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Planner Photo 1Paper Planner 2

This is Week 4 of a Year of Living Productively

This week I tested the ability of Ann Voskamp’s daily and weekly planner to help me get more done. Scroll to the end of this post to see my plan. I was super excited to use my new folder/clipboard (from Target) with the pages. I even bought new pens to use with it! Pretty nifty, huh? Here’s what I learned in my week of using these paper planners.

How a Paper Planner Saved My Sanity This Week

  • Reduced my anxiety about the upcoming week. I had quite a bit of anxiety at the beginning of this last week. I had the feeling I was forgetting important things. I printed out the weekly planner page and looked over my Google calendar. I started adding events  to the planner. I then printed the daily pages and dated them. I could easily decide to put certain tasks on these pages because of my weekly plan.
  • Gave me a focus for the day and week. My favorite part of the daily planner, possibly because I hadn’t done anything like this before, was the relationship focus. I realized that I was focused on all the to-do’s prior to an event this week and the relationship focus helped me to realize WHY I was having the event. Very powerful and made the event much more satisfying. I also really liked the Scripture focus. I memorize Scripture with my children, but I liked having a personal Scripture to focus on for the week.
  • Paper gave me a sense of control. For some reason, the paper planner and even the notebook inside my binder gave me a feeling of having it all together that I haven’t had since I’ve been using digital task lists. I suspect it has to do with a limit on the amount of information I see.

How a Paper Planner Made Me Crazy This Week

Unfortunately, I think I would have been crazy no matter what this week. By Tuesday I was absolutely exhausted and just wanted to lie on the couch watching Biggest Loser and eating fatty snacks. I didn’t, but I didn’t get much beyond the “musts” done.

  • This particular planner encourages too many habits at once. I wanted to get more done, not focus on keeping a food log and recording how much water I had. Even though I don’t think I have a problem in these areas, I felt compelled to add these habits. When I didn’t keep doing it, I had that all-or-nothing toss it out the window effect going. That was related to the next problem.
  • Too many task options. Whereas the simple paper list didn’t pose a problem for me if I didn’t get a day’s work done, this planner really bothered me when I didn’t. I think subconsciously I pictured Ann Voskamp dutifully completing all her tasks and her workout and water drinking and her relationship focus and housekeeping tasks and Scripture memory and I wondered what was wrong with me that I couldn’t do it. I also really disliked writing my daily activities down every day, especially when they’re already in my HomeRoutines app.
  • The draft didn’t work. I loved the concept of the draft. Research suggests that planning when we’re going to do something dramatically increases the likelihood that we’re going to do it. But guess what? The research always focuses on ONE task. One lousy task! I could decide when to do one thing and do it. No problem! But when I started planning all the things I would do in the morning, the afternoon, and evening and when I didn’t get some of those things done, I became discouraged and gave up.

Did a Paper Planner Help Me Get More Done?

In terms of overall productivity, no. However, I absolutely didn’t forget the important things and had a much better sense of control because of using the weekly planner. I liked the weekly planner so much that I plan to keep using it.


While I still find myself drooling over this paper planner and others like it, I don’t use them consistently. I do love having the big picture in front of me, but I quickly stop using them in favor of digital planners. I did a Periscope broadcast on using paper planners that you may enjoy.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using for Week 5

Mark Forster simplest method

I’ve written before about Mark Forster’s unique productivity methods. I’ve tried Do It Tomorrow and AutoFocus and plan to test them again in the coming year. But while Mark has continued to make modifications to AutoFocus, I haven’t been interested in testing any of his new approaches until now.

First, the rationale. He suggests that people like me may create huge to-do lists as a method of avoiding what they know they really should be doing. I agree! That’s why I quit using a to-do list for quite a while. To keep a long to-do list from obscuring what you know you should be doing, Mark suggests:

  • Choosing three tasks in the order in which you plan to do them.
  • Working on the first two as little or as much as you like in order.
  • Adding two more tasks to the list and continuing on.

Like Autofocus, these tasks can even include routine things like “take a shower” or free-time activities like “get on Facebook.” I plan to continue using my morning and school routine and planning the week using Ann’s planner. I will send reminders to my phone via IQTell for tasks that I must do that day. Everything else will be worked on using Mark’s method.

If you’d like to join me this week, here’s what you do. Read Mark’s simple explanation of the method. He recently added a statement that the method is not recommended for other people. Ignore that and carry on. You can use paper or a simple to-do application.

To see how my week with Mark’s Simple and Effective Method went, click here.

If you’ve tried using a paper planner to increase your productivity, please vote in the poll below.

Here are the links to the productivity hacks I’ve tried so far:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines