How to Build a Planner that Works for You:
it's easier than you think!
Many of you reading this are probably in the same category as me - a "solopreneur". Maybe you also have a regular 9-5 job, or you're a mom, or you run more than one business, or all of the above. For most of us, we have a lot of different roles to fill and a lot of different hats to wear. Keeping track of all life's moving parts can be very overwhelming. I currently run a home business and will soon be adding another job working remotely, so my schedule is very random and open-ended. With great power comes great responsibility!
When Plans Meet Reality
We've all been there - you make a new plan for your business or home life. You're so motivated! Every aspect of your life is going to be completely organized, and your growth will be exploding by leaps and bounds! But after the first week or two, reality sets back in. You forget which business metrics you were going to track, because that super cute tracking sheet is in a stack on your desk somewhere. You tried to write everything in this adorable planner you bought, but the pages didn't have enough space in the places you needed it.
Or maybe your business plan went perfectly but you forgot about dinner until it was too late to thaw the meat, so you ended up ordering pizza or buying a frozen lasagna and well, now your Healthy Eating plan failed before it ever took off.
Or maybe you're just tired of having 17 different notebooks and planners because you can't keep them all in your purse, so you don't have the one you want at the time you need it. And you don't want to keep everything in your phone, because you're a pen and paper kinda gal and everytime you unlock your phone, 45 minutes go by and you forget why you picked it up in the first place....or is that just me?
I've struggled with all these issues and more. None of the planners I ever bought had all the features I needed - and the ones that did? They were expensive, or they were too bulky and came along with a ton of features that were useless to me. Desperate for some way of tracking my tasks, I simply started writing a list every day. This was great, except sometimes I would lose my list. Or I wouldn't finish everything (because once you start writing down tasks, you just can't stop) and would then feel like a failure. I tried the "un-list" to combat that problem - instead of writing a to-do list, I built a list of the things I actually did as the day went on. This felt great, but it turned out to be more of an affirmation than a planning tool.
Finally, I hit up Pinterest and came upon the concept of Bullet Journaling . It was a great concept, and I was hooked. Ultimately, however, it became too complicated. Designing my own planner was great in theory, but it took so much time that after setting up my first month's bullet journal, I never did map out a new one. Additionally, there were so many beautiful examples on Pinterest that I kind of just turned it into an art project. Like so many other things, it actually MADE more work for me, rather than saving time and making my life easier. What to do?!
The method I hit on, and the only method that has consistenly made my life easier, is a simplified version of the Bullet Journal. Really, it's a glorified list...or collection of lists. And the best part is, you can get started for all of about $1.
Step 1: Get the supplies
Go to Walmart and pick up a spiral-bound graph book:
The biggest reason to go spiral-bound is that it will always lay flat when opened, and you can rip out pages without it getting ugly! Another benefit of using a cheap notebook? You don't have to feel bad if you write something in it that isn't ~inspirational~. The biggest reason to use graph paper is that you can really use the whole page - you can create grids or blocks or checklists anywhere.
Optional: Get movable adhesive tabs. I didn't use them at first but they are very helpful.
Step 2: Set it up
On the first page, write out your big-picture goals.
You'll also want to make an outline of weekly task rotations. The more things you can assign to a specific weekday, the less you'll have to remember.
A brain dump sheet is key for organizing your thoughts. Everything can be written here as you think of it, and then you can take items from this master list and put them on your other lists. When you fill up the brain dump sheet, just rip it out and start a new one later in the notebook.
Each night, you'll quickly sketch out the following day. For me personally, almost all of my work is done at home and almost all of my deadlines are self-imposed. This sounds great, but it can actually be a major problem. The two biggest dangers are 1) nothing specifically needs to be done RIGHTNOW, so nothing gets done at all, or 2) I focus on my own work for way too long and neglect my home responsibilities, or never give myself free time (because the list is never done, am I right?).
Here is an example of how I break down my daily planning page. Currently, my personal goals are to drink more water, be more present-minded about my spending, exercise 3x weekly, and practice having specific "work hours" at home. My page reflects all of those goals. I give myself time blocks to complete my different lists, and I keep it very simple and specific. Each night when I make my list, I put dots next to the top 6 most important things that simply must be accomplished the next day. Those are what I work on first. If one of the other items doesn't get completed, I simply note an arrow next to it, and it goes on the next day's list. No shame!