A little known fact about me – I love planning. It’s like scrapbooking or sticking stickers on my third grade composition book, but I get to say that it’s productive.
Win, win, right? Well. It depends.
Here’s the thing. I am all about using a planner to get my ideas down on paper, and to find clarity and direction. For me, writing is a huge tool in how I communicate, and in how I think things through. So when it comes to goals, projects, or to-do’s, writing helps me escape the “overwhelmed” state I can get into with all of those things floating in my head. It helps me be more productive…until, it doesn’t.
A planner is a great tool. But it also a great way to procrastinate on actually doing something.
Example A – a well-planned, busy day in my Erin Condren planner:
When I purchased my first “grown up” planner (luxury planner? I don’t even know) from Erin Condren, that thing was my lifesaver. I could have all of my assignments, appointments, and meetings for school nicely arranged in morning, day, and night. Having my day split this way was helpful, because I wasn’t micro-scheduling tasks and overwhelming my schedule when things took longer than anticipated. Having the weekly view allowed me to see when things were coming up, so it nipped my procrastinator self in the bud because I was actively looking at the deadlines I had.
That all went well, until… It didn’t.
Example B – a decorated but untouched planner that symbolizes a life of overwhelm:
I started working full-time while pursuing full-time school. My days were long and hectic. I convinced myself that I didn’t have time to write things down, and that there was no real space to separate work from school. I was constantly overwhelmed, working 12 hour days at times, and needing to cram in an assignment when I got home.
And then, I was laid off. Everyone was actually, as the contract we were working under fell through. We had thirty days’ notice. I thought I had lined up another job, because the interview went great, but then there was nothing but silence… And I was unemployed.
The Erin Condren planner did not work well in this situation either. Admittedly, it worked better with a less-packed schedule, but at that point all of my goals and achievements felt out of place. How could I be saving up money when I was just barely getting by? The notice was poorly timed, so my savings I had put to the side for school (and intended on replenishing by the end of the semester) was drained.
Then there was a falling through with the people my boyfriend and I were living with… So suddenly, we had to get a place of our own. Amidst the chaotic transition, I sought to find order with the Day Designer.
The Day Designer was perfect for me, as I had a packed semester, and it helped coordinate my various meetings and events that I had to tend to, on top of my usual assignments. I saw each day as a new opportunity, which was helpful as I was still feeling pretty down about not having a job.
Example C – The very productive Day Designer working hard with Amy’s schedule:
After that semester I got a part-time job, but the hours were all over the place with an hour commute. I needed full-time work with a consistent schedule. So I decided to postpone my last semesters in hopes of obtaining full-time work, and finishing up school part-time.
In the midst of that, the Day Designer become barren, just like the Erin Condren:
Again I was not using my planner, and was in a state of overwhelm. Nothing really felt consistent in my days, so trying to plan for things just didn’t really work. In fact, this went on for a while, when I decided not using a planner was for the best (plus they’re expensive to not use!) and stuck to journaling my thoughts. I would occasionally write to-do lists in there that would get half done. I would write down goals and try to plan with little success.
This is where planning with procrastinators and perfectionists can become a vicious cycle. I felt I needed a plan to go forward, but also felt like I didn’t have enough time or the “right” materials to plan. The tasks built up in my head, creating a state of overwhelm where I constantly felt busy, but was never really getting anything done.
I tried to go back to Erin Condren and the Day Designer, but found they did not fit me anymore. And then I read this post – 7 Reasons You Can’t Stick to Your Planner. And it hit me. With different planners not working, it wasn’t the planners’ fault. The common denominator was me. I needed to sort this out with myself.
What I learned was that in many cases, I was using planning as a form of productive procrastination. I felt productive by creating plans on how to lose weight and when I’ll start, on how to start a blog and when I’ll start… I didn’t just jump into things I was interested in. I would dedicate my time and energy into the planning phase, and then have no energy left over to actually do the things I wanted to do. The dissatisfaction with writing things down but not achieving was what distanced me from the planners that were once so helpful. I was stuck being overwhelmed.
With all of this in mind, I decided to try to get a fresh start. I bought a Passion Planner, and made a few ground rules for myself before even writing in it.
This planner was going to be practical first, pretty later. Yes, I love washi-tape and stickers and making it look as cute as possible… but with this came the sense that the planner had to be perfect. The washi-tape had to be aligned right. The stickers had to coordinate together. My handwriting needed to be better. I decided I would abandon “pretty” and “perfect” as priorities.
Example D – My basic layout for a busy week in my Passion Planner:
I still insert a sticky note, sticker, or fancy writing here and there. But overall, I value the versatility the planner has. If I have a free week, I can choose to schedule tasks, or just check them off in a to-do list like fashion. If my week is packed, I can have my schedule put in and assign the tasks around it to ensure it gets done. If I am having an existential crisis, I can flip to the goals in the front, and evaluate if the ones I am working on really align with what means the most to me. A lot of the time when I’m feeling drained, what I’m dedicating my time to and what I find most meaningful are vastly different. So I try to keep my efforts aimed in the right direction, to lead the most meaningful life I can.
There are scribbles and arrows and x’s and I still didn’t get everything done. But I definitely got much more done than I would have had I not written it all down. This was also a “no-more procrastination” week where I committed to trying to tie up all my loose ends. I’d say I was mostly successful, and will likely have another week like that again, to just hunker down and get all the silly stuff out of the way.
Overall, I’ve stuck with the Passion Planner so far. I had a few weeks here and there where I went back to my old habits, and didn’t write anything in. But I’ve been working on being consistent with it, so I do not lose sight of what I want to achieve. Each Sunday I dedicate time to get a basic outline of the week. It doesn’t have to be a time-consuming, washi-tape affair. And I can focus more on the doing than the planning itself.
What do you think? Have you found planners helpful in avoiding procrastination, or have they hindered you in taking action?
Also, if you’re interested in utilizing these planners, let me know! I would love to host a giveaway (either mid-year or at the end of 2018) to help you get on track!