You bought in.
You grabbed all the supplies. Set up your planner step by step.
You crafted your goals. You detailed your habits.
You did everything your planner asked you to do. The initial pages were in perfect order.
But then all those magical promises about organizing your life?
It just didn’t deliver.
And worse, you wind up blaming yourself. After all, if you were doing it right, it would work, wouldn’t it?
What if the problem isn’t you?
Here are 4 reasons that your paper planner fails you:
1. It’s too awkward to carry it around everywhere.
Planners that sit around don’t serve you. Yet, many planners are huge, bulky things that are a major hassle to carry around.
Planning is something that happens in real time. So when you schedule an appointment, or scribble a thought, it needs to be at your fingertips. (After all, if you could remember all the things, you wouldn’t need a planner in the first place. )
Planners come as sleek as passport size to as big and bulky as an old school dictionary. When you choose a journal or planner, it has to be portable. If you don’t carry a briefcase every day, then go pocket sized. If you regularly sport a purse or messenger bag, you can go larger, but definitely not heavy and thick.
Choosing something that’s convenient to carry everywhere means you have what you need when you need it–which is wildly more effective than having it sit back at your place gathering dust.
2. Your planner is too much like Sheldon Cooper.
The reason analog planners can be more effective than digital ones has to do with their emotional quotient. Beauty, color, handwriting, and art connect with us at a deep level. They engage our emotion.
But, if your planner is limited to the facts and figures of appointments and task lists without feeling–much like a favored character on The Big Bang Theory–then it has no power. You may as well just log things into your phone and call it a day.
The saying goes that “logic produces reason, but emotion produces action.”
If you want your planner to affect your life, it needs emotion. This can come through art, gratitude, the physical act of handwriting, inspirational quotes, vision casting, or a focus on “a why that makes you cry.”
Planners become impotent when they lack emotion because that’s the piece that sparks the action.
3. Your planner triggered a stationary addiction.
Who doesn’t love pens, paper, stickers, ink pads and dividers? With the vast array of planning supplies in gorgeous patterns and formats, it’s easy to run up an embarrassing credit card total.
The thing is that planner manufacturers know this about us. So much so that paper products for planning are a multi-million dollar a year industry. There are even huge conferences revolving around it.
Here’s what’s insidious about all of the clever products:
Our brain’s job is to keep us safe. So, it would rather focus on anything other than doing what we need to do to stretch ourselves to achieve our dreams–including spending hours deciding what plannner accessories to buy.
Our brains will gladly focus on whatever is new and shiny rather than doing the work of outlining the steps we need to take to get where we want to go.
It feels way safer to shop, than to think about things that will push us out of our comfort zone. Plus we get to rationalize that shopping is part of the planning process.
Remember, the first step in getting healthy is admitting you have a problem.
4. Your planner doesn’t think the same way you do.
All of us are wired differently. We have unique gifts. Different ways of seeing the world.
Plus, our daily rhythms can be radically diverse. A single dad has a much different schedule and task list than a med student. (Though I’m pretty sure it requires the same amount of hours.)
A tool you are going to use daily to manage everything has to fit your life. Which is why one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. If your planner forces you to enter information in a format that doesn’t fit, there will be huge swatches of it that just aren’t relevant.
But it’s more than just fitting your life, it also has to think like you do.
Planning is putting thoughts to paper. If the planner lays out things in a way your brain doesn’t like, then it’s never going to harmonize with what you want to accomplish in the world.
Here’s the thing…
The main reason daytimers and planners will never solve your organization problems is that:
It isn’t the planner that gets you organized. It’s your brain, your eyes, and the paper.
Paper can be a powerful tool in getting things out of our heads so we can see them. And that shift from internal to external processing is a game-changer in getting control of our lives.
When we pull out a blank piece of paper, we can:
- Mindmap an idea.
- Pour out the random tasks pinging around in our head into a cogent list.
- Remind ourselves of what’s important.
- Journal jumbled thoughts until they become clear.
- Diagram a plan.
- Spill gratitude in the margins.
- Vision board where we want to go.
- Hatch mark habits to see progress.
- Add color, artistic touches, and inspirational quotes to engage our emotion.
Which is why the most powerful planner is just a simple notebook with blank pages.
Because it gives you the freedom to not only think on paper, but to keep those thoughts, scribbles, and connected dots for reference later.
For sure, pre-printed planners can work like training wheels. But if they aren’t working for you, it isn’t that your planning is bad. It’s that the tool doesn’t match your need.
You don’t need a better planner. You need something that helps you think, visualize, and remember..
Now, look at you getting organized!
Doesn’t it feel great to have a tool that actually does what you need it to? To feel more organized in your head because your brain has a place where it can process the things that stress it out?
You have pages that only do what you need them to because you created them. You didn’t have to stress trying to pour your life into someone else’s boxes.
(And maybe your desk is even a little lighter because it doesn’t have an unused planning tome sitting on it anymore.)
Most importantly, you now no longer work for your planner.
Your planner works for you.
Which is what it was always meant to do.