I’ll admit it, I’m a planner addict. I buy several new ones each year so I can try out different approaches to managing my workload and time. I’ve probably tried more than 25 in the last few years.
Time management is a major focus for me as a freelance writer, because I know that the more work I can get done in less time, the more revenue I can generate.
This is true for any service provider – the more you can accomplish in a given hour, or given day or week, the higher your income potential.
For most people, the trick isn’t working faster – rushing will not yield your best work – but making better use of your time.
Finding a planner that provides enough structure to help me develop better time management habits, as well as the flexibility to organize my day and my week as I see fit, has been challenging. Some are too simple, with wide open spaces for days and nothing else. Others are too complicated – have you tried bullet journaling? Anything that requires an index to use is way too complex for me.
So when I heard about the Passion Planner on Kickstarter three years ago, I was intrigued. I liked the page designs, which include a monthly view and then a weekly view, and a daily schedule broken down to the half hour. I’ve found that this approach helps me set long-term goals and then break them down more easily into smaller, doable chunks.
The Passion Roadmap, which is a section at the very front of the planner, is where you strategize and break down your goals for the coming year. To me it looks sort of like a mind map, but I like that asks you to think about your goals for your life, three years hence, one year hence, and three months out.
Then it walks you through how to define and make progress on your GameChanger – the one thing right now that would have the most positive impact on your life. I appreciate the simplicity of zeroing in on that one thing I can do right now that would make the biggest difference in my business.
That’s the forward-looking work that you do before you even get into the day-to-day planning.
I also like that it’s sturdy, with a bound faux leather cover, a bright green ribbon to mark your page, and an elastic band to hold it closed or to mark another page.
While some people focus on daily tasks, I always work from a monthly view, so I want spaces on the monthly page to be large enough to note appointments.
I attach washi tape to the edges of each month so I can quickly flip to the monthly view.
That’s how I keep track of who I’m interviewing today and also what the rest of my week looks like. This allows me to quickly spot days where I’ve already overloaded my schedule and days where I have time to fit in a rush assignment here and there.
On this two-page spread, I can record a number of key pieces of information. Because I’m a visual learner, having reminders right in front of me at all times is very helpful.
So up in the left-hand corner, I set a monthly work and personal goal. These are the single activities in those two areas of my life that will make the biggest difference in my business. This month, for work, my focus is hitting the half-way mark on a client’s book. On the personal side, it’s getting the house decorated for Christmas. So anytime I feel confused about what to do next, I look at that space on the planner to reorient myself.
I use the weekly view to note upcoming assignment deadlines and milestones I want to hit on larger projects. Many Passion Planner users go crazy with creativity on these pages, jazzing up their daily schedule with washi tape, colorful markers, and stickers. I love dressing mine up, too, but only when I have the time to relax and have fun.
Like the monthly view, each week you can set a specific task to focus on or theme. And you can easily track what went right on the left, which I like. (I’m also one of those people who will write a task down that I’ve just completed so I can have the satisfaction of crossing it off my to-do list.)
I like that each day of the week has a schedule that runs from 6:00 am to 10:30 pm, with 30-minute increments. At the top of each day there is also a spot to note the day’s focus. For me, that’s usually the one project or task I absolutely have to get done.
Since I think of my work week as running from Monday to Friday (and sometimes Saturday and Sunday), I was thrilled that for 2018 you have the option to choose from a week that starts on Sunday OR Monday. That was the one thing I didn’t really like in previous iterations of the Passion Planner.
At the bottom of the page is a grid for your “Personal To-Do List” and “Work To-Do List,” which helps me highlight those must-do’s for the week. There’s also a spot to list necessary errands, but my errand list never fits in those spaces, so that’s one thing I don’t usually use. On the right is a blank space that I use to jot down phone messages and other ideas that pop up. It’s a catch-all, essentially.
At the end of each month are “Monthly Reflection” pages that are a useful place to record your big wins, or at least that’s how I use it. I note major accomplishments, lessons I learned, and what I can work on next month. It’s a nice wrap-up that helps me make incremental improvements each month.
And at the end of the planner book are blank pages, as well as pages with grid lines, that I often use to note appointments scheduled for next year, editing rules I’m always looking up, and prospects I need to follow up with. There are at least 20 pages, so you could certainly designate whole pages to tracking various aspects of your life.
I use one page as a repository for ideas for future guests to interview for the Association of Ghostwriters and another as a place to jot down ideas for entrepreneurs I want to collaborate with on books.
I think since writers are often in reactive mode, waiting for assignments to come in or to get the go-ahead on proposed work, or waiting for client feedback, it’s easy to feel that your schedule is not your own. That’s why I love the Passion Planner, I think. Because it gives me a sense of control – as much or as little as I want – over my work.
Some days, when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed, I’ll map out tasks in 30-minute increments in an effort to reduce any time-wasting that will prevent me from finishing that blog post that’s due or wrapping up the research I need to be able to finish a client’s book chapter. It provides structure when I need it, and freedom when I don’t.
It’s also fun to go crazy with sticks and colorful washi tape, to make it visually appealing rather than stale and black-and-white.
Each year Passion Planner designer Angelia Trinidad comes up with new cover colors. I always buy the black version, but this year you can also choose covers in Vintage Brown, Golden Dream, and Blue Blossom, and Rose Gold Blossom. There are even more options if you want to just buy a reusable sleeve to wrap around an Eco version of the planner, which you swap out at the end of the year. There are two sizes, the Classic, which is 8.27” x 11.69”, and the Compact, which is 5.83” x 8.27”. I like to have lots of space to take notes, so I always buy the larger Classic. But if you want sometime to take with you in your bag, the Compact might be more convenient. And you can get the planner with all the dates filled in or the undated version, which allows you to start at any time and organize your weeks however you prefer.
I’ve always been a paper-based planner user, so this works well for me. At the moment the Passion Planner is not available in electronic form, so if you prefer to manage your schedule on your computer, this may not be as good a fit.
Another benefit of choosing the Passion Planner is that you can get access to a free PDF version of the planner immediately, so you can start charting your path now, rather than having to wait until it hits your mailbox. You can also print out the PDF and give it a test run before you even decide if you want to buy it, which I think is great.
Click here to learn more about the Passion Planner. If you decide you’d like to order one, if you use my code MARCIAT10 you’ll get 10% off through December 31st.
What’s your favorite planner?
*I became an affiliate for the Passion Planner this year because I love the product. If you use my code you’ll save money and I’ll receive a small commission.
Source: Associate of Ghostwriters