It’ll likely come as no surprise to you that I am a planner! I find enormous benefit in writing out what I intend or need to get done within a particular timeframe, both practically and for enjoyment. I would describe planning as useful and a hobby, and I’m always finding out new and different techniques that make it even more fun.
Although, of course, the idea of planning is not a new one, it has grown in popularity as a hobby and taken on new forms over the past few years. So much so, there’s even a “planner community” within which people share tips, techniques and pictures of their planning activities. With so many beautiful planners now on the market and so many accessories to go with them, for some people it’s a hobby, for some it’s a business and for some it’s both.
I’ve always considered myself an organised person and a list maker, but I would say my deeper dive into all things planning started about three years ago when I fell down the You Tube rabbit hole of planning related videos. As a long time notebook lover, this opened up a whole new world to me for notebook use and introduced me to a multitude of products and brands. Pop to You Tube and type in “planners” and you’ll see what I mean. And I’ll see you back here in a couple of years. ;-)
Planning has now been elevated by some to an art form while still retaining its basic function of defining a course of action and providing direction for those who do it.
A quick search on Pinterest or Instagram will turn up so many artistically beautiful planning spreads, an aesthetically pleasing way of defining goals, making lists and tracking habits. Planner decoration, too, is popular with stickers and washi tape adding colour and self-expression to both the most simple and elaborate notebooks, with those in the planning community citing a mixture of life management and cathartic value from their activities.
The visual and the written word
For some planning is a functional activity, for some it’s artistic and for some it’s a mixture of the two. At the moment I fall into the functional camp, I haven’t done much decorative planning. My preference is towards the written word, although I have been so tempted to follow a more visual approach too, inspired by what I see online in the planner community. But that’s one of the things about planning as a hobby – similar to journaling, there’s no one way to do it, only the way that’s right for you and your way of doing it can evolve over time as your planning needs change.
The pros and cons of planning
So, planning is something I actively enjoy as well as find benefit from but, as with most things, there are pros and cons, fun benefits but also potential pitfalls to watch out for. Although when writing this I’m mainly thinking about paper-based planning (of course), the principles work for digital planning too (which I sometimes do – eep, I know!).
However you choose to do it, planning is basically setting an intention to carry out an action. Whatever time period you’re working with – a day, a week, a month or longer – sitting down, thinking about and writing out all the things you want to get done over that period has its benefits:
- It helps you remember what you want or need to do. It gets all the information out your head and gives you something tangible to refer to.
- Similar to journaling, the act of getting everything down on paper can be a cathartic. It’s easy to build up our “To Do” lists in our head – when the tasks are jostling for position in our memory it can be overwhelming. When they’re on paper, it’s not so daunting.
- It enables us to focus and prioritise, which increases productivity
- It helps us to see whether or not tasks are too heavily focussed on one time period. This allows us to think in advance about rescheduling, or consider how we are going to approach a busy period
- Depending on what works best for your personality, you can tackle more unwelcome tasks immediately to get them over with, or you can work yourself up to them rather than them sneaking up on you.
- You can keep everything in the one place, extra beneficial if you are planning, or trying to keep track of appointments, for more than one person
- It can help with habit building. If we schedule in activities that help us build good habits, we are more likely to stick to them as we would any other scheduled appointment.
- It helps build a better time estimation muscle. I’m not good at judging how long something is going to take me, but it gets easier with practice. If I find myself having to revisit tasks because I haven’t completed them, I start to see where I’ve not scheduled in long enough in the first place.
All good so far, but there can also be pitfalls when planning:
- It’s very easy to overschedule. As I said, I find it difficult to judge how long activities and tasks will take. Overscheduling can lead to feelings of anxiety and failure, because we haven’t got through as much as we hoped/needed to/thought we would. If this happens, the trick to remember is it’s just an error of judgement on the timing, not a lack of competence in yourself.
- The act of planning can feel like an achievement. If you enjoy planning as a hobby in its own right, it’s easy to get sucked into the feeling that planning is an end in itself. Remember to at least try to do what you plan to do. If you’ve overestimated, you can reschedule, but you can’t reschedule if you don’t start.
- It’s easy to become too rigid and be thrown off course by unexpected events. Remember that plans are just that – plans. They’re intentions, they’re goals, but sometimes they’ve got to give. Again that’s not a personal failure, it’s just the way these things go sometimes and you’ve got to roll with it.
- Some of the beautiful planner pictures on the internet can lead to feelings of there being a perfect way to plan and the belief that, if you’re not artistic, the way you do it won’t be good enough. Remember, if the way you plan allows you to achieve what you set out to do, that is you carry out the activity for which you set the intention, then it doesn’t matter what it looks like. And it’s something you can always work on and practice if becoming more artistic is important to you.
- It can be expensive. It depends how you prioritise spending your money. For me, I’m more likely to buy a fancy planner than I am to buy fancy make-up, for example, but cost is one of the reasons I’ve stalled at getting involved in decorative planning. As with everything else, it’s about knowing yourself and what your preferences are. Gazillions of people, I’m sure, prefer make-up to planners!
If you’d like a weekly planner to keep handy on your desk, pin on the wall or stick to the fridge, Em and Lime has a free single page PDF for you to track your appointments, write yourself reminders, and note down your daily To Do list. Print out as many times as you like – you could keep yourself on track for the whole year! Get your copy here.
Are you planner? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,