A paper diary is an essential tool for the organised person. Diaries are much loved at Milligram — and luckily, there are more brands doing amazing things with diaries and planners every year, despite our tech-obsessed world! But are you doing everything you can to get the most value out of your diary and planner? We've put together six tips to get more from your dairy and planner.
Tip 1: Start Fresh
If you're renewing a commitment to getting more from your diary, take time to find one you love. Look for the right format, the right styling and the right paper, so that you'll love using it. Then decide that you'll treat your time — and your diary — with the respect they deserve.
New diaries are just like new notebooks — those clean pages that offer such a sense of possibility. Starting fresh feels like an achievement on its own, a rush of excitement as you see all those blank dates and know they'll soon be filled with everything you hope to do and achieve over the next 12 or 18 months.
Tip 2: Always open, always with you
A diary and planner can only work if you consider it as the vital tool that it is — so your daily checklist of what to carry with you should look something like: wallet, phone, sunglasses and diary!
If you have both a busy social and work life, you may like to consider a pocket diary for your bag or backpack to keep social engagements and big events in. Then you can keep a larger diary, with more space for detail and appointments, open on your desk.
For those who like to journal, you could even have a third option, which is more about documenting what you were thinking and feeling rather than appointments and schedules.
Tip 3: Create space for inspiration
You know that feeling you get when you wake up in the middle of the night, or in the shower, or even sitting at a red traffic light...that burst of inspiration. A big idea has struck that needs to be written right there and then before it disappears forever... keep these moments of inspiration in a few special pages in the front or back of your diary, so they're with you all year. This stops your great ideas — or big goals — getting lost in the day-to-day and ready to reference throughout the next 12–18 months.
Consider also adding or designating pages in your diary for special lists you can refer to during the year, such as:
- Books you want to read
- Places you want to visit
- Experiences you want to try
- Skills you want to learn
- Big and small life goals
Tip 4: Slow down to speed up
Set aside the time each week — at the beginning or the end — to plan ahead with your diary. Paper offers you the chance to sit, plan and prepare; to slow down before you have to speed up. Taking the time out to write your to-do's, notes and thoughts is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mental health because it's a chance to clear your mind. Not only are you placing the thoughts running around in your head onto paper, you're also able to clearly see, through a birds-eye-view, what's coming up, when you're going to achieve it and how.
Take a read of this 2005 study on 'Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing', which shows how even writing for 15–20 minutes on a stressful topic can lead to significantly better physical and psychological outcomes.
Did you know that act of physically writing has better cognitive recognition and learning outcomes than typing out notes? It's true that typing is faster than handwriting, but when we take notes through typing, they usually tend to be verbatim. We spend more time getting word-for-word down as opposed to listening to what is actually being said, processing it and being able to synthesise it to essential material we can recall at a later stage. Don't believe us? Check out this report.
Tip 5: Make your diary work for you
Digital apps and calendars can be handy tools (if they're all synced correctly and reminders are correctly set). But paper planners work because they are flexible — plus they won't crash or ask you for all your most personal information to work! And, with flexibility an awareness is nurtured of how you work your productivity system, not how it works you.
You can use your diary as a simple calendar tool. Or you can stretch its capability by incorporating other tools such as introducing some bullet journalling, marking in goals, setting out action plans and creating a prioritised to-do list.
Sometimes our thoughts don't want to present themselves as words, but instead as pictures, sketches or mindmaps. You can use your diary for more than appointment keeping — as it's always with you it can help you generate ideas, particularly if you use a version like the popular weekly notebook that has plenty of free space.
And don't forget the use of colour, symbols and even washi tape to help code your days, weeks and months to stand out and be more meaningful at a glance.
Tip 6: Make it your memory tool
Apparently our digital life is actually changing our brain wiring making our attention span shorter and our memories less reliable. Scary, really!
A great idea is to use the monthly summary pages, included in most diaries, to create an instant snapshot. Take a few hours when you get a new diary to add the key dates you must remember: important birthdays, anniversaries, work appointments, holidays... Then get into the habit of writing key dates and upcoming events as you learn about them. Don't wait until later. Similarly, get in the habit of having your diary out before you make plans or meetings — it will save the trouble (and sometimes embarrassment) of having to reschedule later.