Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Five Things You Should Consider Before Buying A Planner

Remembering things have never been my strong suit. As my life gets busier, I know I needed more than the nearly constant beeping - mostly ignored - of my cellphone. Digital has its advantages, but it's not for me. A big picture gal, I need to see everything in front of me - writing, chores and errands. I have a satisfactory working system for my homeschool planning which means I only need guidelines and "the next thing" and we're ready to go, but after I'm done I'd like a place to journal about how the day went. I'm planning on using my planner for that. My week needs to be defined, but I still need plenty of writing space. Also, a long section for a to-do list. I decided to go back to paper planners. I haven't used one in years. Being a homeschool mom of three kids of varying ages and starting a freelance writing career, I'm busier than I've ever been.

A quick Google and there's a whole universe of paper planners, from scrap-book style to bare-bones day-of-the-week from thirty years ago. What I thought was going to take half an hour turned into an epic quest rivaling Indiana Jones'. Days and many hours later, I have found my planner.

I found searching for the right planner involves more than choosing from one list at one site. The first step is to consider what kind of planner you prefer. This involves asking yourself some key questions and visualizing what you're going to be using this planner for.

Here are five things you should consider before buying a paper planner:

1. Which style suits you best?
Ring-bound with refills, wire-bound, book-binding. Does a gorgeous cover and personalization à la Erin Condren matter to you? Could you care less about decorating your planner, do you just want some empty lines on good paper? Do you want to buy a whole new one, or keep reusing a cover and just buying refills like Franklin Covey?

2. Which format?
Monthly at-a-glance style planners, weekly vertical, weekly horizontal, plenty of space for to-do lists? Maybe you need to pare down your to-do list and need more space for appointments. Perhaps you're a free spirit and don't mind customizing your own bullet journal?

3. Which budget?
Some planners sure are pretty, but they can cost you a pretty penny. How much are you willing to pay for a paper organizer? Is it worth it if you are motivated enough to use it day in and day out? If it's going to frustrate you because it's so expensive and you're not using it nearly as much you thought you would, you'd be better off starting off with something simpler. Remember, presumably you'll need one yearly. Sometimes it takes a few years to find out which one is your ideal planner.

4. Do you already have a cover lying somewhere in your house?
Chances are, you may have bought one in the past - Day Timer covers and others work with other refills just fine. In my case, after searching around in my own home, I found two covers - one compact one and a Franklin Covey Classic (5.5" X 8.5"). Looking at how small compact was, I knew I couldn't use this. My handwriting is large, and I like to write plenty of notes. I'm keeping the little cover around in case one of my kids wants to use it in the future. It's black and imitation leather, and very usable. The Classic is nice - dark brown and leather, and more importantly, the right size. I decided I needed to at least seriously consider the possibility of using Franklin Covey refills.

The best part is, you may not have to commit to your cover's manufacturer. You could search on Etsy and google "printable planner refills" to build your planner the way you want to.

5. Search on YouTube for planner videos
You'll see people giving reviews of their planners and showing you how they use it. Short of seeing it in person, there's nothing better for size and style comparison than seeing someone holding the planner you're eyeing. Oftentimes the reviewer will show you how he customizes it to fits his own needs. She will show you her categories, how she organizes the planner, and sometimes how to break the rules. Hint: You don't have to write neatly in the space provided, and you can use the margins to jot down quick notes.

All these tips helped me in my discovery of my chosen planner. I haven't received it yet, but realizing how valuable all the information contained in the videos were, I'm thinking of creating my own video showcasing it.