After years of trying out different types of planners, I’ve come to conclusion that there is no one perfect planner.
A planner is only perfect for you given the current circumstances of your life. As your situation changes, so will your planner needs. I’ve made my peace with that.
Last year I used 10 different planners, never being fully satisfied with any one of them. It was simply a reflection of the turmoil in my life. There was probably nothing wrong with the planners themselves.
The one thing I’ve come to realize after 20 years of using planners that no matter what size, shape or binding you decide to use, any planner system should have 5 essential sections. Whether you choose to have it all in one book is entirely your choice.
1. Extra Pages for Notes
I know it seems like the most innovative ideas are sketched out on paper napkins. But, trust me, you don’t want to risk that on a rainy day or, a perpetual coffee drinker.
Even if you have a separate notebook or pad for taking notes, it’s always a good idea to have extra pages in your planner. Post-it’s are a great way to get around this if you’re using a bound book.
This one thing I didn’t really like about the Erin Condren Life Planner. Despite having plenty of room on the weekly pages, the planner comes with only 2 extra note pages at the back.
The best weekly bound planners with extra note pages are the Hobonichi Weeks and the Passion Planner.
I’ve used electronic calendars to scehdule meetings ever since the Blackberry could sync to Outlook. Nevertheless, I always make sure my planner has a calendar because:
- It’s much quicker to check a paper calendar (especially if you’re already talking on the phone)
- I put my to-do lists on my weekly calendar and deadlines on my monthly calendar
- I put in meetings in my weekly schedule, even if it’s already in my phone. I like having a big picture of where I’m mean to be during the week and when I need to schedule follow ups
Nothing beats paper for me!
3. Reference Information
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have some of your reference information handy. I have them written out in both personal and pocket size filofax papers so I can move them in whatever binder I feel like using as an everyday carry.
- Dates: There are some dates that you’ll need to write into your planner every year – registration renewals, insurance renewals. Having all these dates on single piece of paper is good way to make sure none of the dates get missed out as you transfer them every year
- Phone Numbers: Gone are the days we memorize phone numbers any more because they are stored in our cell phones. So if you’re out of battery, you’re stranded. Keep a few important emergency contacts written down.
- Other numbers: Reference numbers, membership numbers, login info and passwords (written in code)
4. Place for loose paper
I know I just love to dump loose paper in my handbag. It’s such a bad habit! But I’m trying to change. In the interest of doing things right, it’s always a good idea to have a place to carry loose paper and receipts in your planner.
There should be one place for dumping them to be processed later. This could either behind a secretarial flap or a pouch but, most importantly, it should be easily accessible.
5. Fun Section
The key to a good planning system is to actually use it regularly. Nobody wants to use a boring, impersonal planner. You have to be happy and comfortable in it.
Even your work planner should have a section where you can doodle, add some color or even stick in a few family photographs. You don’t have to show this section to the world. Just knowing that it’s there will give you a sense of comfort and belonging.