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A common concern in the planner community is what to do when your planner stops working for you.

I mean, nobody wants to feel like that girl in the picture. Planners flying everywhere out of frustration. (Does that actually happen to anybody?!? No judgment!)

Honestly, it’s probably one of the biggest reasons that people don’t keep a planner to begin with. People are hesitant to put effort in a hobby or lifestyle if they don’t believe they can commit. Especially if your previous attempts at maintaining a planner went poorly.

“Never Give Up!” I have faith that you can push through this!!!
A lovely graphic shared by Haley at peelandheal_planning from Instagram!

However, people generally don’t take the time to sit down and think about what aspects in their lives (or planners) could be negatively affecting the ability to keep a planner successfully. Not working through the issue will pretty much ensure that your planner will stop working for good.

Why A Planner Stops Working?

Some of the more common reasons why your planner is no longer working include:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Doing too much
  • Not having enough time to maintain

I believe that most issues tend to fall in those three categories (though, the specific reasons why your planner stops working may vary quite differently!).

Having the skills to continue your planner when it’s not as effective for you will prove to be extraordinarily valuable down the road. It’s perfectly normal to have off weeks, bad weeks, and weeks where you pretty much accomplish nothing whatsoever. You will probably even have weeks where you don’t update your planner. (GASP!)

Rest assured, while all mentioned above are completely normal and natural, it’s worth having some techniques to apply when your planner stops working. When you feel stuck and hesitant on continuing, try out these steps to see if they help you through your planner snafu.

Keep It Simple

I wrote an article here on keeping it simple, but worth providing a brief overview of the article if you’re short for time. (You must go and read the full article later when you’re available!).

There are some fantastic planners on social media and there are people who are capable of maintaining them. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of decorating and detail in your planner, don’t try to emulate them.

If you really feel like copying somebody’s style, consider researching some minimalist planners and see if one of their styles is more up your alley.

A post shared by @coffeeandlongnights on

Look how simple and beautiful this is?!? No need to make it complicated!
Stunning weekly layout by coffeeandlongnights on Instagram.

Do you use a bullet journal and think it’s too tough to maintain? Consider switching to a more structured planner (Happy Planner, for instance). Or try out some free bullet journal printables! Let somebody else do the hard work so you can focus on the more enjoyable parts.

Scale It WAY Back

How much are you actually doing in your planner right now?!? Be honest!

Do you have 3 different planners?

Are you trying to maintain a tracker that’s a mile long?

Or are you putting too many expectations on yourself daily?

It’s pretty natural to stop keeping up with your planner if you’ve got too much going on. First, you dread trying to maintain it. Then you worry when you aren’t able to do everything you planned. Eventually these turn into not wanting to touch your planner at all, and you dub yourself a failure for not being able to manage your unrealistic expectations.

Don’t you see you put a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself when you’re trying to maintain too much?

If you feel like you fall into this category, go through what you have and try to take out what’s not absolutely necessary.

If you’re trying to schedule or plan a lot of unfamiliar things to your natural schedule, try cutting it down to one or two things you can work on.  Statistics say it takes a good three weeks to learn a habit. I can’t imagine how much longer it would take somebody to develop a habit if they are trying to develop five other habits to go with it.

Pay attention to redundant information and eliminate the extras. Do you have a water tracker with your exercise log AND with your weekly layout? Is that actually necessary? Put it where you will remember to maintain it best, and remove the second one.

Perform a Schedule Overhaul

A post shared by K 🌺🌿🐝 (@bumblebujo) on

A beautiful monthly page by bumblebujo from Instagram!
Crisp, clean, to the point. Nobody needs complications. (But doodles? Yes, maybe!)

One reason a planner stops working is that your schedule has changed. When your priorities adjust and your needs differ, doing the same thing you’ve done before is likely not going to work.

Everybody has 168 hours in a week. How you spend it differs from person to person. However, when your priorities change how you used to spend those hours, you need to figure out how you’re going to adjust it.

How can you do this? Map out your personal responsibilities, needs, and wants. Try to assign a time value per week to each; needs requiring the most attention, responsibilities, second, and wants for last. Take into consideration your new activities and try to determine the balance between those and the things you enjoy.

No matter what, make time for sleep, for eating, for work, and for relaxation.

Once you’ve determined how’d you like to prioritize your week based on your new schedule, create general ideas for how you’d like to spend your day.

You don’t need a time block for each second of the day. Having a general idea of priorities for the amount of time you’d like to dedicate to each task is a good idea. It’s up to you to determine what items are flexible, and which are not.

Planner Reflection

Life can be distracting sometimes. If we aren’t being mindful about our planners, it’s understandable that the planner stops working.

It probably sounds silly, but it’s important to reflect on why you keep a planner in the first place.

It's important to remember why you keep a planner. Without a purpose, you'll struggle to maintain organization and concentration. Plus, you'll lose motivation and desire to keep going when it gets difficult.Why do you keep a planner?

Take five or ten minutes and seriously contemplate the rationale behind your planner. Sit down, play some quiet music if you’d like, and think about why you have a planner.

For instance, do you keep it so you have a place to remember what needs to get done? Or do you keep it to take notes about your day?

Is your planner for yourself? Or do you keep your planner as it’s needed for work or school?

It’s so easy to forget the reasons why a planner helps benefit you. Something that may be good to try and keep in your planner would be a “Planner Mission Statement”. Write in your mission statement the reasons why a planner helps you. Write about how it benefits you. Or even write about the progress you’ve made because of your planner.

A mission statement is something that you can always turn to when you’re feeling frustrated with your planner.

Take a Break

This may be the most taboo suggestion as you’re thinking “But wait, I want to keep a planner. How is taking a break going to help me?!?”

Nothing says 'let's take a break' more than coffee.Nothing says “break time” more than coffee, right?
(And hey, it’s “Jo” again!)

Well, if you’re pushing hard at something that isn’t working, maybe taking a week or a month off wouldn’t be such a harmful thing. See how you feel without the planner. What happens?

While you’re taking a break, consider what things in your life are better or worse without your planner. If you’re struggling with some aspects of daily living and organization, try to invent how your planner could address those concerns.

Taking a break doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about planners altogether. Sometimes a little time away can help bring inspiration and clarity. Plus, when your planner is something you do daily, you have a tendency to neglect adjusting it. Use the break time wisely and bring that relaxation and motivation back to the table as soon as you’re break is over!

And definitely get back in it once you’re break is up. No judgment over time lost. It was necessary for your ability to move forward!

Keep Moving Forward

When a planner stops working, it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Try some of these techniques and see if any assist with your ability to use your planner successfully.

And in all, make sure that you’re being realistic in your planner expectations! Check out “5 Tips For Keeping a Planner Successfully” to make sure that you’ve got your head in the right place.

“Just Breathe.” – It’s totally normal, and you’re not alone.
A fabulous image made by _jess.makes_ on her Instagram page!

There’s no doubt in your ability to push past this challenge. You’ll also likely run into this challenge again. It’s perfectly normal. Sometimes just recognizing that alone is enough to help provide relief and motivation to move forward.

What’s Helped You?

How have you made adjustments when your planner stops working? Do you have any other suggestions or tips that I missed? I’d love to hear them!

The best part of this is that there is no one way that’s going to get you back into the game. If you encountered a situation where your planner stopped working. share it! You never know who you will help inspire and motivate.

Until then,

(Worth noting I use bullet journal and planner pretty interchangeably… this article can apply to both!)

Did you like this post?!? Please feel free to share it on Pinterest!6 Tips When You Feel Stuck In Your Bullet Journal or Planner. How to overcome challenges and ideas to maintain organization when you want to quit. Inspiration and motivation in one blog post! Featuring stunning weekly, monthly layouts and quotes from other Instagram planners.
6 techniques to try out when you're planner stops working the way you want it to! Helps promote realistic thinking and time management skills to help maintain planner organization. Good advice and great for beginner and advanced planners.