The Franklin Planner: An Unlikely Homesteading Tool

By , October 25, 2009

Our decision to move to an off-the-grid homestead required answering many questions. Among them: what to take (as little as possible) and what to leave behind (as much as we could). Most questions we answered as a family, but some had to be answered by each individual.

Perhaps my biggest question was whether or not to take my Franklin Planner.

Inspired by my hero, Ben Franklin’s philosophies, now called the FranklinCovey planner since Steven Covey got involved, this is an organizational tool. I’ve carried this binder full of tasks, plans and ideas constantly since 1996. Friends call it my brain; it’s really my memory. Tasks need not be remembered as long as they’re in the book. It made me extremely effective in a variety of jobs requiring fast access to information, exact scheduling, and careful planning.

Faced with a paradigm shift that ended a lifestyle requiring the advantages of a Franklin Planner, I wondered if the planner—like the lifestyle—had outlived its usefulness.

In our new life, scheduling, appointed tasks, and to-do lists seemed unnecessary. Perhaps clinging to that trusted binder would expose me as less than committed to true change? What if it held me back from eliminating stress in my life? What if I couldn’t function without it?

I chose the coward’s route: I decided to keep the planner temporarily. Since the pages come in one-year blocks, I’d be throwing away part of a year. That rationalization alone earned the planner space in the car when we left for Haines.

This choice immediately proved correct. On the homestead, the planner actually became more necessary. Formerly, I didn’t need to consult my planner to learn the date, I merely needed it to remind me what I intended to do that day. Outside the workplace, time became elastic. One day might rush by quickly, the next stretch endlessly. We risked missing events we inevitably wanted or needed to attend.

I found that listing, prioritizing, evaluating and checking off daily tasks kept me moving forward in proper and necessary directions. It helped us attend potlucks, plays, concerts, and meetings, as well as observe family milestones. Maintaining my planner allowed us to cut free and drift in the time flow we found so refreshing after years of “wage slave” living, without fear of missing upcoming events.

Note keeping continues to be important. Our learning curve requires notes on canning, wind generator repair, and myriad other tricks and techniques for living off grid. Also, every neighborhood visit includes book, music and movie recommendations.

My pages are no less densely written than before. Some days have few entries, some none. Most days’ to-do lists include at least three items, and I often require extra pages to hold a day’s information. The to-do list isn’t contrived—I don’t list tasks like “eat breakfast.” Only tasks important enough to record and check off appear.

The notes have changed from work tasks and details to hopes, dreams, aspirations and plans. More often I’ll list songs I’ve heard and particularly liked, memorable quotations, or short descriptions of observed wildlife. These are far more important to my life than what came before. It indicates we’re on the right track.

The Franklin Planner philosophy includes guidelines for achieving one’s goals, and outlines how to use the planner system effectively. Part of this process involves creating a “personal constitution,” a statement of who you are that incorporates your ideal vision of who you want to be. Statements such as “I am a happy person” are supported by a bullet list of actions one takes to make that statement true.

This is supposed to be kept secret, and is meant to be consulted periodically to see if you’re “on track.” I won’t detail the constitution I wrote back in 1996, but I have to share a few of its points:

I am one with nature—I take time each day to contemplate nature; I am aware of the weather, the moon phase, the tides; I am a hunter, a fisher, a gatherer.

I am free—I will create security without the need for a “job;” no job is worth self-sacrifice. No job is too good to walk away from. I can overcome the hardships; True work is worship. All else is toil.

It’s amazing to me how I’ve fulfilled my personal constitution, even though I confess I don’t actually consult my constitution as often as I’m supposed to!

For some, this system won’t work. Everyone must navigate life in whatever way serves best. For me, the Franklin Planner keeps life on track and uncluttered, as it should be.

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