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I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different planning systems, and over time I’ve gotten closer and closer to my perfect planner.
The Digital Planning System
It all started with digital planning.
My preferred solution was a combination of Google Calendar for time blocking, and various to-do list apps to keep track of actions.
Google Calendar kept me focused on what I should be doing when.
And Trello helped me plan my life.
But it never quite worked. I hated looking at my phone during meetings at work, and then I forgot to write down key dates or capture actions. Plus, I would spend ages setting up beautiful boards, and then forget to update them.
I should note that I am not one of these people who is glued to their phone all day. I regularly put it away for large parts of the day, unless I’m specifically expecting a call or important message. So, for me, a digital planning system was too easy to ignore.
So I started to look for a paper-based planner.
The Paper Based Planning System
Enter the Spark Planner
I think I came across the Spark Planner (now renamed as the Volt planner) on Kickstarter initially. I really liked the combination of monthly and weekly views, so I backed it. It was my first experience of a paper planning system, and it was a bit of a revelation. I could carry it around with me! I could have it out during meetings and it made me look organised instead of distracted!
However, whilst I liked the size and feel of the Volt planner, I found that tracking my to-do list never really happened and instead I mainly used it for appointments.
I also didn’t use many of the ‘extra’ pages, like the weekly goals or 30 day challenges. Plus the shipping from the USA was prohibitive. So in the end I decided to look for an alternative. The good thing was I now had a bit of a template for what I wanted.
Finding the Passion Planner
When the shipping costs got too high, I started looking around for another planner option – and discovered the Passion Planner.
I promptly fell in love with the cover colours and pictures, and ordered myself one. It turned up, and I was a little shocked at the size – it’s A4 – but soon got used to it. I carry it around in my backpack, and I actually love having all the space to write in.
Mostly what I like about it is that it’s half bullet journal, and half planner. So it’s flexible enough that I can use it in different ways, but I don’t get that terrible intimidation of the blank page.
I usually sit down on a Sunday evening and fill out my plan for the week. The above is a fairly typical week – though I ended up filling this out on Monday, as I was travelling on the Sunday!
How I use the Passion Planner
The blue highlights when I am at work. I jot down my meal plan in the empty space – I love that empty space – and I block out any appointments e.g. the board games.
It’s important to me that it isn’t too ‘pretty’, but I do try and tick things off with a green pen and cross out things I didn’t do in a red pen.
Lots of people love using stickers, and multiple colours – making their planner into a work of art! There are some great examples on Pinterest. Here’s a couple I love:
The key to my planning system is to then carry my planner around with me and make sure I update it as I go.
Here’s the same plan, a week later:
I record any actions in the ‘Work’ or ‘Personal’ To-Do List, but then assign them to a day. This lets me know when things will happen. It also lets me see when I’m running out of time to fit everything in! Effectively, it’s a combination of tick-lists and time-blocking.
I do use the pages at the back for some more colourful spreads:
Truthfully, my handwriting isn’t nice enough to turn my Passion Planner into a photogenic spread! But it’s functional and practical, and I love it.
However, the Passion Planner also comes with a bunch of ‘extra’ pages – like yearly plans, and 30 day reviews. These are designed to help you reflect on the month just gone, or plan out your goals for the upcoming year. But again, I found I just didn’t use them consistently.
At this point, I had used my Passion Planner for three years on the trot. I liked it, but I wondered if there wasn’t something better out there.
So I looked and looked. I considered moleskines, the Erin Condren planner, and more. But then I stumbled on Agendio, which lets you build a customised planner. I spent a good two days figuring out different spreads, and when I finally clicked on the order button my planner cost a cool $75.50 with shipping, which is a crazy price to spend on a planner.
But it’s exactly what I want, and that means a lot.
Will I go with another Agendio in 2020? Well… we’ll have to wait and find out!
How do you plan your week? What is your favourite planning system?