Are paper planners better than electronic planners? Or are electronic planners better than paper planners? This is a contentious debate in some circles. For many years, I was a devotee of an electronic planning system that I used on my phone. It had a calendar, to-do lists, and reminders, and I loved it. Until I didn’t. That started a long evolution of trial and error, both paper and electronic, until I found something that works much better for me.
I could blame my dissatisfaction with my old electronic system on age and the need for reading glasses, and that definitely played a role. Tiny fonts on my phone are an issue – not gonna lie. But there was more to it than that. The old system was fine for storing dates and places and actions, but it wasn’t so helpful for organizing them in the first place. As life got more and more complex, there was too much going on to do all that organization in my head anymore.
Did you jump on the paper planner revival bandwagon?
I did. For a while. The letters and numbers are big. I can read it! And I can see everything for a week all at once. I also love the tactile element. It turns out the feel of the paper and pen, and the act of physically writing, helps me think.
I got one of those awesome planners that has prompts every month to get you thinking ahead and figuring out where you want your life to go. It has habit trackers and lists and inspirational quotations (I love those!). But it’s big and not very amendable to edits. It is full of circles and arrows and things crossed out. That gets confusing as life diverges from plan A. A planning system that cannot adapt as life changes is a problem, because life ALWAYS changes.
Then I found Trello. I had used the free software Trello (it also has super-nifty paid version, but I have barely scratched the surface of the free version so far) at work for a while, but not effectively. So I finally took an online course about the basics, and I am so glad I did. It isn’t magic, and it doesn’t replace a calendar, but goodness it can make a life-changing difference.
The creators designed it for project management, and what is life if not one gargantuan project full of smaller projects? For me, I have various book projects, business projects like my website, home projects, and so on. Keeping them all organized in a central hub is fabulous.
How do you use it?
I have lists for projects, like a book, and cards in that list with checklists for various processes, like working with a cover designer to create a cover. In that same card, I can keep track of correspondence with my cover designer (the marvelous Emily of Emily’s World of Design). I discovered I can even make my book cover the “cover” of my card about book covers. How cool is that?
I also have a second Trello board I work with every day. That is my Getting Things Done Board. I have an inbox list I can literally email ideas into as they occur to me while I am out and about in the world. I have a sorting list, a “this week” list, an “on deck” list, a “doing now” list, an “on hold” list for things I am waiting to hear back from someone on before I can take further action, and my favorite, the “done” list!
The Getting Things Done list is how I plan my weeks. I dump every thought in my head into the inbox and sort. I organize what comes first, what is on deck, what is this week, what needs to wait. When life changes direction, as life is wont to do, I just drag the cards around and rearrange as necessary. No more scribbles and arrows that I can’t make heads or tails of!
A few weeks ago, for example, I had my week planned out on my board and then got some wonderful drafts of cover possibilities. I needed to get my feedback to my designer so she could work on the next draft, so I shuffled my cards around so that cover design was in the doing list, and other things got shuffled back to on deck and this week. Easy-peasy.
How has it helped with your books?
Being able to juggle my schedule easily, and with minimal cognitive load, I could work through cover drafts as they came in and offer feedback to refine the cover for Devil in Our Hearts until Emily had it looking AMAZING while still getting other things done and not losing track of anything like I used to. Worrying about losing track of things is a constant mental drain that keeps any brain from effective focus.
Want to give Trello a try?
Here is their website, and you can create an account for free (yes, they have mobile apps). You can easily search YouTube for good getting started tutorials, or if you have access to LinkedIn Learning, they have a great Trello course to help you get started.