Making your planner work FOR YOU

Episode : . A Blue background with a yellow neuron with a body the shape of a star. Words say Ex-gifted podcast. Helping exceptional kids become functional adults. A Yellow stripe across the bottom reads With Raine Eliza from

People with Executive Dysfunction are notorious for buying planners, but we don't stick with them, because we don't know how. Let's go over a ton of tips and tricks in search for a couple that may work for you.


You went and got a planner, and now you have no idea what to actually do with it (aside from picking it up every day of course)

What we can do about it:

  1. Plan what you do AND when you do it
  2. Plan when you're working, but not exactly what - aka time blocking. Combining time blocking and to-dos can be a great system for ND people who need some structure but also need the flexibility in their system to work on their current interests
  3. Plan what you do, but not exactly when - aka to-do lists
  4. Plan neither what you do NOR when you do it. Wait what? Remember how I recommended intentions a few weeks ago? If you're not trying to rein in the chaos, but let it flow free, while still having a bit more ownership over the flavor of your days, setting intentions can actually work great without a schedule as such.


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Kawai Kitsune by Kevin MacLeod



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 you took the leap and you went out and you bought yourself a planner and now you have no idea what to actually do with it. Then this is the show for you. This is Ex-Gifted.

Welcome to Ex-Gifted. I'm your host Ren Eliza. And this week as promised. We're going to talk about planner techniques, things that you can do in your planner and...

I'm going to kind of keep these general. Obviously how you use your planner is going to depend on you and what your own style is. And it's also going to depend on the style of planner that you bought, which hopefully you incorporated some of the advice that I gave in the last episode to figure out what kind of planner is going to work for you.

For the most part all of these options will work great with bullet journaling because of course, what is great about bullet journaling is that you can design it to be your own thing.

So. Let's start. What are techniques you can do to use your planner or use your planner better to make it work better for you and your brain.

To begin with, I recommend that you pick it up every day. Yeah, like we've said from the very beginning of this whole series. The first thing. Is just to make sure that you pick up your planner, just to make sure that you're doing something with it. Literally just to make sure that you're not forgetting about it.

The very first thing is not any kind of particular method or technique or trackers or whatever kinds of things that you think of a planner being none of that matters if you are actually using it. So step one, the very first thing is that. You have to actually pick it up, remember it, use it. So make that your priority number one, before anything else that has to happen and it has to happen first.

But from there. There's a lot of options.

So a few weeks ago, I kind of talked about um, some different things that you could do to incorporate more like intentional time into your days.

And that's kind of the entire point of using a planner in the first place of any kind is that you're trying to just be more intentional. Like just literally using your time, the way that you intended to use it, that's the purpose of making a plan.

And I gave some options of kind of more to less chaotic ways that you can do that. We're going to kind of do a similar thing here to start in this episode. So think about your planner style, if you want something kind of more structured and rigid or more chaotic and freeform.

Because time management basically consists of two parts. It's got the, what do you do? And when you do it and just mathematically, combining these, there are four possible combinations.

You can plan what you do and when you do it, You can plan. When you're going to do something, but not exactly specifically what thing is going to happen at that time. You can plan. The things you're going to do, but not the specific time when you're going to do them. Or you don't plan either of them. I know that that sounds wild. I'll explain that when I get to it.

Okay. So. To start with planning what you do and when you do it, usually that's what people think of when they think of planners, they think of something that's got like an hourly list that's going to tell you what you're doing at 9:00 AM, what you're doing at 10:00 AM. Possibly even what you're doing at 9 15, 9 30, 9 45, et cetera, throughout the day, when you're going to have lunch, when you're going to come home from work. Very specific. What you're doing each hour of the day, possibly even more granular than that.

That really, that can work really great for some people, including some neurodivergent people. Remember that I said in the last episode, it is a myth that there is a planner that's going to be the best planner for all people with ADHD, or there is a planner that doesn't work at all for neurodivergent people. Neither of those things is true.

It is going to come down to your individual needs, which will vary not only based on your particular like your neurotype your. Your particular presentation of traits and struggles. Also just like your employment situation. If you have a job outside of the house, versus if you have a job where you are your own boss or you and/or you work from home.

Those require different different levels of structure. And additionally, like being a stay at home, parent or something is going to require an entirely different structure. Being a student is going to require different structure as well. So, whatever your situation is will actually determine the kind of structure that you need and therefore, what kind of planner and what kind of plan might work best for you.

If you do feel like you need the intense structure of having basically what you're going to do when you're going to do it throughout the day. Then absolutely go ahead and try that. However, I do want to lead with a bit of a precaution that even in that case, you don't want to start with a plan for- probably not your whole day. Definitely not your whole week. Absolutely not. Like your whole month.

You don't want to sit down at the start of the month and plan out a week and say, okay, this is what my weeks are going to look like for the rest of time. Especially not when you're first starting with your planner.

So just hear me out for a second. I know that sounds counterintuitive. I want to tell a story recently from my husband who has ADHD. Um, He came up to me and he asked. Because he knows that I love talking about planners. He asked me what it means if you actually really like planning and you're actually pretty good at making a really good plan, but it's hard for you to stick to it and you don't really like to follow it once you've made it.

He asked me what that means. And I said, what it means is that you're like everybody else in the world and not in a, everybody in the world has ADHD kind of way, but just that it's extremely normal for someone to like to make a plan, to even be able to make a plan and then not be able to follow it. That is not a specific symptom of ADHD or anything else that is just kind of life.

Because the thing is, for a lot of people. Like, this is definitely me. For a lot of people making a plan is super fun. You get to kind of imagine. This cool person that you could be, who's doing all of these things that you don't normally do. Is like, taking care of all these responsibilities, but also making plenty of time for the other things that really matter in their lives. They are basically a superhero.

It's very easy for you to sit down and make a plan where you're seeing your future self as a superhero that can like accomplish anything. Which is great.

However, making a detailed plan, especially when you're still just in the early stages can trigger demand avoidance.

Essentially that future self can look at it when the time comes, when you're, when you're actually in that moment. It can feel like someone is stealing control of your life. That would be your, your past self, the past self that sat down and made the plan is stealing control over your future self's life, telling that person what they need to be doing. You might actually find that you don't have the time or energy or whatever to do the thing that you were planning at the time you were planning. But even if you do in theory have that energy, you can definitely end up setting off that thing in your brain that is just like, you can't tell me what to do.

And it makes you rebel instead of doing the thing that you had already decided that you want to do. So you end up in this weird place where you like both want to do a thing cause otherwise you wouldn't have written it down, but also you don't want to do a thing because otherwise you would just do it. And that's not the aim. That's not what we're going for with trying to have a have the planner.

So, yeah, funny enough in the moment you kind of liked the idea of exerting control over a future. You, you imagine how it would feel. To be the kind of person. Who you imagined a future, you to be checking off all of those boxes on your planner and you imagined that it would feel so great. So you got all of these wonderful feel, good chemicals at the time that you were making the planner instead of at the time that you were doing the plan.

You assumed that actually doing those things would feel great too, but then when the time came actually folding laundry or making phone calls or whatever it was, doesn't feel great. If it did feel great, then probably. A lot of those kinds of things past you would have just done instead of planning it.

It's kind of a tricky thing about motivation. We think that we feel motivated when we're like making a plan to get things done, but usually what we're feeling in that moment is not actually, um, motivation because we're not actually getting up and doing the thing, right? We were just thinking about doing the thing.

I can't really stress enough how different it is to think about doing a thing versus actually doing the thing. It's not the same thing. It's a different feeling.

Just something to think about.

So even if you do want to do the kind of hourly planning. Don't start off with a detailed plan, just put one or two things in for each day for the time that you're going to do, and you can build it up over time.

So start off simple. And also start off localized in time, um, which is to say, start off like making a planner for like two things that you want to do today and the times that you're going to do it versus starting off making a plan for the entire week, even if you're only planning out two things for the entire week.

Making a plan for your whole week, when you're first getting started, you don't know how much flexibility you're actually going to need throughout the week. So that can be kind of tricky.

What can help- and this is something that can be helpful, whether you're doing the hourly planning or not- um, is to track your time hourly when you're getting started. So this isn't planning what you're going to do throughout the day at any given time, but just writing down what you do throughout the day, at the time that you do it. Just making note of the different things that you do in the day and the times that you do it.

And then if you have it over a week, you can look to see like, okay, do I usually have lunch at the same time every day? Do I usually watch TV at a certain time during the day? Does my kid usually ask for a snack at a certain time during the day? Once you have that information, it will be a lot easier to fit in the rest of the things that you want to do.

But even if you're not using the hourly planning, it can be very useful a to see that actually there are things that you're already doing on a regular basis because it almost certainly is the case.

And also you can see what days can tend to be busier and what days have more space? Um, so even if you're not doing hourly planning, you know what days to put more of your effort to get stuff done in.

So, this is just so that you know what you're actually doing in a day because whatever you think right now that you're doing is probably like 75% wrong. At least that was my experience.

So the second option is that you plan when you do- whatever work productivity stuff that you're doing- and not exactly what you're doing in that time. AKA time-blocking. So that means that you're setting aside some amount of time, usually a couple of hours in a day at a time to be used toward different kinds of tasks.

So you might say that you're going to work from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM or something on work or it might be something more specific, like writing or phone calls or whatever kind of stuff that you do at your job.

But the point is that you're not making it very specific tasks. It's not like that you call this person at 8 AM you call this person at 8 15? You call this person at 8 45. It's just like this is the time of day that I'm going to work on making phone calls and I get done, whatever I get done in that time. And then at 10:00 AM, I'm going to take a break for a bit and then go do the next task.

From 10 to 12, you might work on sending emails and writing proposals or something. Whatever stuff people do at work.

So combining time-blocking and to do lists, which is the next thing we're going to kind of talk about can be a really great system for neurodiverse people who need some amount of structure. So you have those blocks that show you what kind of stuff you're supposed to be doing in a particular time.

That doesn't necessarily mean you need to be working on that stuff the whole time, but if you have a task that you need to do from a 10 to 12, you know that somewhere during that time period, you need to get that thing done. You don't necessarily have to start on it right away. You have some flexibility there. But also, you still have a little bit of structure which can really help for people that need to, that need that help to stay on task.

If you're interested in this method, you should check out my ABCs of Time Management. I'll put a link in the show notes. Um, because the B in that one is for blocking.

That's not the method that I've used or that I use anymore. Actually my, uh, planning progression has been basically from the hourly plan um, getting kind of more and more chaotic over the years, which might be different from, from how normal people do it. I don't know. But I have definitely started with the strictest method and that was useful for me at the time that I was using it. Um but I have slowly been going through the hourly schedule to time blocking.

And now I'm on kind of the next step, which is the planning what I do, but not exactly when I do it. And that means working from to-do lists. So perhaps um, in the near future hereI would love to progress all the way to the most chaotic, not planning, what or when planning method, but we'll see if I ever get there. Because right now, this method is, uh, is working really great for me.

So the planning what you do, but not exactly when means that you're keeping to-do lists, which can be daily, weekly or even monthly. Although, I think it's good to have a monthly task list, working straight from that, I think probably isn't going to work for most of my listeners just because it's hard to deal with things on an entire monthly basis unless your days are already pretty much manageable and you just want a reminder for the things that you don't do often enough to remember on your own.

Now, that's a thing that a lot of us will need is a reminder for those things that don't happen all the time. But we additionally need reminders for stuff that we are supposed to do all the time, because. Brains.

My favorite kind of to-do list and what I'm using right now is called a rolling weekly to-do list. I write out a to-do list for the week and across the top I have a label for each day of the week- just the first letter.

And so I have basically a grid where I can check off the thing that I do on the day that I do it. This is super helpful because it works great for things that you only have to do once, because you just can put an X in that box for the day that you do it.

But it also works really great for things that you have to do more than once. I have my regular like morning routines and stuff on there. Um, I know that a lot of people don't have to write those things down. I do, and that's okay.

So my morning routines, I can check off like I got my water, that I took my vitamins, that I made my coffee because I will, yes. I will forget that. If I don't have it written down, I can check each of those things off as I do them.

But also something that's like record a podcast. I can check that off on the day that I actually do it. And additionally, like any days that I make like edits and stuff like that. So I can see the days that I have been working on that thing, even though it's not every single day. So it works for things that you have to do every day, but also things that you have to do any day that week.

You can make a spread like this in a bullet journal. It works great for that. As far as I know, that's pretty much what it was invented for, but you can also use it in any planner with enough space for it. I'm using mine in my Hobonichi weeks right now. So remember that one had a weekly layout on one side, and then it had a blank page on the other side. So I use that blank page to basically track my checklists and my to-do lists. And then I use the weekly side to take notes for just like things that happened that day that are more just interesting facts about the day.

These rolling to-do lists can also be really great for like annual cleaning routines. Um, or like household or car maintenance or just any other things that don't happen every day to keep track of the last time it was completed. The other thing that it can be really good for is managing a project.

Just a note on the rolling to-do lists for things like annual household cleaning tasks. The label at the top could also be the months of the year. So if you want to note that you like deep cleaned your kitchen in January. It doesn't necessarily have to be days of the week, so you can keep a whole year in there by doing months instead of days.

So it's time to talk about the last thing, the planning neither what you do, nor when you do it. Okay. So. You remember how I recommended intentions a few weeks ago?

If you're not trying to reign in the chaos, but you want to let it flow free while still having a bit more ownership over the flavor of your days setting intentions can actually work great even without any kind of schedule.

So you're not necessarily saying the specific to-do lists items for the day. You can just set the intention of working for a day, whether that's I'm talking for myself, working on a podcast, working on a blog post. I can just say like, okay, this day is for work, and I will do some work things today.

I have been. Putting some more flavor of this into the system that I'm using now. I'm kind of setting up each day with a specific intention in mind.

However, it's not really strict, like today is my day that is for magic. It's a Monday when I'm recording it, Mondays are the days that I like to try to incorporate some magic things in there. That doesn't mean that I can't also do some work on a Monday. It just means that my general focus for the day is supposed to be on magic things.

However I have done the to do list thing. And I have specified a few magic things that I want to work on today. I wanted to. Uh, do a tarot spread for the week. I wanted to study some things about tarot. And I also wanted to do some meditating later today. So, I do have the specific to-do list, things that I want to do today. But the idea of the intention settings is to eventually get to a place where I don't necessarily have to have a specific list of things. In order to still accomplish the general kinds of things that I want to use for my days.

And the truth of the matter is, is just that as I'm getting older, my brain is tending toward chaos, whether I like it or not. And so having my, um, having my planner system kind of go that same way I think has been very helpful that my planner is kind of evolving and adapting with me.

And the other thing is for the people who are operating on a hormone system that is primarily a monthly driven. That you have the more chaotic weeks and the more kind of focused, I don't know. Clear brain weeks. Can you tell that I'm not in a clear-brained week, myself?

And so you can adjust these things to go with your weeks. The way that you need them to. For me during the weeks that I am having more brain fog, I kind of want it to be more intentions focused where I can allow myself a lot of flexibility. And just give myself a lot of grace for not being able to do the things that I can do other times of the month.

And during other weeks when I'm more able to focus and get things done. I want to have that to do list that tells me all the things that I'm trying to get done during this week so that I don't forget about them. So that I can make hay while I have fucking estrogen in my body.

That's how that saying goes, right?

So intention setting, it can be systematized to some degree in order to use it more effectively without turning it into just an overbearing task list. This is especially useful when you're just getting started by boosting your results early on, and kind of just giving you an idea of what kinds of things you're supposed to do based on what your intentions are for the day, rather than just sort of flapping about forgetting about your intentions as soon as you set them, which is something that I've struggled with in the past.

So having just a little bit of a system in place. Like I said with just having a couple of tasks related to your intentions already kind of thought up for yourself. You don't even necessarily have to do all of them, but just having a little list that says like, okay, this is my magic day. Here's five things that I could do on a magic day.

All right. So those are the four types of planning that you can kind of use and if you're using uh, bullet journal, especially, but if you're using some other system as well, you're absolutely free to use any and all of these as needed and change it up as you go for whatever you need at the time.

But no matter what kind of system you're using, one thing that you do need to schedule in is time to plan. Even if you're just using intentions. My intentions for Sundays - my thing that day is to work on planning. Today is for magic. Yesterday was for planning for journaling.

So you have to schedule some time to plan or it's not going to happen. You have to make time for it, or it just won't work. Um, It also the. Morning use of my planner and evening journaling are both in that daily checklist that I have to do every day.

You have to schedule time to plan if you want to make time to plan. It can be any time, but you do have to schedule the time.

Another thing that's really useful is to do a brain dump or- they call it something different in the bullet journaling book and I've forgotten what it is. Take all of the thoughts and ideas in your head and get them down onto paper. Uh, daily or weekly or as needed basically.

And you can translate this into your to-do list. But the thing to remember here is that not every single thing in your brain needs to actually go on your to-do list. So get all of those things out of your head and onto the paper. Now that doesn't mean that they're all going to go on your weekly or even your monthly to-do list. Some of those things are things that you can just cross out. And if it's really that important, then it will come up again later. If it's important to you, then write it down on a master to do list. If it's important for you to do this week, then put it on your weekly to do list.

But otherwise, if it's something that you might like to do. But you're not really sure. You can go ahead and cross it off. Knowing that when you become sure. It will come up again. Remember the idea of getting these things out is so that they're your, so that your brain is not trying to hold onto them anymore.

And so if you're telling yourself at the time, like this is not important enough to hold on to like I've written it down and I've assessed it. And I know that it's not that important right now that also can help your help your brain actually let go of it.

So when you're doing the brain dump, what can help is to think about the buckets of your life and the tasks that you need to do for each one. It could be like home or personal. Family, work, friends, school, et cetera.

Once you have a big to-do list, you can also go back and assign any to do items to one or more of these buckets, and if it doesn't fit anywhere, then that's kind of a good sign that you might not want it on your list at all.

This is a system that I've been working with recently. And I'll talk more about that in the future, but basically I've been narrowing my life down to the things that I actually find most important. And if I have a thing that doesn't fit into those things, then I have to decide if either there's something important in my life that I just forgot about, or if it's not important, it doesn't need to be on the list at all.

When it comes to these different kinds of buckets, if color coding, isn't really your thing. You can use a different kind of code like symbols or signifiers. Just columns or boxes to divide them up, et cetera. There are lots of ways to separate your tasks without using the multicolored pen, but also multicolor pens are awesome.

Next, feel free to sketch out your plan on a sheet of paper or in a rocket book that you can erase or whatever, before you commit it into your planner. There's nothing that says that you have to put everything directly into your planner. Although erasable pens, like the friction pens you use in the rocket book are really great for using in your planners and will allow you to move things around.

If you're a nineties kid like me, you probably already know that erasable pens are a thing, but it's worth noting that today's erasable pens are not the erasable pens of our childhoods and the ones that are out now actually work really, really well. They are friction based and basically they erase with heat. So, um, don't leave your notebook in your car on a hot. If, uh, if you're using these erasable pens.

But the other thing is just, don't be afraid to make mistakes. One really good tip that I have heard is to go to like the last page in your notebook and create a pen test page. I got that tip from Little Coffee Fox, or a grid spacing page.

If you start with something kind of ugly and just purely functional from the very beginning, you'll feel less paralyzed when it comes to messing something up later on. A lot of times we are held up, especially if you do go and buy a little bit of a nicer notebook, or if you already have that stash of notebooks, uh, sitting on your desk somewhere that you haven't been using because they are too nice to use.

This is a way that you can kind of get over that initial hump of just being afraid of messing up before you ever even start. So you can outline and stuff in pencil, you can sketch it as a practice beforehand, but eventually you're gonna have to just commit to something. You'll make mistakes and that's okay.

Remember we are practicing imperfection here. Being imperfect is part of the goal, which means that every time you make a little bit of a mistake, you're actually succeeding at that goal.

Next thing. If your current planner style isn't quite working, or if it's feeling too stale, try something new on the next page, instead of just trying to push through and stick with what you're already doing. You don't wanna fix what isn't broken. So if your system is working for you, then don't mess with it just because you think you're supposed to, but also don't hold on something just because it used to work.

That is something that I've seen a lot in myself and other people that they have a planner system that works really well for them for a while. And then it stops working and they see a problem there, and there is a problem there, but they think that it's a problem with them and that they need to change theirselves so that their system works again.

Instead of seeing that, the problem is that their system isn't working for them anymore. If you're using a pre-printed planner, that can be a little bit more difficult than if you're using something like a bullet journal or even just a kind of more free form planner that lets you do whatever you want in there.

But if you think of your pages more, as suggestions than actual rules that you have to stick by, um, then you could still go along with this, you can cover up the labels that are already there with some washi tape or some, some white out and ignore the parts that aren't working for you anymore, or just change them to something that does work for you.

Okay, one other suggestion. This is not going to apply to everyone, but I'm just going to throw it out there because it is something that works for me is to use art in your journal. Yes, this is a technique and it can be used to your advantage, but it can be to your disadvantage as well. So if it's not something that's gonna work for you, just don't do it.

Just keep your planner strictly for planning. Even if you're interested in art, you can put your art somewhere else. It doesn't have to be in your planner just because that's something that some people like me do. They can be two completely different things. Or if you're not interested in art at all, then you're allowed to have a planner that's just for function without art in it. That is fine.

I have noticed that the bullet journal. Who are most in favor of the completely messy utilitarian style are actual artists

like professional artists who have just scribbled notes in a spiral bound notebook. And these are usually the people who will be most adamant about how unnecessary art is in a bullet journal. This may seem counterintuitive at first because the bullet journalers who are known for having the really extravagant, beautiful spreads, like Little Coffee Fox, who I just mentioned are also professional artists. Um, but I think it actually makes perfect sense. These people already have their outlet for artistic expression.

And so feeling like their productivity tool is yet another place where they're expected to perform is understandably overwhelming. Sometimes you want something where you can just let it be messy and not have to worry about how it looks. They're already getting their creative expression somewhere else. So they don't need to have it in their journal as well.

But some artists do like to include art in their bullet journals. And actually don't think of it as a place that they have to perform, but rather is just a place where their art can just be for them. It isn't expected to meet some kind of standard or cater to their audience. It's something that is just for their own benefit.

Basically artists, aren't a monolith on this, but most of the people who I've seen say that you shouldn't use art in your bullet journal are people who are making art somewhere else in their lives. So I think that that is worth considering.

For the rest of us who don't have other artistic outlets, the bullet journal, or your planner can be a really great place to experiment and learn new things, but only if that's something that you're interested in. I need art in my planner because art was something missing from my life. If that isn't a problem for you, don't take on an artistic obligation just because you're think you think you're supposed to.

And it's also worth noting that some weeks I do very little art in my journal at all. And some weeks I leave the page completely blank. One of the things that I like about having that weekly planner that's already laid out for me is that I never feel the need to make any kind of layout artistic or not.

If I don't get around to it at the beginning of the week, it's already done for me and I can go ahead and use. And maybe I decide to put art in it later. Maybe I don't, but either way I have something that I can use without having to set something up ahead of time.

And that can be where people get kind of tripped up, keeping up with art in their bullet journal. Monday comes around, you haven't set up your weekly spread and because you've been making it artistic, it feels weird to kind of just write the days of the week on the page and let it be messy and ugly because it doesn't live up to the standards of the rest of journal that you've been working on.

So you have to figure out a balance there where if you want to put art in it to make you inspired, to make you excited to come to your notebook, that's a great thing. But you definitely don't want it to feel like an obligation that you're barely keeping up with week to week.

If you are interested in using art, let it work for you. Using weekly or monthly themes can be a good way to inject some novelty into a system that's already working, but maybe just feeling a little bit tired. You don't have to revamp your whole system. You can just add a little bit of flair into it and stickers count. Taping stuff in counts. Just using a colored pen can be nice.

It doesn't have to be. learning to watercolor or learning to draw or doing anything intensely artistic. It can just be putting little bits of visual interest into your planner.

One thing that bullet journaling is really known for aside from the art is habit trackers. Bullet journalers and social media journaling influencers have made habit trackers, a really popular thing, and it makes it seem like that's a really fundamental part of bullet journaling. And it's just not. It is something that you absolutely can include to whatever extent that you're interested in and that it actually helps you.

But I am in favor of using more checklists and fewer habit trackers. If you'll look over the rolling weeklies that I was talking about. They look a lot like the kinds of habit trackers that people make, the less artistic kinds of habit trackers that people make. But the real difference between trackers versus checklists is that a tracker is keeping track when you are doing something, whereas checklists are just there to remind you to do the thing.

So checklists are providing proactive assistance so that you can get these things done whereas trackers are retroactively looking at and just seeing if you have done the thing.

Trackers are meant to motivate you through guilt or shame, or even just the threat of guilt or shame, that if you miss a day that you have done something wrong or that you better not miss a day, because you'll mess up your streak! Then you can see when you succeeded or when you failed.

If you're having a really hard time with those kinds of things in the first place, like thinking of yourself as a failure, trackers may not be as motivating as you expect them to be. I use checklists and the ones that I use are completely just neutral as far as any kind of success, failure, morality or whatever.

I can look over it and I can see like, oh shit, I forgot to take my vitamins this morning. I'm not beating myself up for not having that habit of taking the vitamin or anything like that. It just reminds me that I need to take it or that I need to definitely make sure I take it tomorrow because I didn't do it today.

It's basically the difference between having a friend or a loved one come over in the morning and saying, Hey, remember to go work out right now versus having them come over at the end of the day and saying, "oh, Hey, did you work out? No. Hmm. Okay." Or even, "Hey, did you work out today? Oh yeah, that's great. Better not forget tomorrow..."

Trackers certainly can provide some amount of reminding as well, if they are on a page where you're going to automatically see them. And it's not something that you only look at once at the end of the day, which is how a lot of people use them is they're on their own separate pages, you flip to it at the end of the day and you fill in the things that you did and didn't do.

I just think that it's something that we need to be careful with because they can end up being demotivating, not. For tracking, but for using the planner at all.

That said I do make my own habit tracker kind of thing. It's on my Ko-fi page. There are some free versions and, um, some paid versions that you can try. The way that my habit maps work is that you fill it out every day that you do it and that there are no skipped days. If you do it today, you put an X in the, the next square. If you don't do it tomorrow, there's no X, but the next time you do it, you can just put an X in the next square.

So it's not about how often you do it close together, it's just about making progress each time. It's a lot like bullet journaling in general in that way. If you, you know, stop using it for a whole month, even you're gonna open it up and just turn to the next page. There's not gonna be, uh, a lot of unused space in there from the days that you missed. And also the habit maps are dungeon maps and that's cool.

The one thing that I do think can be kind of useful for trackers is not habits, but just things where you're trying to keep some information instead of motivation. So that would be things like tracking your migraine headaches or potentially tracking when you take your meds. Medication that you have to take daily should probably be in a checklist and remind you to take it daily. Whereas something that you only take as needed, you can put it in an information tracker, so that you'll have that information of, um, you know, when you got a headache, when you had to take your medicine, when your period started and ended that kind of stuff. That's not stuff that you're trying to do, just stuff about yourself that you're trying to remember and maybe make use of that information at some point.

If your habit trackers ever make you feel like you're failing, then that means that they are failing you.

Future you is a pal. You always need to take care of your future self that applies here as well as everywhere else. Don't set up a planner system meant to punish future you for not being a totally different person from present you. Let this apply to your art and to the complexity of your spreads that you set up too. Don't expect future you to keep up with ambitions that present you can literally only dream about.

That takes me to my final point. I've given you a whole list of ideas and techniques and things here. You might want to check the show notes or the blog post about this, where you can actually see all of the stuff kind of laid out.

The last thing is to just kind address the risk of getting into aspirational planning. You don't wanna get too hung up on trying to make the perfect system, routine, plan, schedule, et cetera, ahead of time.

Doing that and trying to figure out what the best thing is before you get started and setting up a lot of complicated, elaborate, spreads and lists and all trackers, all those kinds of things is not really planning for your current life. You're trying to guess what this fantasy version of yourself would want. But if you are trying to get to that point, you really need to become that person first, and then they can just tell you what they want.

Start with something simple. Start with one of those first four things, your schedule with just one or two things on it. Your time blocking with a few blocks in the day for different kinds of activities. Your to-do lists that you can choose when you do each kind of thing. Or your intentions for the day with a list of the kinds of things associated with each intention. Start with just one of those four things and then add new things in as you see the need.

Once you get kind of used to doing this very simple kind of planning, you'll see more where it is lacking and what it needs to spice it up, or to make it work better for you.

And note that I am saying this as a person who has like seven different planners. For me, this is my hobby. Like I said, I have a day of the week that is really just dedicated to doing planners and journal stuff. And this is just something that I love. So, yeah, I have a more complicated system than I would recommend to other people who are just getting started.

But the important thing for me to always remember is when I'm not in a place where I can keep up with all of the different stuff at once, I know exactly what it is that I'm still going to find time for every single day.

That is the Hobonichi weeks that has my like main planner in it. And it is my daily journal that has my just long form journaling in it. I will do those two things every day, even if I don't do any of my other planners for weeks at a time.

You might end up falling down the rabbit hole too, but keep the basics simple at the beginning. It's easy to add and edit and adapt and iterate over time.

But until then, bye...


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