A “Day Planner” that Actually Works

Before the New Year began, I bought a new calendar to hang on the wall in our kitchen and then hunted for a smaller planner to keep in my purse.  The wall calendar holds information regarding everyone in the family: school activities, appointments, and schedules go on the kitchen calendar.  The planner is supposed to be about me, it’s supposed to be a private place where I can plot out my goals and projects for the week.

Wall calendars are easy to find, but a store-bought day planner that actually works for me and my life…yeah, I’ve never had much luck.  I found ones that sort-of have what I’m looking for, but never ones that are flexible enough.  They’re all too rigid and too complicated.  There isn’t enough room in some areas and too much room in others.  I’ve purchased expensive day planners.  I’ve bought planners for moms, and writers, and cheap planners at the dollar store.  It doesn’t seem to matter how much or little I pay for the beasties.  I use the planner for a week, then abandon the thing as useless clutter.  Maybe my expectations are too high, but there doesn’t seem to be a magic wand fix in the world of day planners.

However, I do know of a planner that DOES work for me, one that is tried and true.  It’s the thing I go back to after all the other planners fail:

A Spiral Notebook

Yup!  That’s what I use.  It’s not complicated.  If you stock up on them at the end of summer, during the Back To School sales, you can usually find the 70-page variety for as little as 10 notebooks for a dollar.

I’m a list maker.  I like making lists.  I like crossing things off of my lists.  Lists work for me.  Consistently.   Whenever I find myself getting off track, it’s usually because I’ve stopped making lists.  It’s like trying to go to the grocery store without a shopping list.  Sure it can be done, but I find that I spend WAY more money, and still don’t come home with everything I need.  I write shopping lists on 3″x5″ notecards because they’re cheap and easy.  The paper is sturdy.  There’s not a lot of room on a 3″x5″ card, so the list doesn’t get out of hand.  The notecards fit on the fridge without taking up a lot of space.  They easily fit in a pocket when you’re at the store.  Bonus, notecards come in huge packs, hundreds of cards for a dollar.

When I write out my version of a day planner list, I usually write it out in the evening, as I’m winding down before bed.  I try not to get too far ahead of myself.  If I have a project that I want to get done by Wednesday, but today’s date is Saturday, I don’t skip ahead to Wednesday’s page.  No.  I focus on today’s page and maybe the next day’s page, the remainder of my notebook is full pages from the past and empty pages for the future.  I keep my to-do list short and manageable, bullet points really.

So what happens to my Wednesday deadline when it’s Saturday?  It gets written down as a reminder on Saturday’s page, and Sunday’s page, and Monday’s page, and on and on until I get to my project’s due date.  I am a procrastinator at heart.  Actively writing out the same reminder each day solidifies the goal in my mind.  It’s not some theoretical goal.  It’s a conscious one.  It’s active. Continuous.  The more times I write the goal down, the greater the probability is that this specific task will be completed.

What happens when I get off track and stop using my version of a day planner?  Nothing.  Yes, I probably don’t get as much accomplished, but also…I still have the notebook sitting there with its blank future pages.  Unlike a traditional day planner, a notebook doesn’t mock you with holes and timeslots when they’re not filled in.  Did you abandon your notebook for a day? Start again on the next empty page.  Abandon it for longer?  Same thing.  Start where you are, wherever you are, and go from there.

If you find that you can’t complete your tasks, you’re making your list too long.  Adjust your list the following day and move on.  Move forward.

This year, I decided to treat myself to a nicer notebook than my usual 70-page variety.  I’ve had this notebook for awhile, but I was saving it for…I don’t know what.  Something special?  Well, I’m special and I wanted a nicer looking planner, something more professional in appearance.  Something pretty.


So far, I like it a lot.  When I’ve filled up the pages, I might get another pretty journal…or go back to the 70-page variety.  We’ll see how I feel when the time comes.  Neither size fits in my purse, but a smaller notebook would get used up quicker.  This red journal has just enough room to write down my to-dos and reminders, plus room at the bottom for a line or two of Closing Thoughts.  What worked today?  What isn’t working?  What would I like to try doing?  Not a journal entry, just a sentence or two.  Although…with this method, you could journal along as well, as the need/whim strikes you.  After all, the pages are there to use and the structure of this type of planner can change and grow with you.

via Daily Prompt: Specific

“Little Juli” Has Her Own Wisdom to Share…

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching, especially towards the end of this past year.  I am NOT the same person I was in my thirties, or in my twenties, or in my teens.  I have bean gleaning wisdom from the little child I once was, the little girl who liked to play with dolls, who dreamed of doing amazing things one day, who imagined that ANYTHING was possible.  That little girl believed that everything you could ever want to learn about could be found in a book.  You didn’t have to imagine things from scratch.  You could build on the information that was already there!

Back in the day, Little Juli thought the library was the most important and magical place on the planet.  (Still do.)  Sooooo many books.  Soooooo many subjects.  It was all there, the WHOLE WORLD!  All I had to do, is get on my bicycle, do a lot of peddling, and this world was mine for the borrowing.  For a young girl who hadn’t had much experience with travel or adventures, my small town library was a sanctuary.  It was my safe place.  The adults in that place treated me with respect.  If I saw another kid in there, they didn’t look down on my for being a nerd-girl.  I was reading books in the adult sections of the library: Mysteries, Science Fiction, and Fantasy.  Sure, I still read books by authors like Beverly Cleary.  But unlike the other little girls my age, I read MORE than just the Ramona Quimby books.  I read everything my library had available by this author.  I read “Fifteen” and “Sister of the Bride.”  I read one of her memoirs.  (Although now, I can’t remember which one.)

When you haven’t had enough life experience, anything and everything seem possible.

And then…adulthood sets in.  I wanted my first car.  I barely made it out of highschool and it’s time for college.  There’s dating.  Marriage.  Career.  House. Pets.  Family.  (Not necessarily in that particular order, but all important stuff.)

I’m not saying I have regrets.  I LOVE my life.  I LOVE my hubby and kiddo.  They are AMAZING.  I just wish that I’d stopped more along the journey, that I’d paid more attention.  The last 20-30 years slipped by like a blur.  I was so busy and yet…I don’t feel like I have enough to show for it.  Most of my “busy” had been wasted on unimportant things:  work, cleaning, and the day to day drudgeries we all experience.  I don’t think I consciously took enough time building memories with my family.  I was floating through life.  The best parts of my childhood were mostly forgotten.

So here I am, in my middle-years thinking, Is it too late to take up new skills?  Am I too old to try new things?  If not now, then when???  Little Juli was hopeful, yet afraid.  I am no longer that child.  Mature Juli is confident, yet pessimistic.  Mature Juli has resources available to her of the variety Little Juli could only fantasize about.  The Internet?!  That’s like something straight out of Science Fiction!!!

I think if I could just tap into Little Juli’s spirit and combine that with Mature Juli’s wisdom and experience…the next few years could be really, REALLY interesting.  And FUN!!!

via Daily Prompt: Float

Happy Birthday, Kiddo!

It seems so impossible to think that my hubby and I are parents.  Parents of a teenager! Wow!!!  It’s been a wild and amazing journey.  Kiddo was born in the middle of a snow storm.  When the snow began to fall today, and our faces felt like they might freeze and fall off, it brought me right back to that day, to that place, to that brief moment in time.

We celebrated kiddo’s birthday week with an outing on Tuesday—laser tag and go carts. Kiddo and I went shopping for bigger school shoes on Wednesday and rewarded ourselves with Chinese buffet afterward.  And today, we went to a matinee showing of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” (Great movie!!!)

I had thought I’d get more done today.  Unimportant stuff.  There’s a selfish part of me that was tempted to make excuses, to mix up my priorities.  A part of me didn’t want to go out in the cold.  A part of me was tempted to stay home.  A part of me whined, we can have just as much fun staying home, staying inside, being hermits.  We can do something else today.  Kiddo will understand.  I am SO glad that I refused to listen to that selfish inner voice.  We had a great time together.  We made the most of the winter break from school.  When we got home, I made us dinner and homemade birthday cake.  Best of all, Kiddo said he had a great day.  (And I had a great day, too!)


via Daily Prompt: Tempted