Five Ways a Planner Helps With My Well-Being

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.

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(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.

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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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8 thoughts on “Five Ways a Planner Helps With My Well-Being

  1. “I feel more connected to my own life.” I think that in this statement, you have summed up the greatest argument for paper planning. Spot on. 🙂

  2. Wow. I keep writing about planning with my newly diagnosed depression and anxiety disorder, but you hit so many points that never even occurred to me – like having something to look forward to. Thank you. I’m taking notes on this post and sharing in my Facebook group.

  3. I don’t use a planner mostly because I forget to do it. We get the “company” branded ones each year. I give mine away. BUT…I am enjoying seeing yours each week or so when you post. I pop in and check frequently. I like to see the different stickers, themes, colors, fonts….I have a deep thing for different fonts. It gets intimate sometimes.
    Please keep posting your pages. None of it is silly. All are very creative and excellent.

  4. I have been toying with the idea of a planner for quite some time and it was because of you actually. Reading this article makes me realize why it would be so beneficial for me to invest in one.

    I forget things. Quite a bit actually and it’s super hard to keep track of things I need to/want to do. Besides that it’s hard to keep track of my moods and symptoms for my bipolar disorder. I need a healthy way to realize somethings up instead of “oh wow I haven’t slept in a long time and I feel great! Oh I spent my rent money? I’m sure it will all work out” or even ‘I am worthless and everyone knows it” those are scary and they creep up on me because I don’t document my triggers.

    Outside of that I have learned that seeing my own words that I have written holds me accountable to myself in a way that few others can do to me. It tells me in its way to not disappoint myself because it’s hard on you.

    My only fear of getting a planner is getting the right one. I have to have the right texture and space to write and comfort with a book before I trust it with my inner most secrets. So it’s extremely difficult to shop for one online.

    Have you ever had this problem?

    1. I enjoy seeing my own words as well. It’s hard to explain but I need to see things written in my own hand before I can make it happen. Lol that doesn’t really make sense but it is the way I feel. As far as planners go, I don’t think you can ever find the perfect one. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough.” Best of luck on your search.

    2. It can be really hard to take the plunge with a new planner, especially online – that’s the same reason I have trouble buying shoes online. How do I know their size 8 isn’t going to give me blisters?

      One cool thing about the internet, though, is that you’re never the only one asking questions. If you’re considering one of the popular (and some less popular) planners, all you have to do is search for it on YouTube – there are dozens of videos of planner reviews, and a lot of people follow up after using them for a few weeks to tell you their impressions. People go into paper thickness and texture, how easy the rings are to open or how big the coil is, even whether it has a pen holder. There are also a ton of “plan with me” decorating videos where you can see what will fit in different sizes and styles, and how people use them. I’ve gotten tons of ideas thanks to YouTube.

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