Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Judging a Planner by its Promises

Yesterday, while my husband and I were browsing at the warehouse club near my parents' home, I came across a spiral-bound planner. It was done in lovely florals and pastels and reeked of optimism. I couldn't help myself. I picked it up. I opened it, and was immediately overcome by one thought...

Are they kidding? If I could fit my life into these skinny little columns, I wouldn't need  a planner!

Nearby, a binder called "the ultimate organizer" (in soothing lower case letters) also called out to me. This one offered to be the tool that put my life in order, but all I could think was that if I had time to file things by category and use all the lovely labels and folders provided in this beautiful, Type A tool, I would have already done so, which would render this system just as useless as the planner.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure these organizers work for someone, and that someone will be overjoyed to not only flip through these tools, but purchase them and take them home. There, they will use them and reap the benefits proclaimed on the front covers.

It's just that I'm not that someone.

Those of us who struggle to keep things in order can be easily seduced by pretty covers and promising proclamations. The market is glutted with organizational tools that tease us with the hope of an end to clutter and easy retrieval of important materials and information. Unfortunately, if you don't think the way the planner thinks (so to speak), these pretty problem-solvers merely end up becoming part of the mess rather than the way out of it.

For the past several years, I've spent the early months of the school year teaching my fifth graders about organization. Far from a Type A paradigm of organizational virtue myself, I've taught my students not an organizational method, but the need to respect their own style of organization. What I hope they will be able to do by the end of these lessons is exactly what I did at that warehouse club - pick up a tool, evaluate its effectiveness for them and either purchase it or put it back based on an informed assessment of its attributes, not the promises it proclaims or the how pretty it will look on a shelf.

As you approach the new year and consider your organizing challenges, see if you, too can find a way to make your tools fit you rather than the other way around. Resolve not to begin the new year as a slave to a three-ringed or spiral-bound dictator. If you buy a pretty package, make sure you know what you plan to put in it.

Because after all, you can't judge a book by its cover - or an organizer by its promises.

Planner photo taken from Amazon.com.
At the time of this blog's posting, it was temporarily out of stock.


  1. I love browsing through the planners and organizers but none of them ever fit quite right, at least not for the price they ask.

  2. I read a great book a few years back called Simplify Your Life. In it, Marcia Ramsland talks about finding just the right planner (and also looking at your schedule vertically and horizontally, which was some of the best time management advice I've ever read). I took her words to heart and discovered how much difference a "just right" planner can make!