When I was in college, my best friend and I always aimed to get the same blocks of free time as much as possible, especially on Fridays. Barring perfectly synchronized classes (which were impossible, since we had different majors), we gave each other copies of our weekly schedules instead. On index cards.
Throughout college, my personal day planner and organizer was an index card.
It got pretty beat up by the end of the semester.
Looking back now, I don’t know how I kept track of finals, project due dates, etc. Maybe that’s why I crammed too much the night before exams.
I eventually wised up, and realized that a piece of paper with my class schedule wasn’t the best tool in helping me manage my time. Graduate school was when I started using real day planners.
But let’s start from the beginning: a bit of my personal history in planners and organizers:
High school was when I first grasped the value of keeping a personal calendar. I kept my class schedule on a sheet of notebook paper at the front of my 3-ring binder. But every year, I had my schedule memorized by the end of the first month, so I didn’t need to check it often.
But this was my initial discovery of a love (need?) for creating regular blocks of time in order to manage my life.
Ah, those college days. I wish I’d kept those index cards.
I know that a lot of people use index cards as a simple way of keeping track of their time. But I really doubt they use a single card for several months’ worth of time management.
I did try at some point to do a weekly version of my schedule. But I had to re-write my classes every single time. And the spaces were tiny.
Index cards work great for to-do lists and as a tickler system. As a planner, not so much.
Grade for “index card planning” as a college student = Fail
I went to graduate school and quickly had the need for a planner to keep track of the weekly and daily onslaught of reading assignments, discussion groups, research tasks, work responsibilities, etc.
Enter the Day Runner.
I bought a wire-bound weekly planner with a maroon cover (top of the pile in the photo above). It was pocket-sized, because I didn’t want to lug around a giganto planner in addition to the pounds of research papers I had to read (we didn’t read online at the time).
It was portable.
It was tiny, with writing spaces that were not much bigger than my old index card.
So I didn’t use it much.
Midway through grad school, I discovered that one of the local student bookstores carried a collection of planners I’d never seen before. These planners and calendars seemed to offer a way for me to actually manage my time, not just list the classes and activities I had to attend.
I got myself a Quo Vadis Trinote planner, two years in a row.
I loved the weekly view, the Daily Notes sections, and the spaces for phone calls, errands, etc. that didn’t need to be assigned to any particular day. And I thought the little tear-off corner for marking the current week was brilliant.
At this time, I was getting better at managing my time and scheduling the what’s and where’s.
I first saw a Franklin Covey planner in 2004. I was working at the time and one of my co-workers had what I believe was either a Compact or Classic ring-bound planner, with inserts in the Blooms design.
I was curious about how she used it. She didn’t care for the hourly layout, but just wrote her tasks across the lines. Nevertheless, I was fascinated.
I liked the idea of a ring-bound planner that didn’t require me to transfer addresses and other information every year.
My first Franklin Covey was a 365 binder from Target. That was in 2005. I’ve gone through job changes, became an at-home mom, and tried out a couple of “family calendars” over the years.
But my FC binder has stayed with me. I’ve used a lot of different designs and layouts (weekly with and without hourly increments, 2 pages per day, one page per day). There were times when I rarely used it. But I always came back.
I recently switched to a leather compact FC binder, but still have some of the old pages from that first binder.
Filofax + Franklin Covey
Even more recently, I got a Filofax Holborn in personal size and transferred my Franklin Covey inserts into it.
I will probably continue to tweak this setup, as my needs change and as I find tips from the online planner community (for example, here and here). But at this point, I have a system that works extremely well for me.
As you can see, my planning system wasn’t perfect right off the bat. It took me years to develop a setup that fits my life and personality. So, if you’re new to day planners and organizers, or find that your current system isn’t working for you, remember that you have a lot of options. You can always tweak what you have, or even ditch what’s not working and try a completely new one.
Do you remember your first paper planner?