Planning for the Pantser

In NaNoWriMo, there are two types of writers: planners and pantsers. Planners make plans. They outline their novel. They know what each chapter is going to be about. They have a plan they follow. Pantsers (pants-ers) fly by the seat of their pants. They wing it. They start with an idea and freewrite.

I’m a pantser. I fly by the seat of my pants. Freewriting is exciting. Throwing my characters into situations inspired by something I see at the moment is fun. But you know what? I’ve only won/completed NaNoWriMo once, by being a rebel and writing short stories instead of one novel.

I love and value what I call my “time freedom.” It’s having control of my time and schedule. Working freelance and from home. Being my own boss. Doing what I want when I want. But the truth is, I do better in schedules and deadlines. Work actually gets done and I feel accomplished at the end of the day.

The problem that pantsers face when planning is we eventually fail at it. We are the people who spontaneously buy the cutest planners and calendars we can find. We are the people who jump into bullet journals, goal trackers, and list making. We are also the people who end up wasting time and money on said planners, calendars, and the paper and pens we use to schedule and plan our life. Come June or July, our planners are collecting dust and calendars still open to a few months ago.

Why? Because we’re pantsers! When the new year rolled around, we flew by the seat of our pants into the life of planners because that’s what everybody said you’re supposed to do in the new year. Reorganize your life. Make plans. Have goals. Set resolutions and the steps to accomplish them.

Those things sound great, but trying to be someone you’re not never works out in the long run. And now we’re back to the dilemma. At least my dilemma of being a pantser who succeeds with plans in place. Do you have the dilemma? Please say yes so I don’t feel alone!

If you’re a pantser and want or need planning in your life, here’s what I figured out.

Have an open planner.
Pick a planner without dates. Use a dot-grid notebook. Use a buildable planner. There’s no pressure with these types of planners. You don’t have to worry about missing a day, week, or month of planning. You can pick up where you left off. You can also use it to plan anything. You can add a book list or wish list or idea list.

Plan using both sides of your brain. 
Planners and planning typically fall into the analytical side of our brains, but do a quick search on Pinterest and you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be that way! Doodle in your planners. Decorate them with stickers. Use different colored pens, markers, and colored pencils. Get creative and have fun. If your planner isn’t engaging enough to entice you to use it everyday, make it engaging for you.

Out of sight, out of mind.
Keep your planner, calendar, goal tracker, etc. somewhere you will see everyday. My planners tend to get neglected because I approach each day by the seat of my pants. I tackle what’s in front of me, and sometimes, that’s not always the most pressing matter. Then I get lost in that one matter, forgetting to spread out my time and effort across the various things on my to-do list. So keep whatever you’re using to plan your day somewhere so prominent that you can’t ignore it.

Use multiple sources of reminders. 
Planners really are reminders of what needs to get done. If you’re like me, you don’t like carrying a planner with you everywhere you go. Or you forget to take it with you. Use multiple sources to make your plans. I use an actual planner, my phone’s calendar, the WorkFlowy app on my phone and Chromebook, Gmail calendar, a check-list in a plastic dry-erasable sleeve, and an actual calendar.

They don’t all contain the same information. I don’t update them all at once or even at all. But the important things get written down somewhere. So if I see the empty calendar on my wall, I don’t sweat it because I know I set reminders on my phone about upcoming events that month. If my phone says I’m available on a certain day, I know where to double-check that information.

The idea is to set up different ways to remind you of what needs to be done. Rely on the team effort of different sources instead of relying on one source (ie: a planner) that you’ll eventually misplace.

The picture above is my planning in progress. The To-Do Read list is literally the only thing in my planner right now! I have the Winter Wonder Goals and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge hanging on my wall. I do have items on my WorkFlowy app, phone’s calendar, and Gmail calendar. Different items are at different places and it works for me.

The best way to a pantser can plan is to find a way that works for you. Let go of societal pressures. Release the stress. If something doesn’t work out, remember that it’s okay.


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