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Planning Systems

Q) What kind of planning system would you recommend? One of the commercial types like DayRunner or Franklin? I should probably use my PC or get a Palm Pilot but then I would have to have the machine on to see my schedule. Maybe just a notebook? What do you think?

Reply: Selecting a planning system is a very personal choice, so there is no one right answer; all of these work in the right circumstances. The most important issues to consider are price, your need for portability, your need for access to information from anywhere, and your interest in personalizing your system with photos, cards and other inspirations.

If you like the idea of using paper, you are better off using a pre-designed system, vs. a plain notebook because most of what you need is already set up for you. (Franklin, more expensive but also more customizable, and DayRunner, are both very good).

The exception is that if you are in a slow moving stage of life where you have few calendar points and things to do, and mostly need to access information from home. If this is the case, an inexpensive notebook works just fine.

If more structure suits you better, pre-designed paper planning systems are excellent. They contain everything in one place, like your calendar, daily task list, note pages, and extra space to store information about people's birthdays, metric conversion charts, etc., and pictures of your kids and pets, business cards and the like.

They are available from as little as $5-10 to as much as $200 +, depending upon the binder size and paper that you select. If you choose a small one, you will also have maximum portability; the larger ones can be heavy and cumbersome.

Palm Pilots, or any PDA for that matter, are fabulous for their portability-they fit in a pocket for heaven's sakes! They also provide fast access to the standard data, like addresses, calendars, to do lists, etc.

Thirdly, storing future information, as far ahead as you want, is a snap, and you do not need to buy new pages at the end of each year. Furthermore, you can buy data cards that enable you to have huge amounts of personally relevant information, like maps, wine lists, sports statistics, etc.

However, they are pricier, ranging from $150.-$800. In addition, taking notes is very tiresome, as keying in information takes significantly longer than writing it on paper-yes, you could get a keyboard, but then it won't fit in your pocket.

For PDA users, I usually suggest carrying a small note pad with a PDA, which, in a way, defeats the purpose. Lastly, PDA's do not contain any pockets in which to store pictures of your loved ones.

Like PDAs, PCs present a similar set of advantages and disadvantages. First, it is easy to load up with very good contact and schedule management software. In some settings, having access to historical information can be quite useful, and there is usually ample space in which to take notes regarding past and current business, and future opportunities.

Entering data is a breeze with a keyboard, and you can always scan in pictures of your family to use as screen savers and wall paper. The downside is cost, especially if your company is not paying.

Another issue is the lack of portability. If you use a pc in this way, you probably will need a second method for organizing and accessing information that you need when you are not in front of your PC, unless you never leave your desk.

The best way to proceed is to consider your future needs and pick your system. If it isn't just right, you can always change, modify and update. You should strive for perfection!

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Jill Ellen Shankar
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