Habits, Productivity

Productivity Series #1: Planner/ Calendar system

Let me preface this post (and series) by saying that I am certainly no productivity “expert”. But, it is a topic I have been very interested in for the past ~5 years or so, so I’ve learned quite a bit about it. My personal systems are generally still a work in progress and have been tweaked/ adjusted over the years as I’ve learned things, too.

My 2020 Planner system

There are (many) people out there who have very fancy, elaborate planners/ calendars. I am currently not one of those people! (Though full disclosure, I might try out a new, more elaborate system for 2021….to be determined).

My current planner (and the one I have been using for at least 5 years+) is a basic Weekly/Monthly Jan 2020- Dec 2020 planner from Target. It’s the Blue Sky brand and I’m pretty sure it was around $9.99. Let me repeat: this is NOT a complex, detailed, pretty/fancy planner!

I use this as my “master” calendar and I pretty much ignore everything in it except for the monthly calendar pages and the weekly spread. (There are some Notes pages on the back, important dates pages, etc. too but I rarely use those currently.)

The most important part for me is definitely the big Monthly Calendar:

I am sharing upcoming December’s spread (November’s was a little too full/ too many personal names/details/etc. on it!).

It is not fully complete yet, but this is where EVERYTHING that we have to do will ultimately end up (meaning, all kids’ activities, appointments, important dates/ deadlines, no school days, vacation days, etc. will be here.) For daily planning, I do use a Google Calendar too (more on that to come), but this is the master list. Every important thing MUST go on this calendar immediately. 🙂

It stays with me, at my desk or in my purse, at all times. I look at it everyday and update it constantly. This is what I reference when making other plans/ “checking our schedule”.

The weekly spreads look like this:

My use of these weekly spreads can be a bit more fluid/ less important, but for the most part, I update these at two specific points:

  1. During my weekly review time on Fridays, I will pull over some big ticket “to-do items” that I’d like to focus on this week from my master list. (More on my master to-do list system also to come). I generally always list these at the top of the pages. (There is a clearly marked “Weekly To Do list” area, but for some reason, I always list them at the top. I think past versions of this planner didn’t have that area, so I got used to listing at the top? Not sure.) I also make sure the boys’ hot/ cold lunch schedule is listed in advance.

2. Each morning, I will update the specific daily boxes with things coming up for that day. So, as you can see, this morning I looked at my monthly calendar and jotted down Ethan’s piano lesson and Asher’s swim practice tonight, a work meeting from 12-1 and I copied down my planned workout/ walk/ reading checkboxes. I also usually will list 2-3 big to-do items that I want to prioritize for the day. On the lower righthand side, I have been trying to make an effort to record what I eat, because a) I’m a nerd and b) I find it interesting to look back on.

Here’s a closer up view:

Of note- I don’t really worry about it being perfectly neat/ clean. I cross stuff out and don’t worry about it. I’m kind of known as being an “organized disorganized person” and some degree of “mess” on my calendar doesn’t really bother me. These daily/weekly pages are meant to be used, not just look pretty.

I also specifically do NOT fill out the rest of the week’s days in advance, because, well, things change. I prefer to use these boxes as a little planning tool each morning- a place to look at the main upcoming anchors in my day in real time.

Also of note- I use my planner primarily for personal purposes (kids/personal/household). In my job I don’t have a ton of meetings/ etc. so I really only list big/ time sensitive work things I need to know about, like meetings with my boss or team, educational opportunities, etc. on my calendar here. The rest of my workday gets organized in Google Calendar.

That’s the basic gist of what I’m currently doing! I like this planner for it’s simplicity, extremely durable cover and light weight/ size. It is a regular 9×11″ size with monthly tabs down the side. For me, this has gotten the job done and I like having a simple, streamlined calendar to clearly see my most ESSENTIAL calendar items in one place without much distraction.

Which planner do you use?? Making any changes for 2021??

Daily Gratitude:

I’m grateful for time last night to clean out the boys’ piano book basket! It was out of control disorganized and it is MUCH better now.

2 thoughts on “Productivity Series #1: Planner/ Calendar system”

  1. This was fun to see – I was curious what system you used! I can see how you don’t necessarily want/need to change since this low cost system is working for you! I used to get Erin Condren planners which were $50! But then I switched to using a bullet journal in 2017. I have really liked that approach to planning as I have plenty of room for notes/project lists/etc. I have way fewer spreads than I did pre-Paul, though. Now I mostly use it for meal planning, weekly to dos, lists of books I have checked out from the library w/ due dates, and then I have random sections like notes about pregnancy/from OB appts. And in the front I have the yearly calendar spread where I write down what appts I have/birthdays/etc. I do not use my planner for work AT ALL. I use Outlook at work and will use that to keep track of upcoming deadlines and then I have a notebook for work with my to do lists. I find I have to write EVERYTHING down there days as my short term memory recall is HORRIBLE! I don’t know if I have covid brain or it’s pregnancy or what! Maybe the combination! But I can’t trust myself to remember things these days and because of the nature of my job, I am constantly switching tasks and focusing on urgent requests that are coming in.

    I think my current bullet journal will last through 2021 but in 2022 I am tempted to try the W222 product that Sarah just reviewed. The price point was reasonable and it seems like a fun system. I like the monthly preview and review pages.


  2. I really think writing things done is 90% of the work, many times once I write them down, it’s like it’s inprint in my mind too, I just remember them. At the end of the day, i’ll go through them to see if I forgot anything (usually i don’t).

    I just ordered Cal Newport time blocking calendar system, want to try it, but otherwise I like my current system. I also keep to-do lists on work in my personal calendar mainly to make them less overwhelming.


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