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Forget planners & embrace adaptability

Have you ever spent more time writing in a planner than actually implementing the things planned? You are not alone.

We all know the seduction of the Target planner section - dozens of well designed and notably colored planners in every possible palette and format (and floral) to choose from. Not terribly expensive (but certainly not free) only added to the allure.

My local Target could depend on my planner addiction to keep the lights on and for years I did not disappoint.

Sometimes I’d leave with only one brightly colored moleskin notebook, intending to fall somewhere between a page-a-day calendar planner and that minimalist hipster deck of index-cards-kept-together-with-a-binder-clip productivity thing that was fashionable for awhile. Eventually I even tried the hipster stack in a series of attempts to woo and inspire and flatter myself into increased productivity.

Planners and calendars and endless lists have never produced any good fruit in my life. On the contrary, these systems seemed to highlight failures and every single fail would become incrementally more disappointing and demotivating than the last. Ironically, I would meet such failures with even more militant schedules and exhaustive lists I'd try to force myself to follow and accomplish in a short amount of time. And miserably I’d fail again. And again. And again.

At most, the best planners ever offered me was the false hope of blank pages just waiting to be filled with accomplishments. Then there was that certain giddiness that would come on in the wee hours of the night as I’d be maniacally plotting perfection - “I'll just wham bam go to sleep at 9 pm (starting tomorrow of course), and then boom wake up at 5 am - squeeze in a work out at 5:15 am - drink a protein smoothie at 6 am, shower and be ready by 7 am, and so on and so forth.

If only I was a computer program that could blindly follow commands, then this kind of thing might work- but I’m not a computer program and neither are you.

Getting more stuff done in a pleasant and peaceful way was always the goal, yet I was fixated on coming up with a particular schedule or finding the perfect planner that would magically solve all my problems and unfortunately no, such a thing does not exist. At least I haven't come across it yet.

When I embraced adaptability instead of rigidity and stopped using planners, things started changing fast and for the better. Instead of boxing myself into a set routine or schedule as if I were an infant, I gave myself the option of choosing what was best for me depending on my mood, energy, and what I felt like doing. This gave me a tremendous sense of freedom and peace because it allowed me to factor in all the variables of my life into my chosen activities rather than be guided by a schedule or unrelenting list that couldn’t take into account whether I was tired or needed a day off without throwing everything out of order. It was also one less thing between me and doing things - it is so important to cut out as many "middle men" as possible in this arena as productivity systems have a tendency to become barriers to getting things done themselves.

It is important to me to feel like I own my time (although technically we are all slaves to Christ and He ultimately holds our breath and allotted time in His hands). By remaining outcome focused rather than routine centered, I’m able to take into account my energy levels, the amount and kind of work I have to do, what environment I want to do it in (i.e., in the morning when the house is busy or after hours when everyone is sleeping), and what I actually want to do on any given day. Such flexibility makes me feel like the boss of me rather than a slave to unreasonable ideals.

It means some days I am going to sleep early and waking up before dawn, and other days I am just getting to bed at dawn and sleeping in. As long as I am peacefully getting what I want done - and sleeping 6-8 hours per day even if in segments - everything is good. This flexibility has been clutch in getting things done. See, I didn't realize that the smaller the box I put myself in, the more confined I would feel and invariably want to break out of those constraints and do anything other than that which was planned. By treating myself like an adult capable of getting things done in a variety of ways, I am now free to pick and choose exactly how & when things get done and as such my productivity has never been better.

Instead of a traditional planner, I have created a system that works for me and makes my life simpler and satisfying and free while still keeping track of all the things I’ve done and still need to do. I rely heavily upon certain apps that allow for loose planning without being an actual schedule to follow. These keep track of what needs to be done and more or less when, but I can decide to follow my guidelines or not without throwing everything out of sync. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about this.

And guess what, I still own and use a physical planner here and there, but not at all for what you’d think! Consider this article a teaser that I will update as I post more specifics about this. In the meantime, allow yourself to use planners as loosely as desired and to the extent that they help you and don’t hinder you. Give yourself freedom, flexibility, and the final say on any task because planners are a tool - they should serve you and not the other way around.

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