Happy new year! I hope these first days of 2017 have been good to you. I'm slowly but surely getting back into the swing of things. Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite subjects of all time: planning! Yes, I know this topic has made many an eye glaze over, but I love this stuff! I always appreciate when bloggers walk through their planners, talk about what they're using, how they apply it to their lives, and why it works for them. So, I thought I'd do the same.
If it hasn't been made clear yet (partly because this site is relatively new and partly because I haven't really talked about it), one of the core missions behind Herban Native is to foster the ideas, processes, and tools needed to design a life more nourishing than depleting. What does that mean? It means that if we don't find ways to consciously nourish our bodies, souls, and spirits (through lifestyle choices guided by our values) we'll end up giving more than we get. Which, of course, can translate to sickness, disease, clinical depression or even that general crummy feeling that seems to take up residence deep in our hearts. The smallest decision to secure peace in our lives can make a tremendous difference.
THAT is why things, like making planners, cooking a well-made meal, or finding the courage to embark on that DIY project you've always wanted to try, is such a big deal. These things provide us with a creative outlet that's good for the soul but also an end product that facilitates a good life. It's a win-win situation that offers cumulative rewards. It's all pretty cool when you think about it.
OK, so now that you know where I'm coming from, let's talk planners!
This year, I decided to go with an A5 ring binder that I made by hand. I have used other binders in the past (like Kikki K), but my main concern was cutting down on as much bulk as possible so that it would be easy to carry. I take my planner everywhere, so having something durable, yet light, was high on my list of "must-haves". I also wanted the freedom to add pages to a ring binder instead of being committed to a spiral-bound planner. I ended up cutting down two pieces of book board (with a cork-backed ruler and extra sharp box cutter) and binding then together with a piece of scrap quilter's fabric and adhesive. Classic bookbinding technique mandates the use of bookbinding cloth, but I have way too much quilter's cotton in my stash not to use it when I can. It worked out fine. The final dimensions were 7.25 x 9" with a 1.25" spine. I chose Rifle Paper Company's tapestry fabric for the cover and inner lining, and the 1" 6-ring binder mechanism was removed (with needle-nose pliers) from an old binder that I wasn't using. I punched two holes and secured the mechanism with two chicago screws.
I use the inside cover for holding bits and pieces I pick up here and there as well as any reminders. For example, I clipped my eyeglass and contact prescription to the cover as a reminder to order new glasses. I tend not to forget things when they're visible every time I flip open the binder.
I also use a regular zip pouch to keep adhesive notes and a spare thank you card just in case I feel impressed to write a quick note in return for a kind deed. It's so much more convenient to have a card ready when you need it instead of constantly forgetting to pick up one at the store.
Next, I have a small collage of inspirational images that serve as a form of "artistic direction". There are so many new personal and professional things I want to try this year, and since I'm such a visual person, I've found that having images in front of me to express those goals really help me stay on track. I tried this back in 2015, and within three months, everything represented in my images was accomplished! While I hardly think I can beat that time frame, I'm looking forward to the extra motivation it provides. The images are 2x2" squares tucked into a trimmed-down sheet protector.
The rest of my planner is broken down into five sections:
- monthly calendar
- weekly calendar
- meal planner + shopping list
- budget + expense planner
- sketches + notes
Each section is partitioned by tab index dividers that were cut down to the A5 size. I like to keep my monthly and weekly inserts separate because I use them in two completely different ways. My monthly inserts (that were printed and cut from pre-designed A5 digital inserts) are used for big dates likes birthdays, deadlines, bills and events. My weekly inserts (printed and cut from the same pre-designed insert pack) are used for daily to-dos, appointments, assignments, class times, and errands.
Here's a look at how I use the weekly spread. I'm using last year's schedule, because I figured it's probably not the wisest thing to plaster my exact whereabouts over the Internet. Not that anyone really cares, but I'll play it safe anyway. ;)
When planning, almost everything in my life can be broken down by either time or task. For example, individual classes and appointments happen on specific days and at specific times. However, things, like returning library books or writing blog posts, are more task-oriented. It doesn't matter when I do them, as long as I get them done by the "deadline". For that reason, I need a weekly layout flexible enough to handle both types of commitments on any given day. And because I'm a student, no day looks the same, so I also need something that would give me room to plan according to the pace of each particular day. As you can see in my mock spread, I reserve space for the time-oriented items first, using each line to denote a 30-minute increment. From, there I fill in task-oriented items in the "morning" or "afternoon" spaces based on when I'm most likely to complete them. This has worked so much better for me than having a planner that was only designed with time slots or only designed with space for to-dos. Having both in one column allows me to make the most of my time and be smart about what I can reasonably accomplish on a given day.
Additionally, a weekly format helps me look ahead so I can keep track of exams, assignments, or projects. I often use that blank space at the bottom for notes, scribbles, and encouraging words.
My meal plan and shopping lists are pretty self-explanatory. I designed these in InDesign and printed and cut them with my paper trimmer just like the other inserts. It was important to me to break up my shopping list according to the sections I most frequent in the grocery store (ie. produce, frozen), item category (ie. household, personal), or the type of purchase (ie. online vs in-store). Having a section specifically for online purchases helps me tackle those items during breaks in between class, so I'm not stuck without an item and having to wait the unexpected extra days for shipping. With the constant probability that I will be "distracted" by school or work, it's important for me to stay on top of the little things, and this definitely helps.
My budget and expense tracker, which I also designed, is really just a paper version of the cash envelope system. All of my purchases are broken down by category (ie. automobile, groceries, utilities, eating out, etc), and a certain amount of money is designated for each. When I have spent the designated amount for that group of purchases, I'm done. I find working with cash a bit cumbersome, and I know there are apps that do this for you, but again, I'm a visual and kinesthetic person through and through. I like writing it down for myself, crossing things off, and calculating by hand, because it helps me stay accountable and more present in my spending.
Last, but not least, I have a few pre-designed A5 blueprint pages behind the last tab for quick notes and easy sketching. All holes were punched with my Cinch bindery tool, although a regular or basic hole punch would work just fine too. All inserts were printed on eco-friendly 24 lb. copy paper.
Whew, that was a lot! If you made it this far... thanks for sticking with me!
Moral of the story? Take stock of your life and figure out what you most need to be successful in managing the big and small components of your day. Then, design (or purchase) a planner around those needs. It's important that your planner fits your life, not the other way around.