Organizer Problem or Personal Problem?

I have been exploring planners and date organizers lately, being dissatisfied with my current setup and wanting to find something that accommodates my preferences and limitations. In talking with my husband about my personal pros and cons of different systems, he brought up his struggles and said, “I don’t have an organizer problem, I have a personal problem.” I knew exactly what he meant. There are systems and organizers aplenty out there, yet they are not the answer to all our problems. Finding the perfect one is not going to solve the struggles we have in using them.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are personal preferences and different ways that we all process and function, so there are organizer systems that will work better for some people than for others. Yet, some people can bounce from one organizer to another searching for the one that will somehow “fix” the ways we manage ourselves.

I could argue that most planners are all relatively the same concept with slight differences. The market continues to keep producing variations, offering more selections and in some ways propagating the idea that there is a perfect solution for everyone. The temptation is to try the newest, latest versions. This is further complicated by the ever-growing electronic choices. Now we need to choose between paper or electronic, or find a way to work with both.

When I was in high school, my dad was quite persistent about getting me to use a planner, and he was (and he still is) a huge advocate of the Franklin Covey system. Due to the price of getting started and possibly due to my resistance, I began with a DayTimer planner. After using the DayTimer and even liking it, he moved me to a Franklin planner. And for most of that time, it worked for me – in fact, for the past 20 years, I bought purses so I could carry that good-sized Franklin around with me, to the point I was getting shoulder and back pain.

In recent years, I found myself using aspects of the organizer, but there were facets of the system that I was resisting. I find the month at a view crucial for tracking my schedule and I use it consistently. Yet, the daily task list was either empty or it was overloaded with items. I was either significantly overestimating what I could accomplish in a day, or avoiding listing anything so I would not feel bad at the end of the day. In using the task list, I ended up doing the very things I encourage others to avoid: underestimating the time you think a task will take and overestimating how much you can get done.

Attempting to compensate for my resistances to daily task lists, I started making a general list of tasks on a blank sheet of paper, referring to it periodically where I would pick and choose what I was going to work on. The problem with that was it was a huge list, had varying degrees of importance, and could easily feel overwhelming just to look at.

Recently I have begun making weekly lists, working at keeping them relatively short and limited to the important tasks I want to accomplish in the next week. Finding myself processing things in this way I started thinking about the PlannerPad system. It has a two-spread page with a section at the top for the task list, under it the tasks can slide into specific days, and finally at the bottom is the schedule with time slots.

Despite my struggles with certain aspects of planning, I recognize that I have slipped in my own discipline. I was feeling overwhelmed with all the things I wanted to get done and overestimating how much I could do in a given day. This is the very reason I have talked about being careful in our thinking about how long things take us.

We need to stop looking outside ourselves for the answer to the difficulties we have.

As I have been looking at and considering different systems, I am focusing on what would benefit me, the aspects that will assist me in the areas where I am struggling. There is no telling how long the planner I choose will work for me and I will need to re-evaluate its functionality regularly. I have identified how the monthly view and concrete schedule continues to work, but the area where I have faltered is the tasks. Now considering where I slipped into being more lax, I want something that will help me strengthen those skills again. It will not happen overnight, and no organizer will cure that problem. Nevertheless, there is a system that will support me while I improve my techniques.

If you are struggling with a planner or day organizer, step back for a moment and consider: is this a planner problem or a personal problem? If it’s a planner problem, there’s plenty of alternatives to choose from and try out. However, if it’s a personal problem, no amount of money spent on planners can help. It takes discipline, attention to the areas where you are struggling, and most of all, a commitment inside yourself that, no matter what, you will work to be more organized.

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