We are constantly evolving, but most of our tools just stay the same. I have finally found a system that adopts to me as I grow. Inspired by all the good systems out there, but entirely my own. And you can have the same for you.
How traditional planning systems lock us in
As busy professionals, we could all need a little help in organizing our lives. There are dozens of apps and planners available at the marketplace. They all promise to be the one tool that can finally make us hyper-productive. I don’t know about you, but for me, that didn’t work out.
The problem is that they all come with their assumptions of how we should work. But actually the way we work best is to follow our very own style. Another problem with those planners: They assume that the way we plan and organize is highly consistent over time. But with changing seasons of life, our needs for planning also change.
Could it be better?
How would it be, if our planners, journals and calendars would be more like clothing that we can change as our lives change. Or better yet, like our skin that grows and changes with us to fit us perfectly. It’s absolutely possibly, let me show you how.
Option 1: Bullet journaling
Bullet journaling is one way to do that. You take a standard empty journal like a Moleskine and fill it in as you go following just a few rules. I did a deep-dive on the method and found out that it has the potential to become confusing really fast if you don’t coherently follow the system. Another drawback is that you need to switch journals when one is full and need to copy stuff by hand that you need from the former journal.
Option 2: A planner that fits you like your skin
After a few weeks of tinkering I settled with a system that integrates:
- the structure of pre-made systems,
- the individuality of bullet journaling and
- the flexibility of a four-ring-binder.
You just need three things from your next office store. You can buy them now and get started using the system in five minutes.
(1) Get a 3-ring or 4-ring-binder …
It is the perfect format to fit into my office bag and big enough to really get all my stuff in there. I especially like the 4-ring binder, because the pages won’t tear. And it is super-simple to change the structure. Just open it, take the paper out and put it in somewhere else. I use a Herlitz transparent 4-ring-binder. It is super flexible and durable. And it looks beautiful.
… (2) a folder register …
A register keeps the binder highly structured, so it is easy and fast to find things. I played around with a couple different binders and registers. The beauty is that it is soooo easy to adapt. It literally just takes a minute to change. You can play around all the time and still work with it effectively. I use a Leitz WOW register and a 12-part register for organizing my quarter.
… and (3) a puncher & standard paper.
You probably have this at home already. Compared to a Moleskine or Filofax you can just use standard material that is available everywhere. That is why it is so incredibly cheap. Simply print out whatever you want in your system, punch-hole and put it in the binder. On my puncher, I put it on “888”, punch the sheet once, turn the paper, punch it one more time, ready.
This is what my planner looks like
I use a standard A4 binder so I can simply print out anything I want. Because it is standard it is much cheaper and much more versatile than a Filofax. You could also use a smaller format binder like A5 if you like.
Bonus: Use the best from everywhere.
Because we use standard format (A4 or letter), you can printout worksheets from existing planners and test what works for you. If what you want is available in print only, simply google for a photo and print it. You can literally use the best of the best and combine it into a system that uniquely fits you.
- Worksheets from the Full Focus Planner.
- Quarterly calendars from Kalenderpedia. They are much cooler than anything I found in the stores plus they are free.
- Weekly calendar printouts from MS Outlook.
- And a couple of worksheets I adapted from different systems I used in the past. I create my own worksheets in MS Word. I especially like the easy use of tables in Word.
These are the sections of my binder:
Creating your own unique tool is simple & powerful. It is simple because it uses what it already there. It is powerful, because it fits you and grows with you. And because it uses standard material, you can upgrade it all the time with little effort.
What would it make possible for you to have a planning system that fits you like your own skin? You can let me know in the comments below.