A lot of people don’t understand the whole planner thing. It seems silly, maybe pointless, a waste of time and money that could be used actually doing stuff.
I can’t speak for all the other plannerds out there, but I can tell you that my seemingly silly and pointless hobby is very important to me as a person with a mood disorder and general inability to adult worth a damn. Here are some reasons why that go beyond getting to the dentist on time.
(Note: All hobbies are by nature silly and pointless to some extent. That’s why they’re hobbies. Planning in itself is practical, but all the fun stuff we add to it is the hobby – and it’s no sillier than collecting stamps or playing fantasy football. Personally I think it’s about a million times less silly than fantasy football, but that’s why football isn’t my hobby.)
1 – I track all of my symptoms.
People use planners for all sorts of things besides just keeping tabs on their appointments.
In my own planner I have a weekly mood tracker; it’s not detailed, but it lets me assign a number value to my overall mood and then watch it rise and fall. I use a graph to make it visual – and I can extract all the data from months’ worth of trackers and plot out trends for months or years. I open my planner every day at least for a minute, and I remember to make note of how I felt that day. That’s invaluable information when it comes time to see the doctor.
Not to mention, in your planner you can keep records of doctor visits so you can compare notes from one to another; and you can have a place to jot down questions for your health care professionals. I know I always forget half of what I wanted to ask when I go in. I can keep a list of my medications handy, a record of all the meds I’ve taken so if my doctor asks “Have you ever had…” I’ll remember if I have, and the contact information of all my various professional folk – all together and easily within reach. It helps me feel less flustered at the doctor’s office.
2 – I also keep track of what I’m doing to help myself.
Exercise, water intake, meals, meditation and/or prayer – not only can you plan what days you want to do what, you can keep an eye on how often you actually do them.
It’s also important to keep track of my meds – If I notice distressing symptoms the first thing I do is look to see whether I’ve missed a couple of days.
3 – I am able to see what I’ve accomplished during the week – and what I have to look forward to.
It’s easy, when you have depression or bipolar or similar, to forget that you actually do things, and that there are things coming up that you can get excited about. It doesn’t matter how big or small those things are. Every little bit helps.
I have goal pages, too, which are a popular idea among planner people. Not only can you write down big goals, you can break them down into manageable bites and then track those bites. Looking back you can learn things about your personal habits and how they help or hinder your achievements.
4 – I feel more connected to my own life.
I often feel like I’m missing my life. The days pass by in a blur and I have no idea what day or even what week it is. My planner acts partly as a bare-bones journal – I get a snapshot of what was going on at any given time. (I keep old pages for a few months.) You can also have space in the week where you actually do journal – even just a few lines recounting the high or low points of the day can make you feel better in the short term and be helpful in the long term.
Also, I can keep lists or other representation of things I’ve done all year – right now I have a page dedicated to movie ticket stubs, and another where I glue in images of the cover of each book I read (next to which I write down the date I finished it and how I’d rate it).
5 – It’s a low-stakes form of creative expression.
I think the part of planner love that gets the most funny looks is decorating. Why spend all that time and use all that stuff just to make something pretty you’re not even going to need for more than a week?
I think that’s part of the draw, actually. I can make my pages pretty, or ugly, or use a theme, or just be random, or doodle and color, or use stickers, and unless I post pictures of it, no one will judge what I do. I can go online and share my layouts with others who love doing the same, and there’s community in that; or it can just be for me. Regardless, it’s a non-intimidating way to be creative on a tiny scale. A lot of people lack expression in their lives, but they think they’re not creative; the thought of creating a painting or DIY-ing something is scary when you’ve been told you’re not artistic. But anyone can put stickers on paper.
Every week I sit down and decide on colors or a theme for the coming week’s spread. I spend the afternoon on Sunday mapping out the next week’s activities (and TV shows), and then I make it pretty. It helps me feel like a participant in my life instead of just a spectator. I can track good things I do and bad things I feel, I can stay organized, and I can have fun.
Can’t beat that.
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