How to Use a Planner - Four Keys to Success

How Use a Planner – 4 Keys to Success

I’m sure you’ve heard how much a planner can help you. But every time you try it goes well for a few weeks and then life intervenes. Before you know it, another year has passed and another planner is sitting on a shelf gathering dust.

There are so many planner systems out there promising you life changing results, that it’s easy to be overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed and I’m an avid and experienced planner.

But there are really only four pretty simple keys to using a planner successfully:

How to Use a Planner - Four Keys to Success

1 – Create a planner habit

A planner is just a tool, it is not a magic wand.  Just like a hammer can’t drive a nail without someone using it, a planner can’t help you with your life unless you use it.

If you have never used a planner before, or you have previously struggled with using it consistently, read my post Don’t Start By Buying a Planner.  If you already have a planner, that’s fine, don’t freak out, but still go read the post 🙂

There are three things you need to start the routine – looking at your plan as you start your day, looking at your plan during the day, and spending time at the end of each day with your planner.

Part of creating that habit is to give yourself some grace.  Have a day that you didn’t look at your planner once but just ran around putting out fires? Still look at your planner that evening, or the next morning.  Don’t let one hiccup totally derail your intentions. 

Once you are consistently using your planner every day, you can move on to the bigger picture of establishing your goals.  But if you start with the goals, you risk burning yourself out.

2 – Understand the techniques

There are actually some powerful tips and tricks to using a planner.  Just like you wouldn’t try to bake a cake for the first time without a recipe, it’s worth taking a look at some of the ideas that are out there.  There are all sorts of books written about how to be more productive and more efficient, but most of them repeat the same things (because they work).  I have a some posts about some of the more powerful tricks.  Don’t try to do all of these!  Check out what sounds helpful to you and try it.

If you are generally overwhelmed, learn about the Power of Routines and  How to Chunk Your Schedule to Have More Peace.

If a gigantic to do list is threatening to derail you, read Overwhelmed By Your To Do List? for some great tips to get that list under control.

Need some help prioritizing all those things in your day or on your list?  There are two main methods I use: The Eisenhower Matrix and The 80/20 Rule.  

If you have trouble running out of steam to get through the day you’ve planned,  check out 4 Steps to Use Your Energy Wisely.

If you have trouble with distractions taking you off course, check out How to Maintain Focus.

3 – Know what you want to do

Once you have established a good planning routine (and not before then!), it’s time to make sure that all that you are doing is actually what you want to be doing.  This is more than simply looking at what all your friends are doing and trying to do that too.  This is thinking deeply about what you want your life to look like day to day and in the long term.  You will need to choose which things you want to do badly enough to spend the time to make them happen.  You will also need to be very clear about your goals and be able to break them down into steps that you can put in your planner.

I gathered all the steps to goal setting into one post – Simple Steps to Goal Setting.  It covers knowing what you want to do, defining your goals, making them super specific, and making a plan to achieve them.

4 – Don’t try to do too much

Once you start setting goals, it’s likely you will try to do too much.  You will know this has happened when all of sudden this is all SO NOT FUN anymore.  When this happens, think carefully about all that you are doing.

If you feel like the laundry or the dishes are ruining your ability to get things done, check out Respect for Mundane Tasks.

If there’s just too much on your plate and it’s not what you really want to be doing, check out How to Say No.

If there’s never any down time in your schedule, you will eventually burn out, so you will want to know how to create margin.

And finally, make sure you ask yourself Should Maximum Productivity the Goal?  You are just using a planner here, not trying to become a machine.  There is value in being you.  The purpose of a planner is to help you bring what is uniquely you into the world.  You are worth more than what you achieve.

Are you ready to start using a planner?

Do you have any questions? I’d love to help!

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