I absolutely love planners, stickers, and journals/notebooks. Always have and always will.
To me, writing is innate. I’m forever jotting down my wishes, hopes, and dreams, and things I see and thoughts I have and tasks I need to complete.
This is especially true for tasks I have to complete because, at times, I can become easily distracted. If I don’t write it down, there it goes, flying away just like that pretty little butterfly flying past me…wow, look at the bright colors in her wings! Lemon yellow and black with a hint of bright sky blue towards the bottom of her wings. I think it’s an eastern black swallowtail. Where is she going? How old is she? I wish I could flutter along in the air like she does….
Get the idea?
I have to write things down or I’m left with a vapid mind and a “What was I doing again? What do I have to do today? Where am I?” type of confusion.
I definitely remember better when I write something down. For instance, “Glasses on Route 70” is written on my list of “one-liners” from 2019. I read it today and can immediately picture that late spring morning drive into work when I was stopped at a red traffic signal with the day’s sunrise shining in my side-view mirror. Through the sun’s rays streaming off the mirror, I noticed to my left a pair of mangled eye glasses next to the innermost concrete barrier in the highway’s median. I immediately wondered whose they were and how they got there…what a story starter! That’s what my list of”one-liners” is, a list of random things I’ve seen that could start a story. I can take you right now to the exact spot where I saw those eye glasses simply because I wrote down “Glasses on Route 70.”
Last summer, I unearthed my treasure trove of planners and journals of old in my attic Those archaic thoughts and plans provided a portal to my past lives. I’ll be honest that revisiting those calendars and writings reopened some old wounds with a bout of the “coulda shoulda wouldas,” but isn’t hindsight 2020 (pun intended)? I’m extremely grateful that the only remaining visions from those crazy nights and past disheartening anguish-filled moments exist in pen and paper only and are available only to me, rather than by digital posts on social media that could be viewed and shamed by anyone in the world.
The advent of 2020 has led me to admit I have become a full-fledged planner addict. I have four active planners for the year, each serving a different purpose. I look forward in anticipation to the two hours every Sunday I set aside to plan for my week ahead by prepping my planners, replete with stickers, and stickers, and even more stickers!
Planner 1 is an Erin Condren Life Planner with daily hourly format which contains my agenda/schedule/task/”to do” list. This is the one I carry with me everywhere I go. I’ll list my work schedule and daily focus, then appointments and meetings I might have along with items I need to complete in a checklist format (pay bills, take attendance, mow the lawn, etc.). I’ll also slap a blank post-it on the page to jot things down that I want to remember (like the Glasses on Route 70). This year, I am purposely scheduling time blocks during each day/week for progress towards my monthly and yearly goals. For instance, I have a two-hour block each day for “writing and research,” and on Sundays when I’m prepping, I indicate what project I will focus on during each day’s writing block. I will fill most of January’s daily writing blocks with work towards my magazine assignments, but I’ll mix it up with “New Novel Work” or “Surf Book Research” on off-days. I’ll also schedule time to walk, meditate, query, read, beach sessions, household tasks, and laugh. Once I have scheduled my week in my planner, I’ll set up schedule alerts in my phone as another way to keep me accountable and on task. Dedicating time for my goals, my responsibilities, and my writing has helped me to stay focused without becoming distracted by the temptation of social media or butterfly fly-bys.
Planner 2 is my daily diary from The Happy Planner (8.5 by 11 format, vertical daily layout, health and wellness theme), which is where I compose a diary-type entry each night. Most of the time I write things I want to remember or highlights of my day in incomplete sentences, like my niece’s laughter or the color of the sunset. If I’m too tired at night to write, I make sure I do it first thing the next morning. I also keep a running list of places I went, places I ate, and one-liners I recopy from Planner 1 in my daily diary. Sometimes I’ll tape in pictures I took or things I picked up throughout my day.
Planner 3 is new this year, a 7 by 9″ planner from The Happy Planner (classic format, horizontal format for each day, beautiful Coastal Good Vibes theme). Inside its pages, I mapped out my daily/monthly/yearly goals for 2020 with its purpose to keep me more accountable for making progress towards what I hope to accomplish this year. Each goal is color coded, and I use the daily day blocks to log what I accomplished each day. I also complete a “skeleton schedule” for the upcoming week which I transfer into Planner 1’s schedule after I see my open time slots for each day. This planner has helped me to focus on all of my goals (the “big picture”) while breaking each down in manageable chunks of progress for the week. Both Planner 1 and Planner 2 have a monthly goals section, and Planner 3 helps me to refine what I declare on those pages as my monthly goals.
Planner 4 is the Irish Get Up & Go Diary 2020. I stumbled upon this beautiful little diary on my 2016 Dublin trip in Eason (my favorite store ever) and I’ve bought it online every year since. With colorful spreads and the right amount of encouraging quotes and motivating sentiments, I use it for my daily gratitude reflections as the space available for each day is the perfect size.
Stickers and planners go hand in hand, and I just love sprucing up my week with color and positivity. I have a large sticker tote, and I’m not exaggerating when I say there must be over a million stickers in that tote. I’m a huge fan of The Happy Planner’s sticker assortments and selections because they offer more variety and a better quality product for the price versus competitors. On Sundays, when I’m planning for the week ahead, I am surrounded by stickers that will help motivate, inspire, and add a little bit of seasonal charm and colorful fun to my days.
In addition to Planner 1, I also carry a plain journal/notebook with me wherever I go to free-write, plot out ideas, and dump my brain. I use this notebook for daily “morning pages” in Julia Cameron style, but I usually write only a page or so. When I complete my daily diary entry into Planner 2 each night, I also review my notebook to see what I need to transfer to my planners (i.e. list of things I have to buy, ideas for a character in my next novel, etc). Planners 2, 3, and 4 stay at home unless I am traveling, then all of them will be in my carry-on.
To some, it might seem like all of this is a waste of time.
I beg to differ.
My system helps immensely with NOT wasting time by keeping me on task while keeping the distractions at bay.
Besides being easily distracted, sometimes my Lupus will cause what’s known as “brain fog.” There’s nothing worse for a writer than sitting at a keyboard or with a pen/paper and having NO thoughts coming, especially when there’s a deadline looming, then in frustration, wasting time scrolling on social media. Even in a fog, or when a beautiful butterfly flies past me, my planners help me focus on the big picture and redirect me to making headway, no matter how small, towards one of my goals.
Planning is progress, and for me, time well spent as 2020 is the year I will become the person and the writer I’m meant to be.
Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.
“2020: Planning for Progress” was posted on jillocone.com and on soulseaker.com on January 5, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.