I tend to feel scattered very easily. Mostly because time in my head is never a linear thing. Rather, I jump back and forth mentally between now and some far-off projected date, multiple alternate what-if scenarios of desired and undesired outcomes, and a loop of slow motion replays of the best and the worst of my recent past.
In an attempt to remain grounded, I use journals and planners to track dates and goals. It prevents me from daydreaming too much and keeps me making active strides towards getting things done. Because even if time is an abstract illusion and a social construct, it's pleasing to have a visual layout to return to.
So, for now I'm just taking things a day at a time, mapping out my ideas, goals and expectations in weekly increments.
At the beginning of November, I ordered a new planner from Plum Paper, which is probably my favorite & most recommended company. I discovered them back in September 2015 following a positive review from a Tumblr blogger I subscribe to.
After taking a peek at their site, which back then ran through Etsy, I found Plum Paper offered tons of cool features: multiple interior layouts to choose from, planner extensions, cute cover designs you could add your name to, and the choice to start your planner at whatever month you want!
I'm pretty familiar with the other big planner companies like Erin Condren, Lily Pulitzer, Ban.do, or The Happy Planner, as well as the alternative of bullet journaling. I even got sucked into the abyss of Youtube planner reviews and "tours". I scoured all the ultra adorable washi tape and sticker options on AliExpress. I browsed the pinterest 'planner addict' tags. I did a lot of heavy "research" before I emerged, committed to the planner that was best for me. In the end, it was Plum Paper won my heart.
They offer a lot of key features that I prioritize! Such as:
- blank, lined vertical daily columns not pre-segmented by hour or time of day
- ample 'notes' pages and checklist sections (I love lists!!)
- Large, boxed calendar page spreads so I can annotate important dates with stickers and color coded pens.
- Monthly tabs (the colors are a plus!)
Pictured left is the planner I chose. The cover is a watercolor brush stroke design featuring my name & at the bottom, the name of my site. I'm embarrassed to say I spent about a half hour trying to find the right color & font. Previously customization options were limited to simply adding a monogram or photo to a limited array of designs. The choice to pick a font type, a background shape and color, and a banner at the bottom were a welcome surprise on the date I placed my order.
I use this planner specifically to organize writing goals: namely, blog schedules, event planning, reminders to send out emails and maintain word count goals.
On the calendar spreads, I use stickers (that I bought from the dollar section at Target!) to label benchmark dates: when I want to send out my next email blast, proposed dates for workshops I'm hosting, and my days off from my retail job so I can give myself realistic deadlines for when to write new content for my blog!
I also use the stickers to mark a completed errand. This is what a week looks like. There's a checklist on the side that you can fill with whatever you want, a 'notes' box, and a daily checklist box as well. I list out the day's tasks and use line breaks and alternating colors to differentiate between which items are for what project.
Sometimes, I use my planner reflexively, as in, sometimes I forget to or don't bother to write down an errand ahead of time especially if it's urgent and already on my mind to do. When that happens, I just jot it down at the end of the day so I can keep track of when it was taken care of. I find this is equally effective.
At the end of the month, or at the end of each week, ideally, I do self-reflective assessments. I take inventory on the ratio of completed errands and try to draft a plan for what didn't get done and why not. For example, at the end of October, I concluded that I had assigned myself an impractical writing schedule that conflicted with my working hours (which usually zapped my energy). That's how I introduced the practice of highlighting my "days off" so that I could have a visual map of my free time and revolve my writing time around that!
It helps me a lot to do things that way, to be honest about why I'm slacking off. Sometimes during my reflections, I realize that one of the items I've been "reminding" myself to do...isn't really a priority or it's not developed enough for me to follow through on, so it gets benched.
The point of planning isn't to overload yourself with things and try to cram so much into a day that you're overwhelmed. in my opinion, sometimes it's best to just...allow yourself room to see what's feasible and what's not and maximize your time that way.