As a generally organized person who likes to plan things out before acting, when faced with the opportunity to start a new planner (starting a new project, moving into a new binder, testing out a new set-up…), I obviously want to do what I do best: plan!
Looking through some old papers, I recently came upon my plans for the different sections of my personal planner which I had carefully plotted out and organized before even receiving the planner. I remember doing the same before purchasing my A5 work binder to think through whether or not it was a logical purchase.
This was all wonderfully fun, and it’s definitely necessary to put some forethought into what your main planner is going to look like, and what purpose it’s going to serve. However, for secondary planners (or even for primary ones!), I’m starting to realize that it’s also quite enjoyable/effective/productive to let the planner evolve on it’s own terms. Here’s why:
- Establishing your sections before you actually start using the planner can be confining. I was absolutely convinced I needed a separate section for my business in my personal planner. I spent a lot of time creating inserts, shrinking my schedules to personal size, printing, and punching, only to realize after about a month or two that I never looked at the section, and that anything I wrote there got lost and forgotten. Instead, when starting with a new binder, try this: stick a set of unlabelled dividers in your binder, and a few spare inserts. If this is going to be one of your principal binders, make sure you have some sort of calendar in there – yearly, monthly, or weekly. As things come up and you think you would like them in your binder, punch them and stick them in (or make a note to print them and add them). Put them in the different sections, and use a sticky note on the divider to list what’s in each section (or washi tape to label the divider, which you can later remove).
- Sometimes, you think you know what you want, but you don’t really. I spent January through March of this year moving “Set up blog planner in Saffiano” from week to week in my to-do list, without ever actually even starting. I was convinced I needed a separate blog planner – but it turns out using my regular planner and an extra notes page stored in my A-Z tabs works just fine!
- Which leads to…sometimes things just come into place all by themselves. My boyfriend and I are in the process of settling into a new apartment. One night, while scrambling for paper to make a list, I grabbed the notepad from the back of my Saffiano. The notepad (which I never knew how to use before!) now has its permanent home in the kitchen to make lists. I had been stuffing those lists into the back of my Malden because I didn’t want to throw them out, but didn’t know what to do with them. When I took out my Saffiano this weekend to make this week’s daily pages (the Saffiano is currently also storing my extra inserts), I realized that I was staring at the perfect place to keep those lists. I’ve created a section with the different lists (with any relevant receipts paper clipped to them) so I have a quick reference of both how much we’ve spent, and what basic things we needed to buy (both food and odds and ends) – for future reference for other moves!
- It can save you money. I’d been throwing around the idea of buying a new A5 binder to serve as a kind of home binder, without even taking into consideration the personal Saffiano which needed a job. As I finally made the connection, I’ve decided to give the personal size a try for a while as kind of a general home and reference binder – and if it works but I need to move up a size, I’ll make the leap. If not, I’m good to go and have some extra money in my wallet (to save up for that custom VdS I’m thinking about, perhaps… 😉 ).
- Patience is key. There’s no need to “finish” this binder anytime soon. It’ll finish itself when it’s ready, or continually change as your needs change. Whenever you have a chance, take five to ten minutes to flip through the different things you have in the binder. Is everything easy to find? Are the things useful? Are you content with your ideas and set-ups?
So give it a try – instead of trying to pre-plan what your binders will be and how you’re going to use them, let the use itself make the binder into what you’re looking for and what is best going to serve your needs.