Treating work as an appointment in my personal planner

I use one planner for my whole life.  It’s simple. It’s reliable.  It’s less to maintain.

But I firmly believe that I should maintain a bifurcated planning system; work planning should be managed in a work planner and personal planning should be managed in a personal planner.  I work at a public university and handle confidential information at work.  All documents created in the course of doing my work are records of the State and are therefore public information under freedom of information law.

Additionally, seeing my work and personal information together is distracting; I spend too much time outside of work thinking about work, and get distracted at work by personal business.

Minimizing distractions is a critical component of managing my time.  I have discovered that a day to view diary is the best for me to use, even when I don’t need all the space, because it only displays the information about today while open.  The alternative diary formats are distracting; I don’t want to do one of today’s tasks so I will look at another day’s list and work on that instead, or start thinking about things that I don’t need to be concerning myself with today.

The logical solution is to split my planner.  I’ve tried this a few times over the past few years and always returned to one planner within a couple of weeks.  The reasons for this failure were myriad: I failed to decide exactly how to manage the two side by side; I would lose track in my mind of what information was in which planner; I would find myself needing to have both planners with me at all times.  The chaos of the system would send me scrambling back to the single planner in a panic of missed appointments and general sloppiness.

I have recently circled back to the idea of bifurcating my system and prior failures have given me a lot to consider.  At this point it has become a challenge, which is the best way to inspire me to create a functional solution; I thrive on solving problems and unraveling tangles.

A few considerations and ideas:

  • Duplicating my schedule is a recipe for disaster.  Inevitably things fall through the cracks.  I have enough to worry about already!
  • Some information needs to be duplicated; essential work information, which I may need to access while away from the office, needs to be in my personal planner.  Exampled include voicemail information, contact telephone numbers in case of emergencies, and some access codes and passwords.
  • Most work information is not needed away from work.
  • There should be a master and subordinate hierarchy.  The personal planner is my scheduling planner; I need to have one place where I can look to see my day.  That said, while I need to see when I need to be at work, I do not need to see my work scheduling details on the personal planning page; Just knowing when I will be at work will suffice.
  • I need very minimal personal information duplicated in a work planner.  The work planner can be truly devoted to work needs.

The big moment of clarity for me was the idea of layered planners; I can treat work as an appointment in my personal planner and block off the hours when I will be at work; everything that occurs within those hours will be found within the work planner.  In this way, I can see that I will be at work from 11am-7pm and can schedule my day around that.  If I have work meetings or events which happen outside of my scheduled work day they will also be input into the personal planner.  But all workday meetings or appointments and scheduled blocks of time to work on projects or tasks will be essentially invisible to me when away from work.

Part of this idea induces panic.  I feel in control when I can see my whole day and mentally prepare for things that I need to do later in the day. But it also feels so freeing to ignore work when I’m not at work.  It also prioritizes my personal goals and plans, which aligns with my values and affirmations.

I’m working at fully envisioning the system and how it will work in some detail prior to implementation.  I tend to jump in with both feet on planner adjustments but this is a major change and so deserves a more thoughtful planning process.  I will update as the pieces come together.

10 thoughts

  1. Josh, I agree with the work and personal planner model! I too have a separate planner specifically for work (homeschooling my 12 year old) and my life, it works perfectly. There’s too much to put into the personal planner about subjects, due dates, etc. it’s distracting and it gets lost. When I homeschool I input our projects and content in the time allowed. Holidays, sick days, tutoring accounts for the gaps in the planner. I hope it works for you for a very long time and you find “planner peace”!

  2. So I must ask, if you have your own byline, when are we going to go from cats to Corgis on the page??

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