I am incredibly organised; like Home Edit Organised but I’ve recently realised that I’ve never completed a whole year in a planner. Not once since I was eleven. That’s 21 years of failing to complete a planner.
2021’s New Year’s Resolution is to pick a new planner, start it on 1st January and complete it on 31st December – NO MATTER WHAT!
So I decided to look into some of the reasons people can’t complete a planner. Surely it can’t just be because I haven’t found Planner Peace (although, that could definitely be a factor!)
I’ve also created a free printable Planner Calendar you can download and use in your planner for the month of February. Details at the bottom of the post!
5 Reasons Why You Can’t Complete A Planner – Youtube Mini Series
1. Your plans aren’t Practical?
For as long as I can remember I have always had LOTS of things “To-Do” and I felt like I had to write them all down in lists to ensure I didn’t forget them. Then I looked at those loooonng lists and panicked: “how do I get these all done today?!” I used to sit there procrastinating about it all day and really struggle to actually get anything done. Then I felt rubbish and unproductive.
None of that was practical. There are not enough hours in the day and it was utterly ridiculous to even think I could manage that. Sometimes my brain forgets that I need to eat, sleep and have breaks. I am only human.
So why did I plan like I was a Magical Robot Wizard Mary Poppins? Could it be that I felt like now I am a small business owner, I am not actually working unless I am making? Fear of failure? That I NEEDED control in my life and after a year of having no control over most things, I needed to do EVERYTHING, NOW! Maybe if I do more, I will feel like I am better and have achieved something?
All I was doing is cementing negative feelings by trying to do too much and not planning practically.
So what do I do?
I looked at my list of tasks and PRIORITISED (re-arranged) them to their due date. Find your monthly or weekly pages of your planner or print out a blank monthly (or weekly) planner and just add your tasks on their due date. Then you get a visual representation of what needs to be done and by when. I like to give myself a day or two leeway so I’ll put the due date down as one or two days before depending on the task.
Now you can break down your tasks by week or by day, try them both, see which suits you best.
Next, I TIMEBLOCKED. I looked at what needed to be done on Monday and I blocked out time in my planner. If there wasn’t time to achieve everything, I decided if something could be [realistically] moved to the next day or would I make the choice to work a little longer that day to get it done. If I knew I had to do the same tasks at the same time on the same day every week, I blocked it in.
In order to ensure your planning is practical, you need to work out how long it will actually take to complete those tasks. If it’s a task you have never done before, you might not know the answer and that will only come from doing it. But if you need to do that task in the future, it’s a good idea to time how long it took to complete and keep a note.
2. The Illusion of Motivation
Am I motivated 100% of the time? No. I like to think that I am, but if I plan to be motivated every hour of every day, I will fail to achieve my goals and burn out. Why? Because some tasks just suck and no one is motivated to actually do them. Motivation isn’t a switch you can just turn on. Motivation is the by-product of discipline and determination.
Referring back to Practical Planning, you need to set goals and tasks that are realistic to your current self: not your super-planner future self. You need to manage your own expectations of what you can achieve right now, today, this week, this month. You need to be determined to complete that task and disciplined enough to complete it even when it sucks. If the expectations that you set for yourself are too high you will lose motivation to actually achieve them which risks making you feel rubbish and abandoning your planning.
Sometimes I look at my tasks for the day (even after prioritising) and think “Really? I have to do all of this?!” So every morning, I make my mug of coffee, sit at my desk and say to myself. “You’ve got this!”
3. You’re a Perfectionist
I am a perfectionist. I always have been. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with being a perfectionist, but I wonder if I have abandoned planners in the past because something ruined my perfect plan.
2020 has taught me that ANYTHING can happen.
So how do you continue to plan when disruptions and unforeseen circumstances throw a spanner in the works?
I’ve discovered that my planner has to be visually pleasing to me in order to continue planning in it. I HATE crossed out and cancelled plans. Personally for me, crossing out something can ruin the entire aesthetic which likely leads to me abandoning it. So I don’t plan in my planner too far ahead as the way 2021 is going, I’ve already found myself having to cancel plans. I like to keep a “rough” plan on paper and put more details about that plan in my planner. You could use any format to do this, paper and pen, online planners, or an OLD abandoned planner you have lying around the house.
I have a Key. Not a physical key, a Key of symbols that allows me to make changes to tasks in my planner without upsetting the aesthetic. Feel free to use this one, or create your own!
4. You’re Impatient
I am not a patient person [ask Dave]. I don’t like to put effort into doing things that don’t manifest instant results. I’ve probably missed out on many opportunities in my life because of this.
However, last year when I lost everything I knew, I took a giant leap of faith and started a small business from the ground up. I knew nothing about running a business and had lots to learn. Now I have many daily tasks that I have to complete which may not return results for weeks or even months.
I’ve had to try and put my impatience in a box and hide it away. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anything done and my business would not continue to grow.
So what have I done to ensure that when planning I don’t get impatient or disheartened with the tasks I need to do?
I COLOUR CODE. Everything. You can then flip through your weekly or monthly pages and see lots of BLACK (instant results, everyday things) and TURQUOISE (short to medium term results) which will help counteract the impatience (and maybe the frustration) of seeing BLUE AND PURPLE tasks. See if it works for you. Choose colours you love and avoid red – your brain will automatically associate it with negative results.
5. Is your Process really working?
Last year, during the lockdown, I gave Bullet Journaling ago. Big mistake. I lasted 6 weeks. I had a lovely grid notebook and I spent hours making it look pretty and perfecting every page. NOT PRACTICAL. Not in the slightest. This taught me that I don’t have the time to draw page layouts and date and number every page and that horizontal planning really doesn’t work for me.
Don’t get me wrong, some people thrive from Bullet Journaling! Their creations are beautiful and I often find myself admiring them on Instagram. But is Bullet Journaling right for me? No.
So you need to establish what it is you NEED from a planner. It’s purpose in your life. I quickly worked out that I NEED a vertical weekly layout that is timed so I can input my time blocks. This would predominantly be my work planner. I also NEED a daily section where I can ramble to my heart’s content about my day and offload everything before I go to bed. I am a fountain pen user so I NEED a fountain pen friendly paper that won’t bleed or feather. I NEED the size of the planner to be A5 or B6 as I’ve tried A6 and slim planners and hated them. Finally, I knew exactly what I needed to give myself a fighting chance at completing a planner.
So I did some serious research into planners late last year. I nearly bought a couple but there were little things about them that niggled me. So I didn’t buy them. Finally, in December I discovered the Japanese Planner Brand: Hobonichi Techo. *ALL HAIL THE HOBONICHI*
Of course, there are a few options that you can choose from; A6, A5, slim, a year in one book, or a year in two books, weekly pages only… there’s probably too many to list! So I researched harder and I spent what felt like hours reading other people’s reviews and their NEEDS from a planner.
And I found MY PLANNER. The Hobonichi Techo Cousin. It is an A5, Full-year in one book, that has separate Monthly, Vertical Timed Weekly and Daily sections. The paper is Tomoe River and Fountain pen friendly. I think I have found Planner Peace! *touch wood*
Of course, I had to make myself a beautiful leather cover to put my planner in.