I’m an ADHD coach. My clients often want help with time management, planning and prioritizing. They get tired of scrambling from one urgent deadline to another. They want to bring some calm to their lives. But they still want to move “Important, Not Urgent” tasks forward.
We know planners are part of the solution. But many of us have complicated histories with planning and organizing systems. A few hardy souls are willing to give it another try. They often ask, with a weary but faint glimmer of hope in their eyes, “What’s the best planner to use?”
My answer: “The one you actually use.”
I love helping people find, create, or blend systems to fit their brain wiring, work-flow and life.
I’m an unapologetic enthusiast of planners and all things office supplies. I’ve tested untold numbers of paper planners, apps, journals, calendars, mind maps, Post-Its, trackers and digital systems.
I was on the search for the Holy Grail of planning systems. This will wrangle my wild ideas, grand plans, mundane tasks, appointments, long-range projects, random musings, contact information, and must-do NOWS into a manageable life. A life where things get done and projects move ahead. And since I’m imagining, I want time for the fun and connection with others that makes for a life worth living. (No small pressure and expectation for a planner!)
I’ve also partnered with clients, all with different brains and demands. All on their quest for the Holy Grail of organizers. I’ve got a broad perspective of what works (and doesn’t) for different people.
Here’s a hard truth. There is no magic planner or system to fit all wonderful brains in this world.
A surprising truth? For me, and for many of my clients who gravitate to paper planners, the Planner Pad comes pretty darn close.
The Planner Pad offers many ADHD-friendly features. And it’s flexible. Intrigued? Let’s examine the Planner Pad through an ADHD lens:
- Seeing the Forest AND the Trees
Does your ADHD brain focus on the big picture? Or on the nitty-gritty details? Either way, the Planner Pad has you covered.
The Planner Pad has a unique funnel-down planning system. It keeps mid-range plans and daily tasks in view. And you can carry over tasks you didn’t get to as needed.
You can keep tabs on “Urgent” and “Important, Not Urgent” tasks so nothing slips through the cracks.
Here’s How the Funnel Works
Each week displays on a double-page spread divided into three sections, top to bottom.
Imagine an inverted triangle. The top level (Categories) is a place for your weekly list of activities in categories that make sense to you. Examples: Home Projects, Work Project A, Work Project B, Family, Personal.
Put tasks from Categories in the middle level (Daily Things-To-Do). Then assign them to days of the week.
The bottom level (Appointments) is where you write daily appointments and time-bound tasks.
ADHD “Watch-Fors” with the Funnel:
- It’s common to overestimate what we can get done in a week, or a day.
If you have used “One Thing” or “Big Three” strategies, keep applying that to the “Daily Things To-Do.” Resist the temptation to fill all the space.
It feels uncomfortable. But I promise, unless they are deadline items, you can carry tasks in your Category lists to the next week.
- Many people struggle with days broken into hours. I too prefer 30-minute increments. But I’m not willing to tote a poster-sized planner! I learned keep daily tasks in the middle section. I appreciated having them there. It was better than crowding my days with fixed appointments and ever-changing tasks.
- IF your day is full of 15- or 20-minute appointments, this may not be the system for you.
- Benefit: I’ve watched people develop a new relationship with time. I’ve seen them develop realistic expectations of what they can do in a day. It’s kinda cool. And Planner Pad is the catalyst. It doesn’t happen overnight. But there is a calm and peace that comes with that, and it’s beautiful to witness.
I have a client who plans his week ahead on Friday afternoons.
He starts with Categories at the top. He carries over anything from the previous week. He adds in new tasks. Then he jumps down to the bottom section. He blocks in fixed-time commitments: appointments, meetings, events and time blocks he sets aside for work on Project A and B.
Once he marks the appointments in, he can see which days have space for daily tasks from the categories. Finally, he fills in priority items from the category lists on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday into the Daily Things-To-Do section. He deliberately leaves Thursday and Friday open. He knows unexpected things come up in the week. (Hello, surprise visit from Head Office!) This leaves space to adjust.
Client – Exhausted, using the Planner Pad helped her see she committed more time than she had in a day, week, month. She couldn’t argue that time was infinite any longer. With this clarity, she began to wrap up projects. And she did not say yes to new ones. Over months, she began to free up time and energy. Now she had energy to spend on things that mattered to her. She could spend time with her family and reconnect to her love of photography.
- Ooooh! Shiny!
The Planner Pad’s funnel system is their claim to fame. And there’s good reason. But that’s not all, folks! More features help manage big picture/long-range plans. And even handle those smaller, random ideas you don’t want to lose them. Perfect for our novelty-seeking brains!
- A year on a double-page spread (3 years ahead)
- A month-at-a-glance
- A full Notes page at the end of each month
- Several Goals/Projects pages at the back, broken down by days of the week
- Space each week to note expanses and notes or calls.
ADHD Watch-Fors with the many features of the Planner Pad:
- Notice if you tend to approach new planners with All-or-Nothing thinking. In the past, have you spent hours setting up a new planning system, only to have no interest or energy to ever use it?
There is no need to use all the bells and whistles in order for the Planner Pad to be functional.
A colleague trying out the Planner Pad shared: “It’s so simple, amazing, and logical. I can’t believe it’s not more common as a system!”
- Benefit: Explore the different features of the Planner Pad a little at a time. It’ll stay shiny (and interesting to your ADHD brain) longer.
- When I was new to the Planner Pad, my challenge was to get used to having a place to write mid-range plans, a to-do list and a daily schedule in ONE PLACE.
Other planning tools made me juggle pads of paper, Post-Its and calendars. It was unsettling not to scribble “don’t forget to” lists on a random notepad. I still did for a while. Until I got in the habit of writing (and looking for) larger project tasks and daily to-do’s in the Planner Pad. Now, I love the reliability of knowing where I wrote things.
- I’ve changed how I use it over the years. And I’m happy to say Planner Pad is flexible enough to grow with me as my business and life evolves.
- Clients often start using the Planner Pad for the funnel system. It takes time to adjust how they use it to fit their needs. After they’ve gotten comfortable with feature, they start adding in other ones.
- I still use my digital calendar on my phone and computer. I need the reminders and notifications for appointments and meetings. Reminder apps are handy for urgent tasks such as returning phone calls or emails you MUST do today.
- One client loves big-picture thinking and artistic layouts. She starts new projects with colorful mind-maps of her ideas on paper, as she brainstorms possibilities. When she’s ready to act, she turns to her Planner Pad. Then she enters the Weekly Lists of Categories into the funnel system.
- Another client relied on lists scattered around his home and work to guide his daily actions. He started using his Planner Pad Weekly Lists of Categories for brain dumps. He saw his to-do’s as a big wall of tasks he needed to do. He admitted it was overwhelming to see it all in one place at first. But in a couple of weeks, categories started taking shape. Soon, he felt less overwhelmed and more in control of his days. He gained clarity about priority items. And he knew what could wait until another day. That clarity also made it easier to act. There were fewer tasks competing for his attention.
- Get Your Planner Pad Today
How to Buy a Planner Pad
Planning how you’ll use your resources (your time, your attention and your energy) is an ADHD-best practice. But it’s also something we all learn wrong. We don’t learn the ADHD-friendly way of planning — traditional “time management” doesn’t work for adults with ADHD. If you’re new to planning and you’d like some help, ADDA members, check when the next Planning Your Year 4-week workshop series is running. It’s included in your membership!
What do you think?
I’d love to hear your feedback on the Planner Pad. Share your comments below.
Anne Marie Nantais is an ADHD coach helping adults live their best lives – as they define it. Diagnosed in adulthood, Anne Marie understands, and works with clients to help them find personalized and unique solutions to their ADHD obstacles, using their strengths to create the energy and ease they crave in their lives.