The New York Times recently argued the case for using a paper planner in our increasingly digital world. We’re all about paper over here, but as the NYT pointed out, there are multiple benefits to using paper including enhanced memory and the satisfaction of tactile accomplishment. You can get started with any notebook, though we’re partial to Julie Morgenstern‘s Balanced Life Planner, featuring pre-printed pages to guide you through your year. Julie is an organizational expert and used her years of expertise to craft pages that will assist you in boosted productivity and help you navigate your way to a better work-life balance. Take a look inside the Balanced Life Planner to see what we mean!
The Balanced Life Planner starts with a yearly calendar overview capturing the previous year, current year, and the next two years at a glance for long-term planning. As a nice touch, each week of the year is labeled (Week 1, Week 2, and so on) which will be useful to some. Since the Balanced Life Planner is designed to hold a quarter’s worth of pages at a time, you can use the yearly calendar as a reference for events in the next quarter and beyond.
Bookending each month’s worth of pages are blank lined pages titled Plans and Reflections for journaling, note-taking, goal-setting, or whatever you desire. Use it for rapid logging of ideas or important to-dos while on the go, and schedule those items in the appropriate pages later on when things are less hectic.
For more detailed planning, a larger two-page spread is allotted to each month. Each one includes a Balanced Life Tip from Julie, offering advice on time management, productivity, planning, and achieving balance. The monthly calendar pages also include a column for Monthly Goals, broken into sections for Professional Development, Personal Development, and Relationship Development.
The daily view takes up two pages. On the left-hand side, there is a free space column and a schedule column, broken up hour by hour from 7am to 11pm. A small box reminds you to ‘Plan tomorrow + 2’ by looking ahead at the next three days to stay ahead of your week. Julie believes that a 3 day arc gives you the necessary perspective to adjust your balance as needed and mentally prepare for the upcoming days. As fans of planning out the next day’s tasks before we leave work for the day, we’re on board with the 3 day approach!
The right-hand side is occupied by two Work Task charts (one for tasks and one for calls) and one Home Task chart (for tasks and calls), since batching tasks by type boosts efficiency and avoids constant gear-switching which drains your energy fast. These to-do lists encourage filling in an estimated time to complete and include a reminder of the 4 Ds when appropriate: Delete (discard tasks); Delay (reschedule for a more appropriate time); Diminish (create a shortcut); Delegate (give to someone who can do it better, faster, or good enough). You’ll soon get the hang of what tasks are hidden time sucks and what you can successfully Delete or Delay from your list without dire consequences.
When ready for the next quarter’s worth of pages, you can remove the old ones and file in a binder if you like having old planners and journals on hand to refer back to. After a year with the Balanced Life Planner, you’ll be able to look back at your first pages and compare how far you’ve come!