Have no fear - below are the five questions I'd recommend you ask yourself to narrow down your search, and increase the chances of finding something you will be comfortable for all of 2015.
1. Electronic or paper?
A pretty good place to start, right? Do you want to keep things on your device, in your cloud and up your iOS? OK, so maybe that's not really my area of expertise, but there are LOADS of options if that's yo' thang. I use some apps and also tend to live by the calendar on my phone - but if you want to do your whole shebang on planning electronically, make friends with Google - and my advice is to download and trial the free versions of stuff before buying.
Another option if you want to stay paper free is downloadable planners that can be customised. Loads of "Printables" on sale also come as editable PDFs. Pretty cool.
For my money, the Leonie Dawson Create Your Amazing Year product ticks all the boxes - the downloadable version can be printed out, edited as PDF on your computer, or edited on your tablet. Or ALL OF THOSE if you want copies of your intensions EVERYWHERE. Noice.
2. Appointments, Tasks, or Feelings?
So now we know if we are looking for something virtual or from the shops. Next you want to get clear on WHAT exactly you will use your planner for. Again, my advice time: be realistic. If you've never used a day-planner before (for example), an investment in something that requires loads of details and information each day is most likely to be a waste of money. What are you likely to actually use and get value from? Ask yourself this: am I most in need of recording Where I'm Going, What I Need To Do or How I'm Feeling? Now you know which section of the shops you're looking in: calendars, planners or journals!
3. Am I going to carry it around, or keep it on my desk?
This might seem obvious. But it deserves some thought. I used to have an A4 to-do list book. Which was great for planning things out. And a bitch to carry around. So I ended up with an A4 to-do list book on my desk and piles and piles and piles of post-it notes in my handbag. Planner Fail. If you want a monthly financial ledger, you probably don't need it to fit in your pocket. If you have a busy social life and want to be able to say "sure, I can make that" with confidence at the pub, the Filofax Metropol Zip (even with all those amazing options and inserts) might not be for you.
4. Every detail, or big picture?
Keep this one at the front of your mind when you're looking, to avoid being seduced by prettiness and excitement of sections and illustrations and stickers and ... ah-hem, sorry.
For your main planner, do you want to have your play-by-play for life, or just the overview for the month and the big items?
5. This leads us to - day per page, week per view, or monthly outline?
I need a weekly to-do list as well as room to allocate things to days. And I also have a very strong passion about Saturday and Sunday being treated as equal members of the weekly family. This gives me few options for layouts. So think about what's important to you: how far do you like to plan at a time, and how much info do you want to include?
Lastly - think about your combinations. In this day and age, I don't think you end up with just one planner. You need some of that information on your phone, and some needs to be visible to your family or whomever else shares your house (I always post the monthly intension on the fridge, but gotta say, Suki rarely seems interested). Don't kill yourself looking for one thing to cover all your bases, because it doesn't exist in paper, and you'll make your iPhone go flat downloading all those apps :p
So wanna know what I use? I'd love to share with you!
1. Google Calendar for EVERYTHING. I have different coloured calendars in my account to keep track of the following
- Work Appointments
- Social Appointments
- Weekly and Monthly Business Tasks
- Weekly Household Tasks
- FMS Photo a Day Prompts
- Public Holidays
- Moon Phases
- Birthdays (thanks, iPhone)
This means that I have all the information about my availability in my phone (which me all means "within my reach all of my waking hours, including most of the time when I go to the toilet"). And I don't have to carry around my paper diary everywhere. This leads to:
2. Week to View paper diary - in this I write my social engagements and any non-usual work appointments. I also write my weekly to-do list in here and cross it off as I go. In 2014 I used a lovely Kikki-K diary, but for 2015 I'm going a little more simple, affordable, and light! I'm using an A5 Weekly/Monthly Diary from Muji. I love Muji because they have a huge range of Diaries that are all actually completely different - not just different covers with the same insides! And they are also a HEAP cheaper (and Vegan friendly!) than Moleskins, another brand that does do a huge range of layout styles.
3. Leonie Dawson Create Your Amazing Year Biz Edition - this one probably speaks for itself! I use this for my "Big Picture" business planning. It's beautiful and really gets the inspiration flowing. From here I move to my happy place - MS Excel! There is also a Personal Edition which is SOOOOOOPER lovely.
4. My Life Planner- this is my Life big picture one. I like to hang out with it at New Year's and set out my intensions for the year, and then I check back in with it each month. It also helps me lay the foundations for my financial planning for the year. For the details, I once again jump to my darling Excel. Because I am a nerd >_<
So that's my collection of planners - it's enough to keep all my information in the places I need it, without having to duplicate a heap of information. And I've spent a lot of time creating the perfect combo that keeps me supported, without being weighed down in "life admin".
Other stuff I use to keep my year on track:
- My membership to the Amazing Biz and Life Academy (I mean, really, don't you WANT those things??). I love this group, the people I meet there and the resources ... I also love the inspiration and community the Leonie creates every day. Oh, and the Facebook group? Brill.
- Vision Boards - I've got one above my computer for constant inspiration, and one in my hallway for big dreams.
- To do lists - I'm an addict, we know this about me. I churn through beautiful ones from stores, cool printable ones, piles of post-it notes, and two whiteboards in my office.
- My Dream Action Planner - Obviously! Best way I know to chunk down massive projects into actionables.
- Apps - oh boy oh boy oh boy I love me some apps. This could be a whole other post, but for the purposes of this one, I'll just say I use My Wonderful Days and M.Cycles every day (yes, I'm a Maccie all the way - hit up Google if you want those in some other language. An-droid? Is that it?)
- Colour so much of it - all my diaries and journals and planners are filled with rainbows, as are the walls of my office and everything else I look at. It keeps me sane, it makes me happy, and it helps my brain work!
- Excel. I may have mentioned that. I might be obsessed. I love it. My name is Laura McDonald and I love Spreadsheets. There - I said it. Loud and proud. This is me when I make a new function work:
Sending you planning unicorns and rainbow hugs,