I gave up my planner, and here is what happened

For the last few years, I have been among the Women Who Run with Planners. I loved my planner book and the monthly and weekly ritual of preparing for what was to come. And yes, I may or may not have spent a small fortune on Etsy buying cute stickers in monthly themes for my beloved planner—green for March, and pink for April! It felt nostalgic in some ways, taking me back to school halls and lockers. And it also made me feel like I was on top of everything. Kind of.

Then a perfect storm struck, of illness (boo!), a ton of new project work (yay!), all during the winter holidays and new year (ugh). The severity of my illness was a wake-up call, and it caused me to look at my life and see what I could edit in order to get more self-care and down time in. The few months prior to said storm, in addition to generally overdoing it, I had started to find my planner a burden—I often ended up erasing and re-writing the meeting schedule for the following day, and I kept re-writing the same weekly goals, over and over. For me, it became a task that didn’t provide a recognizable benefit—and it had become a time suck. 

In addition to the planner, I maintain a family schedule on Cozi, and an integrated iCal calendar that pulls in all of my work meetings, Cozi items, and shared Google calendars for various volunteer groups. The thought occurred to me: Just print off the next day’s calendar at the end of each work day, have some kind of weekly calendar for the family to see on the fridge, and call all this time spent on planning done. So, I did.

For three weeks now, I have put aside my planner. And for three weeks I have felt a new sense of freedom and time. Here is a quick summary of my new system in case it spurs some ideas for you:

  • Cozi: I have been using the Cozi app for more than eight years, and I love it. Great for kids’ school and activities schedules, tracking doctor and dentist appointments, grocery lists, holiday cards, birthday tracking, etc. And the whole family can use it. 

  • Integrated calendar: I use iCal on my MacBook and pull in various other calendars, including our Cozi calendar, my meeting schedules from Outlook and Calendly, and various Google calendars for groups I’m in. At the end of each work day, I print off the next day’s calendar and put it on my desk—just in case I’m unable to access anything digital in a pinch.

  • The week-at-a-glance on the fridge: I do love paper (especially pretty paper) so I use the weekly planner paper pad from The Swoon Paper Co. Every Sunday afternoon, my kiddo and I sit down and plan out her lunches for the week and mark them on the weekly planner. And she knows what evenings she has guitar lessons, gymnastics, a birthday party the following weekend, etc. This is time I treasure with my daughter and it can lead to other conversations about what she has going on in her life.

  • Monthly refection: I do believe reflecting back on the past month is a helpful thing to do, but I don’t need to write the next great American novel about it, and I don’t always need to do it. As a member of Own It Crush It VIP by Becky Mollenkamp, I receive a monthly one-pager that includes an area for reflection—and if don’t feel like doing it, I just don’t (and I don’t feel guilty about it).

 Did I feel panicked at first that I might forget something when I gave up my planner? You betcha. But my new system has allowed me to stay on top of what I call “The Octant” (Mother, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Business Owner, Friend, House Manager, Activist) with a lot less time and guilt, and more time to do the things that re-charge me. 

I may decide to go back to a planner at some point—and this is not to say planners aren’t a good thing because I know they can be very effective—but for now, this is working for me.