The Franklin Planner: You’re A1 baby, A1.

“… It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look. And you look marvelous.” (Fernando) Billy Crystal

I recall working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, long before gmail, and outlook on the web; and phones were anything but smart. How in the world did any of us know where to be, when this meeting was, where that meeting will be? The answer is paper. The heady days of living on paper; and Franklin Planners were the king of paper organization. You weren’t anyone unless you had the familiar Franklin Planner tucked under your arm and were heading somewhere with purpose. Actually you didn’t even need a purpose, the Franklin Planner exuded purpose. The epitome of fashion over function. You didn’t need to be organized, you only had to look organized. Okay, showing up on time was a tad important too, but that’s trivial. I finally convinced my bosses that I really needed a Franklin Planner, and they finally gave in. Quitters.

Along with the Franklin Planner, I was also able to attend a half day seminar on using the it. One thing I specifically recall from the seminar was that the Franklin Planner system had certain methods for effective organization, the primary method was to rank every entry with a two character designation. This designation was designed to communicate how important this task was, and how you should prioritize it in your day. The components of the designation were a letter, and  a number. The first character, the letter, could be: ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’. The ‘A’ designation was for something extremely important; had to be completed as soon as possible, and had the most impact on your success. The ‘B’ designation was still important, but was not as earth shattering. Lastly, the ‘C’ designation was where all those things that weren’t so vitally important were relegated to languish and eventually die. The second character in the designation, the number, was used to prioritize items within the particular letter category that had been assigned. To truly prioritize things, you should have the numbers be unique; meaning there cannot be two A1 entries. However I recall no such limitation, so you could in fact have as many “1” priorities as you wanted.

A great system. On paper (pun definitely intended) it works like clockwork. Sadly, human nature creeps, very quickly I might add, into this process almost from the get go. First of all, if you are writing something down in a Franklin Planner, then it is obviously important.* Or rather… If it is part of your life, then by all that is holy it is obviously important. You do nothing trivial in your life, now do you? Sorry, rhetorical question. Of course it’s important. So when Jessica** wanted to have drinks with you, well hell that’s a ‘A’. What if Jessica sees your planner? Remember the speed dial incident? You know the one time when you stupidly wrote your speed dial list on that little paper card you stuck it in your phone handset? On second thought maybe that was a good thing, you haven’t gotten a fruit cake from your sister in how many years?! But I’m digressing here, of course Jessica is an ‘A’. But then so is your dental appointment, and that meeting with the department head, and… well you get the picture. The number part should be obvious, chronology should be one of the key elements in that decision, but alas the speed dial delimma rears its head again. So whether it really should be done first or not, you go by your gut. And what does your gut say? (see the sentence marked with a ‘*’)

Pretty soon, you have a task list littered with things all categorized as A1. Okay you might be that one person who was able to conjure up a ‘B’, or wonder of wonders and actual ‘C’, but really now, who really wants to empty the cat litter.

But man don’t you look good carrying that thing around?!

You’re all A1 to me!

Peace and love.



* The names have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and me.

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