PlanPlus for Microsoft Outlook
In the November 2003 issue of the HAL-PC Magazine I wrote about FranklinCovey TabletPlanner, a program that does a very good job of putting a FranklinCovey planner onto a Tablet PC. The latest version of TabletPlanner also runs quite well on a non-Tablet PC.
If you're not using a Tablet, or even if you are but want to keep your information in Microsoft Outlook, you might prefer FranklinCovey PlanPlus for Microsoft Outlook. While TabletPlanner can sync with Outlook, PlanPlus actually stores its information in your Outlook database -- no synching required.
PlanPlus integrates the principles of the FranklinCovey's time- and life-management principles into Outlook. Since many companies are already using Outlook as their email and calendar system, this makes it easy to keep all of your information in one place.
PlanPlus adds some additional views and icons to Outlook. I found the initial PlanPlus Home screen to be a bit crowded and busy, but you can customize it to get the view you want. (My modified PlanPlus Home screen can be seen in Figure 1.) This screen puts my tasks, schedule and recent emails together on one screen. There's also a toolbar across the top that gives you quick access to all the PlanPlus features.
On this screen you can add emails to your task list or calendar by dragging and dropping them onto the appropriate area of the display. You can set the priority of a task simply by dragging it to that part of the task list. You can also schedule a task for a different day by dropping it onto that day on the mini-calendar.
PlanPlus will take you through the entire FranklinCovey planning process. You start by identifying your "Mission," by which you discover your highest priorities in life. Here you identify what you really care about, which will help you plan your days and weeks more effectively. PlanPlus includes a Wizard to step you through the process of discovering your Values and Mission.
(Note that the software does not force you do write your mission and values -- you can jump right in to the daily task list, if you like. But if that's all you're interested in, Outlook's built-in Task list would probably be enough for you.)
In the Weekly Compass, you can identify up to seven roles that you want to focus on. These roles might include things like Husband, Wife, Mother, Mentor, Writer, Manager, Student, or Project Leader. Once you have the roles defined, you can enter tasks that will have a significant impact on those roles. While it sounds like this might be reducing some of your relationships to a to-do list, it actually serves to keep them on your mind. How often do you get swamped with projects at home or work, and forget to interact with the people around you?
With your Mission and Values identified you can then set Goals, which are "dreams with deadlines." A Wizard is available to help you with this process, as well.
Now you're ready for Weekly Planning, and PlanPlus has a Wizard to help with that, too. Here you start by reviewing your Mission, and then you can schedule your Goals. Once that is done, you can schedule your Compass. Finally, you can review your tasks for the week. You can reschedule tasks by dragging them to a different day, or change priority by dragging them up or down the list. You can also review your Master Tasks -- items which you want to do someday, but have not yet scheduled for a particular day -- and add them to your schedule. (You can see the Schedule Tasks screen in Figure 2.)
PlanPlus includes the "right-hand page" in the form of Daily Notes -- a window allowing you to enter notes that are attached to a particular day.
You also need a place to keep reference material and other notes, and PlanPlus includes a great solution for this. PowerNotes allows you to add notes using a keyboard or ink (if your PC supports ink). If you're using a Tablet PC, PowerNotes functions like having an endless stack of paper. You can take notes and draw sketches, and you can even print from any application directly to your PowerNotes. You can also format your text (change font and size, make it bold or italic).
PowerNotes are stored as items in Outlook folders, which means you can create subfolders to file them, or attach Outlook categories to organize them. You can also use the Outlook Find function to search through your notes, even notes that are stored in your handwriting.
Each PlanPlus screen includes a "Coach Me" button. When you click this button, it brings up help that is specific to the current view. This is a context-sensitive Help system that not only tells you how to use the current screen, but also why you should use this screen. If you haven't taken the FranklinCovey seminar, this can help you become familiar with the concepts. (And if you have taken the seminar, it's a nice review.)
TabletPlanner and PlanPlus are both FranklinCovey products that put a FranklinCovey planner onto your PC. Both programs can be downloaded for a 30-day trial period before you buy them, so you have plenty of time to try them out before choosing one.
If you're using a Tablet PC, the choice can be tough. TabletPlanner does a better job of putting a FranklinCovey planner onto your tablet, as it lets you do most or even all of your input in ink. The full power of TabletPlanner is easily available even if you never attach a keyboard to your Tablet PC.
On the other hand, if you're already using Outlook, PlanPlus integrates very well. And while PlanPlus doesn't visually resemble a FranklinCovey planner as much as TabletPlanner does, all the functionality is there. And you still have all the power of Outlook, allowing you to use folders and categories to organize your tasks and notes. But except for PowerNotes, PlanPlus doesn't support ink. You either have to connect a keyboard, or use the Tablet Input Panel (or one of the third-party input panels).
If you're not using a Tablet PC, then I think PlanPlus is a better choice. However, you should download both and try them out. If used conscientiously, either of these programs would do a great job not only in helping you to get more done, but also in getting the right things done.
PlanPlus 2.0 for Microsoft Outlook
Charles Olsen is a writer, trainer and MIS professional. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
© 2004 by Charles M. Olsen
Charles Olsen is a writer, trainer and MIS professional. He presents classes on Palm computing and time management on the Palm, and writes a monthly column about handheld computing for the HAL-PC magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.