Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans Ep #42: Q&A – Masculine planners, goal-setting systems, long-range planning, and more!

May 10, 2021

This was a really fun episode to record mostly because I thought you all sent in such great questions! A lot of my answers refer to specific products, so I’ll organize these notes by question . . .

Q1: Ideas for more masculine planners (for the listener’s 25-year old son who has a new job and is motivated to try a paper system!)

Full Focus in some new colors

Daily planners: Monk Manual, Full Focus Planner (and I actually have come to prefer their gender-neutral/more masculine version myself! Please email me or leave a comment if you’d like a referral link.)

Weekly / Monthly: Leuchtterm, Hobonichi (link shows an A5 Cousin with more masculine cover, or could also get a plain leather one!), Jibun Techho, Levenger disc-bound

I love the idea of these!

Q2: Planning ideas for during residency! A shout-out to anyone about to embark on a new residency adventure in July. I admitted that I probably wouldn’t have carried a full-sized planner to work every day, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a TON to plan, track, and prioritize!

If it were me — I would keep a detailed planner with built in goal setting at home, and go very streamlined (or just electronic) when it comes to busy clinical days. Even now, I have less need for my planner on my clinic days!

Q3: Audio Q about preparing for travel! Aww, a fun thing to think about after so many months without travel! My short answer – I don’t plan that much! I don’t like to do that much when I travel! So . . I think about perhaps 2-3 things that require booking (ie: a massage, one restaurant) and otherwise we use vacation as a time to do LESS or go on more spontaneous outdoor adventures (say, a local garden). I do think ahead about visiting friends if I’m going somewhere that close friends live!

I DO plan my outfits when going on longer trips. I have found that if I don’t, when I get there I’m at a loss for what to wear, and nothing goes together!

Q4: Audio Q about Pre-Planning, Post-Planning, Messy Planning: I write in my planner once for any given list or period of time. I love to make it look organized and pretty but it’s never going to be perfect and I accept that. My planner IS fun to use, but primarily it’s a tool that helps me to prioritize and encourages me to spend my time in the way that I’d like to. It helps my brain “see” the structure of a week and provides a rewarding tactile experience when I write down goals and dreams. But it is not in itself a work of art and I definitely refuse to “Pre-Plan” if that means multiple copies of the same thing!

Q5: Audio Q from Mark about long-term planning. His question inspired this post! The comment section in that post is great.

Q6: Ideas for a goal-setting system? “I would like to use one planner for yearly, quarterly/quintile, and monthly goals.  Then plan my days in my regular crazy notebook – which gets messy.  Sort of like a vision board and document achievements kind of planner?  Does it exist or am I chasing a unicorn?”

from the Inkwell Press Goal-Setting Insert Pack

I don’t think it’s a unicorn! Options to consider:

Disc-bound with goal-setting inserts: Inkwell Press Discbound System, Cloth & Paper, Notiq, Levenger as mentioned above)

Cultivate What Matters (very pretty and pleasing to use!), MakseLife goal inserts


  • Reply Emily May 10, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Yes, I would like a referral link for the full focus — I used it a year ago when I had to go heads-down on some research tasks and I think I’m ready to do the same again.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 10, 2021 at 10:38 am

      Here you go!

      • Reply Laura Yantz May 21, 2021 at 9:08 am

        Hi Sarah, thank you so much for answering my question about travel prep (Q3). Very fittingly, I just got back from a long-awaited trip to see my extended family and was so delighted to hear your response. Hooray for unstructured travel days and efficiently planned outfits! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Omdg May 10, 2021 at 10:52 am

    What about planners for masculine people who are lefties? Those rings really get in the way! Full disclosure: husband is a lefty but would never use a planner because β€œhe does not need” to make lists. πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ™„

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger May 10, 2021 at 11:41 am

      The beauty of rings is you COULD take the page out that you were working on πŸ™‚

      As a lefty, I do know what you mean about getting in the way w/ rings if you’re trying to write straight into a ring binder system, but have not had the issue with disc. With a disc-bound you can fold one page back and it’s not an issue, if that makes sense.

      Josh has a Filofax notebook with removal pages that is pretty gender neutral/masculine and I think it’s disc bound. He uses it intermittently.

      Hats off to those who can function without lists – my brain just needs them or I will get so disoriented & overwhelmed.

  • Reply Sarah May 11, 2021 at 8:44 am

    My husband recently started using a planner called The Hero’s Journal ( He had multiple failed attempts to use a planner, but really needed to (things were falling through the cracks). Although very different from anything I would use, he loves it. It incorporates gamification which seems to motivate him!

  • Reply Lani Inlander May 11, 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Vacation outfit planning for the win! It takes time, but you can pack so much lighter! This segment warmed my heart πŸ™‚

  • Reply Alyssa May 13, 2021 at 8:41 am

    Thank you so much sharing and answering question #6. So helpful!

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