Many of us carry around planners. Unfortunately, only about one in twenty uses it effectively. For many of us it is more effective as a doorstop than as a calendar. Therefore, I feel compelled to write out these simple, easy to follow instructions for the EFFECTIVE use of a planner. For those of you who prefer electronic devices, skip to the last paragraph.
What are the components of an effective planner? Four things are absolutely necessary. They are:
– Month Tabs For The Entire Year
– Daily Pages For Two Months
– A Page Finder To Mark Today
– A Future-Planning Calendar
The most popular size is 8.5″ x 5.5″ (preferred by 80% of users). The month tabs should be two pages each so you actually have enough room to write. The daily pages need to consist of two pages for each day. One side is divided into two columns – one for to-do’s and one broken down into hours for appointments. The other page is simply lined for you to make notes of things that will happen that day or did happen that day. The last page(s) in any planner should be “things beyond the scope of this book” so you will have a place to record ANYTHING, no matter how far into the future it extends.
Your planner needs to be the one-stop-shop for everything you have ever promised anybody that you would do. This includes promises to co-workers, clients, family, friends and even yourself. Yes, you will be mixing business and personal, but you are not schizophrenic – you have one life so have one planner.
Write EVERYTHING down, not just “really” important things, not just business things and not just what is convenient. Write down EVERYTHING! The most significant things to write down are your interrupted interruptions. What is an interrupted interruption? Here is an example – you are talking on the phone with Stanley and he asks you to email him directions. “I’d be happy to” you say, hang up the phone, turn to your computer and begin to send Stanley the directions. Suddenly Josephine bursts into your office screeching, ” Mrs. Peabody is in the lobby and we can’t find her file!” Instantly, Stanley is forgotten and Mrs. Peabody now demands all of your attention. If you remember your forgot Stanley’s directions it ill be on the drive home that night, or when you sit straight up in bed at 3 AM. The moral? ALWAYS take a second to jot down “Stanley directions” on today’s to-do section before turning to the Peabody crisis.
If you will be conscientious about good record keeping, forsaking the illusion that you still have a reliable memory, forsaking the post-it-note habit, and forsaking the piles-of-things-to-do-later system, your productivity will go up and your stress will go down. 95% of the papers on your desk, the post-it’s on your monitor and the pink phone call slips can go straight into the trash. 95% of them are simply reminders. You don’t actually need the paper, you just need the reminder. When you write down what you need to do and when you need to do it, 95% of all that clutter goes directly into the trash/recycle bin. Admit it, that system isn’t working anyway!
Your goal, just like a busy Air Traffic Controller managing hundreds of planes a day, is to have one single radar screen to watch. Not post-its, piles and memory. The average business person has eight different systems for keeping track of what they need to do and where they need to go. How many do you have? Interestingly, this simple paper system was invented by Benjamin Franklin over 200 years ago because he was having trouble keeping track of it all. Ben’s was the best system then and it is still the best system today.
Now, some of you are wondering about those snazzy electronic devices. Studies have shown that it requires more time and more discipline to maintain an electronic system than it does a paper system. Also, at this time, 60% of people who switch to electronic systems eventually switch back to paper. There may come a time when electronic is faster and easier than paper, it’s just not today. I don’t know about you, but I ALWAYS choose the faster and easier method!