When most people think about planners, they just consider how a planner will keep them organized. However, there are many more benefits of using a planner daily. Read on to see why you should be using a planner (even if it hasn’t worked for you in the past).
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Improve Your Mental Health
For most of my clients, mental health is something we talk about often. I’m not a therapist and I’m obviously not prescribing medication, but understanding the things in life that are triggers and overwhelm you are things that impact your mental health that I can help with.
Mental health encompasses your emotional and mental well-being. Most people who struggle with executive dysfunction also deal with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other disorders like OCD and bipolar disorder. If you have been diagnosed with any of these things, using a planner can be an amazing tool for you. And I get it—even though you want to use it, actually doing it is a different story.
It is amazing how much stress is lifted once you start using a planner regularly. At first, it might seem like it’s added stress because it’s one more thing on your to-do list or to add to your routine. However, once it becomes habit, you will rely on it because it will help reduce stress.
Regardless of the complexity or simplicity of the planner you choose, using it gives you a sense of accomplishment. It feels good to cross things off the list. You don’t have to stress about looming deadlines and worry about missing important dates because you no longer have to remember them. You have them written down.
When you first get in the habit of writing everything down, it might seem overwhelming (there’s so much to do!!). But once it’s down, you can prioritize and manage your time—again, without stress.
Stay on Track
A daily schedule can help keep you on track. You can flesh out the specific tasks on your to-do list or your goals. You can put reminders to do things like buy a gift for an upcoming birthday party. If you know what needs to happen, you can plan accordingly and things won’t sneak up on you.
Start with your monthly calendar and plot out all appointments and important events. Then move to your weekly or daily pages and make notes and reminders of those things. When you know where you have to be when, then you’re less likely to double book or run late.
As I’ve mentioned, mindset plays a huge role in your success. Many people with executive dysfunction feel defeated. They’ve listened to people and tried the things but it didn’t stick. They feel messy all the time. And others look at them like they are “less than” because they are a hot mess.
You have to believe you can make things work. Sometimes, the little wins can make a huge difference. When your depression is making it hard to get out of bed, you can put one item on your to-do list: take a shower. If you make yourself do that, you’re a success! It doesn’t matter that you haven’t eaten anything but Pop-Tarts for days and your laundry has piled up for weeks. You accomplished something in your planner.
When things are better, using a planner can help you feel more in control and on top of your day-to-day responsibilities.
In addition, you can use your planner to write a daily affirmation that you say to yourself to help keep a positive mindset.
Track Activities for Reflection
Whether you have a store-bought planner, printable planner pages, or a notebook that you’re using, you can always use the blank pages or find printable trackers to add to your planner.
Trackers are an excellent way to note how, when, and why things are happening. When you have an anxiety attack, what was the trigger? Maybe you know that your sleep has been affecting your work, so you can track your sleep. If you’re trying to increase your water intake, you can track your water consumption.
Tracking these things can offer you insight and help you manage your life better. If you know what might trigger a depressive episode or a panic attack, you can try to avoid those things. If you notice that getting 7 hours of sleep instead of 6 makes you more productive, you can plan for that.
For many neurodivergent people who struggle with different disorders, life often feels out of control. Sometimes it seems like the disorder controls everything and you’re barely getting by. Using a planner can give you more self-control because everything is scheduled. Your life systems become routine and you control the routines. You know what to expect and when to expect it. Giving yourself that bit of control helps when the unexpected does happen.
You can’t control life. But when you control and plan for the things you can, the curveballs are nowhere near as devastating.
Improve Your Productivity
This is admittedly the more obvious benefit of using a planner. If you have your responsibilities laid out and scheduled, you can be more productive. How does a planner help with this? Read on.
Customize with Printables
I’ve talked about printable pages and printable planners before. For people who are neurodivergent, I truly believe this is the best method for planners. Printables allow you to totally customize your planner so it works with your brain.
For some people, though, I realize this might feel overwhelming. There are so many choices and designs and layouts…where do you start?
If you need to start with a basic store-bought planner, that’s fine. You want to personalize it as much as possible to make it work for you. Find or create the pages that aren’t in the planner but that you feel will help you.
For example, if you travel for work, you might need pages for packing lists. If you have a big project coming up at work, you might want specific planner pages for that. Maybe you just need extra blank pages to do a brain dump when your thoughts are scattered.
Get started and then you might notice the things you wish your planner had, so you can add them.
Make Sure It’s Set Up
When you set up your planner start broad and then narrow your focus. Start with things like birthdays, anniversaries, and other big events. Mark those on the monthly calendars. Then, turn to this month and drill down. What appointments do you have? What things do you need to know for your family? Put them all on the calendar.
Once you see those things that are not moveable, you can go to your weekly or daily planner pages and narrow your focus some more. What are your goals or priorities for the week or day? Then, you can break each day down if you want.
Create Clear and Concise Goals
Make sure you have clear goals for each week and/or day. Without a clear goal, you won’t be able to effectively prioritize your tasks. You will be busy doing stuff, but it might not be the right stuff. While you’ll get things done, you won’t be as effective or productive as you hope to be.
Use It Daily
So here’s the thing— a lot of people create their planner and set it up. Then they put it on their desk and only look at it occasionally. A planner is NOT a set-it-and-forget tool.
You need to use it every day—preferably multiple times a day. You might not be writing things down every time you look at it, but reading and rereading what’s there will help you to stay on top of things.
Let’s face it. Your executive dysfunction means you’re not good at remembering things. Or, if you are good at remembering them, you might suck at paying attention to time. You know you have a party to go to, but you think you have plenty of time to get ready (hint: you don’t).
Reviewing your planner multiple times a day will help keep you on track (which, as noted above, will make you feel better).
Surprising Benefits of Using a Daily Planner
Here are some less common but equally amazing benefits of using a daily planner.
Often, once you get into using a planner, you will find that you become even more motivated. Creating goals and to-do lists gives you a specific purpose and when you are able to accomplish those tasks, your motivation increases.
While you might not be using your planner as a diary, it is a reflection of your life. It holds the successes and failures. It’s a reminder of what you have accomplished and how far you’ve come. Your planner can become part of your self-care routine because it can offer that kind of reflection.
Channel Your Creativity
For those of you who are artistic, your planner is an excellent outlet for your creativity. My daughter is an artist who doodles to help her concentrate. She has pages for doodling as well as space in the margins to draw. Drawing helps her process things in order to plan her time.
For some of you, using colors and stickers will be a way to brighten your day while you work in your planner. Allowing your creativity to blossom fires different synapses in the brain and will keep you more engaged.
Along with improving your mindset, a planner can also help you live a more mindful life. As you record how you spend your time, you can choose to be more present in your activities. You can write down your thoughts and reflections.
In addition, once you have your priorities and goals mapped out in your planner, you are free to be truly present at other points in your life. When you’re with your family, you’re not stressing about things you might’ve forgotten to do that day. You can just focus on being with your family.
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