Perfecting Your To Do List in 2015

Posted by Stacey Brown Randall

This is a two part series…because there is nothing like a double dose of your to do list.

In this two part series I will tackle how your to do list can be your friend, your saving grace and part of your productivity solution, not enemy. Don’t believe me? Then keep reading!

Part One: The Hardware

The point of the “to do list” is to make you feel in control. And to feel in control means one thing…it fits. When you can customize something it just fits better. From our clothes, to our food to the smart phone we carry…it has to fit. Your “to do list system” is no different. You have to make it yours. It has to fit your life. You don’t organize your life by copying others and following a store bought to do list system without customizing it is the same as copying others.

In this post I’m going to tackle the hardware of the “to do list” – types of planners, binders and systems you can buy or create that will work best. This advice comes from what I’ve seen work for my clients and work for me. Then in the second post next week – giving you time to buy a new planner of course - I will tackle the inside, the guts of making the system work.

These two posts are for those who are - what I call - analog planners. They prefer to write down their to dos and tasks. If you are an analog planner but also use some digital tools to manage your tasks then you are a hybrid. Hybrids enjoy using both a digital version – like your calendar on your phone and maybe an app or two – and an analog planner. This post is specifically for analog and hybrid planners. This post is not for those who are 100% digital because you wouldn’t have a need for a written planner. And in case you are wondering…one is not better than the other. You must work the system that works for you.

So back to the purpose of why a planner needs to fit you, to be customizable…we all organize ourselves differently. Our planner is no different. A planner you cannot customize eventually becomes a paper weight or ends up in the trashcan because you eventually become frustrated with it and find you have no use for it.

When understanding the type of planner you should buy I have a couple of suggestions…first think about how you organize yourself and how a planner would ideally fit into that and then match your needs to options available. Here are some basics points to consider and two of the planner systems I recommend to clients and use myself. (Disclosure note – I am a digital-type but use a planner to keep papers together based on upcoming meetings and deadlines. My analog planner isn’t used for tasks and to dos anymore a conscious switch I made in 2013. It was a natural progression for me.)

Planner Basics

Size -

Big, small, or somewhere in between – it really doesn’t matter. You just have to be willing to carry it. Yep, because it is to go everywhere (within reason) with you. So get one that fits your life – purse, work bag or back pocket - because if you don’t have it on you when you need to capture a task why do you even have a planner?

Sections -

Spiral bound or hardbound notebooks are not planners. Yes, I know you love your moleskin journal or cool graphic printed notebook. But those don’t provide sections and more importantly they don’t provide you the ability to move paper around within the planner. In a journal or notebook you can only rip out, not move. In my opinion having sections are a must for organizing your planner and yourself which I will cover in the next post.

Planner Systems

My Favorite Planner System:

The system I recommend the most to clients is the M by Staples Arc system. The benefit of this system is plentiful…it comes in two sizes (small - 6 ¾” by 8 ¾” and large - 9 ⅜” and 11 ¼”) and a variety of colors and cover-types (faux-leather or plastic). You can chose from different inserts including dividers and folders, different paper formats (to do, calendar, project planner, grid, etc.) and comes with its own hole punch so any paper you need to fit in the planner can. In addition the round discs that hold the covers together come in a variety of sizes for those who like to have multi-functional planners and need the extra depth.

My Runner Up System:

I discovered the Russell and Hazel binder planner a while back through the Container Store. It is a binder system that provides options to insert into the binder. There are two sizes (mini-binder 7”x9” and the signature binder 10 ¾”x12”). The system also provides different types of paper to insert including filler paper, grid sheets, and contact information. Sheet protectors and folders provide a place to hold loose leaf paper and can be used as dividers. Since this version is a binder version it cannot expand. The mini version holds up to 75 sheets and the signature version holds 275 sheets.

Check out the two planners I recommend but that doesn’t mean you won’t find others. If you find a planner system that you can customize I’d love to hear about it. In the next post – next week – I will discuss how to set up a customizable system that will work for you. Be on the lookout for Perfecting Your To Do List in 2015, Part Two: The Inside

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