October 22, 2018 ruth

What does a digital devotee think of a paper-based planner? A Full Focus Planner Review

I’m all about digital. I use an iPhone, Mac and Apple Watch. I track my exercise digitally. I have cloud-based email, file servers, CRM and web portals. I’m all about digital. Paper-based diaries? They’re for the dinosaurs.

Life is full and I have to be organised and efficient with time. I am a CEO, I volunteer for various charities, I do leadership and organisational consultancy, I regularly speak at events and I sit on two boards. I have to be able to trust my tools to keep track of my life.

I was a digital devotee, but no longer.

Now I describe myself as a digital devotee plus.

By plus, I don’t mean a whole range of paper – just the addition of the Full Focus Planner.

I have posted a few times on Instagram about it, since starting to use the Full Focus Planner, and I’ve had people ask me for my thoughts. For those interested, here’s a personal review. This is NOT a sponsored post.

Firstly, have I lost my mind?

It’s a fair question, particularly for those who know me and know my passion for all things digital.  However, I think the Full Focus Planner helped me find my mind again – or at least finetune it. After using the Full Focus Planner for three months, I feel like it’s helped me take a productive life and make it more so.

What IS the Full Focus Planner?

As an overview, you use a paper based Full Focus planner each quarter to track your annual goals and review them regularly, along with mapping out the contribution you need to make each month, week and day. Each day you choose three ‘big rocks’ which need to be achieved, and each week you have a section to both reflect on the previous week and plan for the new one. (My personal favourite is planning how to optimise your weekend!)

For a comprehensive understanding of an excellent system, go to their website. 

What I DON’T use the Full Focus Planner for…

I don’t use the FFP for managing appointments. These change way too regularly. I need to be able to access my current diary, and a number of my team need access to my diary to set meetings for me or with me. I am completely digital in this regard.

I still use digital for all communication, file management, exercise tracking, CRM and all of the other tasks I do. The Full Focus Planner is not, and never claims to be, everything you need.

What I DO use the Full Focus Planner for…

I use the Full Focus planner to help me shape a busy life into a focused life. I use it to master my activity so that rather than being swamped with urgent tasks, I can keep the important in their proper place. It helps me take my ‘strategic intentions’ and turn them into actions which get done. In other words, it puts the ‘big rocks’ in place so that the ‘little rocks’ don’t displace them.

The Full Focus Planner is not magical. It doesn’t create a professional or personal vision for you. If you don’t have a set of goals or a dream for your business, life or health, it won’t develop that for you.  What it does do is provide a framework for helping translate ideas into intention and intention into action. It keeps your actions aligned with what really matters, rather than just spinning your wheels with activity that consumes.

There is something about the intentionality of sitting down with your Full Focus Planner each quarter and transcribing key items from the previous one. You are writing out your annual goals again which helps you reaffirm them to yourself. You create your rolling quarters and get to see the rhythm of what the next few months looks like. You sit down and plan the flow of the month and get a feel for where you are going to put your head down, and when you come up for a breath.

It helps me each day as well. By identifying the Weekly Big 3 items you need to achieve, and then plotting them into a Daily Big 3 (as well as other tasks) you have a reference point. On more than one occasion, when I have had to attend to several unexpected urgent things in a day, I could then make time at some point to refocus on the important. Whether I needed to achieve the important incrementally or I could attend to it wholly in that day, the very fact that it was written on paper that day meant I wasted no time trying to regather my thoughts after interruptions. A simple glance at my Daily Big 3 and I was immediately on track. It’s almost a sense of being your own ‘daily business coach’ – it’s just that you had done the pre-thinking when you were fresh, rather than fatigued by interruptions.

Every leader I know wants to improve their productivity. I certainly do, and in my opinion, the Full Focus Planner is helping me to do just that. Does that sound like a big claim? I suppose it is, and certainly its creator, Michael Hyatt, is best placed to describe how this happens. As a user, I love it.

In short, The Full Focus Planner provides a framework for intentional reflection which is a crucial ingredient in productivity improvements.

That my friends, is the ‘plus’ that turned this digital devotee into a digital devotee plus!

Ruth Limkin


(Do you have specific questions about how I use my Full Focus Planner? Write them in the comments and I’ll answer the best I can!)

If you want to know about how and why self-reflection helps leaders become more productive this article from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is excellent.

Tagged: , , ,