Those of us who use planners do so because we like to stay organized and/or keep track of our lives. In order to use our planners to their maximum potential, we often need to sit down with the planner and map out where we need to be and what needs to be done. Regardless of whether or not we’re organized by nature, we need to make the time to organize and plan. Being organized and staying on top of everything that goes on in our lives takes a lot of effort.
I add items to my planner as they come up. For instance, I add tasks and appointments to the corresponding days as they arise. This way, I don’t have to remember what I need to add to my planner when I sit down with it hours later. However, there are those times when I do sit down with my planner and sort through all of the information I have in there. I do this as a way to reorganize what’s in there so that nothing is missed. I also transfer information—from my online calendar (shared with my husband) to my planner and vise versa, from one section to another, from the monthly calendar layout to the daily layout, etc. I make time to do this weekly. Some weeks (at the end of the month) I incorporate my monthly planning.
At the end of each month, I get my work schedule for the following month. Typically, I know when I’m working; the schedule created for us tells us who is covering the (library) reference desk at any given time. So if I had put in for a vacation day, I will note that in my planner at the time I submit my request. When the monthly work schedule comes out, that’s when I fill in the rest of my work schedule.
First, I add my schedule to my monthly pages.
Then, I add my schedule to the daily pages.
Once my work schedule it set in my planner, I add it to my Google Calendar. I then put a check mark next to the item in my planner so that I know it’s been added to my online calendar. My planner is my go-to hub that contains my life. But I also use Google calendar so that my husband and I can share our events. Putting the check mark next to the appointment in my planner lets me know that it’s already in the Google calendar—I don’t have to check every week to see if an item is listed there. My weekly planning sessions help me to make sure that everything that’s listed in my planner is also listed in the online calendar as well.
Each Sunday afternoon or evening (whichever works best for me that day), I conduct my weekly planning session. I pull out my planner and bring up my Google calendar. Although the monthly and daily inserts are a perfect combination for me, I find that for planning the upcoming week, I need to see the week view. It helps me to map out what time I have free during the week to do certain activities (like visit my mother, attend a yoga class, and decide which exercise routines can be done what days in order to do something different each day). Rather than buy a weekly set of inserts that would only be used for this purpose, I start my weekly planning by mapping everything in my Google calendar.
My work schedule would already be there, so from this point, I will add any other appointments that I need to do during the week. I have a few different color-coded calendars so that I can easily see what type of appointment I have during a specific time. (Work is red and is usually non-negotiable; exercise is green and can be moved to any other free space, for example.) The entire Google calendar is synched with my phone so that I can see it on the go if I can’t easily access my planner. It’s just another way to view my schedule.
Once I have mapped out when I will schedule my other items for the week, I add them to my planner pages.
Once that’s completed, I cross off the task of “Schedule” for that Sunday and add it to the following Sunday so that I remember to do it.
In order to make sure that all future items that are written in my planner have also made it to the online calendar, I go through the remaining pages of my planner and add in any items in my planner that don’t have a check mark to the online calendar, putting a check mark next to the item once it’s online.
Anything that is tentative is written in pencil; the online version gets a “TBD” (to be determined) next to it to note that it’s not yet written in stone.
I should note here that I use a compact binder, so I only keep 3 full months of daily pages in my binder at any time; going through all of the pages in my planner isn’t as daunting a task as it sounds. And since I do this every week, it’s rare for me to have more than a few items to add to my online calendar each week. The entire process takes maybe a half-hour.
I also keep a year’s worth of monthly pages in my daily planner for future planning.
There are those times, however, when my weekly planning sessions take a little longer, simply because I’m also incorporating my monthly planning sessions. Because I use a compact binder and keep only 3 full months of daily pages in my planner, I have to rotate my pages monthly.
The rest of the year’s inserts live in my past/future inserts binder. Usually once I’ve added the next month’s work schedule to my planner is when I’ll rotate out the oldest month and add the newest month. I do keep a week’s worth of pages of the previous month for reference purposes. So all in all I’ll have the last week of the previous month, the current month, and the following 2 months.
When it comes time to rotate my inserts, I gather my daily planner and my past/future inserts binder.
In the example below, I’m rotating April out and July in.
First, I pull the third month’s daily inserts (July) out of my inserts binder and add any items that are noted on the monthly pages that are in my compact binder.
Since I use my monthly inserts for future planning, I have to add any of those items to my daily sheets when I rotate them into my compact binder, otherwise I may miss something.
Once those are set to go, I pull the oldest inserts (April, minus the last week) out of my compact binder and add those into my inserts binder.
You can see in the above picture that I have a daily page marker to mark where the oldest inserts go when they’re done and where the future month begins. This eliminates the need to flip through pages and pages of inserts to find what I need.
Once the oldest inserts are out (April), I add in the newest inserts (July).
So my current inserts show May, June, and July tabs and pages.
Each monthly tab has a monthly to do list.
When it comes time to rotate inserts, anything that was not completed on the old month’s list (April) will be transferred to the next month’s list (May).
Having future monthly to do lists allows me to spread out some tasks. This is especially helpful for financial items, as it keeps my spending in check.
The process then starts all over again the following Sunday.
I don’t do much in the way of daily planning. As I said above, I add tasks and appointments as they come up, so there’s not a ton of planning to be done on a daily basis other than adding in new items that arise throughout the day, and those items will get added to whatever day it needs to be done, the current day or otherwise.
I do, however, track what I’ve eaten and anything else I feel is important to note.
I try to do the same on weekends, but I’m limited on space since both Saturday and Sunday are on the same page.
I also do an annual planning session. Each July or August, I buy my inserts for the upcoming year. Once I’ve received them, I will write down birthdays and anniversaries and holidays. At this time, I will rotate my monthly inserts—so come August of this year, January through June 2014 will come out and be added to my inserts binder. January through June 2015 will be added to my compact binder. July through December 2015 will be added to my inserts binder. Therefore, my compact will hold July 2014 through June 2015. In January I will rotate again, pulling July though December 2014 out of my compact binder and adding July through December 2015. You can read more about my annual planning session here, though my archive system has changed since then.
I hope this is clear—I had trouble organizing this post in my mind since it’s really a planning cycle and not a linear start-to-finish process. I wasn’t sure where to start so that it flowed seamlessly and still made sense. Please let me know in the comments if something isn’t clear.