Planning is something that grows you. As you get more into it, you’ll need new methods and systems. Lately, I’ve been combining online with paper planning. Here’s how I’m doing it.

I hadn’t realized how people were busy about their planners until I got my Erin Condren. I started looking for inspiration on how to make the best out of it and I was amazed by all the tips.

Before anything, I want to say I’m really impressed with my EC’s life planner in general. I have been thinking about getting myself one for longer than I want to assume. I was just not sure if it was worth the investment for someone like me. However, the more I started to dig in the one I got from CuteCoconutShop, the more I wanted to give EC a try.

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It may sound weird me going from none to 2 planners in a couple of months, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

That said, it doesn’t matter how incredible your planner might look, it’s YOU who is going to give it shape and usage. Having the cutest thing ever without a goal is only good to collect dust and create clutter.

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I have been doing a lot of soul-searching on Pinterest. You won’t believe the incredible amount of stuff I’m finding there. It has been an interesting exercise in creativity and thinking out of the box for me.


Why using paper again?

Please note that I haven’t given up my online calendar and to-do list. I just discovered ways I can combine them better with my life planners.

I used to follow a very simple idea: online planning for everything and the paper ones only in case of emergency. While the principle itself isn’t that bad, there were limitations.

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First of all, it was a one-way process. I just copied stuff from my online calendar to the planner (or any piece of paper for that matter) if I thought I could have issues accessing the Internet. I frequently forgot to go back to the online version and make any necessary adjustments.

Second, not having a structured way to write things down was sometimes the same as not writing them at all. My notes got messed up quite quickly, and my handwriting doesn’t help. I had to develop the habit of using both systems more actively together.

“Dreaming after all, is a form of planning.” - Gloria Steinem

Why do I care so much about planning?

Believe it or not, if we all invested more time in getting some structure in our life, we would have much less stress.

It’s true I can only imagine the craziness of being a mother, for example. Still, remember that planning is not a matter of doing everything you have in mind. With or without kids, it’s hard to do it all most of the time!

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The magic that it does, however, is bringing visibility to your life:

  • With what do you spend most of the time?
  • Is your time well spent or is part of it wasted?
  • If wasted, with what? What can you do to minimize it?
  • What do you do when making good use of your time?
  • Is there anything (important) missing?

I know I write it a lot, but it’s a rule I truly believe in: each person is different. It’s not because my method doesn’t deliver the same results to you that you shouldn’t have any method at all.

Do you have other things to do instead of cutting and gluing flowers on your planner to make it look cuter?

Awesome! Just go and do it.

One of the (many) lessons I learned when reading David Allen’s GTD was his curious attestation that creative people procrastinate the most. And you know why is that? Because when creative people think of a task, they have to complete, they start wondering about all the aspects involved in it.

For example, you have to clean the cupboards. When you are about to begin, the internal dialogue starts:

“Man, I have to clean the cupboards. I cannot postpone it anymore. Look at it! It’s been a while since I got everything out of it to clean. When was it again? Last year? Hmm… Maybe. Oh no! It was 2 years ago!!! No surprise it’s this dirty. Look at that silverware. Until I get it all out, clean the stuff, clean the cupboard and put it all back, my entire afternoon will have passed. Oh man… I have so much to do… “

And the inner dialogue goes on and on endlessly…

Now let me ask you this:

  • Do you recognize yourself in it?
  • Can you see the pattern?
  • How much time did you waste here?

This is the time we can save even if life happens!

If you had just started taking things out of the cupboard instead of making room for the mental images to populate your thoughts, you would have been half way already. Do you see what I mean?

“If you don’t design you own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan.” – Jim Rohn

How I have been doing it

In my case, having a structured list in front of me pulls me away from Wonderland and throws me back in action. I look at the things I want to accomplish that day, my nices-to-do, and I start. I go in no-brainer mode and get as much as possible done.

One thing I have been working on is making time for myself. I am not there yet, but at least I have already improved my sleeping pattern. I love being behind the computer too much, and if I’m not careful, I go from one page to another as the day (and night) flies by.

The point I’m working on the past weeks is making room for a weekend. Yes, you read it well. Because I’m home, Monday and Sunday look a lot the same (with the exception that my boyfriend is home in the weekend). So, I have been repeating my days over and over again without taking into consideration that I need a break here and there as well. It’s not a break from work, but for creativity, to do other things, and enjoy life away from the MacBooks and tablet.

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To make all it work, I have to know what I have in the pipeline for the incoming days so that I can use my time during the week wisely.

My life planner is my watcher.

As I have it’s always open on the desk, close to me, it’s a great reminder of what is still pending. I make sure it’s not packed with lots of high priorities, and I play around to make sure I’m not overwhelmed. If I need to take a (longer) nap, I do it. I may have to postpone finalizing a blog because of it, but so be it. More important than anything else is making room to breathe and recover.

Download today 7 steps for a successful daily planning.

All in all

Besides the flexibility and the peace that having a system in place brings, I love my planners. Even though I don’t over-decorate them so that I have enough room to write, it’s a sort of therapy to me. When I wrote above about “cutting and gluing flowers,” I was referring to myself. While I wait to go to Brazil and get the coloring book my mom bought me, my planners are doing the trick.

Last week, I got lots of cute stickers and washi tapes, and I’m receiving the ones I bought online as well. I couldn’t understand why so many people are into it, but while it may look childish, it’s very relaxing.

I still couldn’t live without my calendar notifications and having my recurring tasks online. They remind me of appointments and save room on my planners. So far, the teamwork is working wonders and helping me be more and more productive every day, without added stress.

What is your favorite planning tool?

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Debbie Rodrigues
Debbie Rodrigues is a Productivity Expert. She helps busy career women create a productive routine that fits their lifestyle. She does this through coaching, online courses and through the blog