Creatively speaking: Let’s make a plan

I have mixed feelings on the current state of planner affairs out there in our crafty world. On the one hand, I see a lot of over the top stuff that I feel like can make people either get a case of the “I gotta buy all the things” or feel like they could never achieve —, so why try? On the other hand, planners, being organized, and making plans in general is how I live and get as much accomplished as I do! So I’m very pleased to see so much exposure and new ideas being shared.

I’ve always been someone who writes down plans. Computers are great for some things, but my brain likes the freedom of freeform writing on a blank piece of paper as well. For a lot of years I had a spiral bound style planner where all things were written. I would mark down days and times I’d do laundry. I’d get all my ‘grown up’ chores settled into one morning so I had more free time to sit around doing nothing.

I also had binders with clear page protectors full of everything from wedding plans to vacation itineraries.

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The reason I’ve always been a fan of planning is simple: Looking ahead, making goals, breaking things down into daily pieces means that I get more done. It means I don’t find myself going “geez if I’d only planned a bit…” and missing out.

After I had Elizabeth, I quit all fancy planning systems. Long story short, it worked better for me to have a single piece of paper upon which I put a list of things that I had to do. New paper as enough things were crossed off to warrant a new list. Appointments and set day/time things went into a calendar and then into the computer/phone digital calendar. This system served me well for a decade.

Nothing wrong with just writing a simple list.

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Last fall though, it became clear that I needed to go back to something heartier. With all the new things being added to my life – my system was falling apart because it wasn’t strong enough.

November was an absolutely terrible month for me – riddled with illness and then a terrible fall (still recovering from that, as a matter of fact!) I fell WAY behind. I also lost my “one paper list” and it was a nightmare finding all the things I had to do, what was due when, and keeping business stuff afloat. Riddled with fever (I was super sick at the time) I ordered the Heidi Swapp planner deciding that would “fix” me.

When it arrived I realized almost immediately that it would, in fact, not fix me at all. I adore the layout of it, and it is naturally beautiful. I love that I don’t have to decorate it or waste any time whatsoever – it’s simply pretty right off the bat. PERFECT for me! It’s just that… well the set up and fact that it doesn’t have a latch/closure mean that it could never follow me around on all my wacky errands or survive even a day in my purse. It would really only work if I left it open on my desk as my business/blog/deadline planner.

lightbulb moment here…

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So that is what it is. I write down what blog posts go when (like for example, above you see today’s “planner” post scheduled!), what items are due, reminders about things like writing the newsletter, guest posts, product release dates, email follow ups – or any of the 10,000 other  parts of my job outside the actual creating of things.

This has been so great! It doesn’t have kid schedules or appointments in it. Strictly work flow/business. And it lives here in my office next to the computer.

But I still needed another space/place. One where all my lists. My brain dumps. My class development notes. Kids appointments. ALL the life stuff – a full and complete assistant in paper form. What I really wanted was an assistant. I’m not quite in the position to hire one though, so I thought what if I had a Filofax planner (aka no nonsense, very hearty and practical) that was the place for everything? Then I found Todd (my very fuchsia planner) on Amazon and it all worked out.

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Above you see Todd consulting with the business book… you know making sure it’s all cool.

We are entering month 2 of me having this system, and I’ll tell you I’m still learning and working things out. I have noted that what works for me is on the ‘daily’ sections to just write down what MUST be done that day. Hard appointments. Do or die stuff. Continuing a general “to do” list without dates attached helps a lot still so I don’t feel overwhelmed, and so I don’t feel bad when I have one of THOSE days. Like today is going to be. 4 hours of Girl Scout Cookie business popped up last minute – so the plans need to flex.

The thing is, that’s my lifestyle. Things have to stay very flexible around here I juggle a lot of busy people around here and something always comes up.

I have been researching practical ideas – such as using small sticky notes to affix things like “call and make an appointment” onto a given day – that aren’t permanent and can be moved or thrown out when done. I am also noting that probably 95% of the “planner specific” supplies are either way over priced (reminds me of how stuff is for weddings!) or not at all needed because I  can just us the things I already have.

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As I discover creative options (like the ScanNCut stickers last week!) that are working for me I’ll be sure to share with you. Right now I’m interested in figuring out something more attractive and also useful vs the manila 1-6 tabs/dividers “Todd” has. Something that makes it a little fun and playful but quick.

I want this to be a tool to help me in the rest of my creative life, I don’t want it to be a budget or time drain.

I also want to encourage every one of you who wants to get more out of each day, that wants to find ways to work smarter/better (not necessarily harder!) to join me on this exploration. You won’t see me spending any more money on my system until it’s time to refill pages for 2017. After three “planner specific” purchases I’ve realized I’m far better off using the supplies on hand! So I will share quick. Budget friendly. Applicable to many areas of crafting. Kicking behind and taking names ideas that are helping me make 2016 my best year yet.

If you have questions, suggestions, ideas, or just want to pick my brain you’re always welcome to leave a comment or email me.

For now I’m off to make some new plans… and get all the troop cookies picked up and sorted!

8 thoughts on “Creatively speaking: Let’s make a plan”

  1. The planners out now are very nice. The things are pretty. But it’s not me. I’d rather work on my layouts. But that’s just me, and that’s ok. I like how you’re using your planners, it is cool you have something just for your business and something just for family. Cool. Michelle t

  2. I am glad that you found a system that seems to work for you. I used to keep a paper planner, with the days broken down into 15-minute increments. An idea I got from one of my music professors in college. I finally ditched that in favor of Google calendar. I had found I was erasing/moving a lot of things in my planner, and figured the computer was just “cleaner”! So far, it works for me. If I find I need to move something, or just get rid of it altogether, I just move or delete it. No muss, no fuss. Plus, it syncs to my phone, so I can have it on the go, too. It’s not very “elegant” or even “pretty,” but it is functional for me. Which, I think, is ultimately what matters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter! 🙂 ~ Andrea

    1. Andrea, I am right there with you! I am all about the google calendar – the syncing saves me every time. I have looked for years for the “best” idea of how to keep my lists, Work calendar and home calendar, work lists and home lists. At work I use outlook for my calendar and a hardbound notebook for my to-dos, notes, etc. I do have one separate notebook (that I got from a group here at work) to keep one really big project-specific stuff in. for my home/outside of work stuff it all goes into the Google calendar and single page paper lists for my shopping, etc. journaling goes into a (currently) unlined Midori book which I will replace with something new once it is filled since it doesn’t like to play nice with my micron pens. I do so much in that journal – write, collage, draw, stamp – I love it. I did add the Google Calendar app to my phone and keep it in the pretty schedule setting – i love scrolling down through it!

  3. As a Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant, I have a lot to say about planners, as you can imagine! As you learned, May, no planner is going to change your life. What changes is your behavior – realizing how long things take, allowing room for flexibility in your day, writing things down so you don’t forget.

    I have been seduced by the beautiful planners and all the accessories, but then I think: Who needs it? I don’t use my planner as a memory book. It keeps me from double-booking my appointments and is a place to store notes I need to access regularly.

    I’m afraid the creative planner is a fad and will go away quickly, once people realize how much time it takes away from actually accomplishing tasks (although they really are cute!).

    1. I disagree with you. I think they are going to be around for awhile. I am in my late 70’s and don’t have a lot going on but I do have appointments and other things I must keep track of. it encourages me to get things done that one does not feel up too as they grow older. I am finding it is wonderful for a “planner/journal”. the parents of my young grandchildren are always taking pictures. I can now print them off and put one a week to enjoy. Pictures of special occasions such as my grandson’s baptism. Scriptures, thoughts etc. Prayer requests.

      it has become not just a planner but something to leave behind that my children and grandchildren can look back on and enjoy. Just big enough not to become overwhelming like scrapbooking. Someday there are those that will be glad they have these memories.

  4. MAY, THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS BLOG ABOUT PLANNERS. I REALLY WANTED A SPECIAL PLANNER THIS YEAR. I WISH I HAD BACK ALL OF THE HOURS I PUT INTO WATCHING VIDEOS, SHOPPING ONLINE. AS I SHOPPED AND SHOPPED AND ENDED UP BUYING 5 PLANNERS (I JUST DIDNT LIKE ALL OF THE ONES THAT WERE ALREADY PUT TOGETHER). THEY WOULD NOT WORK FOR ME. I THINK I READ ABOUT tODD AND MADE A BINDER FOR MY CRAFT ROOM. IT HAS SAVED MY SANITY. IT HAS REPLACED ALL OF THE POST IT NOTES EVERYWHERE. ALL OF THE HALF FINISHED NOTES. OH MY GOSH. I WAS SUCH AN ORGANIZED PERSON BEFORE I RETIRED. MY OFFICE DESK WAS ALWAYS CLEAN BY THE END OF THE DAY, ETC. WELL, I’M STILL TRYING TO PUT SOMETHING TOGETHER. THE HOLES ARE ALL WRONG, DIFFERENT SIZES. I WILL STOP WHINING NOW. I’LL KEEP WORKING ON IT. HUGS, TREEN

  5. Hey I just had to note that your planner has Australia Day in it!!!
    And I love your system! Having 2 planners for 2 different aspects of your life is a great idea.
    I have gone back to a paper planner this year. For years and years I was a Filofax girl – and my 2007 calendar is still in my Filofax!
    I am trying to be more productive this year and so far I’m finding that having a planner with written goals is working really well for me!

  6. Loved your comments, May! I am into year 2 of paper planners and have made lots of changes from one year to the next. Now I am down to a personal size Webster’s pages for my purse for kid appts and my sub work schedule. I also used supplies from home to create a dlp2016 art journal/planner and a 3rd planner for private thoughts. Trends come and go, but I will always have a paper planner- just using supplies I already own!

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