Planning Your Planner: A How-To Guide

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“It takes real planning to organize this kind of chaos.”—Mel Odom

Ever since I was a little girl, and would thumb through the sales fliers in my grandmother’s Sunday paper, each August, I decide that it is high time to get my act together. I feel a strong urge to stop flying by the seat of my pants and start organizing all the things. New Year, New You? How about New Tape Dispenser, New Outlook on Life?

Are you also looking to get your act together, but don’t know where to start? Well, never fear! I am here to help you simplify the process of complicating your life. In the interest of looking out for the greater good of all people, I am setting aside my humble nature and confiding in you that I am, in fact, Her Royal Highness, Chief Executive Officer, Reigning Queen and Prime Minister of Planning all the Things. This position was conferred upon me by myself, and I proudly hold this title for approximately 3 days in August of every year. You, too, can experience an entire half of a week in organized bliss! Just read further to see how you can begin planning a plan that you will plan to put in place at an undetermined later date. I am giving you all my knowledge, absolutely free of charge! You are very welcome, my dears.

Some of you may be saying, “Wait a minute. I know you! I’ve been to your house. There’s laundry all over the place, and unopened bills, and I’m pretty sure I saw and smelled some very questionable fruit on the kitchen counter. Are you sure you should be advising people about anything?” Others of you might think, “Hold on, is this the lady that is five minutes late to every single place she goes? What sort of cockamamie plan includes constant tardiness?” And there may even be a few of you reading this who have attended meetings with me and wondered, “How did that hot mess get on this committee? She showed up five minutes late, her shirt is inside out, and she just pulled four lipsticks out of her purse, when I think she was looking for a pen. How can I possibly benefit from this person’s guidance? Good heavens, she still doesn’t have a pen.”

And to all those incredibly insightful inquiries, I say, “Those are all very valid questions. Also, real people don’t use the word, ‘cockamamie.’”

 Now, moving on.

The cornerstone of every plan is a Planner. The good news is, it’s back-to-school time, and Planners are everywhere, in a vast assortment of trendy designs and sizes. It can be hard to narrow down the selection! Lucky for you, I am willing to share my best secrets for success when it comes to Planners. Gather close, friends, while I tell you that the most important thing to consider when choosing your Planner, and I cannot stress this enough, is that it needs to be obscenely expensive. Choose the planner crafted by the designer whose wares you normally can’t afford, and get it right away so you don’t risk leaving a single page blank. Do not wait until this Planner goes on sale because it has three months’ worth of useless pages. I know this sounds a little crazy (but, let’s be honest, aren’t all geniuses a little crazy?), because you’re thinking that you don’t want to spend a lot on something you may not keep up with, but that’s exactly why you have to do it! You gotta get a little skin in the game, bro! Envision yourself in October, looking at your Planner across the room, and not really wanting to fill in the new month because you’ve gotten lazy, and planning is no fun, and you can’t find your pen, and you keep forgetting to take it with you anyway. It would be so easy to ignore your $5.98 junky Wally World Planner because you never fell madly in love with in the first place. Now envision yourself gazing across the room at that darling Planner you so lovingly selected in August, when all things were still possible. The Planner you spent a hefty sum on because it was so obvious that the two of you were Made For Each Other. The Planner that turns heads when you manhandle it out of your bag at important meetings and place it on the table with a satisfying thump, proclaiming, “Look at me! I mean business! I am a very expensive Planner!” Now doesn’t that make you want to get your lazy bum up out of your recliner, walk across the room and start planning some crap? That’s what I thought.

When selecting your Planner, pay close attention to its features. Of course, your Planner will include several calendars. Yearly, weekly, monthly, daily, maybe even hourly. Whoa. Wait a minute. Hourly? Slow your roll, compadre. The end game here is to spend your day doing the things, not just planning the things. Back away from the hourly Planner. As an annual three-day veteran in expert planning, I’ve seen sufferers of EPF, Extreme Planner Burnout, and let’s just say it ain’t pretty when the wheels fall off the wagon. Try to keep up with an hourly Planner, and by November you’ll be living life as a suburban hobo, resistant to all plans, observing inconsistent meal times, and taking your kids to school on the weekends because you don’t even know what day it is. You’ve heard Keep It Simple, Stupid? I like to say, Keep It Moderately Hard and Somewhat Inconvenient For Yourself. Yes, KIMHASIFY is definitely my motto.

In addition to the slice and dice views of a conventional calendar, several Planners will also include a page that lists the holidays throughout the year, so you are always ready to celebrate. This is immensely helpful to people who can never remember the date of New Year’s or the 4th of July. Very handy reference.

Some Planners include stickers, which is a great feature for people who harbor a grudge against their kindergarten teacher for withholding the gold star they rightly deserved for washing their hands after circle time in the fall of 1984. If you are this type of person, you can now give yourself a tooth sticker on the day of your dentist appointment! Go ahead and give yourself two stickers if that’s what you want, because you are in charge of the stickers, dammit! Yeah! Or maybe you’d like a thumbs up sticker for the days you see your therapist to discuss the feelings of inadequacy you’ve had since kindergarten. Great job, you! Sticker it up, girlfriend!

I’ve seen Planners that have several blank pages reserved for Notes. Some people use these pages to write down useful bits of information during meetings. However, I find that these pages are very good for writing down shopping lists and other reminders for yourself, all while looking as though you are paying attention and taking notes during dull meetings. You can also use these pages to write notes to a friend sitting next to you whom you suspect may also be suffering. Notes such as, “OMG, I’m DYING, please make it stop,” or “I really have to pee, but I don’t want to get up,” or, “Do you smell that? It smells like pork chops and sweaty socks… What are you doing for lunch?” Sometimes your seemingly random notes can lead you to important discoveries about yourself. Like the shopping list I made that said, “Milk, Gas, Light Bulbs.” Not long after that, I was diagnosed as dairy sensitive. Coincidence? I think not.

With all these available special features, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so focus on finding a Planner that has a feature you can really connect with. Remember, you’re looking for a soulmate, not a roommate. For instance, I chose my Planner mainly because it includes several inspirational quotes, which I find to be very, well, inspirational. One of the pages in my Planner has the quote, “Find what brings you joy and go there.”—Jan Phillips. This quote is especially dear to my heart because it encourages me to go to Marshall’s and buy all the throw pillows and phone cases that they have. Another quote in my Planner that inspires me comes from none other than the great Oprah Winfrey. She says, “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” Now, any time someone asks me to make a decision, I can just reply, “I would like you to give me whatever you think Oprah would ask for.” It takes a lot of courage to ask for two balsamic vinaigrettes on the side, but here I am, doing it at least twice a week. I have my Planner and Oprah to thank for giving me such bravery.

Now that you’ve selected your Planner, you’ll need to find the perfect pen with which to fill in your Planner pages. It needs to be a subtle ink color, should glide smoothly, and feel solid and sure in your confident planning hand. It’s your favorite pen, and it’s probably already somewhere in your house! If you don’t remember where you bought it, and you’ve never seen another one like it, then this is definitely the perfect pen. Take a moment to make an appointment in your Planner (you’ll have to pencil it in, because, well, the whole pen thing) to spend an entire afternoon searching for it.

Once you’ve finally located the Perfect Pen, along with a whole bunch of other stuff you didn’t even know you were missing, you’ve likely generated several To-Do List items.  It’s now time to sit down and fill in the information that will make your Planner work for you! Go ahead and pull out your phone, where all your contacts, dates, and notes, are already conveniently located. Use your Perfect Pen to hand write all those items down in your exorbitantly expensive, fancy-feature-filled, sticker-happy Planner. Sometimes twice. Because remember, there are monthly pages and weekly pages. See? Aren’t you glad you followed my advice and ditched that hourly crap?

In all seriousness, the dual system of a paper Planner and smartphone has its merits. For one thing, I feel that manually writing the events down, in addition to typing them into my phone acts as an extra reminder of my commitments. Instead of accidentally double booking myself, I’ll stop and think, “You know I feel like I have something going on that day… I’m not sure what it is, but there’s definitely something happening.” Secondly, giving others the impression that you rely on a Planner can get you out of all sorts of things. Someone asking you to bring 12 Bundt cakes to the church bake sale? You can always say, “Oh, shoot, I don’t have my Planner on me. And you know, I feel like I have something going on that day…I’m not sure what it is, though. Can I get back to you? After I check my Planner?”

And you thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. Ha! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to basking in the bliss of these 3 days that I actually have my act together. Right after I find my pen.

Shanna Walker
Shanna Walker is a lover of wine, words, family, and friends. Not necessarily in that order, but especially when they’re all together. An Upstate native and graduate of Wofford College, Shanna worked for several years in the Real Estate Finance industry before assuming her current role as full-time CEO of her chaotic household. She is responsible for the health and well-being of her hardworking husband, two precocious daughters, and a high maintenance goldendoodle, as well as all the facilities and supplies needed to run such an operation. She’s doing an ok job with it all. To hear more of her thoughts on the ridiculous and mundane, you can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @chicwhitesheep, or browse her blog at chicwhitesheep.com.
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