Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back Of The Envelope Planner

Among the great little tips in "Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better" is the hip-pocket planner, and oddly enough, it can be combined with this week's Change the Work Wednesday challenge"write a post on ... ways in which you save paper."
back of envelope planner and book
The back-of-the-envelope
hippocket planner
can be an easy life hack.
Why write down a daily plan every morning? It's not that I necessarily follow the plan, but the act of planning  helps me prioritize, and physically carrying around a copy of the plan keeps me focussed. Modern life offers too many distractions that, without a physical object reminding me of what I want to do (freely chosen by myself!), I would too often end the day having done nothing that I really wanted.
The problem is what sort of reminder-token to carry about. I've tried all sorts of paper-based planners, from the elaborate Daily Timer(tm) to the humble stapleback freebie given away on holidays. They all work - sort of - and they none of them work - really. The big ones don't fit in a pocket and therefore aren't around when I need them to keep me focussed; the little staplebacks have the defect of carrying around old plans from early in the year.
Electronic planners also work too - sort of - when my tasks depend on relating with other people or institutions, it's good to have the discipline of entering it into google calendar or whatever. However, much of my work is less structured and more independent, and at the moment, it's just seems silly access a keyboard to record "do laundry" or "blog this". There may also be some psychological factors at play. My mobile device doesn't present itself to me primarily as a planner; I think of it as a cellphone/internet access device, so it doesn't serve well as a reminder of what I chose to do today.
Lifehacker suggests using a hippocket planner - something sized to fit the pocket in the back of your pants. Using a spreadsheet, I easily designed hip-pocket sized planning sheets, paperclipped them together, and discovered that they worked well. I always had them with me when I needed them ...
...pro tip: when I don't have my pants on, I'm usually not interested in planning ...
...and the size was just right for about a day of work. At the start of the next day, I review and recycle yesterday's plan, thus carrying around only what I need (anything permanent, like new phone numbers, go into google contacts for access via cellphone).
However, the act of specially printing out planning sheets is inefficient, since it relies on using paper that hasn't been previously used. In addition, the actual sheet design didn't add much to the functionality so it's a bit of a waste of toner.
The humble standard-sized envelope, when folded in half, typically bears a hip-pocket-sized area of blankness perfectly adequate for one day's planning. This serves several purposes. It gives the envelope a second use, thus saving paper. The thing is just as recylceable after being reused as before. And: it costs me nothing!
It would be better not to get the envelope in the first place, but I still get a lot of formal notices in the mail, so I might as well put them to use.
I've also found that, if I'm out of envelopes, an 8x11 sheet of paper folded in quarters will suffice. I go to a lot of meetings at which agendas and minutes are still printed out; these provide me with plenty of paper for planning purposes.

That's it for today - nothing really sophisticated - in fact, this is a step backwards in time, to "back-of-the-envelope" methods. Sometimes an old way works fine!


Small Footprints said...

Yay ... I love it! I use the backs of receipts as my hip-pocket planner. They work great. But I think your envelope idea might work even better because they are a little sturdier.

Wonderful post!

Kris said...

Love the idea! Plus...you can always put things in the envelope if you will need them throughout the day for your activities, such as a coupon for a store you are going to etc.