At the beginning of the year I bought a new planner and was so excited to start using it, but around the middle of the year, it had lost its luster for me. It wasn’t working….for me. Now, this has happened in the past, I have tried all sorts of planners and types of planning systems and I’m all gung-ho for a while then it peters out. Usually, this happens after the newness wears off, but also because I realize that the brand new shiny planner won’t actually do my work for me – it’s just a device to keep track of my things. My tasks, my goals, my daily to-do lists, etc. It’s a device, not a robot that’s going to write my blog posts, my novels, my short stories, do my day job work for me. It’s not going to grow legs and clean my bathroom or do the laundry. That would be awesome though, but it’s not going to do that so I get in planner funks when I realize that I’m still me – just with a new planner.
So, this time I actually realized that and instead of just jumping into a brand new shiny planner without thinking, I stopped and researched and did some reading and came to the conclusion that a new planner wouldn’t necessarily help me, but that I had chosen my current planner without doing some thinking about what I actually needed a planner to do. I read an article called Being in a Planning Quagmire (which, btw – awesome word!) and this basically gave me some insights into why I was having problems with my current planner and why I had such issues in the past.
The questions at the beginning of that article helped me realize that I wanted a bullet journal type planner but I hated having to write out the monthly calendars vertically like the original bullet journal concept and I didn’t want to draw the calendar grid every month like I had seen on Pinterest. I knew a larger planner wouldn’t be a big deal because I rarely carry it out of the house. I also knew I wanted good paper and bright colors. Then this question hit me: Are you in a Planner Quagmire because what you REALLY want is too expensive or otherwise out of your reach, and nothing else will do it for you?
This was the mother lode question because I had been pinning for an Erin Condren Life Planner for years but they were pricey so I kept finding other things, other workarounds. I wanted the bright, colorful, sticker-filled fun that was the Erin Condren life planner, but on the other hand, I really wanted a more simplified Bullet Journal style. So I started googling and low and behold – Erin Condren had released a new version of their Deluxe Monthly Planner style that was monthly calendars in the front (mine runs August to July because it’s an Academic style – works for me as my son is in school and I like starting a new year in September when school starts) and then a boatload of lined pages in the back.
In between the monthly spreads are planning pages for each month too. All of a sudden I had these ideas running through my head of exactly what I could do with each section. This was the bullet journal I was looking for. Monthly grids all laid out and colorful, planning sections for monthly tasks lists and goals, and blank pages for my daily to-do’s and lists. I added a smaller dot grid journal for collections (plans, larger lists, year goal matrix, ideas, etc. And so forth) and my system was complete. Side note: If you’re in the market for a new planner, click HERE for my referral code and save a little bit.
The beauty – once I made the decision and signed up for an account, I got a discount code right away and then because I had linked from a planner girl YouTube friend of mine I got another discount code and then…I discovered the planner was on sale! It was like the Universe said, okay – you’ve done the work, you made your decision – here’s a gift. It took awhile to get to me, but it was so worth it. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I’ll be honest – I still catch myself getting upset that my planner is not doing my work for me, but not as much as I did. HA
Let’s dive in shall we? Get ready, because I’m about to hit you with a ton of pictures!
This is my monthly spread.
I use color-coded stickers to mark events and birthdays. I use washi tape to mark vacations. I keep my monthly spread simple. I realized that the stickers that come with the planner are going to run out, but luckily Erin Condren’s website sells them separately so I’ll be doing that soon. I like being able to get a large overview of the month before drilling down to weekly and daily tasks.
This is the page before the monthly spread.
I use this blank dot grid as my Monthly Task List. I will add to this throughout the month as things come up that I know need to get done that month but aren’t time or day specific. For example, my son’s Halloween costume. We needed that by the middle of October but otherwise…it was a pretty open task so it got added to the large monthly task list. I’ve also checked this off as my son chose a very cute, Jack O’ Lantern costume for this year (he’s 6!).
After the monthly spread is the planning pages.
The first page has five sections. I have divided my life up into sections: Writing, Family, Health and Wellness, Apartment, and Misc. and I write a few goals for each section or tasks that I want to complete that month in each part. I like this fine, but I am also thinking about using these boxes for each week and writing my Top Goals for the week here. I might try that one month and see which I like better.
The next blank page has my social media stats so I can see growth (or lack thereof) and I’ve given myself note space to write down goals, things I need to work on, or things I want to touch on during the month. The little side column is where I write down my tasks for the Rising Heroes health and wellness online game that I am a part of (and talked about HERE). For now – I really like this page and don’t see much changing.
In the back of the notebook is lots and lots of lined blank pages.
This is where I (currently) write my Weekly Top 5 tasks (Blog posts, Novel, Short Story, Apartment projects, School stuff, etc.) and then start my daily bullet journal style to-do list with boxes, triangles, and arrows to mark various tasks, appointments, and notes. I like to use stickers to add some extra color and flair but those things change weekly. I am Team Blue when it comes to pen colors but I can also see myself using color-coding at some point, but that involves always making sure you have the pens with you…and right now, I’m keeping it simple.
This is my collection book. It’s matchy-matchy, but not exact and has dot grid paper inside. You can see from my Index page what kinds of things I keep in here, but I’m also hoping to add a page for Fiction Books to read, Non-Fiction books to read, online course tracking (I’m currently in one about Self-Publishing but am getting confused as to which modules I’ve watched or ones I need to re-watch), and I’m thinking of adding a Monthly Habit tracker to this as well- but I also have an app on my phone I like so we’ll see.
So…what do you think? Are you in a planner funk (or quagmire?) – are you strictly an app/phone/digital person or do you like paper and pen and stickers and washi? What do you track in your planner? What ideas do you have for me on how I can utilize my system better? I have another post planned where I’ll be talking about my favorite writing tools and I will be talking about the apps and software programs I use, but my planner will also be listed so if you want to know more about anything I’m using or want an update – let me know.