Choosing the right planner, part III: the schedule-based options

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If you read the first article in the series, about a way to organize your thinking about planners and your time (find it here), you know whether you’re a task or a schedule-based planner. The task-based options were the subject of my last post. This week, we’ll talk about the schedule-based options.

Paper-based options:

You can practically insert any paper planner with hours of the day delineated here. However, there are a few that I particularly like:

  1. Ring-bound planners (Filofax, FranklinPlanner, etc): these are super easy to rearrange, beautiful, and pretty easy to customize your own inserts, especially if you pick an A5 one. If you’ve never visited Philofaxy, have I got a treat for you. This site is all things ring-binders, and has really nice printables for free for your shiny new binder. I like Filofax binders, partly because of the history behind them (did you know they were issued to students at the UK’s military academy first?) but the pagers from Franklin Planner are generally more useful in my opinion.
  2. Disc bound (Circa, Arc): I talked about the disc bound system in the last blog in this series, but Levenger makes a really strong planner system that you can put into your disc-bound system. They have great paper that is fountain pen friendly, too.
  3. Proprietary planners (Panda planner, Free to Focus, Best Self, etc): these three bound planners are not super customizable, but if you’re just learning to set goals and plan, it’s probably work picking one of these up, and sticking with it for three months. These planners get you through the system of setting goals, the daily review, the weekly review, and planning very effectively.
  4. Traveler’s system: I’ve talked about the Traveler’s system before as well, and this is still one of my favorites. They have a monthly planner, weekly in two different formats, and undated daily pages. These also come in a small, passport size, and a proprietary larger size. I use these frequently because of the flexibility, and because it reminds me of Indiana Jones. Just kidding.
  5. The Jibun Techo: I’m going to write a blog on this on its own soon. I’ve just bought one and started using it, and am really impressed with the ability to keep track of a lot of data. Look for my blog on this!

Electronic options:

You could always use the calendar on your phone, but there are better options.

  1. PC users: Microsoft Outlook is what I recommend, but most people don’t use half of the features. Find a good tutorial, and learn how to use Outlook to its full potential.
  2. Mac users: I like Fantastical on the Mac. Some people really like Busy Cal, but I found it a little cluttered. Also, Fantastical has native language entry. The implication of this is MUCH faster data entry. For example, if you want to have lunch with Mark tomorrow at noon, in a conventional program, you would need to type in “Lunch with Mark” then use a drop down box to choose the date, and then the time. With native language entry, you can just type “lunch with Mark tomorrow at noon” and the app automatically recognizes this and correctly adds it to your schedule.
  3. iOS users: I like Fantastical (also has Mac versions, see above) and Calendars 5, both of which have native language support.

Hybrid Users:

  1. Electronic calendar, tasks, and a notebook for daily notes (needs to be transferred at the end of the day). There’s a great article about this, that I discuss in my article about Hybrid planning here.
  2. Disc bound system- keep schedule on computer, and print calendars to add to disc bound system. Easy! The Levenger Circa system is standard letter size, or half a sheet of letter size paper, so it’s very convenient.
  3. Moleskine smartpen and planner, others similar on Kickstarter: these are pretty expensive options, and I haven’t seen many reviews of them. I can’t recommend for or against since I haven’t seen them in action.
  4. PDF planner pages, tablet and smart pen (GoodNotes, OneNote): there’s a whole community of people you never even knew using on their iPad pro with the app GoodNotes. Here’s a good video on it from Bohoberry.

I hope this gave you some good ideas! Are you using a different schedule-based planner and loving it? Feedback for me? I’d love to hear from you- use the comment form below, and I’ll respond to you!

 

 

Choosing a planner, part II: the task-oriented 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!

 

DayOne app: not just a journal!

DayOne app: not just a journal!

I get asked fairly frequently by people how I manage my morning ritual since I advocate for this as part of an overall lifestyle change for patients. A big part of my morning ritual- and life planning- involves the DayOne app. I use it on my Mac most often, but I also use it on the iPad, iPhone, and probably eventually, on the web version. There are people who use DayOne in a much more sophisticated way than I do, but I think it’s worth talking about how to use this app in a simple, but useful way that reduces the amount of paper I carry around, improves my ability to plan, and helps me keep the things that matter to me at the top of my list. So how am I using DayOne?

As a Journal.

I think DayOne shines as a journal. Yes, you can use OneNote just as easily. But to me, DayOne has a cleaner, nicer interface. There are more ways to get material into DayOne for me- or at least, they are more easily accessed. Locations and weather get added automatically.

I feel a little conflicted in general about digital journaling- for one, the recent security issues with multiple websites have made me a little more cautious about what I put on line, and made me think about how I interact with technology in general. Secondly, there are good studies that writing by hand is very different in terms of memory and processing information than typing is. On the other hand, I’m not studying a journal entry, and there’s no test at the end of the semester here. DayOne allows me to take a photo of something with my iPhone during my day (today, a huge meadow of spring daffodils I saw from the train window), and then write about it in the evening. I can save the best of photos from my kids, along with my journal entries, and then have the journals printed (DayOne has a handy book printing option) at the end of the year. I use public transportation, and traveling light is important to me- carrying a heavy hardback journal isn’t part of my plan right now.

As a planning tool.

I love Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner ™. I also love the Panda Planner ™. If you’re looking for a bound, hardback or in the case of the Panda Planner, paperback planner, I can happily recommend these. What I really like about both of these planners (and other planners like these) is that they assist in the reflection and practical goal planning necessary to make progress. The idea of breaking goals down into practical steps, reviewing your progress daily, and making the next step clear, really helps me stay focused. Both of these paper planners excel at this. However, I work in a fast-paced medical environment, with multiple meetings, many of which repeat weekly. You might think that I would remember these repeating meetings that occur at the same time every week, but sadly, this is not what happens. I FREQUENTLY make plans for the exact same time as the meeting that occurs twice a week, at the same time every week. It helps me to have these on my calendar, so I literally cannot plan over them, even if it clutters up my calendar somewhat. Additionally, I don’t want to carry around a planner for the same reason I don’t really carry a journal- it’s inconvenient to have a written planner on rounds in the hospital, on the metro or bus, etc.

So, what I’ve done, is re-create these goal planning and monthly/weekly/daily planning worksheets electronically. I use a text expander program to create planning templates with just a few keystrokes, that focus my day. In the morning, I open a DayOne entry in my life planning journal, and type (tilda) 5m, which tells my text expander program to add my daily template to the journal. Here, I type what I am grateful for, what my three biggest goals for the day are, and what my meditation for the day is. In the evening, I come back to this entry, and at the evening portion of the daily template: what was successful that day, and what I could have done better.

I also have a weekly version of this that helps guide my weekly planning. I’ve referenced this in my blog post about Things 3 before, but not in detail. My weekly template, added to DayOne with “(tilda) week”, gives me a chance to reflect on how I did with my weekly goal, what I’ll change, and what my three biggest goals for the week will be. The Things 3 weekly review prompts the DayOne entry as part of the workflow- along with reviewing marginalia, my inbox in Evernote and email, Instapaper, etc, so that I keep on top of all my inboxes, and don’t get overwhelmed.

As a commonplace book.

Commonplace books used to be…well, common, among serious readers and students of life. All kinds of historical figures, including Thomas Jefferson, had one. They could include thoughts, quotes from books, etc, so they were available for quick reference. There are some nice articles about commonplace books online- Ryan Holliday seems to have revived the custom in the last few years with his article you can find HERE. I tried his index card method, and perhaps I’m still not done with experimenting with that method, but I read a LOT of articles, magazines, newspapers, and books digitally, and the idea of copying them down is a little daunting. I think the idea of improved retention of the material when it is hand written is more important here. However, if I’m never getting around to that because I’m busy as a physician, mom to little kids, etc, waiting until my life is less busy to copy down quotes from the eighty something books I read last year is probably not practical.

For that reason, I tried using One Note as a common place book, but I am not crazy about the interface- plus, I’m already paying for Evernote and DayOne, which are both potential options for common place books. I think either would be a really reasonable option. For now, I’m using DayOne, in essentially exactly the way that was detailed by Chris Bowler in the Sweet Setup Blog, which you can read HERE. He gives really nice instructions, in a three-part series, on how to set up your own Commonplace book in DayOne.

Other ideas.

I think there are a lot of other good ideas for DayOne, some of which they feature on their blog. Ways I have seen others use DayOne include a prayer or spiritual journal (using text expander to create templates for bible study), a wine tasting journal (just snap a photo of the label and tap a few impressions on the keyboard which you can expand later) and even a Tarot card reading journal (same idea as the wine tasting journal, essentially). I’ve even seen people use DayOne for time logging, though there might be dedicated apps that work better for this.

I’d love to hear how you use DayOne! Please comment using the form below- I’m always looking for new ideas to use a favorite program!

Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: useful, educational, but needs an editor

Essentialism by Greg McKeown
I picked up the book, Essentialism, based on a few good reviews that I read. The idea of pursuing less and accomplishing more appeals to me- I have so many hobbies and interests, that I often have lost interest in something by the time I gather all the items needed to pursue the hobby! College, something I really enjoyed, took me twice as long, because I took classes I was interested in rather than focus on a goal. Even now, I have more magazines and books than I can read in a lifetime. So, the byline of the book, “the disciplined pursuit of less” was quite meaningful to me!

I’ve recently started using index cards for taking reading notes, from Ryan Holliday’s article about keeping a commonplace book. One indicator of the relative value of a book is how many cards you make for each book (20 cards or so, is a book with a lot of personal meaning!). For Essentialism, I took 32 cards’ worth of ideas and quotations!

The book is divided into four parts- explaining the fundamentals of the philosophy, applying the fundamentals to your own life, weaning down the excess of your own life to the essential, and then following a minimalist lifestyle. There were a few chapters in each section that I found particularly helpful. I’m already pretty good at saying no to things that I don’t think add value to my life, but the ideas of weeding out things that aren’t 100% of what you want, and editing as a way of creating something better were new to me.

I think this would be a great book for someone who feels they aren’t effective in their life, or someone who is wanting to embrace minimalism. The book helps with the inner process of minimalism- to me, the external condition of a clean, simple environment is the result of the inner work. This book should help with the inner work. The book is a quick read- just 246 pages. The one fault I found with this book- I think it could have been shorter. There were a lot of concepts that were repeated over and over! I think the author may have been trying to reinforce the important concepts but at some point, I wondered if the book had been written as independent essays rather than a cohesive whole.

How the new Things 3 app is literally changing my life (along with DayOne)

I admit how much I love planning, technology, apps and the like. I consider the difference between planning methods (digital or paper? Mac app or web app? A combination of both?) as carefully as I timed having a family.  I might only be kidding a little. Or not kidding at all. Anyway, I have found a combination of apps that are changing my life right now.

I am a Mac user in general, but in my work, PC is the law of the land. I am also aware of all the research regarding how writing things down helps you cement them in your mind. However, I also travel light being a public transportation commuter, and it’s not as if I want or need to recall my calendar perfectly. That’s what reminders and the prompting from my apple watch are for! Right now for me, a combination of apps has really helped me get focused.

I was recently encouraged to try Things 3, the newly released app on Mac, iPad and iPhone by Cultured Code, from a  thread on the Asian Efficiency Dojo website. I am really glad I did! My method is adapted from one of the users, Tor Rogn. I have a Daily project that recurs and keeps me accountable with my daily rituals. It also reminds me of what my current next steps are for goals, and what I’m working on that week. Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 3.04.07 PM

Each morning, I get up early, and start my morning ritual, which I’ve made a screen shot of the checklist from the daily project above:

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I meditate using the Insight Timer that I blogged about a few weeks ago, and I write a five minute journal entry to help me remember what my priorities are and what I am grateful for. I do this via the DayOne app and a text expander- in this case, Typeit4me.

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Throughout the day, I use the daily checklist to help me guide my day. At night, I complete the 5 minute journal. On Sunday, I have a weekly review project that automatically comes up in Things (in two screen shots, since it’s longer than my screen). This helps me ensure that I have collected all the data for the week, and get ready for the week ahead with a minimum of trauma.

The task prompts me to review my goals, and work out what makes the most difference in DayOne- again, using a prompt from a text expander. I was using the Focus journal from Michael Hyatt, and I’ve used his weekly review in my electronic version (I have the journal, but don’t want to lug it around).

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What are you doing for your organization and weekly reviews? Let me know below how you’re staying on top of things!

Airmail: helping me get to inbox zero!

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I don’t know about you, but one of my most neglected daily tasks is email processing. I am really terrible at letting email pile up. However, I have found an app that really helps me stay on top of the email monster. I’m currently using Airmail 3 (www.airmailapp.com) on my MacBook air and on my iPhone and iPad, and love the program. I’ve been using it for about 4 months now, and I don’t think I’ll change, which is REALLY saying something since searching for new apps is some kind of compulsion for me. The apps are $9.99 for the mac, and $4.99 for iOS. I think that the cost is worth it.

The app is very fast- faster than the native client. There is also an apple watch app, that is useful, allowing you to delete mail from your watch. Where the app changes things for me is in the integration with other apps. For instance, I use Todoist for my tasks. With this app, you can send an email as a task to Todoist with a click. The same goes for Evernote if you’d like to save an email. Several other services, including Trello, Fantastical, Deliveries (track all those packages you get with a click!), Dropbox, Dayone are all included, and there are many, many more. I deal with the email right away by sending it to whatever app or folder it needs to go to, then archive the original email.

You can also mark an email as spam with a click, create a PDF from the email, add contacts, mute, block, add senders to VIP, make a memo with the email, “snooze” the email until later…You can also unsubscribe to an email mailing list with a click, but this has variable levels of success, I’ve noticed.

The actions are available as a drop down menu, or with a swipe from the inbox list of emails- it makes dealing with email almost as fast from the iPhone than it is with a Mac. It can manage multiple email accounts, and was very easy to set up. The interface is clean, easy to read, and pleasing. This has become one of my favorite, and most used apps, and a definite step up from the Apple Mail that is built into your phone and Mac.

How do you keep up with your email? Have you found an app that you like?

A Book review: “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work”

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I just finished reading Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which was a suggestion from Tim Ferris’s blog. I have always been interested in the minutiae of everyday life, and what people are thinking and doing. In fact, much of my early reading about history was focused more on what life was like for people who lived back then, rather than wars, laws, who was reigning or elected, etc. Mindfulness training was just a small jump for me, as I am already focused on appreciating the present moment.

So for me, this book was like a smorgasbord of all the things I’m the most interested in: what do successful artists, writers and scientists do during their everyday lives? The answer is: mostly the same things we do. Some of them drink and smoke a lot more than others; some hardly eat while some have regular meal times; some sleep long hours at night while some nap during the day instead. Still, I found the little things fascinating. Many of them were extremely attentive to the details of their lives, and gave themselves plenty of time to think about their work. Many of them were avid readers.

I think there were two major messages for me:

  1. The amount of time spent doing their work did not necessarily equal quality or output. There were just as many writers who worked very specific hours, and then stopped to enjoy their lives as there were people who slaved away all day, barely eating or living their lives. Both were capable of great work.
  2. Great works of art seemed to be as much hard work as inspiration. Many of them found producing their art, whether writing or work, to be arduous, but worth it.

I felt like this was an intriguing book, especially if you’re interested in maximizing your own daily rituals. My only criticism is that I wish the author had a more attentive editor. There were many typos that I noticed, and some artists’ biographies extended past their lifetime if their dates of death were to be believed!