Now that we’re into September it already feels like the year is winding down. With the final wedding planning stretch ahead of me for the next two months, and Thanksgiving and Christmas after that, I know the new year will be here before I know it. That said, I’ve been really taking time now to consider my planner strategy and how it has and hasn’t worked for me in the last year.

School and work, as I’ve discovered over the past year, require different kinds of planning for me. When I was in school it was important to see exactly what time things were happening, be it classes or IEEE chapter meetings or when was the best time to grab lunch and do homework to avoid being up until 1am every night. (Contrary to popular belief, it is definitely possible to be active, go to class, get homework done, and have some semblance of a social life without losing sleeping hours or too many points from your GPA!) Now in the working world, my days are far more flexible, and they almost have to be by design. With a wandering mind I have to be able to shift focus smoothly from one task to the next, let myself decide on the fly what has to get done that day. Some days are more suited to tedious tasks than others, and I have to be able to take advantage of what mindset I happen to be in. Completing projects is also no longer just a checklist of tasks I have to complete. There is much more involved and if my boss had to provide to me a detailed list of tasks to complete she wouldn’t be able to do her job. I have to be able to take a general list of things to do and figure out the in-between steps on my own and set my own due dates for them to ensure that the high-level milestones are met on time. And when something happens to throw the schedule off course, the best I can do is everything in my power to move from stormy seas to glassy waters again and make up for lost time.

I am a big proponent of writing things down with pen and paper, whether it’s ideas or to-do tasks or noting that yes I did in fact pay rent this month already. I tried using my phone calendar for a couple of years and never remembered anything even with notifications going off every 5 minutes for everything. Since I started using fountain pens almost a year ago I’ve been moving more and more things back to paper. Even two years ago, I never went anywhere without carrying a planner with me, one with extra pages for notes and goal setting and a timed schedule where I could plan every minute of the day if I needed to. It worked well for school, but now I need a new planner that is as flexible as I have to be for work (and one that I won’t wind up wasting valuable writing space should I have to move a meeting at the last minute). I’m jumping into the deep-end of the Filofax/Kikki.K planner community and have already started setting it up for next year. This included a front page with some inspiration for the years to come and I wanted to share it with you:

This spoke to me as an engineer who works to help with the invention of the future. The work I do now could someday put humans on Mars. It could send a space probe to our nearest earth-like neighbor. This front page reminds me that while I’m creating the future of the next generations, I also have to remember to create my own personal future, whatever that may be.

What is your perspective on planning? Do you like to plan every minute or take life as it comes? Are you already shopping for next year’s planner?

Anonymous
  • Your planner cover reminds me of something comedian and podcaster Kevin Pollak says: "if you're not creating, you're waiting." The challenge, as you have already seen, is finding slices of time to just... sit... and... create. Good for you finding a way to keep life organized.

  • You had me at planner. I find it quite helpful to write "to do" lists and I even separate them by program. I think it helps you to organize your thoughts and prioritize projects if you write them down. And yes, I am also one of those people who actually draws a checkbox and gets great satisfaction from checking it when a task is complete. I like to stay green as much as possible but have to draw the line when it comes to my notebook. I have too much information to remember to not write it down. 

    All that being said we all know what can happen. You have four important items to complete in your morning and then your phone rings, you open an email or you get an IM and WHAM! You are derailed.