How to Pick a Good Planner
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Since many people are currently shopping for a planner for the new year, it seems appropriate to share this article by Rodger Constandse, which was originally part of a week-long series on “From the Desk of Janet Barclay” in 2010.
I’m sure you’ll find Rodger’s guidelines helpful, whether for yourself or your clients.
Hugh Young, a physics professor from Carnegie Mellon University, said,
Often there is an easy way and a hard way to do a job; the easy way sometimes involves nothing more than having the right tools to use.
Having the right planner can make a huge difference in how well and how efficiently your productivity system works.
Using a less than ideal planner will usually create friction and make things seem more difficult than they need to be, while the right planner will feel much more smooth and useful.
But the real key is that there is no one planner that will work equally well for everyone, because we are all different and have different situations, preferences and needs.
Here are some of the key things that your planner should help you do:
Your planner should help you collect and capture all the stuff that you need to do so you can keep track of it outside of your head, including your to-do’s and appointments.
You may also need to use a few other tools to help you truly collect and capture everything. For example, you can use your email client to capture emails that you need to respond to (put them in a special “Respond To” folder to separate them from everything else).
Instead of having to transfer all your emails to your planner, you can just set aside time to respond to email and use your email client to help you keep track of the actual emails.
A good planner should help you organize your projects and tasks in a meaningful way. If you work with multiple projects, a good planner should also help you separate your projects from your tasks.
Separating your projects from your tasks allows you to think about and prioritize your outcomes (projects) independently from your actions (tasks).
As I mentioned before, this is one of the keys for developing a productivity mindset.
A good planner should help you prioritize both your projects and your tasks so you can identify the most important, highest value activities and spend most of your time working on them, instead of wasting your time with low value busywork.
A good planner should help you plan your time. At the very least, you should be able to plan your days, but if you can plan at the weekly level, that’s even better.
A good planner should help you focus single-mindedly on one thing at a time. It should be easy for you to figure out exactly what you should be working on right now and what you need to do next, without getting sidetracked or distracted with irrelevant details that you don’t need to see right now.
If you have a planning tool that feels good to you and can help you do those five things, you’re definitely on the right track.
What are some of your favorite time management or productivity tools? It doesn’t have to be a planner, it could be anything that saves you time or helps you be more productive.
Photo © HypnoCreative / Crestock
Rodger Constandse is the founder and lead software engineer/architect for Effexis Software, a provider of productivity and business automation software tools, including the Achieve Planner software system.