Why Your Planner Isn't Working For YouI can’t tell you how many planners I’ve had that I stopped using after about a month or so.

I’d get all excited in the new year or at back-to-school season to break out a fresh new planner and fill out all the details and dates.

Inevitably, though, most of my plans and appointments were recurring and I didn’t need to actually have them written down. And my “work” stayed at my day job on a notepad filled with all my to-dos.

I’d end up feeling like I just didn’t have enough going on to fill up all those pages. So I’d invent things to do.

And then stress out + feel overwhelmed because I overbooked myself – Just for the sake of using a planner!

Craziness, right?

It was time to change my system when I got serious about building this business, so I had a long hard look at how I manage my time and to-dos. What I found is that these “time” + “to do” elements were two very different things that must be treated differently.

Without complicating things too much I realized that I needed to keep all of my appointments digitally (in Google Calendar) because it was the easiest way to enter in appointments, events, recurring commitments AND get reminded of them via my iPhone. Plus it’s quick and easy to add an event with just a few clicks.

Managing my to-dos was a different story – especially when it came to project tasks. And that’s when a paper planner came in.

I have a planning session at the beginning of each month and plot out all the tasks I need to accomplish in the next 4 weeks. Then I write them into the dates I’ve set aside time for my business.

And voila! My month is planned out with actions to make my goals come alive.

It works.

And when I open up my planner I am ready to focus on those goals without being distracted by my Dr appointment the following week. If I had to put every event/appt in there plus all of my work it could get very sloppy very quickly.

It might seem like a lot to have two separate systems but if you really think about it, time + to-dos are two very different things.

For a little more insight into the types of things I have in each calendar system here is how I break it down…

In Google Calendar I include:

  • Appointments
  • Church services + events
  • Day job hours
  • Blocks of time for my business
  • Networking events
  • Webinars
  • Social + family time
  • Birthdays + holidays
  • Vacations

Then in my paper planner I track:

  • My editorial calendar (Newsletter updates, blog and social media posts)
  • Deadlines + launch dates
  • Specific action items
  • Training time
  • Writing assignments
  • Contacts I need to reach out to

As my business grows, I know I will probably need some sort of project management software that I can share with my team that is more elaborate than this – but the value of specifying what you’re going to work on each day, writing it down, and checking it off is priceless.

Maybe you prefer to keep this to do calendar/list digitally too, but want to keep it simple. I’d suggest checking out TeuxDeux. There are MANY other to do/task apps out there, but I like this one because of its simple interface.

An important thing to consider is just how many appointments/events + to-dos you are scheduling each day. Depending on your schedule and how much time you have to devote to your business you don’t want to overbook each week with too many commitments.

In addition, I try to keep my to do list down to about 3 mini goals each work session or day + up to 5 easy one-shot tasks. A mini goal for me is something like writing this blog post or designing a batch of #blisstips.

If you are like how I was and your planner just isn’t working for you – consider the benefits of dividing your time + to-dos. It might work for you, and if not it might be time to evaluate just exactly how you best work with these elements.

Discovery is the key to defining the systems that work for you (Tweet it!) and that comes by testing out different ideas.


What is really working for you in terms of time + to do management and what really isn’t?

Share in the comments below and if you liked this post please share it with your friends!


p.s. Right now I’m using a custom planner from Plum Paper on Etsy and I’m loving it. Of course there a ton more planners out there that I could share, but that’s another post for another day ;)

2 Comments on Why your planner isn’t working for you

  1. Carol
    October 16, 2014 at 9:14 AM (4 years ago)

    Great advise, particularly on the 3 goals strategy.
    I have many pieces of paper with 10-15 goals per day…too many and gets me frustrated.
    I will check out the paper planners!
    Thanks Jessica!

    • Jessica Newell
      October 22, 2014 at 11:04 PM (4 years ago)

      Glad to inspire you Carol :)

      I know how it feels to have way too many things on the list – it really does help to figure out the MOST important ones. Thanks for commenting!


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