A new personal planner should suit your lifestyle

TIME SAVER

January 01, 1995|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

As the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of your life. So it's never too late to buy or start using a personal organizer. In fact, if you haven't already picked up a 1995 planner, you could go to the office supply store, write in today's game time and be settled in front of the TV before kickoff.

Last week's column listed the several kinds of planners -- such as book-type, software, palm-top computers, wall calendars -- and noted some important considerations for those choosing a scheduler. It also matched a few planners and lifestyles that would be compatible.

Which raised a couple of questions: Should some people, say working mothers, keep two organizers? And, what if you already have a scheduling system but don't use it?

Jan Yager, a Stamford, Conn.-based time-management consultant, mother and wife, says keeping only one organizer works best for most people. "Leisure and business time do impact on each other. For me, being able to see in one glance what everybody in my family has scheduled for a day or week avoids problems. I even put in my husband's dinner commitments. If he's not available one evening, I need to plan around that."

However, she says that some working mothers who have nannies or family members caring for children may find that keeping a large erasable wall calendar at home for family-related events and a desk-top planner at the office for professional meetings and projects may be the best way to provide a third party -- the nanny -- with information vital to her job.

But the important thing is to find a system that works for you.

"Don't be too rigid," says Ms. Yager. "Use the organization rather than let it use you."

Or rather than let it frustrate you so much you don't use it at all. "Some systems are just too complex for some people's needs," says Jeff Davidson, a life-management consultant, author and founder of the Breathing Room Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C.

If you bought one of the multifaceted scheduling systems such as the Franklin Planner or a Filofax and it proved to be your organizational Waterloo . . . chuck it.

"Lots of people buy a system because they took a seminar on that planner or it was recommended," says Mr. Davidson. But that doesn't mean it's right for you. Remember, it's that company's business to sell their product, not to find the planner you can manage comfortably.

He says two things are crucial if a system is to be easily adoptable:

* It has to be easy to plug into. "How quickly can you go from zero to go? If you can't get up to speed relatively soon, chances are you never will, and that planner will become another of the dozens of incompletions that surround you. Just get rid of it and experiment with other types." (Most software programs either have a demo disk or a "try it and see" clause. Book-type organizers are on display for perusal in most office supply stores.)

"But know that in the end, every time you make a systems switch, you lose at least a day to transfer entries and $50 to $100."

* The system has to be adaptable. "When you get up to speed, there are things you will want to change." For example, if using a software program, can you get rid of menus once their usefulness is exhausted? And in any scheduler, it's important to be able to update easily as plans or meeting times change. This might mean something as simple as using a pencil for notations in a book planner or buying an erasable rather than a paper wall calendar.

And once you get to know the system, can it grow with you? For example, a week-at-a-glance planner may have served adequately a single professional woman. But with the addition of a husband and children, a day-at-a-glance would provide more room for an expanded life.

If a system no longer works for you, says Mr. Davidson, or you were a first-time buyer and it didn't work out, "Just consider it a steppingstone to a system that does work."

IN TIME

What do you do to save time, to make life easier? What have you cut down on or cut out to make more time for yourself and your family? Have you found a way to simplify your lifestyle? Call the Sundial number that follows to tell us your tips and thoughts. Future columns will feature your ideas. Be sure to leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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