203 Synchronizing Digital and Paper Planning Systems
Are you grappling with the conundrum of how to synchronize your digital and paper planning systems without duplicating information? The answer lies within this episode where I demystify the necessity of digital calendaring for effective time blocking and shed light on why a paper planner provides a superior bird’s-eye view of my schedule. This episode is a treasure trove of strategies that harmonize these two systems for efficient time management and planning.
Join me and dive into the nuances of my weekly planning, nestled within the realm of my paper planner, and contrast it with my monthly planning, which takes up residence in my digital realm. Get ready to embrace the best of both worlds without the overwhelm of information redundancy.
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All right, friends, this is going to be a really, really juicy episode here. So I have an open public Facebook group called Work + Life Harmony you can find it out there on Facebook and I go in and just do really short trainings each week in there. And I went in to give a very short overview of how I juggle, having both a digital calendar yet a paper planner without duplicating information everywhere. It was a very kind of short, just super high-level training and, oh my goodness, the questions that started coming in, wanting more detail, more information, et cetera. I was like, ok, clearly I need to devote an entire podcast episode to this. So that is exactly what I am here to do today. I'm going to help you understand if you're someone that realizes you can't go fully digital or you can't go fully paper. How do you manage both without it becoming overwhelming and just feeling like all you're doing is duplicating information everywhere? So I'm really excited to share this with you here today. Let's go ahead and get started.
Welcome to the Work + Life Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the top program and top planner teaching all things time management, organization and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife and, just like you, I'm juggling hashtag all the things while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning an organization to skyrocket your productivity so you can have work + life harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, this is the show for you, and if you're new here, I'd love to get you started with my work + life harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram @MeganSumrell, with the word harmony and my team will send it right over. Hey there, welcome back to work + life harmony. I am thrilled that you're here because today's topic is a really, really good one.
I have recently run a number of polls, both in LinkedIn, out on Facebook and Instagram as well, asking people how do they plan? Are they digital, are they paper or are they a hybrid Meaning? They use both, and, with women in particular, there was an astounding number of people that all said hybrid, and then it ended up starting incredible conversations where people were asking you know, hey, I've tried to go digital, but I'm really struggling to. I keep being drawn back to paper. So I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to hop on and share with you why I use a hybrid planning system meaning I do both digital and paper but, and most importantly, how I do this without duplicating everything in both places. All right.
So first, I think it's really important to share why do I even have a hybrid system? Why do I feel the need to do both digital and paper? Because I think this is going to resonate for so many of you if you find that you are struggling to be fully digital. So whenever someone is asking me, you know, should I use paper or should I go digital? The first question I always ask folks is this where are you typically when you are making yes, no decisions about your time Meaning? Are you kind of in motion a lot? Are you on the go a lot? I am. I'm not at my desk in front of a large monitor for large portions of the day. So if you are someone that is rarely in front of a large monitor, there's a reason why I'm going to keep saying large monitor, I tend to say you're probably going to need some kind of a paper solution. Now, if you are at a computer in front of a large monitor for the portion of your day, as I used to be in my corporate job, you may find that digital works fine for you. And when I was working in a full-time corporate setting I did go for a few years solely digital. But in my last few years in corporate America I started introducing the hybrid model for myself as well. And when we get into kind of what information goes where, I think you're going to start to see and maybe realize why sometimes being fully digital can create some stress and doesn't give you what you need from a planning perspective, all right, and it all boils down to this the longer term, more high level planning is really challenging to do well in a fully digital solution, all right. So I'm going to circle back to that, but first I want to jump into telling you what information I store. You know kind of where I lean into digital versus what goes in paper, so that I can avoid duplicating everything everywhere.
Now I do run a business that is online. I have a team, an amazing group of women, or all four of us are in different time zones, different states, actually different countries as well. I bring people on as guests. Sometimes here on the podcast, I am booked to speak at other people's events. Because of this, I have to have a digital calendar solution. It is very hard to not have something digital in today's age, especially if you are coordinating with others. So you may have heard software such as Calendly or Acuity, where you can send people a link where they can basically get access to your calendar and book meetings with you based on available time in your calendar. I have to have this in place in order for people to book time for me, and then I need to be able to book time on other people's calendar, and then how I get that information back to me is it connects into my digital calendar. All right, so I have to have this. Digital calendaring system is so many of us do today.
So what goes on my digital calendar Now for me? I happen to use Google Calendar, so if you hear me say things specific to Google Calendar, just know all of this works, no matter what you're using. Maybe you're using Outlook, maybe you're using iCal, maybe you're using a Google Calendar or something else. Those are kind of the three biggies that most people use today. So what goes into my digital calendar, my Google Calendar, is two core pieces of information. First is any appointment that I have booked that involves somebody other than myself. So it could be a meeting with my team, it could be a dentist appointment that's between me and my dental provider, it could be my cello lesson with me and my cello teacher. That is on my calendar. So any booked appointments, set date and times where it involves somebody other than just myself and it's a pretty firm set time that is going to always live on my Google Calendar Because once it's there, that means if somebody is looking at my calendar to book time with me, they will see that that is unavailable. They'll see that I'm already committed.
Now the second key piece of information that I store on my Google Calendar is large blocks of time when I am not available for somebody else to book time with me. All right Now, for those of you familiar with my weekly planning system, you hear me talk a lot about what I call unavailable time, meaning time where you are awake, you're in motion, you're doing things, but you're not available to maybe book a meeting with somebody else, you don't want to commit yourself to something specific during that time. So during the school year, for an example in my life, when let's I'm trying to think back to the last calendar year, when I was picking my daughter up at 2.30 from school, my calendar was blocked at 2 o'clock for the rest of the day and all it was was just one big time block from 2pm till the end of the day, just saying I'm unavailable, and it was set up that way. Every single day, monday through Friday. Now, there were a lot of things happening between 2pm and bedtime, but those were not the things that I was putting into like home stuff, and things like that were not going into my Google calendar Because all I wanted to do was make sure that my Google calendar was correctly capturing when am I available for people to book time with me.
So it might be unavailable time, such as you know, when I'm not working, I'm unavailable for work, but I also have chunks of time blocked off on my Google calendar where I know typically how much time I have to spend each week doing the recurring tasks for home and business things, such as recording these podcasts and videos. Right, I know, because I've been doing this for a while and I have a set of recurring tasks that I need to do every single week, and I know about how much time I need to do that. Now what I don't know until I actually sit down to plan the details for each week, is when specifically I'm going to be able to get that done. But what I do know is I need to make sure that I preserve and protect enough time in my calendar every week to do the tasks I need to do. Otherwise, other people will just come in and book all that time and then I won't be able to get done what I need to get done. So I right now and again this changes in different seasons of life but right now I have two chunks of time on my calendar, two set days, where I just have it by default blocked as me being unavailable from 9am to 11am two days a week. Now I do plan on getting a lot of work done in those two two hour chunks of time, but I don't know next month what I'm going to be doing. You know Tuesday morning at 9am which task I'm going to be working on. I just know I need to protect that time to get work done. So that's it. That's what lives on my Google calendar is set booked appointments that involve somebody else, and then me plugging in time when I'm not available. Now another portion of that unavailable time let's say I am going on a trip, right, that's going to go into my Google calendar basically saying I'm unavailable to be in service or create an appointment with someone else. All right, but that's it.
So now let's shift gears and talk about what goes into my paper planner. All right, so I'm not going to spend, you know, our time here today to go into the details of what type of planner. I've got tons of resources out there for you, but please know I always tell people you need to use a weekly planner, one where you can open it up and see a week at a view, and then there needs to be monthly pages in there as well. I have yet to see a planner that doesn't have a month at a view, so you're always going to be able to find that. So the main content that goes into my actual paper planner.
This is where I conduct my detailed weekly planning. So remember when we talked about what goes into my digital calendar and I shared with you all right, I'm going to have chunks of time blocked off where other people can't book my time, right? So when I sit down to do my weekly plan and I see that I have Monday blocked off I'm just using an example here Monday blocked off from 9am to 11am. That's just showing as, like other people haven't taken my time, I will know I have those two hours available to now start deciding how do I want to spend those. And so in my weekly plan, my paper planner, is where now I am actually deciding. This is how I'm going to spend those two hours. I'm going to look at everything that I need to get done for the week and on my paper planner I'm going to be filling in the details of how I'm going to spend those two hours. I am not then going to go back and update my Google digital calendar with that. I don't need to, because all day long I'm looking at my paper planner, because that's what's telling me what I need to do in the given moment.
Now there is also a difference between what I put on my monthly paper pages versus digital. All right, and this is why remember at the beginning of this, I shared with you even my last few years in corporate, I had to start bringing a paper planner back into my life because of my need to see a big picture view, of really understanding what is my availability for longer term chunks of time, meaning monthly, quarterly, etc. So when you think about how a digital calendar works, when you go and look at your monthly view of your digital calendar, every single appointment or task on a given day is going to try and get filled into that square for the day in the monthly view, and usually what you end up seeing is it'll show like three appointments and then it'll say like plus seven more, and so it's really hard to see very clearly what's going on over a course of a week or even just simply going okay, I booked that vacation three months from now. What day are we leaving again? Well, when you go to pull up your monthly view on your digital calendar, it's really hard to find that kind of information because it's rolling up all of the minutiae. So when I was in a corporate setting, I mean my digital calendar was booked with meetings and all sorts of stuff, which made my monthly view really, really cluttered. I didn't need to know that I had seven meetings on a given day. So instead, this is why monthly planning for me lives in my paper planner and the level of information that goes into my paper monthly view is at a much higher level than what I see in a digital calendar. So I am not going to again.
What I put in my detailed weekly planning I don't roll up to my monthly paper planning. So on that Monday where I'm deciding how to spend those two hours, if I go look at that month on my monthly view, if I go and look at that day on my calendar, I don't even have that. That work time from nine to 11 is on there. Okay, because that lives at the weekly planning level. So my monthly paper pages is where I'm putting big, important things trips, important appointments that I may need to reference. So a good way to think about what should go into there is if someone's reaching out for me and saying you know, asking for my time, a couple weeks from now, a month from now, I'm going to go look at the monthly view of my paper planner first to get a high level overview of what am I already committed to that month or that week. That's pretty big and if I already see that I have a couple events, or maybe I'm going to be out of town for two days of that week, I can instantly know that I'm probably going to return with it. That's not a good week for me. Can we look for another one, all right?
So again, you can't eliminate 100% of duplication from digital versus paper, right? There's no way to do that, or else you'd have to be constantly looking at both things all the time. So there will be things that will be on my digital calendar that don't show up in the monthly view for me at all on my paper planner, and there will be details about specificity of how I'm spending my time over the course of a week that are not going to be reflected on my digital calendar. But where they meet in the middle is making sure that my time is blocked from others taking it, so that I then know that that time is free for me to plan in detail as I need to. So I would encourage you, if you are struggling to go 100% digital or maybe you were trying to be 100% paper and you're realizing, no, I need to have some digital components I really want you to take a step back and first ask yourself what level of information do I need to see to make good choices about my time right, and that's typically the level of information that goes on my monthly pages in my paper calendar. Then decide where do you look at all day long to help you stay on track right? So for me again, because I'm not at my desk all that often, it's just small pockets of intense time.
My detailed weekly planning lives in my paper planner. You may be able to do your detailed weekly planning digitally, but maybe you need a paper planner to do that high level monthly, quarterly, annual planning where you're really getting that. I like to call that more of like my 15,000 foot view right. Our weekly planning is right down here on the ground floor. So you can absolutely be successful with a hybrid solution. And when you learn and really lean into understanding what information goes where, it doesn't become this constant duplication of information. All right.
When someone books time with me three months from now, I'm just exaggerating a little bit. But if someone were to go book a call with me three months from now on my calendar for 45 minutes on a Monday, I don't need to worry about putting that into my paper planner because that's not information that I need to store on my monthly view three months from now. But if I were to go book a week long vacation, I'm going to write that on that monthly calendar page in my paper planner and then I will go into my digital calendar and just block it off as Megan being unavailable for that week. So every now and again there will be the need to go put something into places, but again, it's very quick. It's usually to protect your time correctly and to make sure that other people aren't mistakenly booking time with you when you are not available. So, for those of you that are using a hybrid solution, I hope that you have found this helpful.
Now, if you kind of are new to this concept of planning time management, you're looking for some good resources. I just want to let you know I do have a free training available that you can go watch, where I'm going to kind of give you some key things to think about in terms of how to better plan and manage your time. You can go to the work life harmonycom to get access to that. It's a free video trading. I'll send it right over to your email inbox as well, and for those of you here watching this video, I would love for you to share below.
Whether you are a paper, a digital or a hybrid planner, and maybe if you've been struggling to figure out which one, hopefully this has helped you understand what might be the best fit for you. Getting on top of all things time management, organization and productivity doesn't have to stop just because this episode is over. If you want one-tap access to all of my training and current top podcasts, go to the App Store or Google Play and download the PinkBee app. It's one word, ThePinkBee. It is jam-packed with simple yet powerful tips and strategies to get you out of overwhelm and into harmony. And if you have a question you want me to cover on a future episode, go to iTunes and ask your question in the podcast review section. And while you're there, don't forget to leave a five-star review.