Why everyone needs a planner

Let me start by saying that I am a tech. I have an electronic calendar that syncs with all my devices. I cannot open a computer, phone, or iPad without my entire life sliding together in perfect harmony. But this is not a blog post about how to use Outlook or get more from your Google calendar. This is about having a daily planner.

If I looked at a personality assessment, it would read as follows: “Highly logical and ordered with a touch of chaotic creativity.” In addition to my electronic calendar, I am a doodler who loves a good check list. It is for this reason (or group of reasons) that I firmly believe everyone needs a planner: Whether you are highly creative or just a touch creative, a planner plays a very different role in your life than a calendar. A planner allows you to see your life at a glance and then – when needed – allows you to colour in the actual physical margins of your life.

Each year, people rush to create a series of resolutions that pundits tell us will be discarded by the second week of February every single year. We start with our intentions running high then when it turns out we are the same people we were the year before, our resolutions fall by the wayside and that’s the end of them. But what about some of those resolutions that were important? Like losing weight because your cholesterol is high? Or looking for a new job because your old one is unfulfilling? What then of those? This is where a planner comes in.

Some people use their planner like an agenda with blocked off time for appointments. I don’t. I have an electronic calendar for that. What I use my planner for is to plan.

Let’s say my goal is to run a 5k in April. (It wasn’t but now that I’ve planted that idea in my mind, maybe I’ll give that more thought.) I know that I need to have a training schedule. I work from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm each week day. In HEU, it’s election time, so most of my evenings are spent talking with members about their elections. What does that leave me? If I’m not mindful of my goal, it leaves me sitting on the couch until the end of March hoping I can get it together and magically be able to run 5k in April.

This is where a planner comes in. Between now and my imaginary 5k run is twelve weeks. Because I am not an athletic coach with any training, I am going to rely on Ms. Google to find me someone who can net me a decent training schedule that is some variation of “couch to 5k in 12 weeks.” Armed with someone else’s training plan in place, this is where my planner comes in.

I take their training plan and I put it into my planner. I know Mondays are often very light, as are Fridays. I know Tuesdays start at 5am and end at 9am. If I need to fit 30 minutes of training into a light day, it’s easy. I can stick it anywhere after work. If I have to fit it on a Tuesday which is packed, I have to find a slot and make that a priority space. For me, my walk/run day is at lunch. It’s not perfect and it means I am in sweaty clothes after lunch, but it accomplishes my goal. I can handle one day each week like this.

Because I have this in my planner – and it’s a plan – I know I can’t have lunch with coworkers on a Tuesday. (Unless there’s a pandemic in which case I will just eat with them in 2022.) I can’t take a quick phone call. I can’t run an errand. That’s fine. I know this is a bottleneck day and I can adjust because I planned for it.

Another use for my planner is to take note of important deadlines. I know I have a pageant coming up and I need to look at gowns. I also know I need to buy one. I can look all I want but I must have a decision made by the deadline in my planner. I use my planner for meal plans, which means I don’t overshop, and I use my planner to keep track of things that may impact my goals, like vacations and holidays. I used to use it for birthdays, but Facebook has really taken over this need for me.

In a day of electronic calendars, many people have forgotten than a planner is not just another way to keep track of dentist appointments. A planner is where you plan your goals, your life, and how you will accomplish them.

Just because there’s a pandemic, doesn’t mean you can’t plan your year.