Choosing a planner, part II: the paper options

If you read last week’s post (you can find it here to catch up), you know whether you’re a paper, digital, or hybrid planner, and whether your schedule is mostly task or appointment-oriented. This gives us six different “types.”  This week, I’m planning to discuss the task-oriented types. Next week, I’ll give love to the appointment-oriented types.

Without ado, the Task-oriented planners…

1. Paper planner options:

  • Bullet journal:  The bullet journal is a system originally designed by Ryder Carroll, to help himself  manage his schedule given his difficulty with ADHD. The system is cheap and convenient- classically, it uses a hard back journal, either the dedicated journal from Leuchtterm 1917 or a blank one. You can track tasks, written notes and some events, but I think if you have a lot of future events, this system is probably not as helpful. There is a small investment of time in the beginning to set up the notebook- maybe 15 minutes at most. Don’t let yourself get intimidated by some of the beautiful art in the bullet journals you find by Googling; you can make a functional bullet journal just fine with NO decoration. This may be the most efficient task based option, because there’s nothing really faster than jotting down a list of tasks. The genius of this system is the review- by reviewing your tasks every day, you really prioritize what you plan to do daily, and what’s important. This system is highly recommended. Find videos, set-up information and more here.
  • Kanban system: this system was originally made for teams to track projects, but can work well if you have a tasks in various stages of progress, don’t need much portability, and spend time mostly in one place for those tasks. Essentially, this is a board with a sticky note for each task, and columns to move sticky-tasks within: these can be as simple as to-do, in process, and done. Find more information here.
  • Traveler’s journal: A traveler’s journal is essentially a piece of nice leather with an elastic band that can hold one to three thin paper notebooks. There are a million different notebooks to choose from (ok, maybe an exaggeration), but you can find whatever you need for a traveler’s journal, including a booklet to make lists in, calendars, etc. The Traveler’s Journal is The Wirecutter’s favorite planner because of it’s flexibility. They recommend buying one from Amazon, but I prefer Goulet Pens since they are a small family business who take good care of their customers and are very knowledgeable about what they sell- you can find them here, and I’m not getting a commission, I swear.
  • Circa/Arc/ring bound: The Circa system from Levenger is what I use to organize patient information, and is highly customizeable. This system consists of plastic, celluloid or metal discs that have a ridged edge which holds plastic covers and pages together. You can rearrange the pages and tabs infinitely with no trouble. The sizes are generally standard American letter size and half-letter size, so it’s easy to add print-outs, etc. Levenger and Staples (the cheaper Arc system) both make a multitude of forms for these systems. You can find the Levenger version here.

2. Digital options:

  • Smart phone task list: This is probably the most basic option. I’m not excited about the task lists that come standard on ios or android, mostly because of their lack of features.
  • Consider a better app, like Todoist, Things3, Microsoft to-do. I use Todoist because there are a TON of features, and I can use todoist on the web, my phone, mac, PC, android, etc. Things3 is wonderful, but only for Apple fans. Microsoft to-do is a good option if you use outlook.com to manage your calendar or have an outlook 365 account you use frequently.
  • list on Evernote or OneNote: this could be an option if you’re determined to use Evernote for everything! I don’t think I would choose this option, but there are definitely Evernote power users who stick to Evernote to plan their entire lives.

3. Hybrid Options:

People who mix paper and digital have a lot more options, which may or may not be a good thing.

  • Electronic calendar, with bullet journal or notebook
  • Trello (recommended): Trello is a great program online and a multitude of apps that replicates the kanban experience electronically. However, it is a LOT more powerful. You can find Trello here, and a genius article for how to use Trello as a magnificent task-conquering machine here.
  • Tablet with pen capability and OneNote or similar- not my favorite, but you could do this if you’re determined to use your Surface tablet or iPad pro and the digital pen!
  • Evernote/Moleskine notebook and smartphone integration or similar: these are notebooks that have various ways of converting the pages to digital options; either a special pen, or an app with a camera. I think a lot of these are in the planning phases, or are pretty expensive for what you get.
  • Could consider bullet journal with official app (I think the app isn’t very good)

That’s it for the task-oriented options! I hope you found what you needed- please let me know if you have any other ideas or questions, or tell me what you thought in the comments below! Next week, I’ll cover the appointment-oriented options in paper, digital, and hybrid versions. See you then!

 

Choosing the right planner for the way you work: a series

planner photo

Getting organized is hard work! I read a news story recently that reported we lose three days a year just looking for things. Imagine what we could do with an extra three days- go on a romantic weekend trip, take the kids on a fun trip, complete an entire project, take a spa retreat… We even hire people to organize us!

The reclaimed time aspect of getting organized is probably the most important part of the process, but getting organized helps us save money, too. Besides not buying extra things we already have but can’t find, organizing our time ensures that we pay bills on time and not incur late fees, sign up for things early when costs are lowest, and buy things we need when they are at their least expensive.

We can save time and money, and feel less overwhelmed by having a good system for keeping our time organized. In my practice, I often hear patients say, “I forget things I’m supposed to do a lot, and let people down. I used to be able to remember everything without writing things down when I was young.” There are a lot of reasons that you can have trouble with memory, including medical and psychiatric problems such as anxiety and depression, pain, poor sleep, and head injury. I don’t know about anyone else, but keeping track of my schedule has become monumentally more complicated as my professional responsibilities, (multiple ways to keep track of licensing and board responsibilities and continuing education units, anyone?), childcare and household responsibilities, and social commitments increase. When I was in my twenties, I didn’t have to keep track of as many things- my work shifts, classes, bills and dates. In my forties, I keep track of my patients’ care and schedules, my own teaching and professional requirements, my kids’ schedules, my spouse’s schedule, financial information, household maintenance, blog and hobbies, and my own health maintenance. That’s a lot more information- of course I need to write it down now!

But an easy step to help with information overload is figuring out a system to get your time under control. I use a two step process plus modifiers to help my patients. There are probably a lot of ways to divide personal organization, but this is the way I like to think of the issue.

Are your days mostly task-oriented or appointment-oriented?

Look at your normal, average day.

Are you mainly going to meeting-after-meeting-after-meeting-after-appointment-after-meeting-after-ohdearlordnotanother-meeting with just a few (or a lot) tasks? Do you have a lot of appointments to schedule in the future? You’re probably more appointment oriented at this point in your life.

Or, do you have relatively few things tied to a specific time during your day, but a long task list of things you get done on your own schedule? You can still have a few appointments, but those are maybe just a few a week.

For example, I have morning rounds, afternoon rounds, teaching classes, meetings to mentor residents, and scheduled meetings for providers and patient’s families, as well as my own family commitments and my own wellness commitments. These are mostly scheduled times, with some tasks as well. I’m more appointment oriented.

Write down which category you fall into, and let’s go on to the next decision point.

Are you a paper, digital or a hybrid kind of person?

This one is harder to decide, typically. There is good data that people in general learn and recall better when they write things down. But there can be good reasons to use digital- including repeating appointments, sharing a calendar, etc. Digital also tends to be lighter if you need to lighten your load while commuting.

Benefits and drawbacks of paper

We already discussed that you remember things and learn better when you use paper. Also, jotting down an appointment typically is much faster than the multistep process of turning on your phone, computer, or tablet, opening the app, entering in data, and saving. You can express yourself better with beautiful planners, papers, and pens. You don’t have to charge paper. A paper planner can be left open on your desk while you work for reference. Paper may be the only option if you work in a secure workplace that handles classified or proprietary data that doesn’t allow electronics. Certain methods of paper planning can really help you prioritize what is important to you instead of clicking “add all” to your digital calendar and suddenly have half a dozen appointments you have no intention of going to cluttering up your month.

On the other hand, paper can be damaged or lost, and there’s no real back up. Paper can be heavy to carry, and less convenient to add repeating appointments to. Some digital calendars can have nice linked information that you can find everything you need in one place.

Benefits and drawbacks of going digital

We talked about digital being more convenient to carry and add multiple appointments to. You can set alarms to remind yourself to do something. Often, digital systems have cloud back ups that can keep your data safer from loss.

However, digital systems can be lost if you’re not backing them up to your computer or the cloud, and I’ve found a lot of people who aren’t. Digital systems can be a lot harder to actually plan on and picture what your week or month looks like (does anyone really like the monthly view of a calendar on the tiny iPhone screen?). You learn better by writing, as we talked about before. Apps have annoying bugs and upgrades, and tend to be more expensive if you have to upgrade devices than a paper planner. Goal planning can be a little more difficult. You may not be allowed to have a device at work, depending on what you do at work.

The hybrid planner

You don’t have to choose one of the other, but can develop a system which uses aspects of digital planning and paper planning. I’ve written pretty extensively about this system here, which I’ll refer you to. Read this blog entry, then come back to this page.

So, write down which type of planner you need: digital, paper, or hybrid. Next week, we’ll go over which planners I think suit each of the six types best and where to find them. After that, we’ll discuss how to use the planner that you’ve chosen. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!