Running a Work and a Personal planner

Hmmm. For a very introverted and shy person, some of my posts are very long! You wouldn’t think I have that much to say. Perhaps this long-winded writing is part of the reason behind my long gaps between posts in prior years. Because it would take so long for me to make any post, instead of just a simple one. Well, anyway, here’s another long and rambly one!

I strongly believe you should pay attention to how you ARE using your planner(s). Not how you should be.

That said, where do you naturally tend to write things quickly:
when you have an idea,
when you remember something,
you hear a song you really like you want to jot down, or a movie to add to the watch list,
when someone gives you info you need to capture,
you’re on the phone to take a note or a message.

You might have a system for all of the above to which you abide seamlessly.
You might have a system for these, but still grab whatever is nearest.

Whatever place I capture stuff, it’s then up to me to make sure they get migrated to the right notebook or planner in my system.

So happens that I make lots of notes and lists frequently for the various areas of my life. I do NOT want to carry all that information with me everywhere I go. Instead, I currently use several ring-bound notebooks for different areas of my life, but they’re not all actual “planners” as they have no sort of calendar or planning system. I would call them notebooks or containers of ideas and information.

I do have a separate personal planner and work planner. This has been my most-used setup for more years than I can remember, even though I did make an unsuccessful attempt at a combo work-personal a few years back.

Simple Syncing

From other people’s posts or videos, syncing calendars seems to be a common downfall in using two planners.

In my case, the word syncing is a misnomer really because I don’t fully sync the two schedules. You know like when you sync your electronic calendars, everything copies to the other place?  Well, my system doesn’t. My system is simple syncing.

Running two separate books for planning (ones where you are doing actual planning via calendars and schedules), doesn’t necessarily mean you must record all of the timed appointments and commitments in both books.

My use of two planners, particularly when working outside of the home, would only contain ‘schedule overlap’ from the other planner if it impacted the other calendar.

The goal in my system is merely to see what is required of me during the day. Anything overlapping isn’t going to get a lot of data written in the ‘other’ calendar but rather will get a short note or reminder – a placeholder.


Morning meeting at office that requires something be picked up on the way into work also gets jotted in the personal planner since this is not a routine event in my before-worktime mornings.

Offsite work event that I would drive to directly from home and not meet at the office first would also go in my personal planner for that morning.

An upcoming after-hours work meeting would get an entry about working late in the personal planner on that date.

A mid-day personal appointment would absolutely be shown on both planners since it’s prime-time overlap. It gets only a cryptic note in the work planner. So, if there’s a 3:30p personal dental appointment during the working day, I would just put on my work calendar ‘out of office’ or ‘out-dental’ at that time. This serves as the appropriate placeholder for the office work and to make sure I don’t steamroll over that appointment with a meeting or something, and to make sure I inform the management of my scheduled outing.

Something work-related that falls on the weekend, which is normally my time.

Making a recipe for a covered-dish/potluck thingie for work.

I don’t need the 7:00a recycles pick-up day at home on my work planner if my work day starts at 8:30a. Whereas I might want a simple reminder on the work planner reminding me to leave on time if I’ve got a personal plan for that evening.

And the best one of all:

Scribbling OUT OF OFFICE – VACA!!!! on the work planner.

It is worth noting that this system works for me because:

When working for someone else, I don’t want to see their workstuff on my beloved personal planner. This is simply a preference. When I look back at my planners (which I love to do), all I want to see is how we’ve been living our life. The places we traveled, memories of the places we’ve lived – different states, cities and homes, the family and friends we’ve spent time with, our special occasions, and so on. These reviews are a source of personal joy.

My work planner is way more than a calendar. It is most common that any place you work is going to have a calendar on Outlook or the like. I do not aspire to recreate the Outlook work calendar in my planner. All of the attendees, details and attachments can stay right there in Outlook. My planner is to plan my work for this week, and for today. All appointments for the week are reviewed each Monday morning. I make a short note of all of them in their time slots onto the paper planner for planning purposes “conf call re: project name,” “HR benefits mtg,” or “covered-dish thingie.” Then I fill in the deadlines and due dates going on that week. From there it’s priority to-do items and getting ready for any of those conference calls or meetings (do I need to prepare something for these, do I need to read any emails or attachments for these, etc.). It is worth noting that many pieces of projects are also tracked in shared project software apps. I am deliberately and intentionally taking the extra steps to copy/rewrite into my planner the pieces I am responsible to do this week or follow up on. It does not replace the project software, it makes my pieces part of MY week’s work plan. There is no way I want to see all of this detailed work week when I am at home, on my time. Likewise, this keeps my focus clear with context clarity. I am at work, focusing on work with less distraction from seeing personal items I can’t work on right now anyway.

I plan with and review my planners often. This point cannot be emphasized enough.

This includes reviewing my personal planner in the mornings at home before I begin work, to see what I’ve got to do that morning, day and evening… trash pick-up this morning?, pay bills?, buy birthday card? Get casserole safely situated into car for the office covered-dish thingie?

Work planner review, with opposite perspective in mind:

Anything coming up tomorrow, this week, next week, that impacts my personal schedule?

This includes looking ahead:

Special upcoming work party in a few weeks and need outfit – loathe shopping, when do I want to do that?

Choose recipe for covered dish thingie at office. And so on.

Work book stays at work whenever possible

In my case, whenever possible, the work book stays at the desk.

There’s nothing personal in it so I am not missing it at home.

Likewise, I am not embarrassed if someone at office sees book contents.

Clearly there are exceptions to bring it with you - any days where you might plan to work from home, or when you absolutely must work outside of your regular hours, or travel.

Alternatively, work book can travel home if you have one of those jobs where you have to work extra a lot. You also have the option to bring it along at uncertain times, just in case, and just leave the planner in the car for the night (knowing it’s there if needed). Like, it might snow and ice tonight and they might want us to work from home tomorrow rather than coming into the office.

Personal book can do whatever doing the workday - I like bringing it along for the day, and it stays in the purse or bag, or car, if needed. Not on the desk – keeps personal info private and minimizes the off-chance it might get left behind for the day.

If you’ve got the kind of job where you can attend to your personal business while you’re at work, and if you’re not going to access your personal planner during the workday for those items, I would prefer to make a small list of those items on a sticky and tack it onto the work planner until those are done (rather than writing them into the work book). That way you’re not leaving your personal notes in the work binder permanently. You can then discard the sticky or put it back in your personal book if you want to keep it.

Other benefits to this separate books system:

If you ever leave the job and have the kind of job that will want to retain the work planner pages, you will not lose your personal info in this exchange.

You can go all out personalizing your personal planner without concern of people seeing all that when you are sitting next to them in a meeting. Or maybe your inner you favors a lot of bling and fluff on your planner and you’re not entirely comfortable with that look in the conference room.

Personal privacy.

In closing, we all know this isn’t for everyone. Some people just prefer a one-book everything. We all have our own preferences. This is my system that suits my mind nicely and I love the fact that we can all personalize our planning exactly the way we like! I am just happy to see anyone, anywhere using a planner at any time. :)

If you made it this far... thank you for reading!


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this post and it couldn't have come at a better time. While I've been using a separate work planner for over a year now, for the same reasons you mention, I feel that I need a change in my system. My system worked fine for my previous job but, my new job is more project based. Your description on how you're using your work planner is very much what I needed. So a big thank you!

    A quick question... what are you using as a work planner?

  2. Thank you SO much! You might have no idea how much your comment means to me - I wasn't sure if I should even post this, if it would be helpful to anyone. I'm so happy about your new work start this year and means so much that this was interesting for you to read.

    As for my own work planner - last year I switched from A5 to the 7-hole punched, "half-letter" size used by Daytimer and Franklin Covey. I love A5 size sheets, but since we use different paper sizes in the US, I'd thought about switching to the half-letter size for several years in order to simplify somewhat. For example, I have a few 3-ring, half-letter size binders that use the same paper. If I took notes in those, they could transfer into a half-sheet binder when needed, or the other way around. I stick with the planners in this size for work because of the vertical column weekly planners. I like to see the work week organized that way, with the mornings and afternoons, etc. on the same spot across the page. I write to-do's and stuff lower on the pages (sort of ignoring those timestamps) if that makes sense!

    Thank you again for your kind words :)

  3. This is the best post I've read in a long time! And it's inspired me! I am using a FP classic, but I miss carrying around a personal Filofax. I work full-time (but from home), have a thriving freelance biz, and a personal life -- it just might work to only have the FT in that hefty Franklin! Please keep posting!

  4. Claudia - thank you! May I add I have used this system when working remotely/at home full-time as well. When the work day is over, the work book is closed up and set aside. It is so nice to tote your personal planner with you to the store or on a road trip or to the coffee shop without the world of work coming along. I hope to hear more about your choices. Thank you so very much for visiting me and commenting! :)

  5. Thanks for writing this. I, too, use separate planners for work and home. Like you mentioned, I don't like having work notes in my personal planner unless they need to be acted on outside of work hours. I take mine home daily because I usually will check my schedule when planning what to wear for the day.

    I like what you say about "simple syncing". I have a wall calendar at home for things like trash day, bills, etc. that is visibly seen in my kitchen, along with my planners and Google Calendar that I use when I'm out and about (I use half-size/A5 planner sizes that don't travel well). I struggle with syncing my calendars so this idea will help me better do that. I think my perfectionism tells me that all information needs to be everywhere in case I need to see it, but then I get bogged down in the details and it doesn't get done. Thinking about what information I need where and just syncing that, will help me to sync regularly and help me not get overwhelmed in the details.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. It was definitely helpful. Please do keep writing. I'm using a Hobonichi A5 size right now for work. Still wondering if I should switch back to ringed planners since they are more versatile for project planning. Now I'm somewhat inspired by you to do so. 😊

  7. Michelle - thank you! It really is helpful to have the right info at the right time, as you say, less overwhelming! The easier maintenance really provides what I think of as planner peace. Your note about using it to plan what to wear is another perfect example. Google and other electronic calendars are nice for the reminders, too! If I have something electronic I always end up writing it into my appropriate planner - it doesn't replace the planner although it supplements it. Really glad you visited and appreciate your comment very much! :)

  8. I truly appreciate the reassurance! Agree about the flexibility of ringed binders to add or modify sections as needed, although the separate calendar/planner is lovely for portability! :)

  9. Hi, really enjoyed reading your post as I've been suffering from planner confusion for a while, thought it was the planner itself but turns out it isn't. I've spent ages trying to set up my A5 'life in one binder' system for ages but can never decide on the layout and structure to encompass everything and I need an A5 with work definitely. Turns out what I need is a work binder and a personal one for everything else. So the A5 will definitely be set up tomorrow and I'm (not so) patiently waiting for the compact Filofax original I've just ordered that will be my personal housekeeping, fitness and general life binder. Thanks for the inspiration and the lightbulb moment that actually my personal life is detailed enough to need a separate binder!

  10. Hi, Caroline! Thank you for sharing your new plan - this sounds like a great setup! The compact size will be wonderful for portability as well, sometimes you want that personal/life binder to go places with you so it's a great size for that. Hope your new binder comes in soon and that you have a great time moving in to it! :)