If you read last month’s post about Planner’s vs Journals you’ll know I have quite a few opinions on Planners (If not you can read it here), and I’m firmly in the camp that the best sort of planner are ones that are versatile so you can adapt it to you.
It’s not controversial but in essence if a planner isn’t helping you plan what you need it to, then it’s not going to help you get to your goal, whether it’s big or small, personal or professional. And this is the main reason why I think that planners need to be done in small chunks, as opposed to for a year at a time, as we all know things can change and that way you can adjust.
I should caveat this with I’m not saying that printed or annual planners aren’t helpful. Actually I think they can be brilliant, but usually only when they stick to doing one or two elements. For instance a daily planner that gives you space for time blocks/appointments and a to-do list is pretty simple and will help you with those particular elements. Where I think it falls down is if that daily planner is also trying to help you sort out your food for the day, track your steps and water intake, where you are in your cycle, add in a daily affirmation and record all financial transactions. That may work for one person, but that’s a lot day-in-day-out and leaves little space for something else you might need. Anyway, I digress.
Creating your own planner spreads and trackers is a great way to tailor your planning and see your progress over a set period of time, and whilst some content creators will have you believe these needs to be works of art in their own right actually the basics don’t need to be to bring you joy and serve a really functional purpose. The key here though is serving a purpose - if a tool, layout or tracker isn’t serving you it needs to be adapted so it is. That might mean simplifying what you’ve got or changing the metric you’re tracking.
Telling you that you need to evaluate your planner spreads might seem like I’m giving you another big job to add to your to-do list, but actually I’ve got 5 quick questions for you to help you do just that. And they really are quick - go with your quick-fire initial response and you’ll get the most out of it. Before I launch in to it though I should say I often think of my planner spreads as lots of little elements together, or various blocks I can move around a bit like Tetris, so that’s also how I talk about them. I know not everyone does, and these questions still apply even if you don’t, but just incase it got confusing.
1. Have you filled everything in?
2. Have you enjoyed filling things in?
Yes - it’s been quick and easy and really helped me feel in control - or no? Is it taking too long as it’s too complicated? Maybe you’ve got the information elsewhere so it feels like you’re duplicating it and wasting time. Or is it just not somewhere that’s convenient for you to complete. It’s not that enjoying it is an absolute must, and there will be some elements you find useful but at the same time don’t excite you and that’s pretty common. But you’re more likely to keep it up and use it if it doesn’t feel too much of a chore, and although it might seem obvious and it isn’t a big part of your day, even small things everyday can grind you down and you don’t need to put up with it as after all, it’s yours!
3. How much are you crossing stuff out or replacing information?
If stuff is needing updating or changing regularly then you might need a slightly different process. It’s not that things won’t, or that you shouldn’t do it, but if it’s happening alot maybe there’s a more time efficient way of recording and tracking. For instance if you time block but priorities or appointments are often changing, maybe you start only blocking one day at a time. Or use a digital calendar to block out the hours in advance, but only assign specific tasks the day before.
4. What have you learnt from what you’ve written down?
If are you putting in appointments or time-blocking your day are you referring to it? Are you using your goal to decide what tasks you need to complete, or what information you’re recording? Would it help if you moved two elements next to each other in future as you often compare and view them together?
Moving elements around in your spread is a great way to adapt so it’s quicker and more efficient to fill and use, or it might be that some elements would actually be best on a wall chart where other people can see it too. And remember reflecting on what you’re not writing down as well as what you are is useful too.
5. Is there something missing?
Do you need more space for additional detail, or a new section adding? When you glance at do you get the info you need? Is it colourful enough (for your taste) and it inspires positivity and motivation? Would your goal feel more achievable if you were tracking something else that up until now you’d not thought about?
Don’t get me wrong, planner spreads don’t have to be riots of colour or pattern or full of trackers. It’s your planner and it should be 100% to your taste! But thinking about whether you need a bit of colour coding, or maybe something to make it a little more visually engaging can be a good challenge, and you can always answer no!
I’ve ‘evaluated’ my planner - now what?
Practically, when it does come to making some updates try to keep them simple, generally it’s more about swapping than adding more to do (especially if it’s because something hasn’t worked). And if something is missing or hasn’t worked don’t just assume that adding to your planner is the automatic next step. It might be that for how you’re using it actually a digital tool might work better, or is at least worth a try.
The more you look back and assess your spreads the quicker this will get and the less you’ll need to change or tweak. It’s all a process. And even if your aims change mid-way through - by choice or force majeure - you’ll hone your skills so even starting something totally new will be slicker.