The English teacher in me must first explain that the familiar phrase “the best laid plans” is actually a misquote of Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”; the line actually reads “the best laid schemes”. I probably shouldn’t perpetuate the misquote, but “plans” works better for my title, so . . . (sorry, Mr. Burns)
I’ll never forget when I saw one for the first time. I was a freshman in high school and was working as a library aide during 6th-hour study hall. One afternoon early in September, I saw the assistant librarian writing in a small calendar-like book and was intrigued; my family didn’t even have a calendar anywhere in the house, and I’d definitely never seen a book-like calendar with daily or weekly pages. Mrs. Zook saw my interest, showed me her personal planner, and told me where she had purchased it.
Already a list-maker who relished neatly checking off each item on my to-do list, I was hooked. I asked my dad to take me to the local office supply store, where I bought my first planner, and until this week, I’ve never looked back. In fact, I can’t remember a single year in 40+ that have passed since then that I didn’t have a personal organizer. Over the years, I found my planner invaluable in keeping track of first, my own work and social commitments, and eventually, the schedules and appointments for myself, my shift-working husband, and two children with a myriad of activities and appointments.
No matter what brand, size, or style I was using at the time, every summer I would purchase my new pages (and sometimes, new binder), and in late July I would spend an hour or so setting up my new planner (as a student and then a teacher, my “new year” always begins with August 1). I loved putting the new, blank pages in my binder and entering important dates and appointments in whatever writing utensil I was using. Before my son was born, I simply used a blue ink pen; after he was born, I switched to 4 colors — one for each of the 3 of us and one for general, whole-family events. When my daughter was born, I added another color. And when the scrapbooking craze hit, I began creating my own divider pages out of card stock, and I loved the personalized look of my planners.
A few of years ago, I grew tired of the Franklin Covey style refills I was using and wanted something totally different, so I switched to a Filofax. The binders are beautiful, and although there were fewer refill styles, one in particular appealed to me. Unfortunately, the last two years I’ve run into problems getting refills, and this year, when I decided to change to a smaller size, I found that all of the binders I liked and could afford (alas, the $2300.00 alligator binder was out of the question, even though it’s red) were out of stock and wouldn’t be available until . . . well, nobody at filofaxusa had any idea when that would be.
By this past Wednesday, I was frustrated — almost angry — at being personal planner-less. And that’s when the proverbial light bulb went off in my head. I had become far too dependent on my planner; I was actually writing down on my to-do list such mundane tasks as “take shower”, as if I wouldn’t remember to do that if I didn’t write it down! Just as bad, I was writing the same very-regular daily lineup of tasks (“trash out” on Monday, for example) every single week during my Sunday “planner time”.
Yesterday, I took what is a very bold step for me. I removed my custom-made page dividers, plastic rulers, and other “extras” out of my planner and listed both of my binders (I would switch between a red leather binder and a teal one for variety) on amazon.com, and I cancelled my order for the still-on-backorder binder and refill for 2013-2014. Last night I jotted down some ideas of what I really needed in a new “planner”, and I got another surprise. I didn’t really need any of the sections I had in my planner! I was using them out of habit, not out of necessity.
Today I purchased a “2-year plus” (August 2013 through December 2015) pocket calendar. Unable to completely give up my “daily tasks” list, I used 6 mini-index cards (1 each of 6 colors; 1 for every day except Sunday) to create 6 “daily” task cards and slipped them in the pocket of the plastic cover. My plan is to slide the current day to the front of the stack every morning; if a non-regular task arises, I’ll put it on a sticky (I put a small, thin pad of mini sticky notes inside the back cover.
No more thick planner, no more sections for “finances” and “goals” and other things I really don’t need. No more Sunday “planning sessions” and nightly planner-check. No more need for a purse large enough to carry my planner; my cute little calendar will fit even in the small cross-body bag I bought this summer but rarely carry because . . . you guessed it, my organizer wouldn’t fit.
This change feels right. It fits my pared-down, only-me life. It fits my desire to simplify as much as possible. My new calendar is already tucked into my cross-body purse, and I’m ready to spend less time planning and more time doing!