It's ok to change your mind - switching your planner and planning system when the year has already started

It's ok to change your mind - switching your planner and planning system when the year has already started

Hi, I'm Helen and I'm a planner addict. Actually that's not strictly speaking true - I am not addicted to planners, I am addicted to the idea of planners; the promise of a fresh start and a never-before attained level of glorious efficiency. I have literally spent my adult life trying to find the perfect planner system - for me - and I'm still looking.

Planning for me has to suit how I work, the underlying system has to be open-ended enough to be flexible, yet structured enough to hold me accountable in some way. If it's too rigid I feel like I'm getting bossed about, which makes me rebel against the whole thing and abandon it in a giant harrumph. I really hate being told what to do.

Additionally I'm a visually picky person so anything I bring into my work environment has to be aesthetically pleasing (which for me is usually some variation of minimalist design) or else I won't look at it. Visually cluttered things overwhelm me, ridiculous as that might sound; I need plenty of white space. Also I'm texturally a picky person - paper has to be smooth and pens cannot bleed through it, books have to have a binding that lets them lie flat (no ring binders for me), and layouts need to be intuitive and simple to use. I really want the most perfect and minimalist blend of form + function. Is it too much to ask?

What can I say? It's exhausting being a design snob. 

I have been running an online business in one form or another since 2008, sometimes more than one venture at once. It's a constant learning curve and there's literally always something that can be improved in your systems and business foundations. I don't think you ever reach the stage where things are "done" - just like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, the work literally never ends.

Parallel to that experience, for me, is the endless quest to find the correct tools and systems that will make the planning and organizational side of my business and home life easier. It's not a one and done thing. For me, it has to evolve to work with what I am doing right now and in the immediate future, not how I imagine my life should or could be. 

Personally, I use a combination of a paper planner, a digital app, and lots of wall calendars. I like to see things in different but complementary formats, and I need multiple reminders. After actual years of trial and exploration, I think I have finally found the digital tools that work well for me, for now, and I know this great range of wall calendars that are functional and minimal...! The ideal-for-me paper planner has proved to be a little more elusive however.

Despite my endless quest for the perfect set-up, I do believe that the idea that there is a planner system out there that is so amazing that it  works for everyone if you just follow the rules well enough is total BS. I'm not sure there's even a planner that works equally well for one person at different stages of their life. When we had two tiny children, there was no way that I needed a page for a day, or even a page for a week. Maybe a page per month would have been enough, or more likely one page for every six months or so would have done. At other times in my life I really thought that I needed at least a page for each day, plus additional notebooks and post-its... Different things work well for us at different times. Life changes, our systems can too.

It's no secret that one of my goals in life is to design an actual paper planner book that works for myself and other busy minimalist types juggling all the things. It is most definitely on the cards for this year, I'm still working on a format that strikes the right balance of flexibility and creativity with routine and structure. Plus I need to find a great paper / binding / cover combo. And so until I actually make and print that book, each year around November / December I do the fun dance called which planner will magically transform me into a super efficient and amazing person this year?!

It's a great dance full of unknowns and compromises. The premise is already flawed of course but each year I really do believe once again that the power of a fresh start will apparently give me some sort of productivity superpowers.

I started this year (three whole weeks ago) by doing my paper planning in a Hobonichi Cousin. I used one consistently from January 2016 - March 2020, when the world as we knew it pretty much imploded. I love the fact that there is an annual view, a monthly view, a weekly view and daily pages. It has all the views... It can be flexible enough to do all the things. It's a bit of an investment, but I have always considered it to be worth it. 

And yet this morning, out of the blue, I found myself ordering a different planner to use for the rest of this year. This time I'm getting the Hobonichi A5 Day Free which will also ship from Japan (fortunately the shipping is usually ridiculously quick). It has a yearly view and monthly views, but the rest of the book is just gridded paper. I can't wait.

So, yep, after all that research and consideration to make the monumental Planner Decision for 2022, I changed my mind after a whole 21 days. I realized that it was starting to feel cumbersome. Flipping back and forwards between different views was starting to be mildly annoying, and the whole page per day is too much space for what I need right now. 

Last night it occurred to me that I don't actually have to stick with the decision I made just for the sake of it. There is a reverence around a January 1st refresh, but I'm 100% here for February (or March or August or literally any other month) being the new January. I'm really excited to create a paper system that works for me where I am right now.

I'm going to go with a (very minimal) bullet journal set up, so I can create the structure I need when I need it. I've never really got into bullet journaling before because my perfectionist tendencies mean that I get annoyed if a line isn't perfectly straight or the ink leaves a blip. But I think (I hope) that the inherent freedom of the format might be perfect for my life and commitments right now. As opposed to using any gridded notebook, I love that the yearly view and monthly views already exist in the Day Free so I don't need to make them from scratch. I don't know exactly how it will work for me until I try it, maybe the lack of structure will drive me crazy, but for today I'm full of enthusiasm and in love with the promise of complete flexibility.

I'm also going in to this new decision knowing that if and when I finally do create a paper planner, I may well abandon the Day Free for that, and that is totally fine. Planners can also transition into notebooks and I never don't have one of those on the go. 

If you're thinking that maybe you want to change your system, but you don't want to second guess your original decision, it's ok. It's ok to come to the conclusion that what you are using might have been perfect at one time, but what you need has changed. And it's ok to admit that something didn't work as well for you as you had hoped. Sometimes we have to admit that the thing we thought would be great, might need to be repurposed or retired.

You don't have to use tools that don't work for you. Maybe you can tweak what you have or maybe you need a total refresh. Maybe you need to switch it up from paper to digital or the other way around. Sometimes experimentation is what's needed - you really can't know how something works for you until you try, modify if needed, and try again.

If you're eager to plan this upcoming week and you want to try something new, why not download the free weekly overview planner sheet below?

Alternatively, maybe what you need does not exist yet and you really would like to see it in the real world. Is there something that you would really love to see as a paper product or a printable or a digital product? What would make your planning mind happy? I would love to hear - I'm always up for new ideas and suggestions, I'd love to help you achieve planner peace for your life right now!


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