How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

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:

How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach
How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

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.

How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach
How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

An overview of the month that you will refer to when making your weekly or daily lists (This doesn't have to be in chronological order - add dates as you think of them):

How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach
How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

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.

How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach
How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

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!

How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach
How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

DON'T SAY: Clean the kitchen

DO SAY: Load the dishwasher, clean counters, sweep/mop

Break it down!  There's nothing so demoralizing as working for 3 hours and still not being able to cross off an item on your list.  Each item you cross off is a WIN and fuels you for the rest of your list!

The rest of the notebook is completely flexible to YOUR personal needs.  If you are the journaling type, you can do that in between your lists.  If you go to a meeting and want to take notes?  It can go in this notebook.  Need to make a grocery shopping list?  You can do it here. Any time you make a page that you know you'll need to refer back to frequently, give it a tab. This notebook is your ONE home for everything you need to keep track of.

What else can you do with it?

You can customize pages to fit your own personal needs, but here are some examples from mine:

  • list of dinner ideas for when I do my weekly menu plan
  • books I want to read
  • crochet projects I'm working on or that I want to start
  • tracking sheet/check-off grid for tasks that are recurring monthly
  • a tracking sheet for my social media followers and online accounts
  • a tracking sheet for my monthly sales
  • an outline of my personal health goals
  • list of ideas for business social media posts

This notebook method seems almost stupidly simple, and yet it's so thorough that it will become your brain's external hard drive.  Everything you need to remember will always be in one place for easy access.  If you are already using tracking sheets or printables, just staple or tape them onto a blank page!  

I hope this planning method is helpful to you.  It has made an astronomical difference in my day to day life!  Now go out there and be a boss!

How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach
How to Build a Planner that Works for You: it's easier than you think! - Collectively Caitlin - Productivity Coach For Creative Entrepreneurs - Business Coach

Author Bio:

Melissa is a 27-year-old born and raised in Washington state who is addicted to beauty products and all things organization.  She's an Air Force wife with a degree in Psychology who dreams of one day being a homeschool mom.  Melissa started her Mary Kay business fresh out of college in 2011, and loves finding new ways to add value to her clients while enjoying the freedom of being a small business owner. She's a rule-follower at heart but mostly wants to follow her OWN rules!  She currently lives in New Mexico with her husband of 3 years, Erik.

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/mk.melissawittig

Instagram: @mk.melissawittig

Shop: www.marykay.com/melissawittig

Comment