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Your Planner Won’t Make You Productive

your planner won't make you productive

It’s January 1, 2018 and that means resolution time, right? I am here to tell you that your planner won’t make you productive. It’s a harsh truth. I speak from experience. I am embarrassed to tell you — to tell anyone — how much money I spent on planners over the years. I would lust after each new one and was convinced that specific planner would be THE one — my perfect and ideal love match. With the “right” planner I would be more productive, happier, healthier, taller, thinner… you see where I am going with this, right?

The harsh truth is, your planner won’t make you productive. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paper planner or an electronic planner (like Trello, for example). It is you. It is what is within you that will make a planner work for you. It’s not the planner, it’s what you put in it, what you track, how you measure “productive” and what you want to accomplish.

Your Planner Won’t Make You Productive

Recently, I have become enamored of the minimalist bullet journal. I originally fell in love with bullet journaling, but was scared off because I am not “creative enough” to have one of those beautifully decorated bullet journals that I had seen that truly are works of art. My stick people are even embarrassed about how poorly I draw them; it’s the truth.

A middle of the night ephiphany made me realize, “Hey, I don’t have to be that fancy!” I can bullet journal and make it my own — that, my friend, is the beauty of the bullet journal — you make it truly your own. The reason I struggled with whatever my latest planner purchase was that it met some of my needs, but not all of my needs.

A bullet journal — my bullet journal — so far is meeting my needs. The reason for that is I have watched a ton of videos and have gleaned info from each of them that will help make my bullet journal work for me. I realized last year when I started the bullet journal process that I liked the idea of being able to change the layouts when I found one that worked better for me. I like that my bullet journal is a place where I can keep my client notes. My journal is a place for me to keep track of items for which I am grateful and thankful. A place to track what books I want to read and television shows I want to watch. I track my habits there; it is more useful for me to see whether I have walked at least 5,000 steps a day on paper than scrolling back through my Fitbit.

What will make you productive or as I like to say, “effective and efficient”?

  1. Know what you want to accomplish
  2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
  3. Track what is important
  4. Know why you’re setting a specific goal. Know your “why”
  5. Break bigger goals into bite sized chunks. Want to write a book? Great! Break that into smaller, more doable tasks

What method do you use to track your goals and accomplishments?  What stops you from being effective and efficient?

Email me at Robbi AT AllWordsMatter DOT com — I’m giving away an Effectiveness & Efficiency Session to the first five people who email! It’s my 2018 gift to you to help you start the year on the right foot and to conquer the overwhelm!

 

 

31 replies to this post
  1. This is soooooo true! I was all gun-ho to get a paper planner for this year, but then realized it is not the planner that is my issue it is me. I have a system that works. I use BusyMac and BusyCal which keeps me pretty organized, but my inability to stay focused is an issue because i have a million different projects going on! No planner is going to help me with that! I do like the idea of a “bullet journal” though….I may give that a try!

    • Hi Jill, try “time blocking” where you work on a specific project for a specific amount of time. I find it makes me less likely to bounce from thing to thing. Let me know how your bullet journal works out or if you want any tips.

  2. I agree no planner is going to help if you are not completely focused.Last year, I had my planner all planned out but really had a hard time focusing. No matter what that planner said, I couldn’t stay on track.

    • Hi Bunny, I find that if I don’t write stuff down nothing gets done. If I’ve written it I feel compelled to cross it off and oh boy do I love crossing stuff off!

  3. I have been thinking about doing a bullet journal, but I don’t think it will work for my full time job. For that I use a paper planner. It works for me because it helps me keep track of meetings and mileage. I need to get better at organizing my blogging stuff. I use the Cat Blogosphere calendar (usually) for that. I have the same issue as Jill; I have a hard time focusing because my head is filled with too much information and things to remember.

    • I’ve worked with people who use a bullet journal for work and a separate one for home and I have also worked with people who combine the two. It took me a while to “design” one that fit me because I got so hung up on how to make it pretty. I am no artist so once I came to grips with that, I love it. I never heard of the Cat Blogosphere calendar I will have to check it out. One tip: Don’t keep stuff in your head to remember it, write it down — it will make you feel better!

  4. I saw myself in every line of your post! It’s so easy to get distracted or get “off task” when you have a lot of irons in the fire. I’ve tried various planners, but sometimes I’m my own worst enemy, despite my good intentions. Perhaps using a bullet journal instead of lots of fancy programs and software will bring me back to the basics of what I most want to do – write great content.

    • Hi Lori, Oh I feel your pain — I have so many planners that I used for a week or a month or, well, never because I saw it on line and thought “oh, that’s just what I need to get my stuff together”! I’ve tried online calendaring but that just didn’t keep me on track. I do use my Google calendar for appointments. I tried using that for tasks, but I need to have my planner on my desk, right in front of my face.

  5. I couldn’t agree more. A planner is a tool. If you don’t have a system that works for you, then the tool isn’t going to help. While I’ve generally been an organized person for most of my life, a few years ago I started reading some different productivity books and blogs. Now I mix and match systems to fit me.

    • Agreed. There is no one size fits all for planners or productivity tools. When I work with people it’s more to help them organize the way they think and work than to shove them into a box of X?YZ productivity method. Thanks for commenting!

  6. I’ve never gotten the hang of planners. Last year I bought a nice planner and pens, but I still haven’t taken the leap and started filling it in. I’m also hung up on the artwork issue because my penmanship is terrible and I can’t draw at all. Do you have favorite videos that you’d recommend for a novice planner?

    • Hi Beth, I have relatively good penmanship because I write all the time, I think. I am not an artist at all so I buy stickers if I feel the need to pretty up my planner. When I use my bullet journal I buy day of the week stickers becase I want those to look fancy and I can’t do the fancy writing. When I am trying to put together my bullet journal I usually go to Youtube and search “minimalist bullet journal” and find some great ideas that aren’t fancy. I need the function, not the fancy.

  7. Robbi, I have realized that sometimes you can spend so much time planning and not enough doing! I use an excel spreadsheet that lists overall goal, weekly and daily goals. It’s easy to update each week and I can add webinars and sometimes just small things that I need to do as well as add blocks of time that I am busy. I really like it. I have tried time-blocking, but I seem to always run over and am not ready to quit when the alarm rings!

    • Sandy, that is so great that you found something that works for you. I love it! As for the time blocking, a lot of times I use that when there is a task I am dreading. I figure I can work on bookkeeping (my nemesis) for a 15 minute block — and I can. Sometimes, though it does run over, but I build cushions of time into my day to make up for that.

  8. I use to be so organized! I still use a weekly planner to keep up with special days for blog post ideas, but I can’t seem to get back into being truly organized. I know how, but since my retirement, I can’t seem to get back in the groove.

    • Paula, hhmmm if you’re retired what type of items are you looking to organize? Blogging? Commenting? Personal items? Trips? Maybe just starting out with a small routine would help you get back in the groove. For example: Wake up at 7, feed kitties, eat breakfast, plan blog posts, run errands, etc. Let me know!

  9. I have been reading a lot about this very topic lately. In addition to planners not being as effective, there is also some research that supports moving away from to-do lists and focusing more on what some call “deep work”, which is dedicated and uninterrupted time dedicated to a project, which is almost non existent in a day and age where we are always so accessible.

    Thanks for the reminder that Bullet Journals don’t have to be pretty. I had a similar experience to yourself, and I might give bullet journals another try!

    • Rachel, I use time blocking when I really need to focus on a project. When I am working on my books, I definitely don’t worry too much about time, but I do give myself two hours (for example) of uninterrupted book project time. Sometimes I use all of that two hours, others I don’t BUT it gets that big project on my calendar and I do get a sense of accomplishment from crossing off “book project” from my to do list. For me, if I don’t write stuff down: 2 blog posts, 2 hours on book, client social media, etc. then I will poke around for hours on social media and waste the entire day. I know my brain well enough to know if I don’t write it down, I don’t do it. It took me about 6 months to get unafraid of bullet journals because all of the groups I am in are works of freaking art! I joined the Minimalist Bullet Journal group and found my peeps!

  10. I was just thinking earlier today about starting a bullet journal! I’ve already been writing my calendar down but this looks like a more organized way of keeping track!

    • I like it because it gives me a space to keep notes from all of my client calls in one space (after the monthly calendar) rather than in various notebooks that I couldn’t locate later!

  11. I have learned from experience that I can achieve three things that further my goals in one day. That takes so much time and effort that if I try more I fold into a small soggy heap. It doesn’t matter how brilliant everyone else is at planning, what they do with their day, or how they do it. I am me, not them and I love drawing and writing things down. I might beat you at stick men 😉 .

    I note everything down, I have a BlogPaws planner, and notebook and they keep me focused (this is the important thing focus). There is a notebook hierarchy – ‘out and about’ notebook because its amazing what pops into your head when you are gardening/shopping/feeding the cat. The amazing Moo notebook for my big plans after my blog audit, and the BlogPaws planner filled with post it notes taken from the first notebook. They’ll keep me focused. I make stuff so handling an using a notebook helps me methinks stick.

    BUT

    The one thing that keeps me on track is ME. The saying is ‘if you don’t do anything’ that’s what you’ll get.” and since Dash died I am more fearless. Nothing can feel as worrying or dreadful as the aftermath to his death so I do things I would not have dreamed of. OK so I plan a bit but it’s me doing the walking and the talking!

    • LOL let’s have a stick man competition! I agree — everyone needs to know what works best for them. There is no one size fits all with planning and organization. I LOVE that you know you have three things that can further your goals and you go get them done. That is the ultimate in goal prioritization! I used to use multiple notebooks, but then lost track of which one I’d used to jot down my “brilliant” idea so I have space in the bullet journal (and I note it in the index so I can find it later) then I use that one book until it’s full.

      I love the saying, “if ou don’t to anything, that’s what you’ll get!”

  12. Second Attempt! I have learned from experience that I can achieve three things that further my goals in one day. That takes so much time and effort that if I try more I fold into a small soggy heap. It doesn’t matter how brilliant everyone else is at planning, what they do with their day, or how they do it. I am me, not them and I love drawing and writing things down. I might beat you at stick men 😉 .

    I note everything down, I have a BlogPaws planner, and notebook and they keep me focused (this is the important thing focus). There is a notebook hierarchy – ‘out and about’ notebook because its amazing what pops into your head when you are gardening/shopping/feeding the cat. The amazing Moo notebook for my big plans after my blog audit, and the BlogPaws planner filled with post it notes taken from the first notebook. They’ll keep me focused. I make stuff so handling an using a notebook helps me methinks stick.

    BUT

    The one thing that keeps me on track is ME. The saying is ‘if you don’t do anything’ that’s what you’ll get.” and since Dash died I am more fearless. Nothing can feel as worrying or dreadful as the aftermath to his death so I do things I would not have dreamed of. OK so I plan a bit but it’s me doing the walking and the talking!

    • I have always been prone toward paper planners even though once in a great while I use Trello. I do always use Google Cal for appointments, but I do like to see my to-dos on a notebook in front of me all day long — I prop it by my keyboard.

  13. I think I have been kinda keeping a bullet journal but in Evernote. I have a running to-do-list for each month and use simple check blocks that get ticked off when it’s done. I want to start using the other features Evernote has like creating your own templates for calendars and blog posts etc.

    But to be honest, like others have said, my head is always bursting with tons of information and I end up overwhelmed. I like that you reiterate to always think of your “why” to get me back on focus. I’m like a kid with ADHD sometimes who needs to be brought back on track. I still don’t have it all figured out, but maybe 2018 will be the year I get organized with the right tools.Thanks for this and I’m subscribing to your newsletter.

    • I love Evernote and use it when I don’t have my journal with me or when I need to snap a photo or dictate a note of something to blog about. I’ve never used it for a to-do. Interesting.

      I find the mere act of getting the ideas and thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or electronic) helps to remove some of the overwhelm because some of it might be duplicates and even so — in your head it just looms larger. Thank you for subscribing!

  14. I use my brain to track and journal about my goals and implementation of them… so far, my brain is petering out! I love that in this highly technical world there is still a place for writing things down. When we write our brains do something different, they record, and if we can say them out loud after we write then the process of cementing starts. I absolutely love that you found this and I think I’m going to look in to it (and give my brain a break)!

    • Rebecca, I find that when I rely on my brain I am highly stressed. This has gotten even worse after cancer and treatments (they call it chemo-brain). Before I started writing things down I would wake up at night in a panic running through items I was convinced I’d forgotten. I prop my bullet journal up on my desk, refer to it throughout the day, jot down other items that pop into my head and am a lot less stressed. Let me know if it works for you!

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