Musings on Franklin Planner, GTD, life, the Universe, and everything

Once upon a time there was a system called Franklin Planner. Back in the 80’s before even PDAs were dreamed of except by brain-fevered science fiction authors, the concept of having Goals, Planning to meet Goals, and having Everything in One Place was thought of by Hyrum W. Smith, who developed the Franklin Planner (FP).

Put everything in here, he said. Keep your contacts, your calendar, your to-dos all here. Paste in or hole-punch your photos and documents. Proudly strike off things you’ve decided to Not Do. Assign everything a goal-based priority, and then stick to that priority.

One of the nice things about the FP system was the fact that you made notes right on the day pages. You wrote down your phone calls, checked off your to-dos, made meeting notes, scribbled character info for the novel you were (not so much) working on in your spare time… it was ALL there, and you manually cross-referenced it every day as part of your 15 minute-or-so planning routine.

With the addition of contexts, voila! We have Getting Things Done (GTD). Or at least, so it seems to me.

Many snippets of information that are important to me, and many that aren’t, are in my iPad, in one app or another. The immediately actionable things are in Pocket Informant (PI3). But I’ve missed the all-encompassing comfort of the 2-page Daily Journal, with its notes integrated right onto the calendar and to-do list. I’ve tried and tried to simulate the sucker, and moreover, to have it be available on my Mac and my phone as well — anywhere, on any device, on which I happen to be working. Calendar — works great, thanks to Google. To-dos — work great, thanks to Toodledo. The Journal Page… not so much. Not as an integrated, permanent record. And forget about goal-based planning (which didn’t really work for me when I was employed. My goal then was simple — to keep my job until I was so burned out that I didn’t give a flying f**k, which happened about once every 4 years if not sooner.) Now I have a goal (publish a novel!), and no obvious way to do goal-based planning.

And until I started reading about GTD, I’d forgotten the other aspect of FP, which was that everything you thought of to do, every-freaking-thing, was to be written down in your undated lists. This was to get it out of your head, and onto paper, so you could review it every once in a while to see if you still wanted to do it, or if it still needed to be done, and if you could move it to a dated list or delegate it or otherwise get it off the back burner. But there was a back burner, right there in your paper binder which often seemed glued to one’s fingers —

Rather like an iPad.

Now the “back burner” is scattered. Some of it’s in my email. Some of it’s in my head. Some of it’s scattered around my house in what I think of as visual cues, but which in fact is clutter — stuff that needs repair, or to be taken to the dry cleaners, or to be meditated upon so as to figure out what the heck it is — but it’s something, and was important at one time or another or I wouldn’t have put it on the table I pass every day…

I miss the zen of the FP back burner. When I was using FP the way it was designed to be used (a brief period of about two years, maybe less) my house and my brain were both less cluttered. I’ve tried putting all that back burner stuff into PI3, but PI3 doesn’t seem to keep it out of my way. Maybe I’m using it wrong… but as a record of daily events, PI3 doesn’t cut it.

GTD has the concept of “Someday,” which is similar to FP’s undated lists. That’s in its favor, though it seems to me that it’s a reinvention of the wheel. But there is no comprehensive, cross-platform system that records as well as keeps a calendar, manages to-dos, and keeps that backlog of undone stuff out of your way until you’re ready for it. GTD itself is a methodology, not technology — and in my brief investigation of GTD, I’ve found as many implementations of GTD as there are to-do list apps. None of them has that integrated calendar/notes/to-dos. I found some app imitations of FP out there, but cross-platform is not in their vocabulary.

Anyway, I’m not going back to paper — I’ve tried that before, but the convenience of computerized repeating events and to-dos is too seductive. And I need those electronic reminders popping up in my face and blatting their offensive klaxon-like alarms. FranklinCovey doesn’t seem at all interested in selling their system as apps (that went out with Palm OS.) They’ve got a web-based version. My, my. Can you spell “cop-out,” boys and girls? I knew you could.

So yeah. I’m hacking up an app-based implementation of Franklin Planner principles for the twenty-first century. I refuse to actually write an app (I am bored with learning Yet Another OS — no interest there); instead I’ll be putting together a system, somehow. I’ll let you know when it’s done.


3 thoughts on “Musings on Franklin Planner, GTD, life, the Universe, and everything

  1. I’m old enough to have had a paper planner (Harvard Planner fwiw). What I disliked was having to move last weeks tasks into the current pages.

    But I do know what you mean about having the two page view and collecting thoughts and asides on paper. I’m trying to use OneNote to do much of this – between my phone, my PC, my tablet I always have access to this virtual notebook. Evernote is similar but OneNote integrates extremely well with Outlook – and that’s my main source of work at work.

    I still keep a smallish notebook for jotting down items, I don’t see me going fully paperless yet.


  2. Ah, Outlook. My last employer used some derivative of Lotus that worked with nothing else in the universe.

    I am making great strides towards paperless by using Penultimate. Having my scribbles saved and indexed for search is the bomb.


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