Day Planners – How They Can Help

written by Anisa A. Claire

Organization is an extremely important aspect of writing. It helps in all areas from storyboarding to time management. I think one thing we all struggle with is time, and day planners are an excellent tool to help you manage it better. The more organized you are, the more (stress-free) time you’ll have to write.

First, you’ll need to decide what type of planner suits you best. There are, of course, digital planners, but I want to go over why a written planner is probably the best option, no matter what type of person you are…

Just like strolling through the forest helps you connect with nature, the stroke of a pen on paper forces you to focus on the task at hand. When you physically write something down, you are less distracted and way more likely to actually remember it. Not to mention, we largely live in a digital world. Taking time away from technology to go back to the basics can quite often be not only relaxing but a retreat, as well.

So, let’s take a look at the different types… 
1.) Daily: Use this if you have a lot you need to track.
2.) Weekly: This is great for people who have a minimal amount to record.
3.) Monthly: A monthly planner is if you only want to record basic deadlines and goals.
4.) Combo Planners: This can be either monthly/daily, monthly/weekly/daily or weekly/monthly.

To expand on combo planners, I find the monthly/weekly/daily to be a bit much and often times leads to duplicate/unneeded entries. Which, of course, uses up more of your precious time and that sort of negates the purpose of a planner in the first place. However, the monthly/weekly and monthly/daily can be quite useful in having a more detailed breakdown combined with ‘urgent’ or ‘important’ deadlines available at a glance.

Now that we’ve covered types of day planners, let’s take a look at how, specifically, they can help you as a writer.

1.) Remembering deadlines: This seems obvious, but it is, really, the entire purpose of a day planner. So, I thought it worth mentioning. Deadlines, as a writer, are extremely important. It’s easy to get lost without them.

2.) Accountability: We all dream large and that’s fantastic. One of the best ways to stay on track is to make yourself accountable and one of the better ways to do that is through a written record. If you write down your goals, you have a visual reference as to whether you’ve actually met them or not. It’s a fantastic way to keep yourself in check, on track, and in control.

3.) Overview: Day planners create a great overview of what you’ve accomplished. It’s easy to get lost on social media, surfing the net for research, etc. Tracking the amount of time you spend in various places can help tremendously in figuring out where you are losing time and what areas you may have thought you were doing well in but are actually lacking.

When I started to do this, I was genuinely shocked at how much time I’d convinced myself I spent actually ‘working’. When, in reality, what was happening was that I sat down at my station for, say, eight hours, but in that eight hours had maybe only accomplished three productive hours of work. The rest of my time was spent in areas that didn’t seem like they were eating up much time or energy but actually were. So, the overview aspect of day planners can be a powerful insight and tool into helping you manage your time more efficiently.

4.) Goals: A lot of day planners have blank pages or a monthly (or weekly) section where you can write your goals. This is handy because it gives you an area you can glance at and see your overall goals. Then in the daily (or weekly) section, you can expand on those and start to plan them out.

Those are just a few ways day planners can help you as a writer. The list, really, could go on and on. Now, let’s see how we can record and track. Sometimes when you start a project, especially something like a day planner, it can feel overwhelming at first because you don’t know where to start or what to do with it.

One important thing is to get in the habit of using it regularly and here’s how you can do that…

1.) Without exception, check it every morning. If morning doesn’t work for you, for whatever reason, check it as soon as you’re able. Do this every. single. day. Eventually, checking your planner will become as common practice as brushing your teeth or washing your hands after you go to the washroom. In other words, you won’t even think about it. You’ll just do it.

2.) If, like myself, you have a daily planner, you can track/plan hourly. I don’t prefer to lay my whole day out hour by hour because I have a few different projects on the go and when I can’t follow that structure (and I usually can’t) it frustrates me. Instead, I jot down the things I know I have to do on a daily basis a few weeks in advance. These are things like checking email, replying to work-related messages on Facebook, etc. I leave the rest of my page blank and then fill in things as I do them so I have a record of what I’ve completed. I’ll also write down things for the next week as they come up.

For example, if on Monday I am informed that a contest is ending on Friday, I will flip to Friday and write in that reminder.

3.) Checking Off Your List: Use checkmarks and X’s to mark off what you have and have not done completed during your day. The items with a checkmark, obviously, mean those tasks are wrapped up. The ones with X’s need to be moved to another day, usually the next day.

Be strict with yourself, too. If you’ve set a daily word count of 250 words, make sure you finish those 250 words. In the beginning of the month, you might feel like you can make those words up later in the month, but chances are if you’re procrastinating early on it just means you’ll keep bumping it until the point of no return. At which point, you’ll likely say… ‘Next month will be better!’. No. Make THIS month count.

Visual stimulation is the last thing I want to address. Again, I know some people prefer the digital calendars and organizers. For me, I already associate SO MUCH with the computer such as writing, social media, email, on and on that trying to get organized on the computer is just another place to ‘get lost’ in and feel overwhelmed by in the digital world. Personally, I like the separation a paper planner provides.

Paper planners also give me much needed visual stimulation because my calendar isn’t sitting in a hidden tab. It’s open, on my desk, staring at me with brightly colored reminders of where my focus should be and what my deadlines are.

Well, that’s all I have to say about day planners… for now! Hah. It’s entirely possible I might write more in the future that are more in depth in certain areas of planning.



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