Planning for visual types

Planning for visual types

I get asked a lot to share how I do my planning, so today I’m sharing my homemade, hodgepodge system.

I really struggled with organization until I realized I was a visual type. If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. (It took me decades to figure this out: I was confused by the fact that what I wanted to see was words, not pictures. I finally realized the “seeing” was the important part with the help of the best organizing book you’ve never heard of.)

Because I’m a visual type, binders and traditional planners just don’t work for me. Instead, I cobbled together my own bulletin board and hung it over my desk.

(I use this system for writing/blogging and for the rest of my life. The lines between the two are blurry, but I’m focusing more on the blogging here.)

Here’s what it includes:

1. A 3 month calendar.  I want to be able to see where I’ve been and where I’m going, at a glance. I couldn’t find a suitable printed calendar, so I printed blank monthly calendars off the internet and cut and pasted them.

2. My goals for the year. Seeing them all the time–in the context of my planning–helps me focus and prioritize.

3. Lists of things I need to keep track of. I use index cards to maintain lists of things I need to remember, organized by category. I like this system–which was heavily inspired by Carol Barnier‘s love of post-it notes–because it’s simple, flexible, and manageable. (My cards aren’t color coded: they’re orange right now because that’s what we had lying around.)

I use these cards to track things like post ideas, guest posts, projects, and crazy ideas. I don’t have firm categories: I just make up what I need when I need it. It’s quick and simple and changeable, which prevents my perfectionist tendencies from paralyzing me.

4. Short-term goals for the week. I’ve recently started keeping an ever-changing list of weekly goals here, even though this board started as a long-term planning system. I’ve found I’m better at actually getting things done when the reminders are always in front of me.

5. Notes from my kids, etc. Just because.

6. The unseen corollary. I love my portable planner pad for keeping track of my days and weeks. It’s categories function much the same way that my index cards do on the board. I don’t use it to it’s full potential (because I forgot what’s on the pages I can’t always see), but I do love the weekly spread.

I would love to hear your tips on how you stay organized, what works for you (and what doesn’t), and what clever tricks you’ve invented or stolen to make your life run a little smoother.

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70 comments

  1. KC says:

    I was just researching planners for next year and came across this article. Yes your style in planner usage is duplicate of mine and describes me perfectly. Have you or anyone come across a portable planner that works well for our style of planning? Must be available in Canada. I’m still trying different brands for years and have not settled on a favourite yet. I know I do like the monthly/weekly style. I’m a fellow visual organizer. I like to label with words not pictures or colour coding and you could say the word money and my brain translates to the image of $$.

  2. Sarah Ellzey says:

    I never sign up for email updates from blogs because email clutter stresses me out. However, I just signed up for yours because I keep stumbling across your posts on Pinterest and they always, always apply to me! I also find your information to be different from what I usually here. Our personality types are so similar (visual learners, HSP’s, avid readers, etc.) that I learn about myself from your self awareness! Thanks for your ministry of writing!

  3. Natalia says:

    Oh my god! These tips are life saving. I thought I needed a really good life planner but I realize now that I need to see everything. I have a white board I will take advantage of! 😀 xoxo

  4. Megan says:

    Wow, thank you so much for writing this! I’ve tried lists, I’ve tried binders, and nothing is working. I keep the list in my head. I know I’m a visual person, I just never realized how it translated into planning!

    I can see that the binder would work if I took everything out once a week or so to see how I’m doing, and having it on a wall all the time, would be so much more helpful. I’m an artist… of course I’m visual! Doh!

    “Kristin says: September 6, 2013 at 10:16 am
    You nailed my problem- I need to see things. I have tried the binder system but I just forget what’s in there. I will think about your system and how to adapt it for me. Thanks! I love you blog- I feel that I have learned so much from it. Like that I am an ESFJ and my husband is an INTP. It explains so much :)”

  5. Leah says:

    I think best with a pencil in my hand, from journaling, to taking notes to planning. I wish I had a space for a bulletin board-style visual planner because that would work very well for me. For now, I update my iCal weekly with whatever is on the paper calendar for the week. I print it off — I love iCal because I have all my weekly responsibilities pre-programmed, so there’s no re-writing weekly chores, etc. Once I have it printed, I pencil in supper meal plans (if I get that far :)…), any extras, use it to track water intake, etc. I keep a goal-planning list on iNotes, and every once in a while I update it by putting an ** by my top 3-5 goals. Once I’ve nailed a few things on the list, I update my iNotes list print a new one. I keep my calendar, goal list and shopping list on my clipboard, along with a blog planner, project planner etc. I would like a binder, but a clip board is simpler, takes up less space, and in 10 seconds I can glance through my 5 sheets of paper and figure out a game plan for the day or week. It works for me, and helps me stay motivated and intentional, especially through busy seasons or times where I’m trying to finish up a lot of projects.

  6. Tina says:

    I was going through Pinterest when I saw your board. That is me in a nutshell. I use the calendar they give free at the banks. They are perfect size for my board. I then use the tiny thin strips of post its to put on the dates. That is for things that I know will move. The todo list goes on the board. I also have an index card for my different routines even (and don’t laugh) stuff I stock or prep on Saturdays.

  7. Ronnae says:

    I moved to a new school and for the first time in 23 years I have deal almost exclusively with email and outlook calendar. I am completely lost! I keep forgetting dates and procedures. I was talking to a fellow teacher and she showed me her wall calendar were she puts all her info. I immediately found a junk calendar from some random website and hung it above my desk. I feel better already.

  8. Benny Patenaude says:

    Valuable ideas , I learned a lot from the insight ! Does someone know if my company might get ahold of a fillable My Life Planning Workbook document to fill out ?

  9. Jessica says:

    I’ve become adjusted to Google Calendar because I love that my husband and I can “calendar” each other and therefore both know what obligations and appointments we both have and when. I also love the “repeat” yearly, weekly, etc options so as never to forget birthdays and anniversaries. That being said, for all the good (and you can also color code)…something doesn’t work for me with it. I feel like I never know visually where I am in the month – how many weeks are left exactly, or what’s coming up soon…I’m thinking of combining Anne’s idea by printing out my Google Calendar and every maybe Sunday? print out an updated version and definitely the 3 months at a time, like Anne suggests. xo

  10. Diane says:

    I got a fantastic deal on a big 3 x 4′ bulletin/white board that I bought just for implementing this idea…have already put up the calendar pages! Now to do everything else for it.

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