Editors note: Today is a good day to revisit a post about the importance of organizing your work and life, particularly if you happen to be an editor who has had a mental lapse over scheduling. Helen Fields (bio) wrote this ode to PlannerPad back in May 2013, and Hannah Hoag (bio) more recently compared Helen’s tool of choice to the online TeuxDeux. What’s your favorite way to stay organized? Clearly, I need some tips.
Last October, I said goodbye to miscellaneous to-do lists and online calendars. I’ve got a new tool for time management, a new way to keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing. It weighs more than a pound. It takes the space of two magazines side by side. And, by golly, it works.
It’s the PlannerPad, an actual, honest-to-goodness paper calendar that has truly made my life more manageable.
I was an early convert to digital. I got my first electronic calendar in 2001, a Palm. When I got a smart phone a few years ago, I switched to Google Calendar. But, while Palm and Google were great for keeping track of travel and appointments, they were never much use for getting things done. I always kept to-do lists on little yellow sticky notes, the backs of out-of-date business cards, and miscellaneous notepaper.
The PlannerPad spread like a kitten video through my Facebook friends. First Dylan, a performing artist in Minnesota, raved about it. Then Liz, a law professor, got one. The updates about life-changing calendars continued. The idea of a paper calendar seemed nuts, but I eyed my piles of lists and thought, well, it’s worth a try.
The PlannerPad’s website looks like it just dropped in from 1998. There’s a blue navigation bar on the left and a calendar on the right. They don’t have reviews, they have testimonials. The only thing you can buy is this one calendar and its accessories.
The main thing they’re pushing is their funnel system.
The funnel is an attempt to deal with the classic to-do list problem: a list with several items with totally different priority levels and time horizons. My lists tended to have items like this: send invoice; write news brief; report 3,000-word feature story. They have the same items now, but they’re organized so these things get done, and get done efficiently.
Each week spreads across two pages, and each page has three horizontal sections. The top band is a series of to-do lists by category. These can change from week to week. Mine usually include personal errands (laundry, calling aunts), pitches (to look into or write up), assigned work (stories in progress and their associated task), and travel (booking flights, packing).
The next band is a to-do list for each day, where you break down tasks from your top set of lists and assign them to a day.
The bottom band is the classic daily calendar, with the hours of the day. You can use this for appointments and, if you’re really ambitious, to write in when you actually plan to take care of the day’s tasks.
For $27.99, I figured it was worth a try. I got one with an October start date (there are four start dates per year) and dove in.
It’s still not perfect. This thing can’t actually force me to get things done. But I find it so much easier to keep track of what I’m supposed to be working on now. Separating tasks by category makes so much darn sense. When I write them by hand in a real notebook that lies on my desk, they feel more real than they did on electronic lists or scraps of paper.
Image credit: Helen Fields, who has no relation with PlannerPad except as a customer.