New Tools: Planning

All things are not equal, and one tool is not the same as another.

Any tool can be useful in the right context, of course.

On top of which, I’m sure there’s something to be said for the old adage: ‘it’s not what you’ve got: it’s how you use it’. Not to mention ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. The things you can do with a paperclip, if you have to…

On the other hand, I firmly believe that different things work for different people. There are as many ways to approach a task as there are people to make the attempt.

We live in an age where there is a lot of variety, and we have the good fortune to be able to choose our tools. Some of the stuff on offer isn’t much more sophisticated than a paperclip at all. But every now and then, one happens upon something great.

I tried two new things in the past week. One was free; the other cost money. Although it’s early days yet, I highly recommend both of them. I was originally going to deal with both in this entry, but ended up writing rather more than I intended, so I’ll split it into two parts. Both are new tools I am experimenting with, and both relate generally to planning.

This entry is on the topic of planning and time management, and I’ll be talking about my new favourite tool for it:

This is possibly the best form of productive procrastination that I have ever come across.

I looked into it after developing a deep-seated hatred of my fat, squashy, uncooperative day-to-a-page planner, and I’m a little bit in love.

I’m used to weekly planners in book form, and I like them a great deal. But I bought an awesome 2012 journal in Japan: it had a layout of vertical columns, rather than the usual horizontal design, and since then, nothing has ever seemed quite as good.

2012 was the year I was writing an Honours thesis, so I really did get a lot out of putting pen to paper, although looking back on it, most pages just say things like ‘shit’ and ‘I’m totally fucked’, with the bottoms of most pages blacked out for alcohol consumption. It’s also got authentic coffee rings at irregular intervals—fortunately, I take my coffee black, and they are aromatic rather than malodorous.

2013 was not such a great year for journals. I had two of them, but I guess I faltered after the organisational bliss of the vertical layout in the Japanese one. The freebie from the tertiary course I took at a vocational institution is almost completely naked, in spite of the fact that every page offered friendly advice in that slightly awkward way that seems to prevail in all verbal efforts to communicate with ‘youth’. (You know: ‘sitting up the front makes me cool’, ‘Take notes and pass the class!’, ‘Binge drinking is bad for you’, that kind of thing.) I appear to have owned another journal at the same time, and used both with great inconsistency. The most ink in both of them appears at the start of the year, followed by weeks and weeks of nothing, followed by a midyear glut of busyness in my non-vocational journal as I briefly took on four part-time jobs to feed myself.

Thankfully, soon afterwards I completed my scholarship application and was accepted into my Masters program. Strangely, after that my efforts to organise myself using journals seem to have lapsed entirely. The occasional things written in the latter half of the year are mostly reminders of social commitments.

Cue Attitude Overhaul.

I told a few people that I wanted a journal for Christmas, and then for my birthday, but I ended up deciding that waiting until two months into the year to buy one was a bit stupid. Even so, it wasn’t until sometime in the middle of February I bought one for myself. It was about $10, so it didn’t break the bank, and I thought it might be worth trying something new.

I can safely conclude that day-to-a-page journals are not my style. The pages are too small to write on, exacerbated by the fact that the spine of the book is too thick. It won’t stay open. Maybe if I was able to endure using it till the middle of the year I could destroy the spine enough to convince it to do what I want, but I have been sufficiently deterred. I tried something new, but it wasn’t for me. Lesson learned.

So I found myself on google and amazon this morning, running the search term ‘weekly planners’ through their search engines, and wondering if I should just suck it up and go buy a week-to-a-page moleskine or something. I may very well still do that, but weekplanner also popped up in my google search, and I figured I might as well take a look at something free and there instead of walking across our unnecessarily spacious campus to spend money on something I don’t technically need.

Weekplanner is a calendar, a weekly planner, and a to-do list all rolled into one. The layout is fluid and gives the user a lot of autonomy, including a great lot of choice in how extensively you use it. Each task may be described in as much or as little detail as you like: you can give individual tasks a time slot, or create internal checklists for them; you can view your tasks by day and arrange them by their urgency and importance; you can relate them to appropriate categories that you create to suit your personal needs (although it starts you off with the important stuff: self, friends & family. I’ve added study, relationship & health). You can drag and drop tasks from day to day as evening approaches and you realise you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, or forgotten to post that letter or email your supervisor with that draft—just pop it over to the following morning. And when you check off your tasks the application sends little congratulatory pop-up messages your way.

It appears that if you ‘go pro’ (whatever that means), additional options become available, like synching with google calendar and this sort of thing. I’m not quite at the point of spending money on it yet, but as a visual and highly customisable planning space, I highly recommend it.


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