My Time Management Journey

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my time management journey

My recent series about Personality Type has sparked some interesting conversations! Several readers have asked about my own time management system. It’s kind of a long story, but here it is. As a point of reference, my personality type is ISTJ.

1984-1992: Various Paper Planners

For over 30 years, I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with paper planners. I bought my first one in 1984, and was delighted to have a full page where I could write my appointments and daily tasks, and I used it faithfully.

1992-1994: Electronic Organizer

Fascinated with technology, in 1992 I purchased a pocket-sized electronic organizer. I liked the fact that it was lighter and more compact than a paper planner, but quickly lost interest when I discovered that the only way to make a simple change in meeting time was to delete the information and then retype it in the new time slot. I subsequently went back to paper.

1994-2004: Day Timers

Somewhere along the line I learned about Day Timers, and I loved the concept. When I broke down and spent the money for one in 1994, I appreciated the ability to set up whatever sections I needed, and to leave out those that I didn’t. I used it mainly for scheduling and to-do lists. I had all my contacts in my email address book, most of whom I’d have no need to contact when I wasn’t at work, so I only entered the phone numbers I used most frequently into my planner.

When I started my business in 2002, I was using Microsoft Outlook for my email. I wanted to explore the calendar features, but since I was still working at an outside job where I wouldn’t be able to access it, it was more practical for me to continue using my Day-Timer.

2004-2009: Pocket PC

As you can probably imagine, my life became much busier and more involved when I was running a part-time business while holding a full-time job! Eventually the paper system no longer met my needs. In 2004, I bought a Pocket PC and was thrilled to pieces with it. By 2006 I had adapted my routines to where I no longer needed any kind of paper calendar or to-do list. I was totally electronic, using my Pocket PC, synchronized with my Outlook calendar, and it was working perfectly.

2009-2012: Various Paper Planners

As is inevitable with technology, my Pocket PC eventually stopped working. By that time I had fallen out of love with it, and decided to go back to paper in 2010. (You can read about the options I considered and the one I ultimately chose in Paper Planners: The Showdown).

During this time, I got a smartphone, which nicely filled the role of my old Pocket PC. As a result, my paper planner was needed mainly for organizing my day-to-day activities rather than keeping track of appointments.

2013-2016: Swift To Do List

When I discovered Swift To-Do List a few years later, I was ready to ditch my paper planner once again. I’d tried various apps and Outlook add-ons over the years, but Swift was the first one that allowed me to organize my tasks in a way that worked for me.

Until it didn’t.

As powerful as it is, we didn’t always see eye to eye. If I forgot to enter something, or if I tagged it incorrectly so it didn’t show up in my current view, it wouldn’t get done. And I never was able to get it to sync with my phone, so if I thought of something while I was away from my desk, I had to email it to myself.

Maybe I just need to change my system every few years to keep me on my toes. Who knows?

Earlier this year, I reallized I had to go back to paper, and began my search for the perfect product. I thought about reaching out to my readers for advice, as I did in 2009, but since my needs haven’t changed, I did my own research.

Come back next week to find out which planner I chose, and what I think of it.

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Seana Turner on October 31, 2016 at 8:50 am

    I have been loyal to my Filofax for years. It just works for me. I like to be able to add notes, doodles, etc. The insert I use allows me to have my “to do” and my calendar next to each other, which makes scheduling tasks easier. I also get a lot of calls on my cell phone, and I don’t like having to toggle to see when I can schedule. Lastly, I don’t like the way looking at a screen all day makes my eyes feel. There are so many excellent digital tools, and I think it is just important to find what works for you!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 31, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      What type of layout is it, Seana? Two pages per day?

  2. Avatar Jamie Steele on October 31, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Oh, the suspense! I love it! I too switch back and forth between electronic and paper. I discovered Wunderlist and it has the ability to add your tasks to your Calendar, so I’m mostly electronic. I do my brainstorming in a paper planner and the transfer to my Outlook calendar and Wunderlist as needed.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 31, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      That’s interesting! I don’t remember that being a feature of Wunderlist when I tried it, but I wasn’t using then, so I wouldn’t have paid attention to that.

  3. Avatar Jill Robson on October 31, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I use my daytimer and a white board monthly planner, so i can look up from my desk and see at a glance what is what. I find using any daytime on my phone would be a waste, my eye sight does not allow me to look at a small screen for any length of time, i am still a paper girl at heart.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 31, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      I used a whiteboard calendar for a while too, but once I had fewer scheduled activities, it no longer seemed worthwhile.

  4. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on October 31, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I have to say that I’m impressed that you remember the dates of what you used when. If I did a history of my “tools,” I think I’d remember the what, but no so much the when.

    What’s truly impressive, though, is not that you remembered the dates, but that you allowed yourself the flexibility to change when change was needed. And you continue to do so.

    Like you, I’ve gone through many transitions from the days of my Day Runner, which I never thought I’d change. But here I am, 30-something years later and I’ve gone digital. Between my iPhone and iPad, I’m able to easily organize and manage my schedule, to-dos, contacts, and more. For now, the system works.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 31, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Disclosure time: I wrote a similar article in 2009, and incorporated some of it into this one. I would definitely have forgot about my electronic organizer otherwise! For the more recent stuff, I was able to refer to other blog posts I’d written along the way. Though I must admit that my memory for dates is pretty good – the more trivial it is, the more likely I am to remember it. 😉

      I love that you ended your comment with “For now…” We’ve both learned that what’s perfect today is not going to be perfect forever. Having the ability to recognize when it’s time for a change, and the flexibility to make the transition, is key!

  5. Avatar allison weigensberg on October 31, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Our journeys are so similar! I have switched back and forth between paper and electronic as well. I finally made the leap last year from a paper planner to Google Calendar and haven’t looked back since! I too have blogged about this journey. . . nice to see yours! 🙂

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on October 31, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      I would love to read about your journey, Allison. I’ll go and look for it, but feel free to post a link here for anyone else who is interested.

  6. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on October 31, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    I love your timeline of planner tools. I, too, am impressed that you remember what you used when! I’ve been a paper person aside from a brief time when I ventured into the world of Palm Pilots (early 2000s?). I’m particular about having a planner that has both the weekly and monthly layout. All I can say is we like what we like! 😉

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on November 1, 2016 at 6:31 am

      Right-o! And I guess that explains why there are so many different planners on the market – because we all like different things!

  7. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on November 5, 2016 at 7:36 am

    For years (decades) I used what my company gave me. We were issued month-at-a-glance paper calendars which worked just fine at the time. Then Outlook, and Palm Pilots, which I loved. (I don’t remember if they synced or not.) When I started my business I continued using Outlook and eventually got a smart phone which synced. As for task management I’ve tried Planner Pad (paper) and various electronic tools, none of which thrilled me. I’ve been using WorkFlowy for a few years now, just to keep track of lists. And daily I write myself a sticky note with just the few things I want/need to do that day.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on November 5, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      I also used whatever I was given at work before 1984. Once I discovered there was a whole world of other options out there, I was hooked!

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