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Keeping Things Simple when Planning

keep_it_simpleI am a busy guy. I’m a writer, a public speaker, a social media professional, and I’m a husband and father. Not necessarily in that order, mind you. Busy, busy, busy. On looking at my life in this nutshell, you have to wonder how I keep everything straight.

Rule out “day planner” as one of your options because, well, I have opinions about them.

It was in the early 2000’s when I purchased for myself this goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized organizer. (Serious investors in this day planner kit could get it in a leather-bound binder, but I opted out for the beginner’s level vinyl…although I did plan to level up in the future.) It had pre-formatted pages for specific tasks, elegant tabs that could be color coded, and even a set of strategies and instructions on getting the most out of it. I sat down one Saturday afternoon, with the kit’s instructions in front of me, and started planning out projects, prerogatives, and To Do lists.

When I was done mapping out the present day and upcoming week, I looked up at the clock. The sun had set. It was late. I had to go to bed.

“Well, that must have just been for the initial set-up,” you may think, but no. Oh no. It was recommended by this day planner’s “program that I haul this goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized binder everywhere I went. You know, just in case I suddenly got an idea, or needed a weapon when the zombie apocalypse happens (and, essentially, achieve my ongoing “living to see another day” goal).

But that really wasn’t the problem. The real problem came whenever an idea came to mind. Unlike that heady euphoria I enjoyed on new ideas or possibilities, I would be overcome with a sense of dread as this meant consulting THE ALL-MIGHTY PLANNER to see if I could fit any of them into my schedule. No, I could not merely “glance” at this calendar. No, I had to consult it, find out if I could fit this inspiration into my already-meticulously schedule, costing me even more time.

Here’s my issue with planners — they can easily devolve into timesinks. We can spend so much time organizing goals, projects, and To Do’s into particular categories, timetables, and spreadsheets, that we lose time in working on accomplishing goals, projects, and To-Do’s.

So how can you keep it all straight? Look at the tools you have on hand and keeping it simple.

For myself, the goal-tracking, life-prioritizing, project-planning, super-duper, all-encompassing, kill-a-velociraptor-sized organizer has been replaced by my iPhone and iCloud. If an event or an idea comes up, I access iCal and tap in a few details. Automatically iCal syncs not only with other Apple devices, but also with apps that are granted permission to access iCal (such as LinkedIn’s mobile app). Events can be assigned multiple alerts for multiple times, and these alerts are received across my Apple devices. iCal also allows you to send out notifications to other people, notifying them in an email of the event and any changes concerning it. All this from an app that is free on your devices.

iCal is a great way to keep it simple. Once you have outgrown it, set your sights on something more robust such as Evernote, a popular planner and organizer for students and professionals. Organization is essential in successful projects and careers, but make certain to keep your goal setting and day planning to the basics. By taking it easy and keeping things elementary in the beginning, you give yourself room to grow.

You can also make sure you’re getting things done, which is the whole point of being organized to begin with.