Since planning and time management are common concerns for adults with ADHD, here at ADDA we are always looking for helpful tools to make life for our members a bit easier. Luckily, a unique opportunity recently came our way. The folks at Planner Pad offered us the opportunity to take their Planner Pad system for a spin AND to give it an honest, transparent review with the time management needs of ADHDers in mind.
We wanted to see if Planner Pad products really live up to their promise to be more effective than other time management tools. Planner Pad has a paper-based system as well as an app. We evaluated the paper-based system, though in reality, what’s important here, and what we really wanted to evaluate, is if the Planner Pad approach to planning and time management are ADHD-friendly.
A Word on Aesthetics:
Since we did evaluate the paper-based system, first a few words about its aesthetics. Planner Pad’s design, like it’s time management system, is simple and structured. Though some new Planner Pad designs, like a floral seasonal pattern and an attractive shimmering gold-ish cover, have given these planners some glam, time management products aren’t usually purchased because of aesthetics. Planners that sell year after year do so because the system works. (Ever buy that beautiful, leather-bound planner that you only use for a week because it won’t stay open on its own and the lines are too small? You didn’t buy it again, did you?) Regarding appearance, Planner Pads are pretty standard and offer a few different size and color options.
What would we improve? Find some way, any way, for the covers to not get a big crease down the middle if they get accidentally jammed into the abyss of an ADHDers backpack or bag. Probably not possible, but we were able to land on the moon so it seems within reach.
About the System:
Now, on to the really important part of the review; does the Planner Pad approach help ADHDers get a handle on their lives? The Planner Pad system seems like something you’ve seen before, but really haven’t. It does everything you keep meaning to do, or, perhaps, you keep trying to do on several different pads of paper at once and then failing. Let us explain:
The Planner Pad system works as a funnel. A funnel of tasks and time. (If you immediately thought, “My brain feels like a funnel of tasks and time every day!” trust us: this is different.) The system consists of three levels or steps on an inverted triangle; imagine the food pyramid or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, only upside down and related to time management. The first level or step is to list tasks based on their categories or projects. The second level is to begin to prioritize those tasks and assign them to specific days of the week in order of priority. The third level is to take those prioritized tasks, and give them a nice home in time. (Told you that you probably try to do this in your head or multiple pieces of paper!)
What makes this system particularly relevant for the ADHD brain is that it cuts straight to the core of executive functioning challenges. It requires you to externally organize, sequence, and prioritize your activities within time. The ADHD brain has trouble organizing information – particularly internally, struggles with memory, tends to be less linear sequencing thoughts and behaviors, and becomes confused by and mis-perceives time.
The ADHD brain loves having two time zones: Now and Not Now. The Planner Pad system seems particularly effective for managing ADHD-related challenges with time and planning because it provides a simple and structured external scaffolding to work your way from the over-flowing list of things on your mind to organizing necessary and prioritized tasks within time.
Other planners can help with this too, but we’ve found that they often require you to do the first two steps on your own, either on a different piece of paper or in your head. Day Planner comes to mind. It’s wonderful to have your time blocked out in 15-minute increments from 8am to 9pm, but you’ve got to do a lot of groundwork before you get to that step. And that groundwork? It’s not so easy, especially for adults with ADHD.
What would we do differently?
Not too much, actually. If there were room, it would be nice to have half-hour increments, but there just isn’t tons of room and it’s a low-priority perk. A goal planning worksheet at the beginning of each month that guides the user through a few steps to identify one – and only one – realistic, time-oriented goal for the month would be a beneficial and appealing feature.
Other bells and whistles…
The Planner Pad week begins on Monday. This makes some people say “Finally!” while others may find themselves writing on Tuesday a lot at first.
Each week has a “Finances” column to track expenses. Remember, it only works if you use it!
There is a monthly view and a yearly view, as well as a lined page before each month, several lined pages at the back, and several pages for listing and defining goals. As is typical, the planner also features an address book.
There are dated and undated spiral-bound planners as well as loose-leaf versions. You can choose add-on features like pockets and a day-marker for the loose-leaf binder planner. The dated spiral-bound version was our favorite because of portability and size/weight.
Planner Pad also recently rolled out an upgraded web presence and, with it, a time management app that embraces the digital age while still staying true to the style and system of the paper products they’ve said has been beneficial to troves of happy customers over the years. We have not had a chance to give the app a trial run, but we’ve done some research and watched the tutorial videos. The Planner Pad app allows you to make lists, color-code the tasks by priority level, then click and drag items from each list onto specific days of the week. Within each day of the week, you can move the tasks into the ideal time slot.
What would we do differently?
We loved the color-coded prioritizing system, so not much there.
The video and description did not mention reminder notifications, which are crucial for ADHDers. Double-bonus if audible AND silent notification options are available.
One very nice thing is that Planner Pad offers a 100% money-back guarantee for the first six months! That’s a pretty long time for a money-back guarantee on an app, and may be the incentive you need to give it a go.
While some people still swear by paper products, the truth is the digital age is well upon us and paper products will continue to merge with or be replaced by digital products. For many, especially younger people who grew up with greater access to tech devices and apps, the Planner Pad app may be more likely to be used once purchased because of it’s easy access.
One problem with paper planner products is the tendency to forget them, lose them, or just stop checking them. Apps can solve some of these frequent problems, though like any other tool, owning it isn’t enough; it’s the “using it” part that’s helpful.
Special Pricing for ADDAADDA Insider subscribers get an additional 20% discount over any introductory offers, making Planner Pad a much more affordable AND ADHD-friendly planner system.
The Executive Size spiral-bound planner (8.5 x 11) is regularly $29.99. This might seem a bit on the high end for a spiral-bound planner, but it offers much more than the competition in terms of the time management system. Planner Pads has created special introductory offers that pack in several bonuses at this price (and don’t forget, we also get that 20% discount!) Also, I prefer this size as it allows a bit more space to work with and might be easier on the eyes for some.
The Personal Size spiral-bound planner (6 ¾ x 8 ½) is $28.99. Same system and features, though the size may be more portable for some. Again, there’s an introductory offer that really packs a punch, perfect for gift-giving (since Christmas is the perfect time of year to get your planner to start 2017 on the right foot – and there’s the 20% discount!)
The Planner Pad App will cost you $49 per year. With many free time management and productivity apps available, the cost may be prohibitive for some. However, once again, the management system is what you’re paying for, not just the electronic calendar. Also, the six-month money-back guarantee took the sting out of the price, especially when you consider that it is a one-time fee for an entire year (Oh, and did I mention, ADDA Insider subscribers get the 20% discount?)
Appearance: 3.5 of 5 – Simple, nice enough, not super-attractive
Portability: 5 of 5 – Because you can choose your size or go with the app!
Effectiveness: 5 of 5 – It’s all about the inverted pyramid!
Appropriateness for ADHD Brains: 5 of 5 – These people REALLY get executive functioning!
Price: A very fair value. You get what you pay for. Planner Pads and their electronic cousin will not be found in a dollar store, and that’s the whole point.