So you wish you could stick with a planner?

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Those of us who would love to "just use a planner" - that is, if we could keep it up more than 3 days without losing it or entirely forgetting it even exists.

What we can do about it:

Make simply remembering that your planner exists your number 1 priority when you first start using a planner. Just pick it up. Just look at it. Just carry it with you. Do this every day, even if you don't actually make any plans in it!

Specific tips:

  1. Set reminders on your phone, or on post-its around the house, to look at your planner at least once a day.
  2. Habit stacking - put your planner near something else that you do every day, like making coffee, changing your socks, or even put it on top of your charging phone, to make it harder to forget.
  3. Use a Tile or other tracking device so that you can't lose your planner under the bed or in the couch cushions anymore.

Bonus tip: For the first week or two, give yourself a sticker every day you use your planner. And yes, just picking up the book and putting in the sticker counts.


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About the Ex-Gifted Podcast:

If you are a former gifted kid who grew up to struggle with basic adulting, then you need the Ex-Gifted podcast.

Host Ren Eliza talks about gifted kid burnout, and the damage that lasts long into adulthood. Damage like battered self esteem, decimated internal motivation, and a continued failure to live up to expectations even while we were placed on pedestals and alienated from our peers.

Ex-Gifted will cover failure, procrastination, imposter syndrome, and chronic anxiety and depression, and a whole lot more.

Each episode also offers suggestions to deal with your executive dysfunction in adulthood so you can rebuild the systems that allowed you to shine so brightly in childhood.

We’re making exceptional children into functional adults.



If people are constantly asking you, "Well, have you ever just tried a planner?" then this is the show for you. This is Ex-Gifted.

Hello and welcome back. I'm Ren Eliza, and I did have a pretty good break over the last few weeks. The only thing is that I don't really remember what I'm doing anymore. We'll have to work through that. I do remember that I promised you before I left that we would talk once I got back about how to use a planner.

And when I say that, I don't mean the like specifics of different types of planners and like what you do with them and stuff like that. Although I do want to talk about that some in the coming weeks also. What I mean is the part that so many of us struggle with, which is the, like just the actually getting around to using it part.

In my experience, it usually goes something like this. You decide that you're going to quote get your life together. Now, personally, I've just decided to stop trying to get my life together. My life's already pretty good. So I don't want to work so hard on trying to fix it. I really just wanna work more on enjoying it, but I'm gonna talk to people that are in the place where I was kind of a few steps back.

Let's go ahead and put forth a caveat, which is that if you aren't interested in using a planner, then don't use it. I don't, I don't care the people that want to go full chaos that just want to go wherever they, are being taken in the moment. As long as you, have the freedom and ability and privilege to be able to do that, then yes, go for that if that's what you're interested in.

I'm only talking to the people who actually wish this was advice that worked for them. If you don't even care that this advice doesn't work for you, then that's fine.

So you start looking for advice. You start looking around at the people around you, and asking them like, how do you manage to do it all? Maybe you're like me and you kind of struggle with everything a little bit. Or maybe you are one of the people that, can do kind of the hard stuff. Like when people think of normally as being hard, maybe you have a demanding job and that isn't really a big deal to you, but when you try to do, what's supposed to be the easy things, like just washing the dishes and kind of daily maintenance of your life, that's where things really fall apart for you.

It could be either one, it doesn't really matter which type you are. Just, if you feel like there are the things that you just can't seem to stay on top of, no matter what you try, then, that's what we're talking about here.

And so you look to other people who don't seem to have the same problem that seemed to manage just fine with washing their dishes every day with keeping their laundry folded and put away, whatever the things are that are the expectations that you have for your life. And when you ask them, maybe one of the suggestions that comes up is to try using a planner, to just keep all of these things that you have to do written down. So you don't run late to your meetings. So you don't forget the things that you have to do.

Earlier on, there's kind of. You know, there's two points. There's the, you hear that advice and you think, "Oh, okay. Yeah, that's good advice. I'm gonna try that. I'm gonna go get a planner and that's gonna get my life together."

What I think most of you probably are at, at this point is the stage where you hear that and you're like, "Of course I've tried using a planner like I'm I have ADHD or I'm neurodivergent otherwise, or my brain just doesn't work like that. There's too much chaos going on." Like if I could use a planner, I wouldn't need a planner in the first place, I guess is the, the logic there.

I've posted something about this on Instagram that like, if you actually are to get into like watching planner videos and stuff on YouTube, what you will find out very quickly is that planner people, the people who are like really obsessed with planning and like basically it's their like main hobby that they use like seven different planners and they're really into it.

And they have no problem keeping up with, I mean, they might have problem keeping up with their seven different planners, but they have no problem using their planners on a regular basis. I'm one of the kind of people that has like seven planners. I definitely don't use my seven planners every day, but I use like one of my planners almost every single day.

Planner people. Are not the people that like have all of their shit together. They are the people like me who like are anxious are maybe ADHD. I don't want to like go diagnosing people based on their YouTube videos, but they are terrified that they're going to forget stuff.

And that's why they're using the planner. That's why they're so fixated on planning as kind of like a habit. And I'm not necessarily saying that you need to throw out all of your other hobbies and just only use like planning as your only hobby. My point is just planner people are people like you they're people like me. They are not, there are exceptions who are people that just kind of have it all together, but that is not like the majority of the planner community.

They are, they are people like us. They're the neurodivergent types who need some kind of planning system in order to just have what they consider to be a basic level of functioning that they're comfortable with.

And so the process that we tend to go through at the beginning is that someone suggests using a planner to you. You understandably get offended because of course you have tried using a planner. You have maybe bought like a really nice expensive planner. You get it set up, you write everything in it. Maybe it works well for you for like a week. Maybe it works well for you for like a day. Maybe you set it up and then forget about it almost immediately. You have tried a planner and it hasn't worked because you haven't been able to keep up with it.

You even go into like neurodivergent communities like this one and you hear people still recommending the same thing. And you're like, "Okay, no, but that's not how my brain works. Planners are designed for neurotypical people." And you don't you don't have the experience of using a planner successfully.

So even when other neurodivergent people are recommending it to you, you start to kind of feel like there's really something wrong with you because it's not just neurotypical people recommending it anymore. It's people who you thought were like you, but apparently you're even worse than they are. But that's not the thing.

You bought your planner, you set it up, you put a lot of time and effort and money into it. And it still didn't work. So of course you're frustrated.

You've tried using a planner. Yeah. But you might have to go back to episode one of this podcast. There is no try.

What a lot of us do when we don't have planner habit already kind of in place when we're not used to using a planner is that we, we get it. And we think that the planner is supposed to be the thing that changes things. And it's not. A planner is just a tool that you use so that you can change things for yourself.

The planner is not the thing that gets your life together anymore than a hammer is the thing that builds your house. You still have to do all of the hard work around it. The planner is just something that makes it a whole lot easier to do that work..

So let's give everyone here the benefit of the doubt, right? You understand that, you know, that the planner isn't basically, isn't going to use itself. That is not going to fix things on its own, that you have to put the work in.

But you still have an unreasonable expectation and it's not at all your fault. It's kind of how it's taught to us that the using the planner is gonna come naturally or be kind of innate. And that's not how it works.

So it's expected that using a planner is going to be like using any other tool, like a hammer or like a measuring tape or something that once you kind of know how to use it, the actual using it is trivial. So once you know the basics, like how to read measurements, how to push the button to like, make it retract, how to write in your meetings and appointments and tasks. That you've mastered it and then anything beyond that is basically just little tweaks and technique to make it better and more functional.

But actually the writing stuff into your planner is the smallest part of learning how to use a planner. The big part in what you really have to focus on in those first weeks months sometimes for some people like a year or more is just the actual using it part.

And by the actual using it part, I don't mean like writing things down and planning out your week. I mean, getting it out and just freaking looking at it, like just remembering it. If you set a time on your phone or whatever, a set like a reminder that every morning, afternoon, and evening that you would pull out your planner that has nothing written in it.

You would just look at it, not write anything down, you just look at it and then you just put it back down. If you just did that every day for a week, that would be a thousand times more useful to you than buying a planner, writing out what you wanna do for your whole week. And... I mean, and that's basically it.

'Cuz that's what a lot of us do is that when we first are trying to use a planner, we are worried more about we're having this excited kind of future thinking about what, how we're going to change our life starting today. And so we have all of these ideas about this cool stuff that we're gonna do now that we're getting our life together.

And so that's dopaminergic. Right. So that's exciting. That's fun. That's the cool part about having a planner. The like less cool parts are one actually remembering to like check your planner and like look at it every day again and again, and again, and two that actually-doing-stuff-that-you-have-written-down that part. 'Cuz you still have to actually do the stuff.

I mean that's the whole trick, there. That in the first few weeks, months, whatever. That learning to use a planner is not about what you write in the planner. It's not about painting pretty pictures. It's not about using stickers. It's not about using washi tape. Although I will say that using stickers and washi tape and like painting pages in my planner makes me a lot more excited to actually go and check it again and again and again. But if that's not you, then don't worry about that.

But it's not even about the, it's not even about the plans that you make in it. It's just about actually picking it up and using it. And that's true whether your planner is a actual hardbound book. It's true whether it's a bullet journal, it's true whether it's an app on your phone. It's true whether it's just a digital calendar. It's even true if it's just like a series of post-its that you have spread out on your wall. It doesn't matter what system you are using for planning.

If you have tried using a planning system before, and haven't been able to stick with it, this is the reason. This is the secret. This is the thing here. That it's, because you're worried too much about having the right system and having the right things going into your system. Where the most important part is just using the system. Period.

In the very beginning, the only thing that matters is using it. Which means that kind of the best thing that you can do around designing your planning system is not worrying about making it the most functional it's about making it the most. Oh, I'm sorry. FUNctional. That didn't really work. It works more, it works better in text, doesn't it? Making it more fun, making it something that you are excited to use.

As you get more and more used to using it, you can do those tweaks to make it work better, to make it more functional. But the only functional thing in the beginning is just using it. And again, I don't even mean doing the things that are on it. I just mean picking it up and remembering that it's there.

So I do have some specific tricks to help you remember that it's there. So I mentioned the reminders on your phone. You can schedule like notifications on your phone to pop up using your calendar app or whatever. That's great. Although I will say to try to make sure that you're just using a couple of well placed or well timed reminders, because it's very easy for me at least to get to the point where I'm just overwhelmed by them and I don't check them anymore. I don't care about them.

Secondly, you can use habit stacking. So I know that I've talked about this elsewhere. It's probably something you've heard about other places as well, but basically I try to, I try to leave my planner near like the coffee pot, just like on the edge of the counter, near the coffee pot every morning. Even on the days that I'm not making coffee, it's somewhere that I can easily see it, like first thing in the morning. So I know to check it right away.

And another big thing, I will show you that, I mean, this very literally you can use. A tile tracking device or a similar thing to that. You know, the apple, I don't, I don't remember what they're called the air tags or something. Any of those kinds of trackers that are, especially one, like I have the credit card size one that's supposed to go in your wallet. My wallet's always attached to my keys, so I put the wallet one in, in my planner so that I can't lose my planner or at least it's much more difficult for me to lose my planner.

I have used it like once a month or something since I got it. It has been very useful. I, I highly recommend it and I will note that it might seem at first, like you lose your planner every single day, but as soon as you like spend 20 bucks or whatever on a thing to keep you, or to make you able to find your planner, every time you lose it, you're gonna like stop losing it. It's like just a thing that once you have a way to be able to find it you're not gonna lose it anymore. And it's gonna seem like it's a waste of money, but actually just remember that you're you haven't lost your planner anymore. So actually, it's a mental thing, I guess. I don't know.

So those are three options for actually kind of figuring out how to keep track of your planner, remind yourself to use it. Keep it, like work it into your daily life. My other recommendation is just to make it fun. So I see, I'm in a bullet journaling group for ADHDers. And, it's a great group, highly recommend it.

However, there are a lot of people on there and in a lot of bullet journaling communities who go really hard on the utilitarian side of bullet journaling and like, that's how it was originally meant. It was, it was a, it's a system developed by someone with ADHD, for use by other people with ADHD and whose brains don't necessarily work quite like neurotypical brains, to be purely functional and it got kind of hijacked by like the art community to make it into something, very artistic and expressive and beautiful, which to be clear does not mean that it's not functional. But it does also mean that it's intimidating for a lot of people and not even just a lot of neurodivergent people, but just a lot of people in general that like it's a lot, right?

So a lot of people in that group and other bullet journaling groups kind of like it, will tell you that when you're getting started, do not worry. The washi tape and the colors and pictures and sketching and all of the kind of art side of stuff of bullet journaling, and just worry about what's functional. And for some people that works great. But what I'm going to say is that you have to know yourself and I know myself and there are some weeks, there are some weeks that that's what I need. I need to just write stuff down and that's, that's all I worry about. But most of the time, the fun stuff is the only thing that gets me into the journal. It's important, I think, to find the balance there, especially early on.

I'm not an artist, but that doesn't mean that I don't like making art because art is like a human thing. So I like to, paint in my pages. I like to use stickers. I like to use washi tape and that's the stuff that gets me actually using my journal.

I think that the fun stuff, or at least whatever you think is fun, maybe you're into fountain pens. And so it's just writing, but writing with a fun pen, maybe you are really into stickers and you don't want to even bother writing your tasks on the page. Like you can literally just pick up your journal and write in the date. If it's not already written there and just put a sticker on there.

And the sticker shows that you picked it up that day and that's a success. I actually put a tracker in my, one of my early planners and the tracker was just like to see the days that I used my planner and. if I just picked it up and colored in that square on the tracker, then I successfully use my planner that actually just coloring it in, count it as using my planner, because the only thing that matters in the beginning is that you use it.

It's not how you use it. It's not what you do with it. It's just that you use it. And so, that's all I've got for this week. Next week I probably will talk some more about the, I promise two different things. What was it? I have three things planned, but you know, remembering things, not always by strong suit.

Okay. Okay. And next week I'm probably going to do kind of an overview of different kinds of planners that I recommend. There are lots of kinds of planners that I haven't tried. And so I can't, I'm not gonna cover obviously, every kind of planner. You're welcome to, hop in the comments and recommend your favorite planners.

But yeah, next week, I'm going to talk about the kinds of planners that I like, especially for people with executive dysfunction. And the week after that, I'm going to talk about actual techniques and kind of different parts of your planner system.

But remember that the first part is just using it. That's it. It's nothing else. You just, just like you start any other habit. You just have to do it until remember, you know, how I feel about habits. I think I've expressed this many times at this point, habits are bullshit. And so like, yeah, there are still days that I completely forget that my planner exists, even though it's like kind of my whole thing.

Like I will have it laying out on the corner of the counter and I literally won't see it the whole day, be in there in the kitchen cooking and I won't see it. That's just how my brain works. That's fine.

But still I have done so much of using my planner at this point that eventually I'm going to remember it. It might a be, there might be a whole 24 hour period, a whole 36 hour period. Maybe even like a whole 60 hour period where I forget it, but eventually I'm gonna remember. There might be like a week, like I held up and showed last week that I basically like don't don't do anything in it and that's fine that's not the point. The point is just getting accustomed to the idea of even using a planner.

And once you get over that roadblock, the actual kind of stuff, the using the techniques, the writing stuff in it, and then doing it. That part becomes a lot easier. Doesn't become automatic. It doesn't happen all the time. Every time. But it does become a lot easier once you have, just once you've just gotten used to picking up your planner and looking at it and using it every day, almost every day in the first place.

Alright. So next week, best planners for executive dysfunction week after that planner techniques.

In the meantime, since I'm back, I'm also doing my weekly co-working threads in Discord go and join the discord community. The link is in the show notes and you can join that too. It's free. It's for everybody. We do it 9:00 AM Eastern time every Tuesday morning.

Until next time. Byeeeee.


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