I used to be in love.
I used to be in love with my At-A-Glance brand planner, the one that lists two days on a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper.
Our affair began two years ago. I was captivated by its simplicity, its wide-open page spaces, and its daily “HOT” notations that sung out to me, siren-like: you, absent-minded gal that you are, can prioritize! You can!
But now, everything has gone sour. It was a fatal attraction from the start: what had once attracted me had ultimately ended up repelling me.
And now, I am letting you go, At-A-Glance. Perhaps there’s someone else out there who will love you, but I’m moving on.
UNEASE IN DISORGANIZATION
Yeah, I have an anxiety problem. We know this by now, right? My official diagnosis is panic disorder, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling generally anxious, GAD style, about a lot of things. Especially organizing my time and my space. I’m not alone on this one, right?
I’m chronically forgetful, so having a good planner — one that I remember to look at, too — is crucial to my day-to-day functioning. I’m a very visual/spatial learner, and if something isn’t visible, it doesn’t exist. At all. Throw some almost-due utility bills into a pile, and only the top one calls out to me. The others are lost in a mental void.
From high school onward, I’ve used a planner to manage my assignment due dates, appointments, and to-do lists. Finding the “perfect” planner for me has been something of a decade-long (so far) experiment in trial and error.
And this At-A-Glance planner, I’ve concluded, hasn’t effectively alleviated any of the anxiety I have over planning out my days.
WHAT I LOVED ABOUT THIS PLANNER
The page setup was so compelling to me at first. You know how most planners are either set up as daily or weekly, where you have either a single day on one page or a full week on a page spread? This planner was different — it has two days on each page.
Perfect, I thought. I could focus on today, tomorrow, and not get myself worked up about whatever piles of shit are waiting for me in a few days.
Ignorance is bliss.
After all, therapists have always urged me to compartmentalize: there is now, and there is the future. I can only work, think, and do in the now. Think about the future only when it arrives if I’m going to be all dysfunctional about anticipatory anxiety and stuff.
The pages also had plenty of space to write — 15 lines per day, plus 2 more for your “HOT”, must-do items — and I loved this. That would be plenty of space for me, right? Sure. Each day is a big blank index card.
I also really liked how, awhile each day was numbered, the day of the week wasn’t inserted by default. This meant that the planner could be used in any year — a nice feature, I thought, if I ever found a bunch on sale. I could stock up.
And to boot, the front of the planner had a pocket. How beautiful! I could stick important papers and stuff in the pocket instead of losing them in piles somewhere on my table or on my fridge or on my desk or, hell, who knows where.
I was sold.
WHAT I HATED ABOUT THIS PLANNER
The two-days-per-page setup proved pleasant enough at first. But what I hadn’t realized when I bought the planner was this: the setup removes the user from the context of weeks and months. The planner doesn’t have an actual calendars printed in it — obviously, as one of its selling points is that it can be used for any year — so my days began to feel disconnected from the larger whole.
(What an existential-sounding problem, I know — but when it comes to anxiety, this stuff can be crucial. The page setup made the future feel like an unplanned surprise, and therefore, more ominous.)
And all of the blank-index-card-esque white space, while beautiful in the beginning, left me creating a to-do list a mile long simply because the space was there. It was there, so why not use it? I ended up overbooking myself each day — and then having to copy over unfinished tasks to the next day’s slot.
It made me yearn for a week-per-spread planner where, if I didn’t complete a task that was penned in for Monday, it would still at least be visible to me come Friday.
Then, there’s the issue of the whole “HOT” section — a series of two lines in each day where you’re supposed to write down the must-do task for the day. I thought it would help me to prioritize, but it didn’t. To me, everything was a “hot” item. Everything had to get done.
So, this space just ended up frustrating me in the long run and, on most days, I left it blank.
And finally, the pocket. What can go wrong with a pocket, you say? Well, if you’re a visual/spacial person like I am, pockets are bad news.
While the pocket seemed like a great place to stick my important papers, it turned into a great way to hide my important papers — and most recently, my checkbook. (I’m not kidding — it was lost for over a month. I tore my house apart, but why didn’t I check my planner pocket? Because I’d binder-clipped the front of the planner together through August [so I could easily find the current day’s page], and so the pocket — and, therefore, the checkbook — ceased to exist.)
My outline for this blog post is written on a blank November page that I ripped out of the At-A-Glance planner. I’m disassembling it for reuse — for notes, grocery lists, paper-folding activities — because I’m done with it. No more. All gone. The end.
Instead, I’m trying out a new planner I saw reviewed on an ADHD website. After a few weeks, I’ll let you know how it’s going.
If I remember to write about it, of course.
I should probably make a note.
What kind of planner do you use? Does it help to relieve your anxiety at all? Let me know in the comments!