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The Perfect Planner Will Save Me
Or it might (at least) make things a little easier
Years before I knew I was neurodivergent I was always on the hunt for the perfect system of organisation that would make things flow. With hindsight and my new knowledge about my brain I can see that I was looking for a system that would stand in for my executive function when it was moving more towards dysfunction.
Spoiler: I’ve never found it
What I’ve realised is that there is no single system that will do everything I want it to do or that is manageable for my ever changing spikey profile. So these days I use a combination of electronic and physical spaces, splitting work, family and reflections across a number of systems that I dip in and out of.
I still like to use a paper diary for my personal life. I know that the act of writing with pen on paper helps me to process information and means it’s much more likely to stick in my head. I also love the opportunity for personalisation and a chance to get out my washi tape and stickers. This week I just about managed to avoid investing more than I could afford in a hobonichi, because I found the cutest cover with pandas on it and looking at it brought me (but not my bank balance) joy. I’d picked up a discounted on years ago and loved the layout, but hadn’t known what it was until I stumbled across it again a couple of weeks ago.
I tried to convince myself that this could be ’the one’, a planner that would transform me into an organised, regularly journaling, spending hours on pretty layouts person, but experience has taught me that this is unlikely to be true. So I settled for an amazon dupe and an old travellers notebook cover decorated with stickers. This is one of the ways I’ve had to learn to work with my brain, and sometimes to find creative ways to soothe and support it into doing things that we can struggle with. Apparently stickers make everything better!
As I explore more the extent of the ADHD sprinkles that are part of my neurodivergence, I can see how things like my hunt for the perfect planner, and inability to stick with one system is an expression of them. My autistic part need structure and routine, buy my ADHD bits, that can struggle with the sameness and needs change to stay engaged. Because autism is my dominant flavour, I haven’t always paid attention to the other bits as much as would have been helpful, and often they are masked by my autistic parts.
I work (and live with) a lot of AuDHD folks, and I’m aware that I don’t often experience the same level of tension between the different parts of my neurodivergence as others. However, when the ADHD part gets in control I can watch all my well laid plan(ner)s lose their way. I’ve had to learn to listen to and attend to the needs of all the parts.
I really thought a Filofax as an everyday planner would solve my problems, but I ended up squeezing so many different sections in that it just became unwieldly so these days I use my collection for specific tasks . Being able to easily reconfigure and move things round helps the ADHD bit of my brain stay interested (as do the stickers and washi tape). I’d toyed with letting them go when I got my remarkable tablet, and this has been a great tool for lots of things, but it can’t replace paper and pen. I currently have a number of Filofaxes (and other planners) on the go:
An A5 Filofax Clipbook, for admin tasks, to-do lists, long-term planning, mostly the stuff that doesn’t involve my clients (they’re all safely stored in a secure online system).
D&D campaign journal
Another A5 Filofax Clipbook, it always starts off meticulously organised and looking very pretty, but usually descends into scrawled notes on each session quite quickly.
I have an A5 Clipbook for my general notes, an A6 clipbook for my inner child tarot and a travellers notebook style where I keep notes on my daily drawers
Yet another A5 Clipbook, this year my wife and I went on our first proper holiday in decades (only our second without the children) and I had great fun putting together all the notes on our itinerary and keeping packing lists together. It also helped to soothe my anxiety around travelling as I knew where all the information was
Morning pages Journal
A random notebook for when I remember that writing morning pages really helps me to clear my head at the start of the day. I’ve done The Artists Ways a few times, and facilitated groups doing it, but struggle to keep a regular habit.
Where all the appointments go, I like a yearly, monthly and weekly view to help my brain visualise the shape and rhythm of my time, but I need different options so I don’t become overwhelmed when I can’t think too far ahead. This is (usually) the only one that leaves the house.
Of course then there are all the other notebooks, journals, planners that may or may not have been started and are stashed in various places in my office. I used to get quite hung up about not finishing them, or saving them for best, but these days I’m trying to embrace my brains need for change alongside the desire for structure and routine and the ever shifting tension between the two parts. As always it’s been about inviting in compassion and kindness and giving myself permission to do it in a way that works for me.
Tell me about your planners! Pictures welcome.
Are you a planner person or do you have an electronic diary?
Does everything go in one place, or do you run parallel systems?
How do you juggle the competing demands of different parts of your spikey profile?