What to do when your Planner Fails

What type of planner is right for you?

At one point I had three different planners! I had an expensive self-designed planner, an appointment book, and on a goal directed planner. Guess what they had in common?


They were all empty.


I realized no matter HOW many planners I had, and no matter WHAT their purpose, a planner wasn’t going to help if I didn’t write in it.


I felt like a failure.


It didn’t occur to me that maybe paper planners weren’t my thing.


Schools force students to use paper planners in 1st grade, but many students don’t get the purpose.  We have these big beautiful brains; don’t they have a job to do? What do you mean they can’t remember homework, soccer practice and binge watching?


I think we give our brains too much credit.


We need to create a system that takes the pressure off our brains so we can fill it with the items we need for important things, like knowledge to pass a test.

Short term memory only holds things for, duh, a short time.  Prior to the internet, we might have been ok holding dates in our brains. Now we have Google at our fingertips which allows us to fill our brains with TONS of short term memory facts like, where to buy a cheap dress for prom, how to score a goal, and my recent search, how to blow your nose with a nose ring.

marni nose.jpg


These trivial facts flow in and out of our memory so often that our brain doesn’t know what to move we need to commit to long term memory anymore. How can our brain know that a math quiz is  more important then sport scores?


We have to get it down. Whether it is by taking pictures with our phones, writing in a planner, or using an online system- we can no longer trust our brains.


If you surrender and accept that as fact, what will we do instead?


Your kiddo has to come up with a system that works for them and they have to practice it. A LOT.


I offer three different options: Paper, digital and big board (not to be confused with Big Bird).


How do you know what’s right for you? Let’s take a look:


Paper- The tried and true paper planner. Thanks to Etsy, we can now find a variety of printable formats to fit our needs. The con is that they don’t have the capability to remind us once we write it down. It requires a four-part system – get out the planner, write it down, take it out, prioritize. This needs to be repeated multiple times if you are a student!


Electronic- The great thing about electronic planners is the reminder options. You can now get pings and dings all day on your phone. You can even ping an accountability partner to remind you!  The cons to this system is that you have to take the time to enter the information, your teacher may forbid you to use your phone, and your phone can get lost or die.


Big and Bold- Wall calendars are great for seeing the big picture. You can also put them in a location that is sure to be seen every day. A lot of my students put them in their rooms. The down side is they are not portable. Pictures can work, but it takes time to get into that habit.


That’s what I do with my students. We practice their ideas and keep what works and chuck the rest. We do this through goal setting and graph charting. My students begin to learn what works and develop a planner system they can rely on.


Paper planners are great if they work for you, but you can also explore wall calendars, dry erase calendars and electronic options.  They key is to use them regularly and effectively. Commit to one system for a week and see what happens!