Until recently, I have never been much of a planner. Whenever I wanted to accomplish something I would simply just start it and take one step at a time, allowing the process to organically develop until completed. I don’t like deadlines. Just the sheer mention of an expected deadline can make me so anxious that I can feel paralyzed creatively and possibly become totally uninspired to even begin. When I do have to deal with a deadline, no matter how far in advance it may be, I always work to complete the project right away so that I don’t have to stress over the black cloud of a due date looming over me.
14 weeks ago I committed to using a “life planner” which I have been using rather religiously ever since. In fact, I currently have 2 active planners with 2 more on the way to be delivered. These planners are actually helping me to be more productive, stay on task and be more inspired creatively as well. Yet, I am still not planning my life or my business with these agendas. Yes, I am decorating them creatively which is fun, interesting and keeps me engaged and invested in the process. However, something much more than just a pretty book is developing here. I am actually getting shit done and this is happening despite the fact that I have never set goals or itemized a list of projects or activities with target dates for completion! So how is this working?
I am very fortunate to be self-employed. This means I can pretty much set my own schedule and work at my own pace, which is great for me because I can often get so much more done late at night than I ever could in the morning. Since I work from home, I also don’t waste time commuting and working in my pajamas suits me just fine. However, 7 days of the week the routine is pretty much the same for me. I know my routine and what tasks I need to get done and because of that, all the days seem to blur into one another. It is very easy to lose track of time, and more importantly, not be able to account for how I used my time or if I used it efficiently or wisely. This has become even more difficult as I have gotten older and my memory isn’t as sharp as it one was.
So if I am not setting goals or creating ambitious “To Do” lists, then what am I actually using my planners for, you may wonder. So far, one of my planners has been primarily used to document my activities of the day and track my use of time as well as other relevant information that may help me to gain a better understanding as to how effective my methods are. For this planner I use daily inserts that provide me with a full page for each day to record my info. Typically I have been decorating each page a little bit through out each day but only minimally with a little Washi tape and some stickers now and again.
I sometimes start off the morning by listing my top 3 or 4 tasks that I want to accomplish for the day but I do not schedule that out ahead of time. Instead, I mark off the scheduled time of start and block that off until I actually finish the task for the day, tracking the actual amount of time used. If I had interruptions or ran into problems I will document that information as well. This provides me with a realistic picture of how much time is actually required for specific tasks, plus, it gives me insight as to how my day may be better balanced. For instance, managing social media is part of my daily activities, but this can become a real time drain when I do not put a limit on the amount of time I spend on these activities. This was the first thing I noticed when I started tracking my time was that I was spending far too much time on Social media and not really making many gains for it. Social Media is not the type of task that has a recognizable point of completion. So setting time limits on these activities and balancing that time between all of my social media is something I am still learning to do. I want to take this a step further and measure the effectiveness of each social media platform and I have already started by measuring stats in Perisocope as provided by FullScope.tv . I start out every morning with a blank page in this planner and by the end of the day the page is full and I can completely account for how I used my time.
My second planner is my “Artful Planner” and it is partially created a week in advance. Every Sunday I will sit down and create my own weekly inserts, fully designed and decorated by myself in Photoshop before the week begins. I am still not planning in advance, just designing/decorating in advance. This planner is primarily used to document personal activities as well as brief thoughts and feelings about the day, sort of like a diary or memory keeper and much more personal but stripped down to only a few major points. I journal in another book all together. I will also typically create at least one scrapbook page and/or art journal page to insert into this planner that gets printed on the back sides of my weekly spread. As well as keeping track of family birthdays, events and special memories, this planner helps me a great deal to monitor my moods, feelings, energy levels and health. I can suffer from fatigue and depression at times and when I am in that state I can fall prey to falsely believing that I have been in that slump forever which can perpetuate the problem. Tracking my mood and state of mind gives me a truer picture of how these things cycle. I gain more insight into my patterns of behavior as well as potential triggers, and documenting all of this gives me the perspective to remember that “this too shall pass” and be more optimistic about what is to come.
As a creative individual I find that the artistic side of this is a necessary component. It is both inspiring as well as creatively fulfilling and it requires both right an left brain involvement, fully engaging me in the process. For those that believe that your life is too busy to be spending any time at all in keeping a planner, let alone a decorated or personally created planner, please know that for me the time invested has been well worth the return. Knowing how I use my time and keeping track of my daily activities has helped me to become more consciously engaged in my daily routine. I have become much more efficient with regular tasks and have found that I have more time for additional projects. I even make a point of scheduling in “me time” for creative playtime, reading or just watching some bad television now and again.
I am not sure if I will ever become an official planner who actually plans, but who knows where this journey is taking me. I do believe the process is not only helping me develop new, healthy habits, but it is changing how I perceive myself as well, and for the better. I am better able to see my accomplishments. So when my inner critic starts nagging at me to be more, do more or achieve more, I can simply open up my planner and say “What are you talking about? I rock! Just look at me go!”