How a paper planner can help you achieve your goal

As the end of the year approaches, I’m seeing all kinds of planners for sale that can help you get organized for the new year. But with so many options to choose from – including ours, the Bossed Up LifeTracker Planner – it can be hard to discern which is right for you.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, crave accountability, and want a single, beautiful space to keep track of all your goals, a paper planner can absolutely help.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the right planner for you:

1. Why go with a paper planner?

In the digital age, there’s an app for just about anything – but is there really a place online for your…everything? As much of Gmail and Google calendar fanatic as I am, there’s no one app that does it all.

Keeping track of your personal and professional goals in a paper planner reduces the switching costs and potential for distraction that comes with jumping between TO DO list apps and calendars, email, and project management software. It’s simpler and easier to keep all that’s most important to you in one paper place.

Plus, a plethora of research has shown writing things down by hand activates your brain in a different way, increasing retention and memory, and resulting in a deeper level of cognition.

The other big benefit I see in using a paper planner is that it’s much more customize-able. Unless you’re a software engineer, it’s a lot easier to customize how you’re using a paper planner than to change how your digital tools were designed. And when it comes to building better habits and pursuing your goals, personalization is key.

I transitioned from an all-digital approach to using a paper planner 3 years ago when we developed our first-ever LifeTracker Planner and the shift has been profound. Not only do I find myself getting more done, I also feel better about all that I’ve accomplished. I no longer am just looking at what’s left to do, I can also easily look back on the week, month, and year and feel proud of all I’ve accomplished.

2. Make sure there’s space for goal planning

Whatever kind of paper planner you’re considering, make sure there’s room to think and plan for the year ahead. Our LifeTracker Planners have reflection exercises to walk through at the start of the year, and writing prompts every single quarter to get you thinking about the big picture. So often, we get bogged down in the day-to-day deliverables, that it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. We need mindful moments to reflect and recenter on our personal and professional goals that are most important.

Beyond that, any good planner should support your brain’s need for cognitive chunking. Your brain can only hold onto so much information to process at once, so breaking big goals down into smaller “chunks” can help you wrap your head around achieving them. That’s why our quarterly reflection pages are followed by a monthly brainstorm page and LifeTracker worksheet, which then leads you to plot out your action steps on the monthly and weekly calendar pages that follow.

As one of our planner users put it, “Breaking down my goals into steps really helps make things more attainable.”

Any good planner should help you not only set your goals, but also break them down into bite-size steps so you can set clear priorities. For busy, ambitious women especially, we wear a lot of hats! To prevent us from feeling like we’re always reacting to those demands and inevitably failing to live up to our own expectations, a well-designed planner should help you be proactive about deciding which priorities are most important to you.

3. Make sure there’s space for your whole life

I sometimes hear from women who keep track of their professional obligations using one system and their personal life goals live in a whole other place. Let me caution you against this approach.

When I used to do that, I’d inevitably fall into a bad habit I describe in my book as aspirational planning. I’d make a TO DO list for work and a TO DO list for my life that when combined, added up to way more hours in the day than any of us actually have.

Life is full of compromise and negotiation: with ourselves and the space-time continuum! We have to have all our cards on the table to start to sort through them.

The LifeTracker Planner was developed out of a desire for more work-life balance from women who wanted a proactive approach to navigating those trade-offs. The way our planner is designed, you’re better able to see role overload coming, and take steps to make those tough choices, say no, and draw boundaries in advance.

Now, no planner is a silver bullet, but any good planner should help you project out the actions you want to take both in achieving your professional goals and your personal goals, too. As one of our boss ladies put it, “Before using the LifeTracker Planner, self-care wasn’t a priority. Hell, it wasn’t even on my radar!”

Whatever planner you opt for this year, make sure it’s one that will force you to consider your life outside work as equally important.

4. Have a plan for your planner

My final piece of advice is to make sure your planner is supported by a routine that holds you accountable. I’m a big believer in capitalizing on the fresh start effect, that boost of motivation we tend to get at the beginning of new time landmarks – like the start of a new year, month, or week. That’s why our planners are designed around weekly, monthly, and quarterly benchmarks.

Beyond creating a planner routine, a community of accountability can have a huge impact as well. Research by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone else that you’ll do it. Furthermore, if you have a specific accountability appointment with someone else, you increase your chance of success by up to 95%!

That’s why we designed our LifeTracker Planner to be supported by 3 forms of accountability:

  1. Three masterclasses we host LIVE in January to kick-start the new year and make sure you have everything you need to make the most of your planner.
  2. Quarterly accountability calls all year long to keep you checking in with the community on your goals, get personalized support when you’re hitting roadblocks, and share in each others’ successes!
  3. And 24/7 access to our online Courage Community, where our bosses are constantly asking for and offering help and support to one another!

At the end of the day, whatever planner you use for the new year, remember that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. A routine and a community can help you make the most of any goal-slaying system out there.

If you’re interested in learning more about our 2020 LifeTracker Planners – click here to get yours now before we sell out!

This article first appeared on Bossed Up.