Recently our friends opened a new business. Just before they were set to open, they decided to have a friend’s night at their new store. It was going to be a fun night where they would be able to go through a dry run with their staff and we were going to help decorate the store’s walls with what we made. I was really looking forward to the evening, so I arranged for babysitting a couple weeks in advance. When the evening finally came, we walked into an empty store with our friend’s working away at stocking the store. We are typically a punctual couple, so really didn’t think too much of it at first. But when our friend asked why were there, we looked at each other in disbelief. Did they cancel and not tell us? Did we arrive too early?
I don’t know about you, but life is pretty busy. Between being a wife and mom, a full-time educator, part-time clinician, and life-long learner…chaos tends to ensue. When I was a full-time clinician, life was a little less chaotic. I had a standard 8:00AM – 5:00PM schedule with a patient every 30 minutes. Our front desk staff took care of scheduling my every minute and all I had to do was show up on time. I wasn’t in the habit of using a daily planner because each day was the same except for the minor incidentals. Sure, I used my calendar app on my phone to schedule doctor’s appointments, haircuts, and dentist appointments (annual musculoskeletal evaluation should have been on this list too!), but never had much use for writing anything else down. I’m a millennial for goodness sake…we don’t need pen and paper, right?
Boy was I wrong! I made the mistake of transitioning into academics with that same mentality, only in academics no one schedules anything for you (well except the registrar schedules your course days/times). Freedom of schedule is one of my most favorite perks of being a professor, but it is a perk that has to be harnessed. I found myself in my early semesters working a lot and really hard, but it wasn't always focused. I would work a little bit on this and a little bit on that. I never really accomplished anything. Coming from a fully structured career to one that allowed for so much freedom was actually really uncomfortable for me. I just felt like I was spinning all the time, so I asked my mentor for some help. His response…use a written planner. I said, oh okay, I'll look for a planner app for my phone so I always have it with me. “No,” he said, “you need to use a written planner.” And he left it at that. No why or explanation. My mentor is great (if you don’t have a mentor, find one…like now…and if you need one, email me), but sometimes very cryptic in his advice. So, I did what he suggested and bought a written planner.
From that moment on, I will never go without my written planner and here are 3 reasons why:
1. What gets scheduled, gets done.
As I said earlier, transitioning to academics created this unstructured daily schedule. I of course had to be at my daily scheduled courses, but that usually only amounted to about 15-20 hours per week. I also had to carry some scheduled office hours for students to visit if need be, but that could be done at my convenience. Since using a written planner, I now have a clear picture on when the items on my to-do list will be done. In fact, I don’t even have a to-do list anymore because I put those items directly on a time slot on my planner. What gets scheduled, gets done.
2. A 30,000 ft view.
Someone wise told me after I had my son that the days are long, but the years are short. I didn’t quite understand what that meant at the time because I was loving being home with my little baby on maternity leave. Now, after 2 ½ years…I have perspective. Raising kids for sure fits into that advice, but life in general does too. A written planner allows me to see the 30,000 foot view of my week, month, and year. I can see the big picture. When you get in the trenches of life, it is hard to see what your ultimate goal is. Having your ultimate goal on your written planner allows you to stay connected to your mission and ultimately achieve your goals.
3. A memory for the long days.
There is no replacement for learning and retention than using pen and paper, and science backs it up. As I wrote in a previous post, Antidote #3, handwriting notes is a part of a multisensory environment. Multisensory environments create multiple pathways for your memory to recall something later, an audio track(your verbalization), a motor track (hand writing), and a visual track (seeing the words on the page). Psychologists, Pam Mueller of Princeton and Daniel Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles have published research on improving learning and retention with handwritten notes versus computer note taking. Their research suggests that handwriting actually allows the student to reframe the lectures content and store it in long-term memory in a way computer-based note taking does not. Using a hand-written planner has similar benefits. Slowing down and writing allows you to approach your planning with more mindfulness and retain the information better. By writing down our appointments and scheduled events, we organize our day, as well as, create a memory that we can draw from throughout the day, week, month and year.
There are lots of choices out there when it comes to written planners, so look around until you find one that does what you need. I use the Passion Planner and a good set of PaperMate Flair markers (I love to color code everything!).
Oh and as for our night out with friends…we were a week too early. If only I had written down the actual date...we did, however, have a fun impromptu date night since we had a babysitter and all. Lesson learned.
Do you use a planner? Which one do you prefer?