ProPlan Plus – Review

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About ten days ago, I wrote about my struggles with online planners, task managers and calendars, and how I could never seem to get the right combination of features, or the right GUI, that meets my needs of replacing my paper based Franklin Day Planner. I have been using my Franklin since about 1994 I believe, and I still recall the “Time Management Training” that came with it – a recorded seminar of Hyrum Smith talking about time management.

One of his statements struck me and has stayed with me, and now I paraphrase as it has been many years since I listened to those cassette tapes that the seminar was recorded to, went like

“If you don’t work on your priorities, then you will always be more frequently faced with crisis or having to do tasks that are critical.”

Of course, Hyrum Smith put it in a much better way probably, but this was the point: There is a difference between tasks of a high priority and tasks that are critical. If you’re always working on critical tasks, it’s likely because you weren’t working on the tasks that were a high priority.

Part of figuring out what daily tasks are a high priority to you includes doing some personal values reflections and figuring out what those values are. You cannot have two values that are equal; they must have some order to them from the highest value to lower ones. When faced with a situation, you will use the most highest value to make your decisions about the situation, then move down your value list and you will find an answer to what you should do, generally speaking.

So in this way, “time management” is not really the way many see it, but is more about “life management.” Hyrum Smith pointed out that really, that is what life was – time, and what you choose to do with that time. And that goes along with the idea that choosing to do one thing means you are also rejecting all the other things you could possibly do at that moment.

Setting goals should also be set with your individual values in mind, and should include all areas of your life: Business, personal, relationships, educational, professional development, leisure and fitness.

When you are planning your day, the “best” way is to plan your daily tasks according to priorities according to your values and goals, and setting them in an order of High, Medium and Low (Franklin uses/used the “A-B-C” method. But then you go further, and assign a 1, 2, 3, 4… to each of your A priority tasks, the same for the B’s – 1, 2, 3, 4… and again for C or low priority tasks. I had yet to come across an online or digital app that really had this flexibility and understood the idea of planning your entire life (not just your business life) around these ideas.

So when I logged into PlanPlus Online after being frustrated with many of the other online “time management” apps, I was really excited! Who ever was involved in creating this online tool completely understood the Franklin system of time management! Not only that, the interface was clean, makes sense (for the most part) and was pretty easy to use and start working with.

After 5 days of using it, I decided to upgrade from the “free trial” as I had easily gone five days without needing my Franklin Day planner, and not only that, I can carry around my “calendar” on my mobile device as well as my prioritized task list.

I loved the fact that collaboration with other account users was very easily done, and I could share my calender with other users as well. While there are options to have a “private” calendar, personally that is not much use to me – I would rather my partner know about all of the “stuff” on my calendar and there’s nothing to keep a secret anyhow. But for those that want that, it’s there.

Delegation of tasks to other account users is easy and everyone gets an email notification.

Overall, PlanPlus Online suited my needs as far as daily task and calendar collaboration perfectly. And the great thing is that it is very easy to use, does not take up much if any browser resources, and is intuitive.

The same “methodology” that Hyrum Smith came up with regard to tasks is also there – a dot for “in process,” an arrow for those tasks you need to move forward to the next day, a circle for tasks you’ve delegated, and a check mark for those tasks that have been completed. You can of course, delete tasks as well.

One Area Of Improvement – But Also Some Brilliance – Daily Notes

Overall, the only thing I can think of that would make PlanPlus Online absolutely perfect is a better method or interface for recording “Daily Notes.” That is the one thing that I found a bit clunky to use for a few reasons.

One reason is that since I’ve used Franklin’s paper day planner, I’ve always used the “Daily Notes” section almost like a journal or record of events. It has helped to keep me on track, and with my previous experience (a previous lifetime ago, it seems) in a law-enforcement role of social policing, I appreciate the habit and idea of taking regular detailed notes in chronological fashion. My Franklin day planner is a mixture of notes about conversations, both business and personal, in what ever order of the day the come up, or about tasks and when they have been started and/or completed, or about some thought that came to mind that I wanted to jot down.

PlanPlus Online has tried to implement this part of the paper based Franklin Day Planner but I am sure it could use some improvements.

Having said that, the idea of creating tags and then being able to categorize a note by one or more tags is brilliant! I can have a “tag” for my son David, where if I write notes of some conversations with him, and then tag those specific notes with “David,” I can easily go back and revisit those conversations. I can do the same with clients – each one can have a “tag” and I can create a note, tag that client in the note, and then those notes can be found using that categorization. They can also be searched, one thing that is more difficult to do with a paper based system, no matter how organized you are.

Contact Management – More Than Task & Calendar Collaboration

In the basic version, not only do you get a great system that will be very understandable if you have experience with the FranklinCovey time management courses, you also get a “Contact Management” feature that’s as robust as anything you would ever need. The entire system has been so well thought out, and I really wish I had come across PlanPlus much earlier.

Login & Use It Without All It’s Features

I have literally been swamped the past two weeks, and I have not had time to figure out what all is available in PlanPlus and how I can use it to be make my task management and collaboration even better. I have not had time to really go through everything so that I can use it to its potential – but you know what? That’s actually a huge accomplishment for the designers of PlanPlus! When you can go into a system, and within half an hour or so, figure out the essentials so everything you need exactly is easy to understand, and get on with your day without having to spend another three hours trying to understand the whole system – what a great tool that is!

I’m looking forward to when I might have some spare hours to play around in there and see what other goodies exist to make my task management and calendar collaboration even more efficient! But the basics of what I need are there and were so easy to figure out that I could start using it almost right away without opening my paper based planner. And their system works.

Great Customer Service!

I’d be remiss if I did not mention the great customer service from Brandon Stromberg, my first point of contact at PlanPlus Online. The first day I had created the account, I was a bit confused about the various programs they had and made a mistake with regard to account signup. Brandon helped me fix that up, and showed a genuine interest in my needs and my interest in the product. He did try to sell me on some things, but was great when I advised him what I was looking for, and why, and that I probably would not be interested in an upgrade at this time. Not a problem.

A couple of days later, even though I was still using their free trial account, I heard from Brandon almost immediately when I explained I was having an issue with mobile device login. We solved that problem pretty quickly.

Today, after a moment of “forgetfulness” on the part of my teenage son, I decided it was a good time to show him the benefits of priority daily planning, writing things down both as tasks and on a calendar, and I purchased another license (for a total of 3 now).

I called Brandon who was more than happy to assist with a bit of customization for me and work through the additional license and the reasons for it.

I’m going to predict that I will not be carrying my bulky paper planner that I have loved to use for many years, on my next flight. Heck, I haven’t even touched it now in well over a week. And even though it has not been opened, I’m still attending to my tasks in priority order, while having the additional benefits of collaboration and some great ways to record and search things.

I’ll go further: As long as the folk at PlanPlus don’t change things that would dramatically change the basic ways of keeping track of tasks, their progress, delegation, and their calendar collaboration, I’ll probably not open my paper based planner again, except for some need to look back on something I recorded there previously.

Will I Give Up Paper?

No, it is unlikely I will ever give up paper for notes, ideas, and “drawing out” my thoughts and sometimes for how I try to explain things to others. I need pen and paper. Additionally, I find recording information with text on a mobile device to be cumbersome and inefficient. I’m a detail guy, and trying to enter text on mobile devices is a pain for me. I rarely use them for text messages or anything else. I have found that the quality of communications between people has been enormously reduced the more we use mobile devices for that purpose, when it comes to text.

But with PlanPlus Online, I can have my Task List and other important information at hand without the need for a three lb leather binder covered planner, when I’m away from home/office.

I still like to make notes, I still like the look and feel of pen and paper (heck, I still even write letters and put them in the mail, from time to time) so I’ll probably experiment with some smaller notebooks that I can carry with me that can take that place.

Frustrated With Online/Digital Task and Calendar Management Applications?

I sure was frustrated! For years, I could find nothing that would really adequately replace my systems in using a paper based planner. Most systems are either too simplistic, or way far too much – too many features all linked together, that you have to spend three hours just figuring out some basic things. I know others have also expressed this frustration.

If you are one of those people, I’d highly encourage you to try out PlanPlus Online. I think you’ll agree that for the most part, they actually “get it” when it comes to the process of creating and prioritizing tasks and keeping a calendar. It should be simple and not complicated. You should be able to use it right away without a heck of a lot of time spent trying to figure things out. It should be practical in that it helps you actually get started at your work, not just staring at a list. You should be able to use it without knowing or having to learn about all the other features first.

If you are happy with whatever system(s) you are using, that’s great. But if my previous frustrations before discovering PlanPlus resonate with you – Go Give Them A Whirl.

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