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.


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!

11-12-13: Happy Birthday to my site!

craftwithmay500pxOn this day, two years ago, I opened – it took almost a year to get the site open, and it’s been a steep learning curve for sure. I love new challenges, learning, and growing and this site has definitely been all of those things.

I also love connecting with fellow crafters, and this site has given me the opportunity to present both free and paid classes, and interact with so many of you lovely creative people out there and I’m grateful for every email, chat, and discussion. Today as a special birthday celebration (and yes, I picked the date 11-12-13 because while it was ready to rock on the 3rd of November I wanted something I could remember!) I have a discount code for you, as well as a peek at four of my all-time favorite projects shared in classes:

First up, a favorite from the  very popular Supplies On Hand class!

The brad collection hasn’t been going down. At all! This project was super satisfying because I used op lots of things and made something that I truly treasure.
I never did give this box away- fell in love with it!

Another favorite, also from Supplies on Hand:

The best design (and most under-used design here in my studio!) for using up lots of small things is definitely to create a grid. I love how many random Project Life cards, as well as other little items I got to utilize on this layout.
The format allows me to remain organized, helps me add more detail and journaling, and was tremendously fun to make.

Another favorite, this one from the 2014 Winter Retreat is this card:

I don’t think I can stress how much fun this project was. When I began, I had no idea where I was going except that I was going to do something that had a circle element.

I love the mixed media feel of this piece, and though I went wild at times, I feel like the end result really came together.

Finally, here’s a student favorite from the May’s Guide to Vacation Scrapbooking class:

  • Use a mix of colors and sizes
  • Don’t get weird trapped spaces! Better to overlap than have odd gaps
  • Center those photos! The 4 1/2″ square and 4×6″ photos I used are in the middle, and everything else is grounded by coming out from them/being attached.
  • Get the paper bits down, then add dimensional accents
  • Spray/mist or a small scale stamp repeated can help tie everything together

To be honest, I love ALL the projects from all the classes, and I hope to bring you even more inspiration both paid and free in 2016! To say thanks, I’ve got a special birthday discount code to give! Use THIS LINK and 25% will be taken off the class of your choice at check-out. No code needed, you just need to use THIS LINK for the discount to come off automatically, and you’ll see the adjusted price when you go to check out. This is good on new purchases only, and the offer is only good though 11/13/2015.

Put in some play time (in the batches of creativity)


If you couldn’t tell – I’ve been a busy girl. And you guys only know half of it! I’ve been trying out different productivity methods and such. One of the things I get asked a ton is “how do I do so much” the truth is – I don’t do 1/2 of what I’d like to do on any given day! There are a few things I have learned along the way though, so I thought I’d pause from the inky madness and share.

Work in batches. Scrambling day-of for dinner, to meet a deadline, for things needed… that’s a recipe for last minute disaster. I like to work in batches. For example, going to the grocery store if not for the week at least 3-4 days worth. While out, do a batch of errands so I’m not going out as often in general.

Own your choices. Another big thing for me- if I’m going to sit down and watch an episode of a TV show that is what I’m going to do. Blow off the end of the list and just read a book for a while? Same. The key is, whatever I do with my time I own that I’m making those choices. Whether work, play, or just catching up on things I don’t ever say “I don’t have time…” it’s more about how I’m prioritizing my time and some days I don’t make time for things.

Small steps add up. It’s true. In everything. Yes the grand cleaning of the house complete with dusting and window washing feels great! But the truth is the 5 minutes to wash and put away the breakfast dishes or the 2 minutes to start a load of laundry or the 10 minutes to tidy up my mess from the last scrapbooking session are more important. Doing little tiny ‘just a minute’ things all day long maximizes my time and helps me to avoid big ugly messes. Small choices like water not soda, or walk don’t drive add up to healthy choices, and little things creatively add up too.


You can’t work too far ahead. True story: I was going to mail my aunt’s birthday gift but I didn’t want to send it too early so I waited. Her birthday was a month ago. In the 7 weeks since I had the time and thought I totally forgot about it and when I do remember it’s never at a time when I can pack it up and take care of it. My point is: if you see an opportunity to work ahead on something – whether prepping a scrapbook album, getting a jump start on cards, or preparing for a meeting just do it. Something always comes up, there’s always a last minute something.

Make time to play. Whether it’s to go see a movie, sit for 30 minutes with a good book, or get inky. It doesn’t matter how much time or when – just make little nuggets of time just for you and just for fun. Don’t wait for the mythical free day or nothing planned opportunity. Make a little space each day.

I still have a long way on becoming a productivity master, and I’m struggling with keeping to my three item “must do” list each day… but I’ll keep working at it.

But first, a donut and some creative play…

Lessons Learned: 2014 Scrapbook

Welcome to a new mini-series. I’m going through and checking for “holes” in stories, bigger things I skipped and want to make sure to scrapbook, etc. and as I do I’m making note of what I am learning from past years/older scrapbooks and will be sharing…

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1. I love little detailed clusters. I can never have enough of those.

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2: I have fully embraced the strip or “Pocket Page inspired” style 2-page layout for bigger/lots of small into 1 page stories. I can cram a whole lot of detail into a single layout.

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3: I’m getting better at titles not just being slapped on without thought/as a last minute thing. At making titles a part of the planning process.

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4. I love “right now —- is into—-” layouts. LOVE. So great to see that snapshot of pop culture and details from right now.

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5. I will never get enough of Maggie Holmes + Crate Paper. So much love for her lines, they are perfect for so much in my crafty life.

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6. As great as ‘feelings’ pages can be…. I want the specific details of the right now. I want pages about first time at sleep-away camp. That time we ate at — restaurant and it was amazing. I want the good, bad, funny, and awful of that exact moment in time in the books. These are the pages we most enjoy and look at again more than all others.

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2014 has a LOT missing from the second half. I took October – December last year totally off from scrapbooking (taking a few months when feeling burned out is very normal for me from a type of craft. Got to mix it up!) so I have a lot of space still to tell stories, and a lot of stories to tell. My favorite thing about the 2014 book so far? It has to be that every page in there is special. There is no “oh yeah I made that because I needed….” or “ah yeah, hate that one” at all. 100% special stories and pages I love. I like that I’m now creating not as many layouts in recent years vs say 4-5 years ago, and that the quality level is visibly better for it.

I believe I’ll do this in order and keep stepping back in time, with 2013 being my next review… So much to be learned from looking back at my past books – I hope you enjoy this journey with me.

Tending the garden…

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I had a great conversation a while back I want to try and share with you. I explained that the way I see it, I can’t be jealous of the lady down the road who has an amazing garden. She commits hours every day to weeding, planting, and care taking her yard. Me? Eh. Once a month or so I chop what needs chopping yank any high weeds and call it good. My yard is low maintenance and I don’t tend it often. I can’t expect my yard to look as amazing as someone who is putting in the time each and every day. I don’t get to be jealous of her that is silly – I don’t put in the hours as she does.

This relates to my creativity totally and completely. If I want to learn more watercolor techniques I pull out a colorful image and I play with color, with blending, with how things react.  Every day small or big I can pull something out and try something and learn. This goes for ALL kinds of creative things! This is how I discover new techniques 99% of the time. By playing and giving myself space to learn, improve, discover.

So the next time you feel some jealousy bubbling up consider the hard work and daily effort that person might be making to get to there. If it is someone who can run many miles – how long did that take them? Somebody getting the jobs you wish you had? What prep and work did they do? Somebody amazing at drawing- how many hours and days and years have they worked at that? From experience I can tell you every time I can point to myself and see something I would like to work on or be better at. So it’s up to me- sometimes I’m ok with the simple/low maintenance yard I spend an hour a month on. Other times I decide something is well worth my time and energy and work at it. Make it a priority.

Just yesterday I thought of how it’s been over a week since I played in my art journal. “Time to tend the garden…” I told myself and stamped + watercolored the image you see above. Each time I make the choice to hone a craft or improve a skill I know it is worthwhile. Not just for the creative fun – but because those little sessions and details, that daily creative play, it adds up.

This journal page will include a list of things I feel I’m doing well, and 2 things I’d like to spend more time on. Only two because let’s face it – we can’t be good at and spend time on all the things! At least, not all at once.