January 17

I Used the Full Focus Planner for 90 Days: Review

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If you swim around the online entrepreneurship world and you run into folks like Amy Porterfield or Michael Hyatt, you’ll inevitably hear them mention the Full Focus Planner at some point.

As an ambitious creative entrepreneur who is always looking for ways to stay on top of my goals and follow-through methods, I decided to give this planner a try.

Even in September 2020, I was so excited and ready to plan the final 90 days of the year. Here's my full review of the Full Focus Planner, which I used from October to December 2020.

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Summary Review of the Full Focus Planner

In case you don’t want to read all the way to the end, here are the highlights.

Pros

  • High quality physical planner
  • 90-day structure promotes laser-focussed achievement
  • Lots of space for notes
  • Dedicated space for setting annual goals, planning your week, and detailing your day

Cons

  • Wasted pages for skipped days, unused systems, and unused note space
  • Lack of cohesive structure for monthly goals

Preferences

  • Potentially larger size?
  • Greater flexibility in structure

Why I decided to move from bullet journaling to the Full Focus Planner system

I’ve been using a modified version of the bullet journal system for a couple of years now, combined with a digital project management system: Asana. In the last two years specifically, I’ve drifted into the beautification aspect of planning.

Hey, my calligraphy and handwriting is NOT good, BUT, I sure do love washi tape and stickers, and using those to create a functional spread for the upcoming week.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I became far more serious about evaluating the achievable-ness of my goals and the day-by-day, week-by-week minutia of actually moving the needle toward them.

However, there were a couple of reasons I was ready to try something new:

I was actively engaged with improving my planning habits.

Each week I’d review the previous week’s tasks, calculate how much I’d finished, and set weekly and daily goals. This was extremely helpful as it kept me focussed during the early days of the pandemic AND allowed me to re-evaluate what I could actually do while cooped up in my house without getting too frustrated about my inability to go out into the world safely.

Was there any aspect of my own cobbled-together system that could be improved upon?

I had a routine that worked well for me, but it had some holes. Mostly with my daily tasks. I would assign too many tasks to myself. Or give myself too challenging a weekly goal. This only added stress.

Habit tracking was also a big question mark to me. Was there a better way to track my daily meditation progress, for example? Or my progress on Instagram?

Would a structured planner actually make me more focussed and productive?

A lot of testimonials on the Full Focus Planner website seemed to imply this was the case, which intrigued me. Of course I want to be more focussed and productive! I’m a busy creative entrepreneur, dontcha know! 🙂

I decided to invest in the Full Focus Planner to see how and if it would transform the way I planned my upcoming goals. 

After purchasing, you are sent introductory videos to help you set up and engage with the planner itself. I gobbled them up immediately. A couple of weeks later, in mid-September, the planner arrived. I waited anxiously until the beginning of October, the beginning of Q4, to start using it.

If you're new here...

Hey there! Welcome! My name is Clare, I’m the author-publisher behind the young adult science fiction & fantasy publisher, Faery Ink Press. 

Each month I blog about a specific behind-the-scenes project or campaign I carry out on my very real publishing company—and share all the messy feelings and results with you, the creative reader.

As stated above, I purchased this planner and this is not a sponsored post. While this is a review of the Full Focus Planner, it’s also a write-up of my experience implementing this planner into my life for three months. Your experience and mileage may vary.  🙂

What is the Full Focus Planner?

The Full Focus Planner is a product of Michael Hyatt & Co.

It’s an undated, 90-day planner that helps you break down your goals and visions for the year into quarterly chunks for you to achieve: from yearly, to quarterly, to weekly, to daily.

How does it work?

There are multiple ways to answer this question, but I’ll break it down like this.

Identify your annual goals by quarter

In the picture above, I’ve written out my goals from October 2020 to October 2021. So, even if you’re using this in Q4 of a year, you might write out goals for Q2 and Q3 of the following year, for example – depending on how many goals you have per year and per quarter!

I had three major goals for Q4 of 2020, and as you can see, I achieved two of them.

Detail your goals, first steps, and reward

Once you’ve identified annual goals, you’ll write them out in detail on the Goal Detail pages. This will help you identify what kind of goal it is (habit or achievement) and WHY you want to achieve it. You can even specify what you'll give yourself as a reward for completing the goal - a nice bit of external motivation never hurts!

Create your Daily Big 3

Daily Big 3 refers to the top three things you choose to do every day. This could literally be anything on your calendar, but ideally it’s the most important daily work relating to your larger goals.

Choosing what these three tasks are is a LOT harder than it sounds – I talk about this below.

Weekly Preview

One of the strongest aspects of this planner is its focus on reviewing your previous week. It asks you, every week, to sit down and celebrate your wins and detail what can be improved.

It’s weirdly called Weekly Preview instead of Weekly Review (which is what I tend to call this process when I do it myself)…but once you get into it, you realize it’s because the second half of this process is setting up the week to come: readying delayed tasks, listing important deadlines, and laying out your week.

Other Pages in the Planner

Other pages and systems in the planner include: an undated monthly calendar section that’s fillable, a Rolling Quarters section, an Ideal Week™ creator, and a place to create and record Daily Rituals. I used the Daily Rituals section, but the rest I didn’t touch for this 90 day challenge.

I use Asana for my monthly calendar as it’s digital. While I like the idea of creating an ideal week for myself, I wasn’t mentally ready for this kind of aspirational tool. I was too afraid the ideal would be ruined by my current reality. Rolling Quarters, admittedly, confused me for a while, but it’s like another calendar, only in more detail.


Using the Full Focus Planner Daily

Since I would habitually check my bullet journal daily for my most important tasks (and general weekly tasks), filling out the daily pages in the Full Focus Planner wasn’t too much of a habit-leap. In fact, I looked forward to it.

Except…

I noticed that the act of choosing my Daily Big 3 was…a little stressful.

Why?

I knew what was important. What needed to be done so I could move my most important projects forward.

And yet, there were just so, so many other things I could do that were easier to complete. Why do one hard thing when I could do many other easier, unimportant tasks?

I think this is where a lot of people struggle and fail with task completion. When faced with so, so many tasks – even if they’re tasks that are in your interest to complete – it’s just so overwhelming. When we’re overwhelmed, we shut down or do the bare minimum.

The single biggest lesson I learned from this planner was: it’s okay to schedule less so I can do more.

I started to really scrutinize my weekly to-do lists. I have so many smaller projects that are “Good to Do Soon” but don’t have urgent, fixed deadlines. As I work through these, I realized these floating projects were all the more reason I needed to a stronger system for consolidating these floating, nebulous tasks.

Part of that stronger system is me realizing that it’s okay to have non-urgent tasks on my calendar, and developing rules for them, such as: “Don’t have more than 10 non-urgent projects at one time.”

I think this is all part of developing your own system of planning that works for you. Just acknowledging that I didn’t have to carry all of these non-urgent tasks week to week was a huge relief. I could assign hard deadlines to one if I felt my week was light, so I could get it done—or postpone them further.

The only time I didn't use the planner daily was in the last week or so of December, during the holidays, since I blissfully did nothing during that time.


Pros and Cons of the Full Focus Planner - Breakdown

The Pros: What I Liked

Structure (to an extent)

While I had this with my bullet journal, there is a concreteness to the Full Focus Planner that kept me on track. I wasn’t designing my pages week after week, like when I was bullet journaling. The spreads were all there for me. Ready to go.

This is a pro, but as I discuss below, it can get a little tedious if you want to switch things up.

Quality

This is a high-quality planner. Thick paper. Good paper smells. Two ribbons for marking your place. Hard cover. Lay-flat-able (by following the instructions in the intro videos).

90-Day Structure 

Something I’ve been working on since the pandemic started is narrowing and shaping the focus of my vision. It’s easy for me to throw my vision to five or ten years from now – or to see tomorrow. But a month from now? Things get a little hazy.

Having a 90-day structure helps me set REASONABLE goals and break them down into teeny-tiny steps to achieve them.

A Place For Notes

This is a seriously underrated feature that at first, I did not like.

“Wow, a WHOLE PAGE for notes, EVERY DAY?? That’s so much paper!”

Says the person who writes books for a living!

But – wow, boy, did I ever use it. I wrote down feelings, moods, ideas – it became a light journal that helped me identify patterns in my mood and behaviour. Seriously, this really helped me have more compassion for myself when I realized, month after month, I could predict which days of the week I'd likely to be feeling down, allowing me to schedule less on those days.


The Pros: What I learned from using the Full Focus Planner 

I like writing daily notes!

Turns out – having a lot of space to write notes is something I like! I ended up writing down what I did that day. Checking boxes is one thing, but actually noting what happened, well, it was like being back in high school again, where I recorded literally every single event that happened to me. Which these days, being stuck inside, isn’t a whole lot.

How to select your Daily Top 3

This should be obvious, right?

Picking 3 things to do every day, and then…doing them?

But it’s NOT always easy!

Over the course of the 90 days, my ability to do tasks and pick the RIGHT things to do transformed. I went from throwing everything into the cooking pot every day and doing unimportant tasks, to slowly removing ingredients, to only assigning myself 2-3 tasks to do, period.

I got better at asking myself, what’s going to be difficult emotionally for me to do today? And then selecting that task, and pairing it with something easier.

A two-page spread of the Full Focus Planner. On the left: Monday, the daily big 3 tasks, and beneath it, a space to write other tasks. Then, a place to write appointments. On the righthand side of the page, notes.

Extreme Self-Forgiveness

I talked about this in my goal-setting blog post, but since using this planner and implementing a meditation practice, I’ve been deliberately practicing being kinder to myself, in a practice I’ve termed Extreme Self-Forgiveness (because that sounds cool, right?)

Basically: it doesn’t matter how many tasks I check off each day.

I mean, it matters in that I’m not moving the needle as fast as I want to—but you know what, I’m doing my best over here. Whatever you did today, you did it well. Hopefully, tomorrow comes, and you can complete unfinished tasks then.

That’s something lacking in a structured planner: a built-in, compassionate hand-break.

Sometimes, I’m so overwhelmed with doubt, anxiety, and sadness that the thought of doing three things is impossible. And then, obviously the guilt of NOT doing three things sets in, which is a vicious cycle. I’m not a robot. I’m a human being with feelings. Sometimes feeling gets in the way of doing, no matter what.

But when I invoke Extreme Self-Forgiveness, like a giant heavy blanket, it scoops me out of this destructive spiral. Sometimes I check off one major to-do. Sometimes I get four or six. It’s going to be okay in the end.

I’m more than my Big 3. And so are you.

It's unlikely that any system really accounts for cyclic mood fluctuations, bad days, or major interruptions. That’s just life. It’s not something I hold against the planner: it’s something I realized deeply while using the planner.

Mindful of the Daily Ritual

As an entrepreneur, I’m painfully aware that routine is key to success.

I have a fairly engrained morning routine that’s evolved over the years. The planner helped me identify exactly what I did every morning and evening and made me mindful that I can change and form new habits that could help me be a better business person.

For example, a habit I’ve added to my morning routine is checking my website analytics. I used to only do this occasionally. Now, I have a daily, up-to-the-minute understanding of where people are visiting on my website and a place to begin making improvements to my online store.


Top Downsides or Notes of Improvement for Myself and This System

YOU have to manage your big picture

The Full Focus Planner system works best, in my opinion, when you already have a larger picture in place.

I can see this planner being intimidating to someone who is just getting started with thinking about shaping their future in a bigger way. After all, how can you decide what your year will look like if you’re barely sure what you want your life to be? Michael Hyatt & Co has other books, systems, and products for this, such as Your Best Year Ever and Living Forward, both of which I read through while using the planner. Living Forward in particular talks about creating a Life Plan, which intrigues me greatly.

I’ve cobbled together a system that works for me with Asana. I use Asana to plan my large projects, give the minor tasks deadlines, and then use my physical planner to map my weeks, and that works extremely well for me.

Size

I’m still struggling with what I prefer here.

My previous bullet journals were large: 8.5 by 11 inches, lay-flat Fabricanos. The problem with them? Possibly due to the weight of all of my washi tape decorating, the binding came apart.

The largeness felt right to me – it gave me a lot of room for my spreads AND to decorate meditatively. The full focus planner is 6.25 by 9.25 inches. The change in size took some getting used to!

Weekend Pages and Wasted Pages

The 90-day planner includes two pages for every day: one where you write your Daily Big 3, other tasks, and appointments. The other page is for notes.

For me, I don’t need pages for every day, so it did feel a little wasteful to have Saturday and Sunday in there. Maybe a year or two ago, when I was working 6-7 days a week, this would have been useful to me! 

Unfortunately, since it's a bound planner, you just skip over these days if you don't use them. It just feels wasteful to me personally, and made me feel guilty for not "doing" anything on those days.

If you work or do projects on the weekend, this will be useful to you.

The lack of flexibility

I like creating systems that work for me. I like that meditative and creative aspect of sitting down each week to review and plan the week ahead. I feel I lost some of that with the Full Focus Planner. There were sections I just didn’t need and I felt guilty when those pages went blank.

This is part of why I’m a creative entrepreneur. No one product or system is probably going to work 100% for me, because I inherently know myself best and I am going to create systems that work for only me. I like being given the elements of a system and then puzzling them together in a modular way.

If they had a digital version with printable variations on pages? Hey, I’d probably buy into that.

Now, I’m part of the Facebook group. And it wasn’t until I was really far into my FFP experience that I noticed people posting pictures of their decorated planners: full on with washi tape and stickers. I thought about taking part, but – somehow, that didn’t feel right to me. The rigidness and beauty of the structure of the tome, or the fear of covering up important real estate, prevented me from taking any kind of additional decorations to it.

Yes, I’m one of those people who hoards beautiful journals and NEVER writes in them because why demolish something that is objectively perfect? LOL.

As a side note: I did see Full Focus Planner washi tape floating around in the Facebook group, although at the time of writing this, I can't see them in the store. That may have been part of a promotion.

This 90-day experience has taught me that I prefer having a modular system: something that I can tweak and change with the weeks as needed or desired.


My overall closing thoughts

Was my life changed by this planner?

You know, I think overall, yes – but it’s not the planner that does the changing, it’s your use and implementation of the system that makes the difference.

Okay sure, but do I really need a planner to make me more productive?

I mean, no.

It’s not the planner that makes you productive. You can buy all the planners you like and be no closer to your goals! It’s you committing to the system the planner offers that makes the change.

However, I DO recommend checking out the planner IF:

  • Your monthly or annual budget accommodates
  • You require day-by-day, week-by-week structure and you don’t have time to print or create your own weekly calendar/spreads.
  • You enjoy a 90-day structured approach to setting and achieving goals
  • You want to instill a lot of habit goals
  • You have a job or a business that allows you some flexibility in choosing what you do each day
  • You want a slightly more structured approach to identifying and breaking down your goals.

Will I Continue To Use The Planner?

For now – no.

Partially because a 90-day planner comes to $39.99 USD, and that’s before shipping to Canada. The exchange rate really kills me here! There is also a subscription option for $125 USD, where you receive your planners in an annual bundle.

For January to March 2021, I’ve returned to my ad-hoc bullet journaling system, implementing some of the practices from the Full Focus Planner system that worked for me. I still like being part of the Full Focus Community and the greater community of populating one’s life with productive systems.

This 90-day mindset shift has also led me to investigating other systems and methods, such as the 12 Week Year.

I may return to the Full Focus Planner in the future as they continue to evolve the product itself as I think it’s a great system overall.

What do you think? Is the Full Focus Planner for you? What planning system do you currently use?

Let me know in the comments!

Hey, I'm Clare!

Clare C. Marshall is the author/publisher behind Faery Ink Press. She blogs monthly about writing, publishing, marketing, and productivity at cmarshallpublishing.com.


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