Time management Monday: Using a satellite planner

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Hebdo and Sapa X

Large planner stays at home, pocket planner goes everywhere

Now that we are getting into the active days of summer, I’m finding I need to make and update plans on the go more often. I use a big planner, and I don’t take it out of the house with me unless I know I will need it. But plans are getting busier and changing all the time, and more than once lately I’ve been out without my planner and needed it. I’ve decided to use a satellite planner.

A satellite planner is a small, portable planner you use in addition to your larger planner. The idea is, the big planner stays at home and the small planner goes everywhere with you. Usually the large, at-home planner has all your details of your schedule and tasks, goals and plans, and everything else you need in your planner. The smaller planner is a stripped-down version with just your schedule and events.

You might wonder, what is the point of using two planners? Why not just use the smaller planner?

Personally, I plan best on a big page. I like to do time blocking, write my categorized lists, do my meal planning, and see everything I need to do on my weekly pages.

But when I’m out and about, I don’t need all this information with me. I just need to see when I have things scheduled and what’s going on each day so I can make plans on the go.

The key to using a satellite planner effectively is you must synchronize it daily with your bigger planner. It’s very important that you don’t forget to put newly scheduled events and updates into your big planner when you get home.

One trick I discovered very quickly is to write the dates I’ve updated on the current day space for quick reference when I’m synching my planners. For example, last week I was at my kids’ school talking to my son’s teacher about a field trip they have coming up and some other events. Since I had my handy dandy satellite planner with me, I was able to check the dates and write them in. I wrote the field trip into the date (May 25th), and wrote in the other events on June 1st and 6th. Then on the current day I wrote in parentheses: (May 25, June 1, June 6). When I got home I knew exactly which days to synch with my big planner, so I didn’t have to try to remember all the updates and possibly forget to transfer any events. After I wrote the new events into my home planner, I drew a line through the dates in parenthesis so I knew those dates had been synchronized.

I’m using the pocket size Sapa X planner I reviewed here as my satellite planner because it is so slim and light. There are lots of other pocket size options including the Space 17 weekly planner (reviewed here), IB traveler (reviewed here) and the Sapa X Academic planner. (Click here to see our planner size chart to check out all the pocket size weekly planner options.)

Sapa X

Sapa X planner


IB Traveler planner

Do you use a satellite planner? What are your tips for using one?

8 thoughts on “Time management Monday: Using a satellite planner

  1. I have really been flirting with this idea myself. But then I think of the other information in my “master” planner that I may need when out and about… lists in progress like things to buy, pet health items (on the phone with my vet quite a bit lately, during the day when I’m not home), books I’d been wanting for that unexpected trip to Barnes and Noble, etc. I think for me the answer is still a satellite, but keep my big planner in my large work/car bag. (Giftie, Etc. has done a great post about having a large bag that’s with her all day in her car, which contains a smaller clutch and notebooks to grab as needed.) Then I can reference between errands, or run out to retrieve if at the office. I really do love an A5 (ring binder), but have been seduced by the convenience of a Personal size and its ability to tuck into my purse. However, I do feel cramped or limited with it. Using your suggested approach, I could even move into some beloved Compacts (Filofax) in my collection. 😀

  2. What about a to do check box for items that still need to be copied over? It’s smaller than writing the date and more obvious.

    Also, why not just write the dates/appointments in the dedicated satellite planner? Everything else could go in your big planner (today’s plan, menus, goals), but you’ll ALWAYS have your satellite with you, and if it is the only thing with dates, you’ll know to always check it.

    I love the idea, but why put dates in the big planner if you don’t have to?

    • Kirsty I like your divide-and-conquer method of having all scheduled events in the small go-everywhere planner and everything else in the big stay-on-the-desk planner. I’m afraid I would end up ignoring the big planner though. It would be easy to just not look in it at all.

  3. The only concern I have with this concept is if you’re out with your satellite planner, make several appointments for different days then when you get back home to transfer to your home-bound planner you find that you already have something scheduled for those days. I would think that both planners would have to be synched (which means writing everything in both planners) so when you’re out with your satellite planner you don’t over/double book something.

    If you’re home-bound planner is too big, perhaps it might be more convenient to downsize it (say, from an A5 to an A6 or personal/compact sized planner) so you can still keep all your detail, but it’s less cumbersome to carry around.

      • Smart phone? Nope. 1) Jotting things on paper is still faster than unlocking my phone, getting to the app, scrolling to the desired day or location, and typing with my thumbs. 2) My phone is a theft target; my planner is not nearly so much so. Nor is my paper planner vulnerable to glitches when OS updates turn it, even briefly, into a doorstop. Not to mention battery drain. 3) Writing items down by hand guarantees 90% of the time I’ll remember the obligation or task without ever having to consult my planner. There is no substitute for the tactile experience to connect to memory. I totally couldn’t live without my gadgets and tech, but not for time management. 😀

    • Elena yes, you have to keep both planners up to date all the time. In this post I referred to synching from your satellite planner to your larger planner, but yes as you said it also goes the other way–you have to make sure you synch from your big planner to your satellite one too. Anything scheduled should be identical in both planners. As you pointed out, some people prefer to downsize and use one, smaller planner. I know several people who prefer having a big, detailed planner at home and use a pocket size planner when they are out and about. They prefer the flexibility of this system. But as with everything, your mileage may vary! You have to do what works for you.

  4. This article is very handy and timely.
    I’m transitioning to a main + satellite planner system. I have a school+study-specific planner for home use and a general monthly/weekly planner that I carry in my bag. It’s too small for home use, but it’s useful for keeping an analogue itinerary with me on the go.

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