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Are you a planning junkie? How to determine which planner will actually work for you

It helps to get real about your "planning personality" before being tempted by every pretty planner out there.

woman writing in a planner

Picking a planner can feel like Sophie's choice for some of us.

Confession: I love planners. All planners. Can't get enough of them. Sometimes I'll go through the planner section of the store just to put my hands on all the potential held in those perfectly organized pages. Part of me believes, deep down, that if I just find the perfect planner that includes everything I need and nothing I don't and I utilize it to perfection, I will get to live the orderly and organized life of my dreams. It's a problem.

Fellow planner junkies, I know you feel me. One of the things we love about planners is that they hold a promise few other tools do, giving us an ideal structure to daydream about a beautifully organized life we aren't yet living. For those of us who are more Type A, using a planner is a satisfying way to keep all of those life ducks in a row. For the Type B folks, using a planner helps rein in the inevitable ball-dropping that comes with having a laid back personality.

(At least that's what we Type B folks tell ourselves, right?)


It doesn't help that there are more kinds of planners than there have ever been before. We're no longer talking about a simple calendar system or appointment book anymore—now we've got goal setting, task prioritizing, routine recording, habit tracking, bullet journaling, menu planning, self-care managing, home decluttering, vision creating, dream manifesting, and a hundred other ways to organize our inner and outer lives on paper. Not only that, but we also have stickers and washi tape and stencils hand lettering and other embellishments that may or may not add to the planning fun.

It can be overwhelming to have so many choices, so if you're like me and get tempted by every planner you see, it's important to narrow down the field a bit. For that, we gotta get real about what our "planning personality" really is.

Here are five questions to ask and answer for yourself before clicking "purchase" on any planner.

Am I looking to organize time and tasks, or do I want a planner that tracks everything in my life?

Both of these options are available in spades, but knowing which thing you're looking for will automatically cut the options in half for you.

If you're just looking to organize time and tasks, find a planner that has daily, weekly and monthly calendar pages and little else. Maybe a place to make to-do lists. But keep it simple.

If you want it all, think through what would be most helpful to you to help you reach your goals. What are you prioritizing in your life right now, or what do you want to prioritize? Productivity? Family organization? Self-care? Focus on planners that center those things.

Do I want a digital planner, a paper planner or something in between?

With extra large phone screens and ever-better tablet devices, some people have switched to full digital organizing. High tech planning certainly has its advantages, but some people truly prefer pen and paper planning, so you do you.

The good news about digital planners is that a lot of them now function basically like paper planners, so if don't want to give up the doodle drawing and handwriting part of planning, you don't have to.

There are also more paper planners than ever, so the fears that computers were going to eliminate the need for paper certainly hasn't panned out

And yes, there is such thing as an in-between here. The Rocketbook planner lets you write on paper but then digitally upload to your devices so you can kind of have the best (and worst) of both worlds. Perhaps a good option if you want to ease the transition from paper to digital.

How does my gut feel when I'm looking at the specific elements of a planner? Am I inspired or anxious?

If you're a time/tasks person, does having time slots labeled feel comforting or too confining? Does having a space to prioritize tasks make you feel like you have more control or does it stress you out? Do you want a dated or undated planner? We all react differently to different levels of structure, and you want to strike the right balance for you.

We also all respond to visuals differently. You might like things crisp and streamlined, while someone else might thrive with ornate design flourishes. You might find lots of color appealing while someone else might find it overwhelming. If a planner doesn't inspire you to use it, you probably won't, but what inspires one person will turn another person away, so don't compare your reactions to anyone else's.

How much time do I realistically want to spend on this each day/week/month?

Some people love utitlizing their planner to the fullest and incorporating it into their entire life aesthetic, some people aspire to that level of commitment but don't have the personality for it, and some people just want to keep things as simple as possible for themselves. It's vital that you know which category you fall into.

I am totally drawn to the colorful, beautifully designed and hand-lettered-on-every-page bullet journal idea, but I have also learned that my brain isn't about that life. It's simply not going to happen, no matter how lovely I think the idea is, so I have to resist the temptation.

How long do I want this single planner to last?

Planners really do come in all kinds of formats these days, including different lengths of time. Some planners run for well over a year, while some are designed to be used for six months or 90 days. And then there are undated planners and bullet journaling systems that don't have any specific starting or ending dates.

How far out do you like to plan, realistically? How often do you feel the need to restart/reboot your planning system? Some of us like the reliability of using a long-term planner, and some of us need to change things up frequently. There's no right or wrong or best or worst, but it's good to know which you prefer. If you tend to be planner commitment-phobic or someone who likes to try new planners frequently, maybe go for one of the shorter time frames and see how it goes.

Planner junkie, know thyself

The main key to choosing a planner is getting real about how you really function. Sometimes that takes some experimentation, especially if you don't have years of failed planner usage under your belt already. But the more you can narrow down your choices and avoid being tempted by the million new and shiny options, the better chance you have of finding the planner that really will work for you.

(Final tip: You can go to this page on Amazon and click on your preferred options on the left side of the page, and that will narrow down the choices significantly.)

Happy planning, everyone!

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From political science to joining the fight against cancer: How one woman found her passion

An unexpected pivot to project management expanded Krystal Brady's idea of what it means to make a positive impact.

Krystal Brady/PMI

Krystal Brady utilizes her project management skills to help advance cancer research and advocacy.

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Cancer impacts nearly everyone’s life in one way or another, and thankfully, we’re learning more about treatment and prevention every day. Individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and promising research from scientists are often front and center, but we don’t always see the people working behind the scenes to make the fight possible.

People like Krystal Brady.

While studying political science in college, Brady envisioned her future self in public office. She never dreamed she’d build a successful career in the world of oncology, helping cancer researchers, doctors and advocates continue battling cancer, but more efficiently.

Brady’s journey to oncology began with a seasonal job at a small publishing company, which helped pay for college and awakened her love for managing projects. Now, 15 years later, she’s serving as director of digital experience and strategy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which she describes as “the perfect place to pair my love of project management and desire to make positive change in the world.”

As a project manager, Brady helps make big ideas for the improvement of diagnosing and treating cancer a reality. She is responsible for driving the critical projects that impact the lives of cancer researchers, doctors, and patients.

“I tell people that my job is part toolbox, part glue,” says Brady. “Being a project manager means being responsible for understanding the details of a project, knowing what tools or resources you need to execute the project, and facilitating the flow of that work to the best outcome possible. That means promoting communication, partnership, and ownership among the team for the project.”

At its heart, Brady’s project management work is about helping people. One of the big projects Brady is currently working on is ASCO’s digital transformation, which includes upgrading systems and applications to help streamline and personalize oncologists’ online experience so they can access the right resources more quickly. Whether you are managing humans or machines, there’s an extraordinary need for workers with the skillset to harness new technology and solve problems.

The digital transformation project also includes preparing for the use of emerging technologies such as generative AI to help them in their research and practices.

“Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for us to make a meaningful impact at the point of care, giving the oncologist and patient the absolute latest recommendations or guidelines for care for that specific patient or case, allowing the doctor to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork,” Brady says.

In today’s fast-changing, quickly advancing world, project management is perhaps more valuable than ever. After discovering her love for it, Brady earned her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through Project Management Institute (PMI)—the premier professional organization for project managers with chapters all over the world—which she says gave her an edge over other candidates when she applied for her job at ASCO.

“The knowledge I gained in preparing for the PMP exam serves me every day in my role,” Brady says. “What I did not expect and have truly come to value is the PMI network as well – finding like-minded individuals, opportunities for continuous learning, and the ability to volunteer and give back.”

PMI’s growing community – including more than 300 chapters globally – serves as a place for project managers and individuals who use project management skills to learn and grow through events, online resources, and certification programs.

While people often think of project management in the context of corporate careers, all industries and organizations need project managers, making it a great career for those who want to elevate our world through non-profits or other service-oriented fields.

“Project management makes a difference by focusing on efficiency and outcomes, making us all a little better at what we do,” says Brady. “In almost every industry, understanding how to do our work more effectively and efficiently means more value to our customers, and the world at large, at an increased pace.”

Project management is also a stable career path in high demand as shown by PMI research, which found that the global economy will need 25 million more project managers by 2030 and that the median salary for project managers in the US has grown to $120K.

If you’d like to learn more about careers in project management, PMI has resources to help you get started or prove your proficiency, including its entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification program. For those interested in pursuing a project management career to make a difference, it could be your first step.

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