Can a Paper Planner Help You Get More Done?

Can a Paper Planner Help You Get More Done?

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

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Dumb Ways to Live

Dumb Ways to Live

My kids had me watch this video and belted out the lyrics with gusto never seen in any other forum, including church. Unfortunately, the tune is so catchy that you find yourself singing it, even when you don’t want to.

Are you singing the same old tune?

This song got me thinking–not about how sad it is that people die as the result of doing stupid things. Rather, it got me thinking about the dumb ways so many of us live.

  • Eating junk. Sure, it can kill you, but even worse, it makes you feel junky while you live.
  • Wasting time. I don’t think funny cat videos are a waste of time, but media of any sort that discourages us is a dumb way to live.
  • People pleasing. I’m not talking about being a simpering fool, but about doing anything simply because someone might get upset if we don’t.
  • Focusing on anything but the present. Fretting about something that’s already done or is 99% certain not to occur robs us of the joy of life now.
  • Being self-sufficient. We weren’t created to handle everything ourselves, but to need God and one another. We have so much unneeded stress and experience so little love as a result.

Do you want to live smart?

I know I do! In the new year, I want to make some changes. I want to eat more vegetables, take in more uplifting media, be more purposeful in what I do, focus on the moment, and rely more on God and others.

How about you? Do you have any other examples of dumb ways to live? How do you want to live smart in the new year?

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Six Easy Ways to Get Your Kids Exercising

Six Easy Ways to Get Your Kids Exercising

Are Your Kids and Grandkids Getting Enough Exercise?

Kids spend a big part of the day sitting doing school. Even if your child participates in sports, they may not be spending enough time moving. But don’t worry, you don’t have to add another sport to your already busy schedule. There are simple strategies for squeezing in more fitness time.

  1. Lift weights. You’ve probably heard that lifting weights is for kids in their late teens only, and if you’ve seen any videos of kids who have taken fitness to extremes, you probably believe that’s good advice. But just as weight training is vitally important for adult fitness, lifting light weights in a controlled manner is important for kids. Strong Kids, Healthy Kids presents evidence that slow weight training is particularly suited to children because the light weights and repetitions avoid injury. What’s even better for busy parents is that slow weight training gets results in less workout time than traditional exercise. Using forms to track kids’ progress is especially motivating for them.
  2. Do pushups. While I’m tempted to add other superb exercises like squats and sit-ups to this list, pushups alone are a fantastic form of exercise. They strengthen the entire upper body and the core. One way my husband has motivated our kids to stay fit doing pushups is to pay them for doing a certain number of pushups a day for a month. Of course, you wouldn’t want to use this strategy for life (you could go broke quickly!), but offering a reward is a great way to jump start your kids’ interest in fitness. Once they’ve gotten good at pushups, have them move up to doing burpees.
  3. Use a kids’ video. I’ve tried out a number of kids’ videos, and I really like Kick to Get Fit for Kids. It’s very instructional and what kid doesn’t like to kick? Some kids like to kick too much (like my son in the video who kept “accidentally” kicking his sister), so make sure you allow plenty of room. I like to have the kids workout with this during our mid-morning break if the weather isn’t cooperating.
  4. Make it routine. One of my friends has her kids run a pre-planned circuit through the neighborhood each morning and keeps track of their time. I like to have the kids use the trampoline or play outdoor games during our mid-morning recess. The key is doing a little exercise on a regular basis.
  5. Take up a family sport. Having one child play soccer while the family watches from the sidelines isn’t a family sport, despite the fact that team sports are rewarding in other ways. Playing a sport or enjoying an exercise activity together is not only wonderful for your child’s fitness, but builds family closeness. Our family loves tennis, bike riding, and hiking. There are so many options! If you aren’t sure what to do, make it a family project to try lots of activities until you find the one that works.
  6. Play fitness games together. I mentioned in a post on getting your child’s screen time under control that we originally bought the kids a Wii thinking that it would keep the kids active. Unfortunately, the inactive games soon became more popular. But we’ve noticed that if Mom or Dad or aunts or grandparents will play with our kids, they love the active games again. Dance games can really be a lot of fun (kids love it when we make fools of ourselves) and what’s better is that you’ll get more exercise, too. You know you need it! We all do.

How do you get your kids to spend more time exercising?


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Teach Math to Learn Math

Teach Math to Learn Math

After teaching my daughter the Learn Math Fast method for subtracting single digit numbers, my daughter came up with this slightly different approach. Of course, we want kids to have these math facts memorized, but in the meantime, it’s helpful for them to have a quick method for solving the problems.

Without any prompting from me, my daughter started teaching her younger brother and her friend “her method” for subtracting single digit numbers. She was so excited about math! Why? I would argue that she feels competent. We are always more motivated to pursue activities we feel capable in. If your child is struggling in a subject, have him teach someone who is behind him in ability. Or consider letting your child make a YouTube video!

The added benefit of letting your child teach is the learners get motivated, too. My daughter’s friend was very excited about this math method and the video they made of it. You still have time to enter the Learn Math Fast giveaway!

Have you had success having your child teach a subject? Tell us about it!

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