Which Digital Planning Option Is Right For You?


Despite owning a million planners, notebooks, journals and electronic devices, I have failed repeatedly at finding a unified planning method that’s right for me. Throughout a typical day, I’ll jot a note down in any of my various journals, notepads or on pieces of paper. I also update important events in one or two calendar or organization apps, but no one method or combination of any of these planning tools has produced the results I need.

Part of my problem is the fact that I like to collect and try things. While this can be a great trait in some regards, it’s not so great when you’re constantly adding things (namely organizers, planners, and books and articles on organization) to your mental arsenal and closets, but not strategically using or applying any it. And, since I’m a highly productive worker- even without a planning method- I’ve continued to plan in a haphazard manner. As a result, there are times when things slip through the cracks or I’m simply overwhelmed in the moment from trying to remember what’s next and the highest priority.

I also can’t help but frequently wonder how much better and more efficient I could be if I simply stuck to planning, both in my personal and professional life. So, this year, I’m dedicated to ending the wondering and to begin making regular planning a reality for myself. I know implementing plans and schedules will produce massive change for me and help me save valuable time.  And it doesn’t require me purchasing anything more than what I already have. Hopefully, this post will introduce you to some options and help you choose one that’s right for you too.

Digital Planning Options

Evernote

I’ve used the free version of Evernote off and on for the past several years. It’s downloaded on my cell phone, computer, and as an applet in my favorite browser, Safari. I personally find it most useful and appealing as a bookmarking and clipping tool versus a planning tool. Throughout the day I capture a ton of screenshots and bookmark a lot of pages, and Evernote saves these automatically for me without my having to do anything extra. Its ability to also save across all my devices is also extremely handy, but no longer a unique feature, since plenty of apps now offer this functionality.

In Evernote, you can save text, photos, reminders, lists, and even audio files, and organize them into notebooks (individual categories/groups).  You can also chat and share your information with others (even in the free version). While these features are good, Evernote is at its core a notetaking app, and that’s where it really shines as far as usability. However, I need a planning option that will allow me to easily see what’s going on in my multiple calendars (and unfortunately there’s no direct way to sync Evernote with my Apple calendar) and allow me to add notes, prioritize events, and easily rearrange things, and that’s lacking for me in this app.

Calendars

I’ve tried more calendars than I can rattle off at hand. I’ve used Sunrise, Apple, Google, Outlook, and I’m sure a few others. Currently, I routinely use the later three, and Apple calendar is the one I use the most. It’s on my personal phone and computers, and my work computer.  I like the fact that it integrates easily with Outlook, which is what I use for work, and with Gmail (which is what I use for my personal business as a G Suite user). I can easily see everything I have on my schedule in Apple calendar and what categories each event falls in. However, adding notes or attachments is cumbersome, and I can’t see them unless I open the corresponding event and then click on them, which is a huge downside for me from a planning perspective.

Omnifocus

Omnifocus is my latest planning tool, and it’s also by far the most advanced one I’ve ever used.  After doing some extensive research last fall, I made the decision to plunk down the $40 for the app, in order to get organized once and for all. Omnifocus has all the aspects that are missing for me from both Evernote and digital calendar applications. I can see all my calendars (Apple, Outlook, and Google), take notes, add attachments, create categories, and flag, prioritize and review tasks.  I can also see my tasks in multiple views and contexts, which is valuable for me since even the smallest change in one area of my life can cause several other areas to change. It also does a ton of other complicated and intricate things that I haven’t even explored yet, which brings me to my next point.

I have run into a few barriers with Omnifocus, the first being is that it’s only available for Apple users. This isn’t a problem for me, but sorry PC users. Secondly, it is not an intuitive tool, nor has it been a fast implementation process. You must be willing to spend time learning how to use it, especially if you are looking to use its more advanced features. Fortunately, I knew this upfront from my research prior to purchasing it and from reading numerous online reviews. I also was able to wing it enough to at least begin using it without first having to study. Another potential issue is the fact that there are two versions of the app, one for Mac and one for the iPhone and iPad, and they both cost $40. Secondly, there is a standard and pro version for both the Mac and iPhone and iPad versions, so as you can see here…there’s quite an upfront investment required if you want to use it across all your devices. And you may discover that it’s not the right option for you.

So, Omnifocus is the digital option that I’ll be using this year. It’s robust enough to handle planning for work, my businesses and personal life all in one place. And that’s what is most important for me. I can also keep everything right at my fingertips no matter where I am (although it would be nice to have a version in the cloud as an additional option). I also must admit that I like the challenge of learning how to use and integrate its more advanced options.

I hope that some of these options appeal and ultimately work for you. Others you may want to explore are listed below. This post was not a paid review, but simply my actual experience

Other Planning Options

Notetaking Apps

Calendar Apps 

I initially wanted to combine both digital and paper planning options in one post, but as you can see this was pretty lengthy. So in my next post, I’ll explore some paper planning options, which are definitely all the rage these days!

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