Every year, when it’s time to order a new diary or organiser, most of us revisit the planning tools we’re using. It’s not the diary that makes you organised – it’s how you use it!
For medium to large organisations there are many wonderful time-savers in using a LAN (Local Area Network) and software such as Outlook or Lotus Notes to schedule meetings, turn e-mails into tasks and more. However, I find most companies miss major efficiency opportunities by not training their staff on the fine points of their programmes. Either hire a specialist trainer to run a regular short course or ask a ‘best practice’ staff member to train everyone else.
Hand-held electronic, or paper diary system? Basically, it depends on your preferences. Even some very technology-smart people prefer paper-based diary systems, for they need a bigger view, or don’t feel connected to their plans unless they can hold a paper planner in their hands. Don’t spend a lot of money on fancy technology until you’re sure that’s what will work for you.
If you have a fairly complex life with a range of responsibilities it’s probably worthwhile getting a 7-ring binder system. There are a number of good proprietary systems.
Their key advantage is the ability to organise projects. Coloured tabs to create separate sections let you keep notes on key projects or interest areas. Information is stored efficiently – like with like.
Another feature is the phone list. Because these systems are loose-leaf you don’t have to rewrite your key phone numbers at the beginning of every year. The part that changes is the yearly pages, not the support features.
Following is a list of the products I’m most familiar with – in other countries different but similar products will be available.
- PLAN-it (a comprehensive Australian system at a cheaper price than and similar to Daytimers)
- Self-Reliance Planners, which you can get through any Amway distributor
- Franklin-Covey (which has a good weekly view)
- Filofax (not as useful as some of the others, but available in major bookstores)
- Day Runner (some of its features are confusing, but it is a loose-leaf system)
- Priority Manager (most expensive and complex of the range, but with some very sophisticated features and good backup).
Many people find a simple diary from the local stationers is all they need. Preferably, look for a 2-page per day style. This gives you room to write notes, record phone calls, and all the miscellany of information you’d otherwise be tempted to jot down on scraps of paper. Unfortunately they rarely have a weekly view, unless it has the days running across the page, which is not as clear or quick to view as the days running down the page.
Weekly planning is more powerful that daily planning, and saves a lot of time. I have designed a simple weekly planning pad available here. My weekly planning pages can be inserted in any of the proprietary brands, as long as you have a paper punch to fit that system. If you use a regular hardbound diary, paper-clip the weekly page in at the beginning of each week.
If you don’t need a lot of daily writing space nor need to carry a diary around, my weekly pages may be all you need. You might want to put them in an attractive ring binder. You can run the monthly and annual view for the year off the contact manager system that you probably have on your computer.
You’ve got more than one diary system? What can you simplify? Try to operate with only one organiser.
You’ve got a desk diary or a computer-based view for everyone to access, and like to carry a diary with you? Or the company uses an Intranet to book meetings? You have to be very vigilant – there’s no simple answer, especially if you’re synchronising two paper-based systems.
However, if you’re thinking of going electronic, make sure your choice offers synchronisation. Whenever you come back to your main computer you can dock in and download updates. Some mobile phones and hand-held devices also have laser synchronisation.
A warning. The best planning system is one that does the job you need – in the simplest possible way. As soon as it becomes complicated you set yourself up for difficulties. Trial, test, ask others, and wait – until you’re absolutely sure you need the latest bells and whistles. Why make a simple task complex? We have to cope with enough electronic change every day without turning our scheduling and planning into another potential challenge.