Happy New Year, everyone! Here is my first confession of 2013: I’m a planner geek-nerd-obsessive. I love the tactile and aesthetic delights of a paper planner, as well as the practical benefits. Opening a new planner on January 1 is something I start looking forward to weeks before the calendar page actually flips. I absolutely agree with Daven Allen (productivity guru and author of Getting Things Done, or “GTD” to his many disciples), who believes that if we are always trying to remember what we have to do (or want to do), and when we need to do it, then our brain will never be free to tend its higher purposes: creative work, art, serenity.
For me, planning is not about “productivity” in the material sphere: working more to make more money, to “get ahead,” or get more stuff. It’s about making sure my precious days reflect my life priorities. In addition to doing good professional work (writing, speaking, teaching), I also want to keep a harmonious household, and have time to focus on my family.
Beyond that, there are the “idle pleasures” that make us whole people. For me, these include knitting and sewing, learning French, practicing violin, studying birds, and walking aimlessly through the woods. A good planning system keeps me from frittering my days away mindlessly, and gives me a kind of creative productivity that allows more freedom and joy in my days.
For years, I’ve been pretty much in love with my Franklin-Covey planner, and after so much use the green leather binder that houses the planning pages has become worn and inviting. So for me it’s kind of a big deal that this year I’ve decided to “date other planners,” and am trying the Planner Pad, recommended to me by Waverly Fitzgerald, author of the meditative book, Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life (which I reviewed here).
The Planner Pad breaks through the simple linearity of most calendars. You can find out all about it on their website, but essentially it works like this: Each week appears on a two page spread. The top third of these pages is divided into seven columns that you label as you choose–each column representing a particular project, role, goal, or theme in your life. These can change week to week, as needed.
Possible labels I might use include: Current Book Project, Tangled Nest, Speaking/Teaching, Household/Family, Meal Planning, Garden, Radiant Health, Craft/DIY, Personal, and perhaps a column for Dreams/Wild Imaginings (even hardcore GTD-ers have such a category, which they label “Someday/Maybe”). I suppose “Other” would also be a useful category.
In each column, you record the most important things you want to accomplish, or anything else you want to remember to think about regarding that theme. In the middle third of the pages, the columns are labeled Monday through Sunday, and in the blank lines underneath, you create your daily to-dos, drawn from the intentions written above. The bottom third is for specific appointments and time-based scheduling.
This all seems more organic to me than a typical planner, and full of possibility for focusing more clearly on priorities, dreams, and intentions, rather than becoming lost in daily to-do lists. There are also full-page month views, planning calendars for the coming three years, and plenty of blank pages for notes (these I’ve index-tabbed, and use for things like lists of books I want to read, films I want to see, gift ideas for friends and family, quotes and words I’d like to use in my writing, and a record of birds seen in my yard).
The Planner Pad ain’t pretty. It comes in a rather clinical black or green, with a plain, executive look. In an attempt at aesthetics, they created a colorful “Seasons” version, which isn’t at all to my taste. Even so, I find that with my colored inks, my post-it notes-to-self, and the images I always tape into my planner, this notebook is already starting to look quite Lyanda-ish.
Poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” What tools do you use in seeking an answer to this question? As a planner nerd, I’d love to hear about them.