Back in October 2020, I started a new job (as the marketing manager at GreenMellen). It was understandably odd making a career move in the midst of a pandemic, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
On my first day (and yes, I did have a few days in the office with our small team), the staff gave me a few pieces of company swag along with a brand new Full Focus Planner.
Each planner is set up to last a quarter of a year (three months). There’s even a subscription where you can have a new planner sent to you once you’re done with the first. But I committed to using mine for the quarter just to see how it worked.
Now that I’ve completed that trial run, here are a few of my biggest takeaways:
1. The planner takes preparation
There was a bit of a learning curve to learning how the Full Focus system works. It required an investment of time to learn the system and watch the tutorial videos.
Theoretically, if you’re using the planner right, you’re earning that time back later by being more focused and productive. But it’s not something you can pick up immediately and begin using fully without some prep work. As I got the hang of how things were organized, it got easier and easier.
Since I got the planner in October, I wanted to start using the planner starting in January 2021. So I had to spend part of my time during the holidays in December to learn how it would work. Thankfully, that time investment paid off in a more productive start to the year.
2. Its strength is in building towards goals
The strength of the planner was in the goal planning. There’s a reason why goals take up the first dozen or so pages in the planner.
The entire idea around this is to be laser-focused on achieving some goals during the year and using each day to work towards this. And it took several hours of brainstorming and thinking to come up with the right goals.
Thankfully, Michael Hyatt has a bunch of other resources built around goal planning — including his book, Your Best Year Ever, which aligns with the sections of the planner.
To be honest, it was still a challenge to connect the day-to-day tasks to the year-long goal plan. It took constant intentionality to set Daily Big 3 that looked beyond just today. However, that push towards intentionality is part of why the planner works — because it keeps you focused.
3. Its weakness was in being too rigid
The Full Focus Planner is set up to have pages for every day of the week, for each week in the quarter. You fill in the specific date, but the day of the week is already printed — including weekends.
I tried using the planner for weekends but gave up after the first two weeks. I still had things to do, but they were mostly revolving around my toddler. And I didn’t have the requisite time to devote to filling out the planning phases every Saturday and Sunday.
I didn’t feel guilty for skipping those days, because I wanted to be flexible. However, it was disappointing that a significant chunk of pages was essentially wasted because of that decision. It would have been nice if there was a weekdays-only option to purchase from Hyatt & Co.
I also bent the rules a little by working ahead on occasion. The ideal scenario is to fill out each day’s tasks that morning. But sometimes I’d peak ahead a day or two. This made for a more fluid process, but I’m not sure if it was against the “rules” or messed with my focus.
4. It combines professional and personal
One benefit of the Full Focus planner was being able to combine my personal and professional tasks. Some planners I’ve used in the past only focus on one or the other, to their detriment. It helps to keep them both together because one impacts the other, and they’re both important.
The challenge is finding the balance between the two and knowing where to draw the line. For example, if one of your big tasks for the day is a personal one, can you get that done during work hours? Do you put it off until after work, but risk that it doesn’t get done?
Of course, this all goes out the window when life throws you a curveball. One week during the quarter, my entire family got a bad stomach virus that knocked us out for a few days. Several of the tasks and projects I’d carefully planned had to be moved around.
Safe to say, the best planner in the world can’t compete with an illness. Even when you have a better handle on your focus, it will inevitably get snatched away by an immediate need. The important lesson is to deal with the crisis and transition back into a rhythm without getting discouraged or abandoning your newfound habit of focus.
5. It’s probably not for everyone
I’ll admit that I’m probably Michael Hyatt’s ideal audience when it comes to pitching the Full Focus Planner. I don’t mind writing out things by hand. I’m curious enough to try something new. I’m motivated enough to stick with a new program like this.
It’s obvious that not everyone fits that criteria. I would agree that this could help push unorganized people into a better system, but most people would be resistant to that kind of change.
Suffice to say, I think that using a Full Focus Planner could be a game-changer for some people, and it would be a waste of resources for others. Mostly, as with so many things, it boils down to whether or not they’re willing to put in the work.
6. The system worked but wasn’t life-changing
Overall, I enjoyed using the Full Focus Planner — probably even more than I thought. At the beginning, I imagined I’d use it for the quarter and then quit. Now that I’m done, I’m debating whether or not I’ll want to continue with the system.
Changes like this are best judged over longer periods of time than three months. However, I do feel like I was more productive. Maybe that was because I’ve just been more aware of how much work I’ve done. Maybe it’s because I’ve adjusted more to a new work situation (pandemic included).
But I have no doubt that this little notebook has made a tangible difference in getting started well with a new job and continue to thrive personally.