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Planning for Visual Learners

by Diane

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Over the years I’ve spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars on planners and diaries. Most of that money was wasted. Why? Because I’m a visual learner.

It doesn’t matter how attractive the diary or planner is on the outside, if you’re a visual learner you’re going to find that diary is probably more useful to you as a door stop than it is as a way to keep track of and generally organize your life.

And, it really doesn’t matter how it’s laid out on the inside either: it can have a section for everything or be completely blank. It doesn’t matter, it still wont work for you. So, how do you know if you’re a visual learner? Read on…

frugal planner for visual learners
*** Note: This post contains affiliate links. ***

Are you a Visual Learner?

One of the key aspects of being a visual learner is this: If you can’t see it all the time, it doesn’t exist.

Here is LearningRx‘s description of a visual learner:

Visual Learners: See

Visual learners learn best by looking at graphics, watching a demonstration, or reading. For them, it’s easy to look at charts and graphs, but they may have difficulty focusing while listening to an explanation.

On some level, I’ve always known this about myself. I get distracted very easily when just listening in either lectures or meetings and a trick I adopted a long time ago was to doodle while listening. It seems counter-intuitive but, it definitely helps me retain more information.

But, back to planners…

I have tried every type of planner you can name, I’ve even tried the Bullet Journal method, which is a brilliant approach to keeping your life and tasks under control. And, I really wanted it to work for me. I was sure this method would suit my love of bullet points and my inability to color inside the lines of a traditional planner. Unfortunately, I just made a mess of a beautiful Moleskine journal.

Then one day, I saw a picture (on Facebook, I think) of someone brainstorming a business plan using a large piece of brown paper and a Sharpie. Bam! An idea was born: a perpetual planner that’s simple to use, cheap to make and perfect for visual learning types.

The Perfect Planner for Visual Learners

the ultimate frugal planner for visual learners

The ultimate in frugal planners: brown paper, Post-It notes and a big black Sharpie.

The image above is the rough, first version of my visual planner. You can tell it was a test version because I just hacked off a section of paper and drew the divisions free-hand. I’ve been disappointed by planners so many times in the past, I didn’t want to invest too much time and energy into this one until I was sure it was going to work.

Guess what? I’m still using this version.

This system works brilliantly for me. I can see it from my desk. I can move the Post-It notes to the ‘Today’ section when I’m ready to work on them and I can move them back to their respective section if I need to bump them off the day’s schedule for any reason.

Another thing I love is, when I get an idea or find an inspiring quote, I can quickly jot it on a Post-It note and put it on the planner. No more scraps of paper piling up on (and sometimes under) my desk. No more lost ideas.

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‘Big Picture’ Planning

I’m not sure if this is a concept most often connected with visual learners but I also like being able to see the big picture. This is another area where a traditional diary just didn’t work for me.

When I look at my planner I can see the direction in which my work is moving as well as the steps to get there.

I color code the Post-It notes based on the type of task it is. This means I can see if I’m running low on post ideas or I’ve nearly finished adding the new listings on my Etsy store so it’s time to begin planning the next housekeeping task.

I know this method of planning has made a big difference to the effectiveness of my work hours. If I find my mind wandering, I glance up at the planner on the wall and I can bring my focus back to the tasks for the day. If you’re a visual type, I’m sure you suffer from the same weakness for visual distractions. Having a visual anchor really helps get you back on task.

My only regret since discovering this method of planning is that I didn’t discover it earlier!

It still amazes me that a chance encounter with an unrelated image sparked what appears to be the most effective time management and planning tool I’ve ever used. Ever!

It also proves you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a planner or diary… you just need to find one that suits your particular learning style. And, I can say from experience, this one works a treat for visual learners like me. If you’re a visual type you might benefit from this style of planner, too.

Your turn…

Do you struggle to make diaries and planners work for you? How have you solved that problem?

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Erin - 2:22 am

I understand you need privacy but I cannot understand your planner because I can’t see even the titles across the top. Could you possibly make a mock example???

Diane - 2:21 pm

Sorry, the headings are blurred because they are specific to my business. But, you can choose the areas that best suit your needs whether that be work related or home.

Eileen - 10:46 am

I love this idea! Even though I don’t have a place to put up the large butcher paper background, I think one person’s idea to use a standing file folder will work for me, plus it’s portable.

I have one question: In your photo, I can’t make out what the titles are on the columns. I thought of Home, Project #1, and Project #2, plus, of course, the Today one. What do you suggest?

I’ve tried many different methods, and I think this may be the one that works, as It can constantly be in front of me.


Diane - 1:02 pm

I’m glad you like it, Eileen. It *still* works for me so I reckon I’m definitely onto something!

My columns are specific to my areas of focus; online retail biz, blog, writing project, etc. Your’s will, of course, probably be completely different. Primary goals are good heading choices, too.

Ciara - 5:40 am

Thanks for sharing, even so simply looking planning may really help both at work and at home, I think. I love the simplicity of the board you showed here. I met with sth similar to https://pl.pinterest.com/pin/517491813408574400/ that my friends decided to create πŸ˜‰ Personally I prefer the computer versions like Kanban Tool or Google Calendar but the idea’s still the same.

Tina - 1:18 pm

I once -never will allow this to happen again-double-booked my neurologist and elem student son’s psychologist’s appointments(Both very important) for the same day; I was in my dr’s waiting room when son’s counsellor phoned asking “weren’t we supposed to meet today?” I devised this COLOUR-CODED system using magic markers for each family member on the calendar: Blue for anything related to son(school,his dr’s appointments), Pink for me(my appointments) Green for hubby(army-related courses(when he’ll be away), his Leave) Yellow for social events/family gatherings; i can easily refer to the calendar to determine what day and timeframei I or a family member is available

Kate - 9:34 pm

I immediately loved this idea for all the reasons mentioned. I also tried the bullet thing–terrible for me! To the last comment, about how to make this portable, that was the first thing I began to consider as I work between two offices and so absolutely need to be able to have a planner with me. One thing I’m going to try is using a couple file folders taped together. With the extra sections, that is where notes, future dates, etc can go. I’m also going to use mini post its and the tab size to organize dates for events etc. My suggestion is to experiment with what works for you in different formats. I plan to do this right away to see what alterations I need to make for it to be perfect. It is so funny because I have used sticky notes in a planner forever to grab my eye and attention visually! Now I get why a little more, and see how I can break out of the planner pages and get all I need using stickies. This is terrific!

Amy - 10:34 am

This is awesome! Do you have any suggestions on how to make this portable? I guess you could carry around sticky note pads and write down the items and then arrange it when you come home? Just wondering how to make this more practical for a student who isn’t going to be sitting in an office all day where that can be seen easily.

Diane - 12:29 pm

Good question. I’ll have to give it some thought… I tend to add a note to my phone and transfer it later but there has to be a better way. Leave it with me! πŸ™‚

Demi - 1:20 pm

Brilliant! I love, love, LOVE your planning system! Thank you for sharing.

Amy - 1:03 am

Hey all, I just wanted to report back on what I ended up doing for grad school! I bought this planner (but in the bigger size): https://www.amazon.com/Moleskine-2016-2017-Weekly-Notebook-Large/dp/B015NG44WA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474383246&sr=8-1&keywords=moleskin+planner

I absolutely love how it has the open page for notes on the right side of every week! I use this for my stickies. At the beginning of every week, I make three columns (School, work, life) and then I cut up the stickies in little strips. As to-do’s, reminders, events and assignments come to me, I write it down on each little strip. Then in the beginning of the day, I look at what needs to be done over the whole week on my stickies and move what I want to accomplish to the day! I also color code each column. So school is one color, work is another and life is another color. As a super visual and hands-on person, I love how tactile it is to actually move the sticky. I also love having the stickies (and the rest of the notes page) to jot down on without the fear of messing it up (cuz I’m also a perfectionist). If I mess up a sticky I just throw it away and re write it. I’ve also used the rest of the notes page to have more in-depth to-do’s. So the sticky might say the main to-do: Project for ethics class. Then I might break down the details using the note space underneath my stickies.

It’s been working great and I am so happy to have found a system that works and is portable!

Gillian - 7:05 pm

Hey Amy!
I’m a college student and while I love the big picture planning ideas, I also need a portable system.What I do is I use my bound planner like crazy. But for the sticky notes part, I have a “dashboard,” (the very first page of my planner that is completely blank and only used for sticky notes) plus a sticky note for every day. So there is already a blank sticky note on each day on the week view of my planner. That way, when I think “Oh I need to change out my contacts on the fifteenth” I can write it on the sticky note for that day. When a new day arrives, I pull that day’s sticky note from where it has been on the week view, and add it to my running list that stays on my dashboard. If I hear a quote I like, I write it on a sticky and put it on my dashboard to be dealt with later. I also have a “school” page for each month that I put stickies of homework on. That way, on my to-do list I just write “homework” and it takes up less space, but on its own sticky it has the specific requirements and pages. It’s a little complicated at the start, but manipulating this sticky note system into a portable one is totally doable! Wishing you luck!

Diane - 10:53 am

Sheesh… Wish I’d been that organised when I was a student. Well done Gillian and thanks for sharing!

Amy - 6:03 am

Yes, thank you so much for this suggestion! I am looking forward to trying it out and discovering my own spin in a few weeks when I start grad school! And I may be back with questions…or to share something I learned πŸ™‚

Lucia - 8:08 am

Hi, I had the same problem and the way I found was to get one of those large folders art and architecture students use to keep their drawings and plans. It folds out to about a square meter and u can post-it all over. Only thing is it’s difficult to keep it open on my desk :-).

Jill M. Holliday - 5:43 am

YES………and I was JUST about to purchase one of those Bullet Journals, but not now :):):)

I’m totally trying this when I get home tonight!! Gotta go to Michaels or Joann’s and get me some large construction paper like this and more color post it notes!! This is going to be SO awesome for me. I literally just pulled out around 30-40 post-its from my purse. They’re all bent and torn and some of the writing I can’t read anymore and I HATE living like this lol. I am definitely the kind of visual learner that needs to see the WHOLE picture! I am SO EXCITED!!! You rock πŸ™‚

Michelle T - 3:47 am

My husband bought me a dry eraae board that is quite large. I have divided into sections and I use different colored markers for different things. No clutter on my desk. Easy to erase and I even keep track of what i need from the store. I snap a pic before I head to the grocery store.

Diane - 6:25 am

That’s a great idea Michelle. I have a white board, too (I flipped a yearly planner – who knew it was the same dry erase material on the back?!) for brainstorming ideas.

Linda - 6:33 pm

I love this idea! I am a visual learner. I am using a notebook with graph paper and a modified version of the planner pads concept. I use washi tape to add color. I like it so far but still feel like something is missing. I like the idea of using post it notes and color coding them for different task categories. That may just be the missing piece! I’m implementing this tonight:) Thanks for sharing

Diane - 5:56 am

Hope it works for you Linda! I can’t say it enough, this method of planning has changed my life.

Donna - 5:37 am

Thanks for sharing this idea. I did find it frustrating that your picture was so blurry. Perhaps that was by design so that your personal items wouldn’t be on display. I’m just curious , I guess, to see what items others organize in their lives.

I’m thinking that with small Post It’s I could maybe adapt this idea to a notebook sized planner using different pages for each topic.

Diane - 8:23 am

Yes, the blurred bits were by design as I mostly use this method for business planning.

A notebook might work, too. But, I like having the planner out in the open at all times. That’s just what works for me. πŸ™‚

MomofTwoPreciousGirls - 2:06 am

This is lovely and a great thought…UNLESS you leave with a complete NEATFREAK who thinks all space should be blank and everything hidden in a drawer!!!

Diane - 7:51 am

Ha ha ha… Agreed. I *used* to live with a neat freak and could never find anything! πŸ™‚

J - 8:13 pm

This is such a great idea! I write a to-do list on stickies every morning before I start work. The idea of ticking/crossing out things on my list at the end of the day is so rewarding. I never thought about doing it this way though. Maybe I can do this at home. Thanks for sharing!

Diane - 12:56 pm

I’m *still* kicking myself that I never thought of this before! πŸ™‚


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