I suffered major planner failure yesterday

I don’t often suffer planner fail, but when I do it tends to be epic.

Below is what a busy week looks like. Each booking is in a different place (sometimes entailing 40 minutes of travelling time each way between clients) and sometimes venues change. I have to leave time to get through security checks and check equipment etc. I also have waiting lists for if I have cancellations and there are rules regarding the time of the cancellation for invoicing purposes. There is no way I could keep this in my head. I have to write it all down and make sure to update it fastidiously and check it regularly.

Losing my planner would be a disaster because I would not have a clue where to be or what to do.

I did have a disaster a few years ago when I still used an A5 and my back was really sore from the weight I carry around each day. I took  two months’ worth of the calendar out of my Filofax A5 Siena, stapled the pages together, left the binder at home, and just carried the pages in my bag. Until I accidentally picked those precious calendar pages up with the top secret classified documents I had to hand back for shredding. Bye bye schedule. That day I changed to personal size….it took me months to work out my schedule again and I had to phone every single one of my clients to get all my bookings back.


So, I know I need my calendar. I know I need to refer to it. But when I am busy and stressed and time is short, I always somehow imagine that I remember everything. Why I do this I don’t know because bitter experience shows that I am wrong wrong wrong and that the more busy I am the more I need to make time to look at my planner.

So yesterday my day (the one marked 27) looked like this


  • 5am woke up, fed the cats, cleaned their box, fed myself, showered, got ready for work.
  • 6.15am caught the bus then the underground and in to my first meeting by 7am
  • Broke that meeting 7.45am to rush to my first lesson which took place between 8 and 9.
  • At 9 I rushed back to the first meeting, which finished at 9.30 (the pink line denotes two meetings going on at the same time so I have to be in two places at once. It is not a double booking, I just have to move between them. It is sometimes the only way I can manage to attend two compulsory things that clash).
  • My regular 10 to 11.30 Wednesday meeting had been cancelled so I had booked in another meeting from 10 to 11.30 but because I did not refer to my bookings, I turned up at my regular meeting – 20 minutes away by taxi – only to be reminded that it had been cancelled. So I had to leap back into a taxi and get to where my recently-booked meeting actually was. Luckily I was ten minutes early. I was furious with myself because that could have been prevented with one simple glance at my planner.
  • When that meeting finished at 11.30, I thought ‘ooh how nice, I have time for lunch’ but at 11.35am my phone rang and my next client was wondering where I was (I am usually early). I had received the booking late the evening before and was too tired to write it down. I thought ‘I’ll remember’. I know I never do, so I don’t know why I even try to tell myself that. I screeched over there like the Roadrunner.
  • At 12.15 I had to walk-run, then catch the underground two stops to my 12.30 lesson where I was until 2pm. It was a lunch lesson so I ate one of the energy bars I always carry with me, and a banana. I also always carry water with me. (I once spectacularly fainted from low blood sugar in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then a week later on a tram platform waiting for a train. I lay in the snow for half an hour with commuters stepping over me thinking I was drunk). Then I had half an hour to walk and catch the underground to my 14.30 to 15.30 lesson. Luckily my client was 2 minutes late so I had time to pee.
  • At 15.30 I had to walk, catch the underground 7 stations and walk quite a way to my last lesson, which ended just after 6pm.
  • I got home at 7.30pm because I had to stop at the supermarket on my way home. Of course I had forgotten to make a shopping list the night before like I usually do, so I arrived home missing half my necessities.
  • At 9pm I had to do my paperwork and update the invoicing system with my hours. The lesson I had forgotten to write down in the middle of the day would have been a huge problem if I had forgotten to invoice it so I should have written it down as soon as I realised I had left it out.

I had a fail the day before actually for the same reason. My 1pm to 3pm client had changed his booking to 3pm to 5pm via phone while I had been running between meetings and I had not written the changes. So naturally I arrived two hours early….

For someone who works like I do, being able to rely on everything I write down being correct, is absolutely vital. My planner is my extra brain. I cannot keep all that information inside my head. So I have to write things down and more importantly, I have to make sure to REFER to them.

So in this case the planner failed because I failed to use my planner. The more busy I am the more I need to use my planner but the more busy I am the more some part of me thinks I am too busy to use my planner. It does not happen often – about twice a year. Because I am very seldom late and always start and finish on time, people are very understanding about my rare fails. I am not even too hard on myself because I do pretty well most of the time in a demanding job.

Just as a frame of reference, before I did this job, I worked in a small university town in South Africa for the best part of 19 years, teaching journalism. There was a rush-minute every day at 12.45 when everyone drove home for lunch! I still used Filofax then though and so did my boss!


Luckily, because my planner is just for scheduling and to dos, I don’t suffer from the other type of planner fail which must be even more difficult – trying to be organised but stuck on preparing to be organised. Those fails tend to be when people buy a planner, spent ages creating or buying inserts, watching planner setup videos, writing out (and sometimes decorating) their increasingly complex layouts and plans for how to be organised. But then putting those plans into action are more daunting than actually planning for them and it fails.  That must be more of an emotional failure because you had so much hope that it would change your life. Because (as with me), *I* am the one that has to be active in seeing that my planner works. It won’t do it FOR me.

UPDATE: I was asked both in the comments and on Facebook about the rest of my inserts.


  • I use vertical week-on-two page Burde inserts for all my bookings (above). This allows me to have an at-a-glance overview of the heavier and lighter days in my week. I work mainly in Parliament and the MPs are in Stockholm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, plus I teach the parliamentary officials all day on Friday. So I have to keep my days shorter on Monday and Tuesday so that I can get my translations done. I keep one month behind and three months ahead in my planner. Once invoices have been sent and there have been no queries, I remove them. Every six months I throw them away.
  • Behind that calendar (which is always at the front), I have a second set of the same calendar. I don’t use dividers but I always know where I am by using Today markers. This second set is used for my daily to dos. I do an overview of each day and its to dos on Sundays, and every evening I check and update the to dos for the next day on this calendar. At the end of each week I throw away the previous week.
  • Behind that calendar are lined note pages from Eurotime (used by VDS, Gillio, Paul Smith, and IL Bisonte) where I have longer shopping lists, general to dos and notes of things I need to remember that come up during the day (emails to send, documents I need to send to my clients, to update my bookings, things my students would like to cover, vocabulary lists I need to type up, things I need to research). Once a week I go through these, rewrite the list and throw old pages away.
  • Long-term to dos stay in my A5 desk binder and my personal notes and wish lists are in my journal. I used to keep everything together and it was nice to have it all in one place but it got to be totally overwhelming.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

20 thoughts

  1. Wow Janet what a crazy schedule you have. Yes maybe a page per day would help with the craziness but it is nice to be able to see your whole week at a glance. If you don’t mind how did you get into your current line of work? It seems so interesting!

    1. It just kind of happened but I have never really had an office job. When I fixed computers I was out on calls all day, when I taught journalism I used to travel to news desks around the country and now I do this.

  2. I had a similar disaster of a day recently, not because I forgot to write anything in the planner, but because I booked myself into back-to-back meetings all day. By the end of the fourth one I was fried and struggling to re-orient myself to the new meeting. Really, 10 minutes between one thing and another is most essential. Of course, if you travel to a different location that can be enough transition time in and of itself. It’s the back-to-back meetings in the same building, trying to sneak a look at your email in the seconds between… Awful.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, and am fascinated by your hectic schedule.

    I totally agree with your observations about those that try so hard to get into organising that the actual planning aspect is just too overwhelming and daunting. I definitely fall into that category and am trying to reprogramme myself to plan In order to work/live more efficiently and effectively.

  4. We’ve all done it , Janet. However good your planner, you have to look at it! How many times have I done the self same thing? Don’t know, too many, but you just have to forgive yourself, decide to do better and move on. Just think of those disorganised folks who never use a planner.

  5. Holy Moly, that’s some crazy schedule…..got a headache just following along and imaging you zinging around all day long…..

    Have you read any of David Allen’s GTD books?

    He spends quite a lot of time explaining how he overload and thus add stress to ourselves by by trying to remember things and not forgot something important while at the same time trying to go about our business during the day. Neuroscience research shows our brains are not well designed for this. The key to resolving this is to have a ‘trusted system’ (like your planner…) that acts as your ‘external brain’ thus freeing up your real brain to do what you need to do during the day.

    Even if you don’t follow his GTD system, I think this idea of having a trusted system / external brain is a very important and incredibly useful construct.

    Hope you don’t have more days like yesterday!

    1. No, but I have always wanted to do GTD. I am afraid though of getting so caught up in the system that I get even more overwhelmed. I will be having the most hectic spring in a long time but hopefully this will have taught me a lesson!

      1. Understand your concern. However, I would strongly recommend you reading his first book. Allen recently released an updated edition. It’s available in paperback or in digital form.

        Even if you don’t follow his system literally, just reading his book but will change the way you think about doing all the various things you do and when you do them.

        FWIW, I use aspects of his system along with bits of other ones. I know other people that do the same.

        Again, highly recommend you read one of his books. There’s also some videos of him giving some talks online at YouTube, etc…..really think it will give you some interesting and helpful insights into the way we think and do things.

  6. Wow, what a day & I’ve been amazed before when you talk about your schedule! It’s great to hear that a Filofax helps so much to keep you on top of everything. I have a confession… I am often on your blog, but always forget to comment, sorry!

    1. I have two week on two page calendars back to back, separated by a today marker. The front one has bookings, the back one has to dos for that day. Then behind those I have lined notepaper for my non-dated to dos and things like shopping lists if they are long. More long term to dos and tasks are in my A5 at home on my desk. Personal wish lists and dreams and so on are in my journal which stays next to my bed. I used to have them all together but I found that it was overwhelming.

  7. What a horrible day! Two suggestions: you really need a page per day and when clients ask for a change , have them email the info in addition to the phone call. I am a retired teacher and I taught in a very large, diverse high school. Parents knew that email was the best way to reach me (phones were programmed not to ring in classrooms with outside calls) but staff would tell me something as I was rushing from one side of the campus to the other. I always asked for an email because I knew that walking into the next classroom would wipe that info from my brain!

    1. Thanks for the suggestions! Good point about the page a day. I may consider having a page a day PLUS vertical week to view. Page a day to look at ON THE DAY and week to view to get an overview.

      1. That’s how I HAVE to do it. Naturally I think it might be helpful for you, but if your problem is being too busy to note things down, well, an extra page wouldn’t help! The email idea is brilliant, if only they do. Reality is your schedule is so tight there isn’t much time for stopping to make a note. Maybe a voice recorder that you transcribe nightly?

  8. Wow, what a schedule! I think we all have those moments when we’re “too busy to use our planner.” Maybe one day we’ll learn!

  9. Wow! That is quite some story Janet. I hope you finally treated yourself to a glass of wine after working on your updates!

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