Melting Pot for the Well-Planned

There has been much talk on the Internet and organizing and planner blogs in the past couple of months regarding 2010 planners and what will be used and why. The great debate revolves around electronic devices versus a paper planner. The consensus is that you should choose whatever works for you – after all, a planning system is only as good as the user. If you don’t or won’t use it, its point is moot.

I know a few people who have an iPhone or a BlackBerry. They use these devices for everything and wouldn’t think of using anything else. I have never used one of these devices and even if I owned one I don’t think I’d use it as my only calendar. Aside from having a preference for paper and the act of writing things down, I’d be too afraid that a device like that would fail just when I need it most. There is no need of “backing up” or “syncing” a paper planner. True, I could lose it, but the same could be said for an electronic device on top of the chance that it could malfunction or run out of battery power when I need to access something important.

I do own an iPod Touch which is basically an iPhone without the phone. I can get online with it so long as there is a WiFi network. And I do use this as well as an online calendar in conjunction with my paper planner. Here’s how.

All of my main planning and lists go into my Filofax. I have a personal size (currently the Kendal) that stays home. This houses my future dates, plans and calendar pages as well as lists, notes, phone numbers, projects and various other information that I don’t need to carry with me all the time. I also use a Slimline Guildford for carrying all of the things I do need with me at all times. This has six months worth of monthly pages, three months worth of week-on-two-pages inserts, phone numbers I would need with me at all times (emergency contacts, doctors and services), important notes and projects I’m actively working on.

Every week – usually Sunday evening – I go through my upcoming week and update all information as needed in my planner. I also input my schedule into my Google calendar which is shared with my husband and a close friend of mine. I add anything else to my Google calendar that is in my planner and which is not already in the online calendar. In my planner, I keep track of what is online by placing a check mark next to the item so that I don’t have to waste my time looking at all events in both calendars to see what’s up-to-date and what’s not. It’s a little extra work but it does the job. My Touch has a calendar feature that automatically syncs with my Google calendar. I rarely use this to check my calendar, but I always carry my Touch with me so that if on the off chance I don’t have my planner with me and I need to check my schedule, I can do that. I usually don’t add anything to my Touch calendar or my Google calendar without first putting it in my planner. I don’t want to miss anything important and since my planner is my main calendar everything gets written in there first. If I need to add something to my Touch and don’t have my planner with me, I’ll put it into my notepad application and add it to my planner later. Having my appointments in my Google/Touch calendar also serves as a backup for my planner – should I lose my planner (the unthinkable!), I can look online for my appointments. My lists I could easily generate again when they float into my head.

I also use Google Docs for some of my lists. In my planner I keep lists of things I want to buy, things I want to blog about, things I want to write about in my journal, long-term things to do and various notes I want to keep for future use. But there are some lists that are too long to keep in my planner – my book list, a list of music to put on my iPod, upcoming movies I want to see, etc. Most of these lists deal with media-type things. I keep these lists in a Google spreadsheet which is updated as needed and downloaded as a Microsoft Excel document on a monthly basis. This way I have my own backup separate from Google. It also gets backed up on a thumb drive, as does every document on my computer. Again, probably more than I need to do, but it serves the purpose and I will always have a copy should something go wrong with one copy. If I need to jot down a title or movie when I don’t have access to my Google docs, I have a place in my planner for that. That list gets transferred to the master list in Google docs when I remember to do so.

Many might see my system as a bit complex and too much work. But my melting pot of electronic services and my paper planner suits me well. I can use what I love and have the convenient access to many things via the web and electronic devices. Finding a balance between the two can be difficult, especially because there are so many options out there for both paper planners and electronic devices. But to use what fits your style is indeed the best way to go.