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.

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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

Crossing Over

My Christmas decorations are DOWN.  I feel like an adult.  Old decorations are down, other knick-knacks go up tomorrow, and it’s only the fourth of January.  Woo hoo!

I’ve been trying to switch out my knick-knacks once a month.  At this point in my life, I’ve collected a LOT of cute and interesting things, but a friend of mine taught me the importance of only keeping some of them out at any given time.  It works out well: less decorations to dust, easier to maintain, and I enjoy my decorations more because they always seem fresh and new even when they’re not.

So tomorrow, my home is crossing over from Christmas into winter decor, with heavy emphasis on kiddo related objects.  (January is the kiddo’s birthday month.  YAY!)  I actually look forward to these changes.  Sure, it’s kind of a pain to tuck the old stuff away, but I love seeing my packed away treasures on my shelves again.  🙂

via Daily Prompt: Crossing

Getting Started

I’ve been making excuses for NOT writing a new blog post, for staying away, for allowing my perfectionism to get a foothold in my life.  AGAIN.  I don’t care what project you’re struggling with, most of the time, 99% of the problem is getting started.  Once you get started, things usually have a way of working themselves out, but getting started…AKKKK!!!!!!!!

I think we’re all capable of AMAZING things if we just get started.

Want to write a novel?

Start with one sentence, and keep adding more.

Need to organize a room?

Pick a starting point and work your way around the perimeter.

Break it down into manageable steps.  Don’t try to do EVERYTHING because you can’t.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  BABY STEPS!

Easier said than done, right?  That’s the problem.  Deep down, we all KNOW what we need to do.  But it easier to make excuses than to take care of ourselves.  And for some screwed up reason, we like to beat ourselves up for being human, which leads to MORE procrastination, and less doing.  Oh!  And if we can’t do it the right way, we don’t want to do it at all.  Why bother writing if you’ll never be published?  Why bother getting started when that snarky voice in the back of your head is telling you, “You’re going to fail!  You fail at everything.  You never finish your projects.”

I know this voice!  I know it far too well.  What it doesn’t tell you is that it’s OK to fail.  It’s OK to give up the small battles if it means taking control of your life again.

Those unfinished craft projects?  It’s OK to donate the components, or even to throw them away.  Just because you started a project 10 years ago, doesn’t mean you’re shackled to it!  If it’s no longer resonating with you, if it’s not bringing you joy, if you’ve moved on to a different place in your life, it’s OK to start something new.  Those tangled knitting projects, random quilt blocks, and unfinished scrapbooks are THINGS, not people.  You’re not abandoning them, you’re moving forward.  And that’s OK.  Just because you were into porcelain unicorns when you were 8, doesn’t mean you have to hold onto them when you’re 80.  Oh!  And the opposite is true as well.  Just because you’re a grownup, doesn’t mean you have to give up all your toys.  You want to collect replica toy cars?  Go ahead!  That’s OK.

The point is, we’re all works in progress.  We’re never the final draft of ourselves.  We change, we grow, and periodically…we have to prune away the stuff that’s not working for us.

As I write this post, a work crew is fixing the potholes in our neighborhood.  At some point, a neighbor tried to fill the hole with bricks.  A+ for creativity, but not really effective.

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I’d like to fault this person, but all of us have done this, metaphorically speaking.  We fill the holes in our lives with “stuff.”  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  And if it’s not working out the way we hoped it would, it’s not a fail.  It’s OK to try something new and to change it if things don’t work out.