How I use my planners, paper edition

At my proper job

At the end of June, I sat down with my planners at the library (one paper and one digital) and just checked-in. Half of 2022 is already gone by, and have I gotten anything done? After careful consideration, I came up with the answer: sort of.

Part of my work at the library is at an information desk where I answer questions and figure things out, and I like it, but it isn't conducive to having big plans and goals. The goal is to provide help to the community, to help people deal with information needs as they come up, and I am glad to have the work. It feels important.

The other part of my job is in my office, where I choose books, plan digital skills classes, attempt to keep up with some professional literature, and things like that. I have more time in my office now than I did last fall and winter, so I'm trying to plan more and have goals. I read Deep Work last winter, and I've been thinking about that. I want to review my notes, and I've been working on a list of goals for the second half of the year, written out in the back of my planner.



At my side-hustle and at home

I've been playing around with planners for about five years now. I originally chose a Filofax because I have a hard time choosing anything, and with a three-ring binder organizer, I know I can change my mind and switch things up.

I have five tabs in the front for different parts of my work, and the calendar months after. I am honestly considering letting the calendar go. I may just get monthly layouts instead of having the week-by-week. I could just put in blank pages and write in what I need. (I once had a page-a-day, and it worked for the job that I had at the time, but I couldn't have more than half the year in the planner at a time.)

I've spent hours and hours setting up my tabs and changing them. What I have now has worked for me for over a year, so I think I've got it set up the way I need it. I don't decorate my planner very much, but I paste in pictures from magazines or copy out inspiring quotes from literature. (Ex: It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish. -S. Gamgee).


My weird system

I have finally fallen into a pattern with my planners that works for me. I have two digital planners and a paper one. I know, this sounds insane, but I use them for different things. Today, I'm going to focus on the paper planner, and I'll have another post about the digital.

Sometimes these binders are called planners, and sometimes they're called organizers, and I've found that they work for me as an organizer. Each week, I open up that week in my Filofax planner, and I start writing in each day what I've managed to get done that day. Each day is a column numbered 8 to 8 for appointments, but I just ignore the numbers. On Mondays, I write what I want to get done across the bottom. I cross that stuff out if it gets done.

I somehow can't seem to use this planner/organizer as a way to plan ahead. That always fails, and then I'm scratching things out. It's an awful mess. The benefit to me of writing down what actually got done on each day is partly so I can see how it adds up over a week, and to flip through and see months. Also, patterns come up, like recurring tasks that I keep forgetting about.

I originally thought that the five sections in the front would be for planning, but they are more for notes and reference. (BTW, it's five sections because that's the number of dividers that come in a pack.) The notes are a bit of a mess. I used to do a GTD review, but I have lost track of that since the whole pandemic thing started. Now that I seem to have adjusted to the constant higher stress level, I should get back to that so that notes don't just get lost in there.

The reference is how I'm getting the most use. One example is the tags for my blog posts. I like Wix for my blog, but it doesn't show me all of my tags when I'm choosing them for a new post. So, if I type scifi instead of sci-fi, it doesn't show me the original tag. It just makes a new one. So, I wrote down all the tags on a paper in my "blog" section, and I marked that page with a little washi-tape loop at the top so I can always find it. I'm trying to get into the habit of writing down the kind of things that I try to look up frequently, so they'll always been handy and organized.

Right now, I'm using an old calendar insert that's undated. It's one week across two pages, with Saturday and Sunday split between the last column. I write the month and dates in. The binder is the original in A5. Mine is a little different than what I've linked here; it was a limited-edition, I think, for breast cancer research support. It's fuchsia with a hope ribbon detail. I don't see it on their website now. It's a few years old, but it is holding up well. It's a little scuffed and ink-stained, but I don't take care of it besides a shirt-tail polish occasionally.


What I've learned


-I seem to think ahead better in digital lists. Maybe because I can move them around, add and change due dates, and give them multi-color labels. I'm going to write about my digital planners next time.

-Whenever I get something pre-made, like a daily tracker page, it never works for me. I'm using one now that I have to fix each week. I get out five of them for the weekdays and mark out what I don't like. I make new labels to put over them. Appointments aren't of much use to me, so I changed it to time-tracking. I changed "inspiration" to "gratitude." Things like that. I had a Filofax insert last year with lots of extras that I never could make any use of.

-Related to the last, I love Filofax's blank paper and grid-dot paper. You can just make whatever you want. They have recently added stencils, which I like better than stickers. I have a ton of stickers that I never use- they're just like the pre-made pages. I'm definitely getting stencils when I make my next order. I've been picking at The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll for awhile now, to get ideas for how to personalize my pages. I can't get through it because it makes me get ideas for things that I need to do, so I put the book down.


Conclusion: yes, I know, I have a notebook/organizer problem; don't judge me

So, I have a work planner that's basically a weekly agenda and a Filofax for this side-hustle. I also have a Levenger Circa notebook for trying to keep up with little things day-to-day (how I slept, what I ate, whether I had a headache, etc.) Circa is another system that I can take apart and put together in new ways.

Again, I know that this sounds insane, but I use them for different things! For one thing, I rarely bring the library planner home. It's just for that job. I never take my side-hustle planner to work, even to work on things on my lunch break. (Most days, I really need to unplug then.)

I have seen pictures online of people with a whole shelf of planners, so I think that my collection of three Filofaxes and about five Circas is fairly restrained. (The other two Filofaxes are old ones that I'm keeping in case I want something for a project.)

Since my planner use is in constant evolution, this may all change, although I do feel more like it has settled into what I need. I love working in paper and digital.

Even though I like my system, I'd love to hear what anyone else uses. Please comment any tips or recommendations below.

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