If you're juggling twenty things a day like I am, then you know how your planner can make or break your day. Sometimes the juggling gets overwhelming and discouraging especially when you don't believe you're making the most of your time.
You can greatly improve your productivity by choosing the right planner.
Over the years, I have tried using a handful of planners. I’ve tried mobile calendars and to-do lists. I’ve also used physical weekly planners. Here’s the problem I’ve found with most planners, both mobile and physical.
Most planners either have too little structure, or they have far too many details to fill in to be effective. For example, a physical weekly planner may only list dates and a few blank lines or spaces to write in at your discretion. Alternatively, there are planners with so many sections and details to complete on a daily or weekly basis that using the planner becomes time-consuming and overwhelming.
A planner is supposed to improve your productivity not take up so much of your precious time that your productivity suffers.
I need a planner where I can spend 5-10 minutes a day getting focused and planning my day. I need a planner that takes no more than an additional 5-10 minutes a week to review my progress and plan my next week.
Here’s my other problem with most planners. Most daily/weekly planners are designed for to-do lists and appointments. I need a planner that is a bit more complex and designed for projects.
Introducing Panda Planner
I found Panda Planner on Amazon. The Panda Planner advertises that it will increase productivity, time management, and happiness. The competitive edge that this planner boasts includes keeping you accountable, fixing procrastination, and ultimately meeting your goals by breaking them down into actionable tasks.
That’s what I need in a daily planner.
When I first got my Panda Planner, I was a bit skeptical. The planner is divided into monthly, weekly, and daily views. I was worried how time-consuming using the planner would actually be.
Despite my first impressions, I do like the layout of each section. Some planners try to cram a lot into one page; once you start filling in the lines or spaces, the page becomes difficult to skim. This was not the case with the Panda Planner. The page layouts are spaced well, and most prompts don’t require lengthy answers.
Using The Monthly Planner
The Panda Planner is un-dated, so you can start using the Panda Planner at any time. The Monthly Planner includes a typical calendar (You’ll need to fill in the month and each day on the calendar, but this takes no time at all.) and sections for your monthly Focus, Habit, Goals, Distractions To Avoid, Wins, Insights, and Notes.
If that seems overwhelming, it’s really not.
My Favorite Section: Habit
The Habit section is pretty small, so decided to make my monthly habit a one or two-word concept. For example, my first monthly habit is water. I haven’t been drinking nearly as much water as I should, so my goal for the month was to drink two tumblers of water every day.
There’s a small box with an “H” in it within each day of your calendar to mark off whether or not you achieved your “Habit” for the day. This method is definitely keeping me more accountable.
The monthly Focus section is unique to Panda Planner. This section is designed to improve your happiness and overall positivity. I decided to make joy my first monthly focus. Who doesn’t need more joy in their life? This then gets written into the Focus section on each daily section to keep it fresh in your mind.
Next, you’ll want to Plan your month. Under This Month’s Goals, you have space to establish three goals. There is also a Distractions To Avoid section. I’m not sure how effective this section is yet.
At the end of the month, you’ll complete the Review section with This Month’s Wins and Insights Gained. I love that this planner really focuses on the positive. Each of these sections has space enough for three short answers each, which is often more than enough for me.
There’s also a long, narrow section for Notes. Overall, it takes about five minutes total to fill out your Monthly Planner.
Using The Weekly Planner
I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the Weekly Planner takes to fill out. There’s a short Review Of Last Week section with up to five Big Wins and only two lines for How I’ll Improve. Again, we’re only focusing on the positive.
Next, you’ll see the Planning Upcoming Week section. This section includes a Things I Will Do To Make This Week Great box, I’m Looking Forward To section with three lines, up to two Habits I’m Focusing On Developing, a Learn Something New box, a Passion Project box, up to four Projects, and up to five Top Goals This Week.
My Favorite Section: Things I Will Do To Make This Week Great
This box is divided into four sections: Personal, Work, Family/Friends, and Relationship. I love this because it encourages me to think of all aspects of my life. I’ve been really bad at scheduling time for myself and for friends, so I wrote “Drink tea and watch a favorite movie every night” under Personal and “Get coffee with one friend this week” under Family/Friends.
These are goals I typically wouldn’t think to set.
Under I’m Looking Forward To, you can write three things that you’re excited about for that week. This helps me stay positive and forward-thinking.
I use the Habits I’m Focusing On Developing section to flesh out my monthly Habit. So for the first week of the month, I may start by aiming to drink one tumbler of water before my morning coffee every day. The following week, I may aim to drink two tumblers of water by the end of the day. And so on.
The Learn Something New box and Passion Project boxes are pretty self-explanatory. I plan to use the Learn Something New box to keep track of the topics I’d like to explore in my daily blog perusing. I don’t have a ton of Passion Projects on reserve, so this section may only be used once a month instead of once a week.
Projects. This is what I’ve been looking for in a planner. Each week, I have four boxes to designate which projects I will focus on this week. This helps me plan my time wisely. Since I get four boxes or Projects to list, I plan to limit myself to two work-related projects and two personal projects.
For example, my personal projects for the week may be (1) Read three chapters in my Finance class and (2) Decorate the house for Thanksgiving. My work-related projects may be (3) Review + refresh marketing strategy and (4) Secure 3 new clients.
Finally, the Top Goals This Week section should be used to break down your Projects into reachable goals. For example, my goals could be (1) Spend 90 minutes a day studying for Finance; (2) Get decorations out of storage; (3) Develop new marketing plan; (4) Create new social media posts; and (5) Make 20 sales calls this week.
Honestly, the Weekly Planner takes 5-10 minutes to fill out. While typically you should review your week on Fridays and plan your week on Mondays, I find setting aside 10 minutes on Sunday frees up my Monday morning while keeping my goals fresh in my mind.
Using The Daily Planner
I’m a huge fan of the Daily Planner. There are a few similarities to other planners, such as a I’m Grateful For section and Schedule section for time-blocking. What really sets Panda Planner apart is its emphasis on positivity.
You’ll also find a I’m Excited About section, an Affirmation box, a Focus box (to keep your monthly Focus on your mind), an Exercise box, Today’s Priorities, Tasks, Notes, and an End Of Day Review section with Today’s Wins and one line for How I’ll Improve.
My Favorite Section: Today’s Priorities
Today’s Priorities is a life-saver for breaking down my weekly Projects into actionable tasks. This section helps me prioritize my day and keep my expectations (on myself) realistic. You get five (good-sized) boxes for each of your priorities, but I try to limit myself to three priorities.
Why? Start small, and work your way up. I find that I get discouraged easily if I don’t complete one of my priorities. I also find myself getting stressed as the week goes when I push the deadlines for “Today’s Priorities” tasks.
Starting each morning off with three things I’m Grateful For the three things I’m Excited About makes a HUGE difference in my attitude. Even if they’re small things, they put me in a great state of mind.
The Affirmation box has the same effect. The creator of Panda Planner recommends starting the day with an “I am” statement. I’ve used “I am focused,” “I am motivated,” and “I am strong.”
The Exercise box has been great for reminding me to use my midday break wisely.
The Schedule is great for time-blocking! I block out a midday break right away, then add in any appointments that I have scheduled for that day. Next, I block out 90-minute stretches and assign one of Today’s Priorities to that block.
The End Of Day Review includes up to three of Today’s Wins (great for accountability and celebrating milestones!) and one line for How I’ll Improve. This space is great for identifying what distracted you or what you could have done differently to meet your goals.
One Month Later
Within the first week of using my Panda Planner, I felt far more productive and accomplished than without it. I had a ton of projects that I procrastinated and saved up for October (oops), so it was an experience learning how to break my projects down into actionable tasks that I could actually complete in a day (or week).
After a month of using my Panda Planner, I noticed that I was more organized and was making the most of my time. I stayed positive throughout the month too (Thanks to daily affirmations and regular time for gratitude, I’m sure!).
The bottom line is this: Panda Planner delivers on its promises; however, the Panda Planner is not for everyone. If you can’t set 10 minutes of your morning aside to plan your day with the Panda Planner, don’t bother. This planner will only work if YOU put in the work (which, again, is only 5-10 minutes a day).
So, what are you waiting for?
While you’re waiting for your Panda Planner to arrive, spend 10 minutes the next two mornings writing down three things you’re grateful for and 3-5 priorities for the day.