Sometime during the middle of spring, I decided to go back to a paper-based planner. I’ve always been slightly in love with planners, agendas and organizers — part of my ongoing stationery fetish, I guess. I had the most intense relationship with the free weekly agenda they gave out to undergraduates at Duke, where I went to school — it was just a simple little notebook, divided up into weeks, with a blue leather-y cover embossed with Duke’s official seal. I used it all the freaking time, and covered every bit of free space with lists, brainstorming, doodling, and random information. Early on, I realized I liked a weekly view of time from this planner, and I haven’t really wavered from that format since.
After graduation, a generous friend gave me a fancy-schmancy Louis Vuitton pocket agenda — it was made of yellow Alma leather with a purple leather interior — and I used that pretty regularly for a few years, until they stopped making the paper for it. (Insert sad trombone noise here.) Plus, it was tiny, and at some point, I think my life was just getting way too complicated for it to fit into the pocket format. After I gave the LV planner away, I tried experimenting with larger planners and different systems, but nothing really took. A planner is a deeply personal thing, especially if you’re a creative person, I think, and I didn’t quite find my planner soulmate for some time.
Without a true paper home, I experimented with various apps, devices and other electronic gizmo-magic in the past few years. For awhile I used the calendar on my BlackBerry to keep track of appointments, as well as a series of notecards for to-do lists and project planning, but I didn’t like how my time and planning was split. Then I went all-electronic once I got an iPhone and tried out various apps — there are sooooooo many of them, but I ended up settling on WorkFlowy, which I liked a lot for its simplicity. It’s a list-maker’s dream, and it’s an incredibly well-designed app. And I did use it a lot for both personal and work — which it worked brilliantly for — but I was just missing something. Something fun. Just that extra little something that would kick up my inspiration just a bit. I missed doodling. I missed making little star- and heart-shaped bullets next to my lists. So I decided to go back to paper, only I would have to do it my way. DIY planner, I suppose.
So I ended up finding a nice-sized — not too big, not too small — blank book filled with grid paper. (There’s just something both structured and freeing about grids, you know? I could write a whole freaking ode to grid paper!) I basically made the sections myself — I divided it up into weeks, separately by a monthly view:
And because I like a lot of doodling space, I put the 7 days on one side of a spread and left the other side blank.
I tend to use the week-view side to schedule and make simple to-do lists, and the right-hand side to dream, brainstorm and plan more extensively. I think of the left-hand side as nitty-gritty, and the right-hand side as “bigger picture.” I like this set-up better than having a bunch of blank pages at the end, though I have a few of those as well.
And most importantly, I try to make time management kind of fun, with lots of silly stickers and colored inks and the like. I like to paste things into the book and will make little collages, and I like doodling, too. Mostly, though, I just let my inner five-year-old run rampant. I get some funny looks when I work on my planning in a cafe or something — because it really does look like a bunch of fancy type-A kindergartners attacked the notebook. But overall, planning my life and time feels way more creative and inspiring and playful — and less burdensome and annoying.
I think it’s making a nice difference in my life: I’m certainly still getting a lot done, but it’s not accompanied as much by that pressure-cooker feeling. There’s just something about the physicality of paper and pen (and glitter stickers and hot pink ink!) that lights me up inside in a way that no app or regular old planning system has ever given me. And instead of feeling like all the parts of my life don’t quite relate or fit together, I can see and feel the connections between them all much more clearly and viscerally.
I like the feeling of opening up my planner and feeling inspired and even frolicsome each and every time I flip a page. And it’s a pleasure to fill it out — instead of feeling that weird pressure to fill up all that space with busyness, I like to fill it with things worthy of creativity, play and inspiration. (And Hello Kitty stickers!) I love my planner now: it’s part book of shadows, part dream board, part partner in world-domination, part playbook.
Anyway, that’s my planner! What do you guys use for your planner/agenda/organization tool or system? I find these kind of things so intensely personal yet fun to share! Let me know in the comments below, or feel free to blog about it elsewhere and leave a link here!