. I needed the Sugar Paper Planner.
Step 2: Customize it
How do I customize my Sugar Paper Planner (or how I make my planner work for me)
Since I work outside the home and my job requires that I do some after work and weekend activities every once in a while, I was initially worried about being able to distinguish my work stuff from my family life stuff. I can’t do all the color coding, sticky tabs, and Washi tape because it overwhelms me. I found that out last year with the Erin Condren Life Planner. No, I need everything uninformed throughout. The pen color can change, but trying to keep purple for Jam, green for home, blue for work, orange for Hubz, and everything else, is just too much for me to digest on a daily basis. But because the Sugar Paper Planner uses a daily, un-separated format, I had to make some adjustments in order to make it meet my needs. I’ll get to that in a minute though. First, let’s start with the month at a glance section.
The beginning of each month starts with that month’s overview. The month at a glance is where I write down ALL my due dates. From rent to car insurance to Jam’s dance recital fees, everything that has a due date goes here. I do this because it helps me to see that, even though we’re on day 4 of the month, on day 15 our cell phone bill is due. It’s so not fun to have day 15 roll around and as I’m writing out my intentions for the day, I see that Verizon is due. That’s no good and quite frankly, it pisses me off because then I’m scrambling. So yeah…the month at a glance is great for bills and other due dates, which is mainly what I use it for. Plus, in addition to using it for due dates, I also use this part of the planner for any new or “out of the norm” things. For example, attending “Smart Start-up” is not a normal occurrence for me, so I need a quick reminder, which would then lead me to the actual date in the planner for more details. This is also where I put work commitments that happen outside of my regular 9 to 5 schedule and where I’d place the information if I were to pick up any hours at my on-call job.
On the month at a glance page is also a small notes section, which I really like. You could honestly put whatever you want to put there, but I use it for things that I want to accomplish during that month that have a loose deadline. There’s really no timetable for getting these things completed, other than I must have them completed by the month’s end.
The next part of the planner is the days section. And look at all this space to write! Wow! If nothing else sold me on this planner, the way the days are set up did. The lines are spaced far enough apart to where you don’t have to squeeze info between them, but at the same time, you don’t have to write huge like a 6 year-old to fill the space either (sorry Jam). Instead, it’s pretty perfectly spaced for normal people writing.
The days section, or week section, consists of days and lines to write on. There are no time slots, no boxes, no nothing. Just lines and space for writing. It’s not separated in any way. At first, I really liked this (and I still do), because I could write whatever I needed to write, wherever. I could circle stuff for emphasis, write sideways, etc. Then I started noticing that I have a tendency to complete task in the order in which they’re written, even if it would make more sense to skip around. This was especially the case when co-mingling my professional and personal to-dos. My solution was to simply separate the “blocked” format with a vertical line down the middle. One side is for my personal/family activities, while the other side is for my professional and work-related stuff. I write, “Dinner” right above the personal list and jot down what’s for dinner on each of those days. The approach I use for my days is super easy, takes care of everything I need it to, and doesn’t take a lot of modifying. That’s a win in my book!
Step 3: Add what you need. Take away what you don’t.
One of the best things about a simple planner is the ability to add to or take away what’s of no use to you. For example, I rarely, if ever, use the notes section in the back of my planner. I just don’t have a real need for it. Occasionally, I’ll use it for brainstorming, but those sessions (in the planner) are few and far between. I do, however, use sticky notes, highlighters, and tabs on a regular basis.
So, yeah. That’s how I organize my planner as a working mom. It’s pretty simple and straightforward with not a lot of hoopla. And so far, it’s working out well. Now, I’m on to the goal of actually remembering to write things down in my planner, instead of thinking I can hold it all in my mind. I’ll get it together one of these days.
What planner are you using this year? Are there any planner systems that work for you?