Monday, February 3, 2020

The Big Planner Shake-Up

By Debra Sennefelder

What happened at the beginning of January was an unprecedented shake-up in how I plan my life. And it all started in the latter part of 2019.

There was a post on Facebook. A fellow author was looking for suggestions for planners. Like us all, she was looking to get a head start on organizing 2020. I commented that I’d been using an Erin Condren Life Planner for two years, but I intended to go back to my six-ring A5 DayRunner.

After careful consideration, I decided to go back to the A5 because I wanted the flexibility of being able to organize the planner how I wanted it. And I wanted more space to write my to-do tasks for each day.

With the decision made, I ordered new inserts for the A5. As soon as the inserts arrived I began noting all my deadlines, birthdays, appointments, etc. Everything was good.

So, I thought.

Something started not to feel right with the A5. My first thought was maybe it was due to the texture of the binder. For some it may not be a big deal, but since I handle my planner multiple times during the day, how it feels in my hands is essential to me. I then thought maybe I was over the black cover. Perhaps a pop of color would be nicer and more visually appealing. The temptation to buy a new A5 was strong, but I held strong. The DayRunner was good enough.

So, I thought.

In early January, I signed up for a free online workshop on how to go paperless. During the class, I learned some tricks on how to go partially paperless (some papers just can’t be scanned and shredded). One of the recommendations was a to-do list app. This was new to me and I decided to give it a try.

With the app downloaded to my phone, I began using it. After a week, I realized the app wouldn’t work for me because once a task was completed, it was deleted from the list. I’m one of those people who need to cross off tasks from a list and be able to see what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. While the app didn’t work for me, it did introduce me to using my phone as a part of my planning process. Which led me to my Google calendar. Yet again.

I’d tried using the Google calendar before, and it never clicked. Until now.

I planned out the whole month of January. Color-coding the tasks was a nice perk. And I got into the habit of opening up the calendar in the morning right after my morning pages were completed. What I’d been craving in my “planner” was the ability to look at the monthly spread without having to page back and forth all the time in the A5 or EC. Sure, I could have a wall calendar, but then I have to take it down and write in the task, then put it back up, and for me, it becomes visual clutter on the wall. The Google calendar was working for me. Finally.

But there was still a piece of the puzzle missing. While the Google calendar gave me a view of the month, I was missing the daily planning. All the things I need to do from laundry to outlining to walking Connie. Yes, I know there’s a daily view feature in the Google calendar, but I prefer to write these lists down so I can cross of all the completed tasks.

I gave some thought, and I ordered a new planner from Amazon. It’s bigger than a personal size Filofax but smaller than an A5, and it has a page for every day. This gives me plenty of space to write my lists, group my to-do actions into categories if I want to, jot down ideas that pop into my head. Since I don’t use the monthly spread for planning, I use it to track my workouts. It’s awesome.

Finally, between the Google calendar and my new daily planner, I have the perfect planning system for 2020. I know this because I feel calmer when it comes to my to-do’s, and I’m getting things done without feeling scattered or overwhelmed.

Most of the time, a shake-up can be a negative experience, but this time it was a gift. I trusted myself enough to let go of what I’ve clung to for years, and it’s been one of the best things I’ve done so far in 2020.

I’m curious. Do you use a physical planner? A digital planner? Or, a hybrid like me?

Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series. She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.


  1. I do a lot of doc appts so I use the calendar on my phone & have notebooks for other to do things I write down & cross off when is done

    1. Hi Clemmie, You like to cross things off too! :) Isn't it a wonderful feeling?

  2. Great post! I use my phone because I can see writing, work, and personal appointments and deadlines but need a planner I can handle physically for my daily and weekly planning. I, too, have struggled for the perfect balance because those needs are separate but have to mesh. :-)

    1. Thank you! Finding the balance is tricky but I believe it can be done. And once it happens, it feels really good. Have a great week!