Planning + Productivity

The Top 3 Reasons Your Planner Isn’t Working For You (And How to Fix it)

Is the planner you had such high hopes for in January just not cutting it anymore? Here’s why … and how to find the best customizable planner for you!
 This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.
 
I had such high hopes in January, but yet again my planner has let me down. I just don't use it; it's so frustrating! And now thanks to this article, I know exactly why ... and how to find the best customizable planner for you! #planner #customizableplanner #bulletjournal

Every August, it never fails to tempt me. 

The Target office supplies aisle blooms with new planners that seem to magically appear overnight, and I’m magnetically attracted to them ALL. Even though I’m long past school age, I’m can’t help but flip through them to ooh and aww over the pretty designs!

Don’t worry, I don’t see myself giving up bullet journaling anytime soon (I believe it is the best customizable planner out there!).

But whenever I feel the tug of a fresh planner calling to me, I know there’s something about my current planning system that’s probably not working anymore. 

Maybe you feel the same tug

Maybe you’re desperate to try something new because the planner you had such high hopes for in January just isn’t cutting it

But before you ditch your planner entirely, let’s take some time to figure out WHY you’ve fallen out of love so you can get back to organizing your life like a boss.

More of a digital calendar gal? You might be interested in reading 7 Surprising Things I Don’t Track in My Bullet Journal.

Reason #1. Not taking your planner with you…EVERYWHERE.

How many ideas and to-do’s flash through your mind while running errands, waiting in the car rider line, or eating lunch with a friend? 

If you’re anything like me, WAY too many. 

Your planner needs to be there to capture these brilliant brainstorms in the moment (or at least very soon after)! Just face it: Your brain is not a fail-proof storage solution. This is why we use planners in the first place—as our second brain—and your planner will not serve you if it’s sitting on your desk at home like some museum artifact that you don’t dare mess up.

Trust me, this recovering perfectionist gets it!

And you don’t want to end up like this meme.

Related: How to Organize an Effective Brain Dump

This is why I always advocate that the best customizable planner is a portable planner.

Size matters. For instance, some planners like the original Day Designer break down a day per page, but it’s so big that your shoulder hurts from lugging it around and it’s sticking halfway out of your purse.

Some great portable planners that maximize space are:

Looking for more planner options? Check out the Best Alternatives to Pricey Planners.

planner and purse

If I still can’t convince you to take your planner everywhere (can’t blame a girl for trying!), then at least stash a small notebook in your purse or car to jot down notes while you’re out (or religiously use a note-taking app).

But you must then implement a routine to transfer those notes over to your planner at least once a week. Otherwise, it just becomes another info-holding spot that you’ll easily forget about. And you don’t want those brilliant ideas to go to waste!

Which leads me to the next reason your planner might not be working for you…

Reason #2. You don’t have a planning routine.

There’s no way to get around it: You need a planning routine in order to use your planner to its fullest potential. If you’re too busy to plan, you’re too busy!

Because if you’re not in your planner on a regular basis, you can’t really expect your planner to work for you. So I recommend you create three specific routines:

  • Nightly planning routine (5 min.) – create your next day’s to-do list, update your habit tracker, etc.
  • Weekly planning routine (15-20 min.) – print your planning printables, set up the next week’s layout in your bullet journal / fill in your schedule from GCal, etc.
  • Monthly planning routine (30-60 min.) – set goals for the next month, fill in your monthly calendar, etc.

Overwhelmed? If you’re new to this, start with the nightly routine and slowly work your way up to incorporating the others until they become habits.

Now, you may not need to use all of these routines forever, but try it for a while until your routines becomes so much of a habit that you don’t really think about what you need to do anymore…you just do it. Then evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

Pro Tip: Anytime I’m working on a new routine, I flesh it out in my bullet journal and reference that page until it’s cemented in my brain. That way I won’t forget anything!

Reason #3. You and your planner don’t think alike.

From hour-by-hour layouts to open-ended boxes, you’ll find dozens (if not at least a hundred) different customizable planners on the market featuring various designs.

That’s because our brains organize and process information differently. We all have unique schedules to plan, individualized goals to track, and customized areas of your life that may or may not be relevant to the pre-designed sections a planner offers you.

This is exactly why I’m such a big proponent of bullet journaling (again, I think it’s the best customizable planner out there, hands-down!).

This system is the closest you’re going to get to one-size-fits-all. (I believe this so much that wrote an entire book about it!)

Bottom Line: If your planner doesn’t think like you do, then you’ll fight against it every day.

I’ve written an entire post about how to pick the perfect planner, but in short, jot down all the things you don’t like about your planner using these questions to jumpstart your thoughts:

  • Does the layout feel too rigid or not rigid enough?
  • Is the design too cluttered…or uninspiring?
  • Do you not have enough room to write?

When in doubt, simpler is better. The fewer sections in your planner you have to maintain, the easier you’ll be able to manage it long-term.

The most important part (don’t skip this!) of your search for the best customizable planner

Your planner (or any planning tool for that matter) will never solve your organization problems if you don’t put time and effort into using it.

When standing in that Target aisle holding the perfect pretty planner, we infuse into it our high expectations that this tool we try next just might magically unlock the ultimate level of productivity in our lives. Surely now we’ll never struggle with motivation or forgetfulness again!

Not exactly.

Yes, pretty planners can motivate you along the way. There’s nothing I love more than a carefully placed motivational “Get it Done” sticker on my bullet journal page. But the choice to sit down and do the work is ultimately up to you.

The planner will help you get there, but it’s YOU who holds the power to make your life more organized because of it.

And I believe 100% in you!

Let’s chat about planners:

What planner do you currently have and what do you love/not love about it?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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16 Comments

  1. I received an offer through fb for the starter pack at $17. I signed up for the email list and when I went back to Facebook the post was gone ( I was still within the 20 minutes)

    Am I still able to receive this offer?

  2. I tried bullet journaling and loved it, but I was easily overwhelmed with the blank page, the options, the time commitment and the struggle between the want to make it pretty and the need to get done. I found that I was consistently using the same few sections (even though I wanted to do more) and then I found the Polestar Family Calendar. It’s not perfect, but it is far more simple and designed for home management than any other planner I’ve seen. I figured it would be a good place for me to start creating a habit of using a planner, because it was mostly what I needed without having to create it myself. I’m 8 months in and I’m still using it, which is a record for me! The biggest thing I don’t like about it is that it’s its too big to take everywhere.

    1. Hi Dana,

      I’m so glad that you’ve found a system that works well for you!! That is literally the end goal – no matter what. Hopefully they’ll release a smaller size sometime!

  3. I’m like you, I love the flexibility of my bullet journal. I change it up all the time. A few months ago, I was tempted to switch to a planner system so I could incorporate more planner stickers. I talked myself out of it and just found ways to use more of them in my bujo. I’m so glad I did as I don’t think a traditional planner would work for me.

  4. I seem to do OK for work but struggle with personal stuff, for me combining doesn’t work as I’d never switch off from work. Still trying to come up with my ideal personal one.

  5. I read your Instagram then the email you sent and it was like you were in my brain. Lists, I make lists and I do chip away at them, but somehow they don’t ever get completed. And I am a not fully recovered perfectionist. But maybe there is hope for me.

    1. Of course there is hope! But I think we are always going to be in the process of “Recovering” but that’s OK! And you’d be amazed how not alone you are. Each week I get a lot of emails from women who are just like you and me. 😀

  6. I have never used planner. I just can’t use it i a proper way. But it is for sure great idea for saving money and time.

    1. It’s always so tough to find the planner that works the way your brain does!! That’s why I bullet journal ;).

    1. Hi Sue,

      I’m so sorry for the delay in response on here! We don’t go through our comments daily. 🙁 I’m going to have Joseph reach out to you via email and see if you are still interested in Brainbook.

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