196 Why I Haven't Gone Fully Digital with my Planning

Why I Haven't Gone Fully Digital with my Planning


Are you torn between going digital or sticking to the good old-fashioned paper planner? In today's episode, I tackle the importance of monthly planning and how it can help you make that crucial decision.

In this episode:

  • Discover the differences between monthly and weekly planning
  • The type of information monthly and weekly planning requires
  • The significance of choosing the right paper planner for your weekly planning sessions

I also discuss why I still have a soft spot for paper planners and explore the benefits of Artful Agenda as a digital calendar solution. If you're on the fence, give monthly planning a try and see which method suits you best.


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00:00 Hey everyone. So I will tell you this stay tuned because I have some pretty exciting news coming, but I'm not going to be talking about it today. I just want to put that little teaser out there for you. Today I am going to. I realize I've done you guys a disservice because I talk so much about weekly planning that I have not really discussed another incredibly important planning process, which is monthly planning. So I'm going to be talking a little bit about that today and really tying it into when you are deciding whether you want to be a paper planner or a digital planner user. We're at the time of year right now where a lot of people use planners that run from January to December, but a lot of people also use planners that run from July to June or at the start of the school year. So people are out there planner shopping. So I want to. I thought this was a really great time to have this conversation to help you really think through what type of planner solution might be the best fit for you. So let's go ahead and get the conversation started. 

01:03 Welcome to the WorkLife 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. 

02:00 So here on the show, I talk a lot about weekly planning. Nine times out of 10 conversations always come back to the importance of weekly planning. I realize I've been doing you guys a little bit of a disservice because I don't feel that I have shared the importance of monthly planning And the role that it plays, and so that's what we're going to be talking about a little bit today, and I'm actually going to be tying it into the conversation of deciding whether you want to be a paper planner user or go fully digital. Now I have shared there's a lot of right ways to do it right. I am not a believer that the only success is if you're on paper or the only success is if you're digital. I also have a lot of very passionate thoughts and opinions on selecting the right type of paper planner, because it really does matter, especially when we're talking about weekly planning. But when we talk about monthly planning, I've gotten some feedback from folks where they're like well, why does it matter if I'm paper or digital?

03:03 Monthly layouts are pretty much the same in just about any and every paper planner, right? Usually you open it up, it's a two-page spread and it's the month broken up into little squares. So I will say and I have an entire YouTube series where I'm doing a deep dive on a variety of different planners paper planners and digital And with all of those, pretty much like the monthly layouts I'm like yeah, they're all pretty, pretty common. So why would it matter when we're thinking about the type of planner that we want to use when we think about monthly planning. Well, that's what we're going to be talking about as well. 

03:41 So first, I think it's important to talk about what is the difference between weekly planning and monthly planning? So there's kind of three key things that are very uniquely different between the two. So the first is when we think about monthly planning, the type or the specificity of the planning that we're doing in monthly planning isn't nearly as granular as what we do with our weekly planning. Because at the beginning of the month there's no way that you can really plan with certainty that maybe 22 days from now at 9am you want to reserve a chunk of time to work on a project right, we don't know. And especially if you have a lot of uncertainty in your life, the further out you plan, the harder it is to get specific. This is why, whenever I'm coaching and teaching people on project planning for long term projects, it's very foreign to them at first when I'm like no, no, no, we're not going to get super specific for work that you're going to be doing several weeks from now, because we don't have enough information to be able to do that. So when we're doing our monthly planning, it is far less specific. So instead of picking dates and times to be doing things, we are kind of earmarking weeks that we believe, based on the current level of information we have, that this is going to be a great week to tackle certain projects or tasks. 

05:10 Now another difference between monthly planning and weekly planning is the type of information. Right, so I've already talked about the specificity, but the type of information is very different as well. So with our weekly planning we're getting really specific on actual tasks, how much time we're spending doing them, etc. With monthly planning we kind of bring that up to a higher level where we might just be saying this is a week again or a couple of weeks where I feel like it's going to be a good time for me to make progress on a specific project, but we're not going to be laying out the exact tasks that you're going to be doing at that time. Now the third difference is how far out in advance we do it. So with our weekly planning you can actually do your weekly planning the day before the next week, and I actually have some students that do their weekly planning the day of the start of the new week. They actually carve out time at the beginning of a week to sit down and do their weekly planning as they launch into the week. With monthly planning, though, this is an activity that I'm always encouraging people to be doing a good four to five days before the start of the month, and for me it kind of depends on where the weekend falls on, when I'm going to be doing my monthly planning. At the time that I am recording this, the start of the next month is a Thursday. I actually just did my weekly planning the weekend before, so in this situation, I actually did it five days before, because, again, the type of information, the level of planning that we're doing is something that we really want to be doing, not waiting until the day before the new month starts. 

06:49 Now, if you want to see this podcast is not. The purpose of this episode is not to take a deep dive in how to do monthly planning, but if you want to see an example of what monthly planning can look like, I actually have a very kind of detailed training on that inside of my app, so I do have an app in both the App Store and Google Play called the Pink Bee. You'll just want to search for it. All one word, the Pink Bee. You can go ahead and download it. It does have a $1.99 fee. It's a one-time, it is not a monthly recurring subscription or anything, and I've got a ton of training in there, and one of the trainings in that app is actually on monthly planning. So, side note, if you want to see it in action, go check it out there. 

07:32 Now let's bring this conversation of monthly planning now back to planners and something to think about when we are debating whether we want to be paper or digital. Now, if you are used to using an online calendar system iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, right, any of the kind of mainstream calendaring tools out there you are probably used to the fact that any time you set an appointment, you know something, a task of a set date and set time on your calendar. So maybe next week you have a 30-minute appointment on Tuesday at 10.30 for a meeting that you need to go to from 10.30 to 11. Well, when you go to the monthly view on your digital calendar, that's going to be there. Every single thing that you put on your specific days in your calendar software is going to roll up and show on your monthly view. 

08:36 Now what this means is if you are someone that has a lot of appointments. I know, especially back when I was in a corporate setting, there would be days where I might have eight or nine different appointments on my calendar for that day, from meetings to block time to actually get work done, so on and so forth. Well, when all of that rolls up to your monthly view, what it means is it is so noisy and so crowded that oftentimes you can't even see what the information is. What it starts to do is just put little dots. So if you had seven things on your calendar for the day, what you might end up seeing is three dots with part of the information and then underneath it it would just say seven more or eight more or however many things you have on your calendar. It is really, really difficult to see at a month view the information that is important to you. 

09:42 Now, with a paper planner because information isn't stored digitally and it can't automatically replicate itself you are in the driver's seat of deciding what information you write on your monthly page versus your weekly planning pages. So if I have a recurring appointment, like I'm meeting on Tuesday, every single Tuesday at 10.30 in the morning, I may not need to capture that on my monthly planner page. I'm used to it. It's at a time I'm just making this up, it's at a time where maybe I know I'm at work during the day. I don't need that on my monthly calendar, but I would choose to capture it when I'm doing my weekly planning. So this kind of lends itself to. Well then, what do we want on that monthly planner? 

10:29 Well, let's first talk about the purpose of our monthly planning. The purpose of our monthly planning is twofold. It's all about helping us be realistic and set boundaries. So what do I mean by that? Well, when we learn how to do monthly planning the right way and again I've got that covered in the app for you what we start to see is we gain a lot of reality on okay, what can I really take on this month. So when we do monthly planning and we're seeing at a big picture what all of our current commitments are, what all of our obligations are, how many days you've already kind of got blocked, maybe for travel or work or projects or things like that, it allows us to get really realistic at the start of the month, to make good choices on setting expectations for what we're really going to accomplish in the upcoming month. Now on the boundary side. What that also helps is there have been times after I've done my monthly planning session, where the realities of my month is hit and I know, stepping into that new month, that I need to be very careful about not jumping in and saying yes to things without taking some very thoughtful time. So when we see we've got a jam-packed month coming up, that can help us say you know what I need to step into this month, knowing I need to set a lot of clear boundaries around my time and not allowing more commitments and obligations to sneak in there. All right, so this is really why we want to do our monthly planning. 

12:03 So back to what goes in that monthly plan when, like on my paper planner, this is where I'm capturing things like travel, right? So if I'm actually about to leave on a trip, so what days are blocked off on my calendar because I'm on a trip? Are there any big events that are capturing a significant portion of my day that I need to remember? Is there something due, right? Maybe you're working on a big project and it has a due date on a Friday and you want to write down very clearly for you to see. This is an important day because this project is due. The times I am going and looking at my monthly view is any time a new opportunity comes in where someone is asking for a good chunk of my time. I will instantly go to the monthly view right away and see what do I have around that date. Am I already in the middle of something else pretty big? 

12:58 So, circling back to our conversation around digital or paper planners, then this is one of the main reasons why I have not gone fully digital. When you are using, say, google Calendar, everything rolls up to that monthly view and it's really hard for you to see just the key information. Now, yes, there are workarounds for this, because I know some of you are tech-savvy enough to know that and I've played around with it. So what would a workaround be? Well, you can actually create a new calendar under your same Google or iCal account and it could just be your monthly calendar. So you could choose to go in and put the types of information that you want to see at a monthly view on that specific calendar and then, when you are looking at your Google Calendar, you can check and uncheck different calendars that you want to see. So I know that there are and actually I've got some students of mine that are using this approach because digital is really where they need to be. 

14:04 So, yes, you can do this type of monthly planning on a digital calendar, but it just is going to take a little bit more time from a technology standpoint to make that happen. So, could I do that? I could, but I am still because of the stage of life I am in terms of the amount of time I'm spending in front of a computer, I still choose to do a paper planner. Now, I have recommended in the past and I still do Artful Agenda as another great digital calendar solution. But I will say, from a monthly planning perspective, that's the one area where it really falls short, because you can't toggle on and off calendar views very quickly and easily like you can in a Google Calendar. So if you have never thought about monthly planning again, go check out the app, go see what monthly planning is all about and that might help you decide if you're struggling paper or digital. Paper or digital. It may be because you've recognized that monthly planning aspect is maybe really challenging to achieve. If you're going fully electronic or digital. All right, guys, I hope you have a great, great West of your week and I will see you or I guess you will hear me back here next week. 

15:26 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 ThePinkBee 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. 

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