I Love My Paper Planner So Much, It’s Ridiculous

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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:

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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.

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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!

2 thoughts on “I Love My Paper Planner So Much, It’s Ridiculous

  1. I am currently using a paper planner I found at Target. I have a set of criteria for planners, but it seems it’s impossible to meet them all, so I just try to get the one that comes the closest. (I did have the perfect one, once, which I found in a stationery store in Tokyo…how I miss Japanese stationery stores.) This one doesn’t give me enough space per day, and it is a little boringly designed, but it does have my favorite thing: miscellaneous information in the back! Like the names of the state capitals! And a map of Europe! And conversion tables for metric to American systems of measure! I love that stuff.

    I am very bad at using it for actually planning, especially since it doesn’t give me room for making to-do lists, really. Anyway I have little to plan for except “go to work” and “day off”, at least right now. What I end up using it for is a tiny doodle-diary; at lunch, if I don’t have the space for the day filled, I doodle, which on looking back through it shows exactly how I felt each day, stressed or silly or tired or what. So mine also does not look like a grown-up’s planner.

    But I don’t use stickers. Not that I don’t like them, on the contrary, I love stickers. I love them too much, in fact, to ever, ever use them. I have bought so many stickers in my life that I could never bear to stick to anything. I don’t know what that’s about.

    Anyway. I agree. These things are fascinating; and paper is best.

    1. Japanese stationery is the best, for sure!

      I like the idea of a doodle-diary in the planner format! If I had drawing talent, perhaps I’d do that, too…but I don’t. I realized I do need the space in my planner to make lists…there’s a definite impact on my creativity when my list-making feels spread out over too many notebooks, so it’s nice to have them in one place.

      That’s so funny about stickers! I was like that as a kid, but now I use them! I was that way for a long time about nice clothes, and then I realized how wasteful it seemed to have these nice dresses in my closet and never wear them. They were just taking up space otherwise. Clothes are meant to be worn! Stickers are meant to be stuck on things! So now I wear my clothes and use my stickers.

      xo

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