Thursday, May 5, 2016

Planner Bandwagon

I stopped at Target on my way home from work and stopped in the dollar spot area and found that they have mini 3 ring binders, dashboards and notepads and all sorts of stuff geared towards these “mini planners.”  And I began to wonder about that.  Where did this planner love come from?  Have there secretly been people like me, addicted to stationery, all this time, and just nobody was out of the closet?  It seems odd to me that there are so many blogs, online shops, and even areas in our national chains that are catering to this fetish I “suffer” from.
Personally, I had been trying to design a system for myself for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it began in Junior High.  7th grade was the first time I was truly on my own as far as my responsibilities at school went.  I think they handed us a folder with the district mascot on it, called it a “homework folder” and we were set free to make do on our own.  I employed my 5th grade social studies teacher’s method of stapling the current month’s calendar to the inside of the folder on the left side.  I put work to be done in that pocket.  I filled the right hand pocket with fresh notebook paper and put my completed work in that pocket each night.   Eventually, I transitioned to making hand-written calendar pages like planner inserts and putting them in the brads of a 2 pocket folder with prongs.   As I got older, I started buying actual planners, but they never suited my needs either.  I would inevitably revert back to either a composition books, spiral or folder with paper.  In college and when I was first married, I started printing out planner pages using Calendar Creator software on my Win95 computer.  These were slightly more customizable, but still had no features that current planners have.  They were glorified calendars.  Aside from automatically printing the birthdays of my family members on them, they weren’t anything different than what I could have done by hand.   When I was about 23 I bought my first Franklin Covey planner at the FC store that was in the Galleria Mall in Buffalo.  $100 for a planning binder.  I was getting serious about “being organized” … I was investing serious dough into this idea that the right format of calendar was going to solve my (at the time undiagnosed) ADD issues and get my adult life on track.  Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  I could write down appointments and bills in this planner, but I was still not getting anything out of it.  I would update it religiously for a couple weeks then forget about it for a month or two at a time.  Before I knew it, the inserts needed to be replaced.  And by that point, I knew I didn’t “need” the Franklin Covey brand inserts – they weren’t any different than the Daytimer or generic Staples inserts.
I was so frustrated.  I wanted to be productive!  I wanted to be able to accomplish things!  I wanted to remember everything I needed to.  By this time I had a couple kids.  The internet had evolved and I had google now.  I surfed the web in hopes of finding something that could help.  I stumbled upon a system called Hipster or DIY Planner.  It was essentially just a stack of index cards that held your life.  Loved the idea.  My handwriting was less than ideal and that made the system unsatisfying.  I monkeyed around with trying to print out the cards with  my printer but the challenge then was cutting them out of regular cardstock or paying a mint for actual 3-per-page index card stock from Avery.  I kept trying that system.  I bought all sorts of index cards – colors, lined, unlined, gridded, padded, ring bound, spiral bound – I had them all.  3×5, 4×6.  I couldn’t make that system work for me.
I got a smartphone and decided to try to keep everything in that.  It worked for appointments, but I wasn’t using it for any task lists or other notes.  I realized that I love writing on paper.  I love the feeling of using a pen and writing things down by hand.  Back to the internet, but by this time, it was probably 2012 or 2013.  Now there were different options from independent websites where people who loved paper as much as me were designing their own planners.  I read about and tried the Bullet Journal method, but didn’t like the layout of the monthly spread.  I was trying to put it in a notebook that didn’t have 31 lines per page, so Ryder’s neat monthly spread was turning into a multi-page mashup.  Again, my handwriting was also distracting me.  I loved the simplicity of the system, but I needed to “see” my month.  I was bored with the black & white nature of it.   I shelved the bullet journal idea in favor of a printable planner system I bought as an electronic download from Miss Tiina and printed copies for myself and my mom & aunts for Christmas.  I discovered Washi tape and ARC binding disks.  I’d found a groove at last!  I could move around pages, punch anything I wanted to go into this binder.  I built dashboards to mount post-its and got all sorts of cutesy-but-not-very-sticky generic post-its, page markers, washi tape, and other accessories to use in my planner.  I found Pinterest and got inspired to buy stickers and flags and make habit trackers.  The planner was 2″ thick and weighted a ton!  I downsided to a half-page size, but only put in half the stuff that the original planner had.  I was only using the monthly and weekly layouts, not all the other stuff that was included in the original planner, like savings logs, gift trackers, etc.   This was easy to write appointments and some other details, but I was feeling restricted by the format.  I was seeing all these people with their planners that had space to put in washi tapes and mini photographs and journaling, and I was still stuck with this rigid calendar format.  But now I had a handle on how I actually use my planner.  I knew what I needed – Monthly view, then daily entries.  I knew I wanted to keep track of some habits or lists of things I wanted to do/buy.  I knew what the hell I’d bought all that Washi tape for.
A HA!  My Eureka moment came when I stumbled back across the Bullet Journal.  By now, people were customizing the system to suit their personal needs.  People were adding color and stickers and washi tape.  They were tracking things like Books To Read and their water intake.  Now there were people who “got” what I was trying to do with my planner.  Turning it into a catch-all that wasn’t just a black pen and blank notebook.  That feeling of being able to jot everything down in one place that I’d tried to capture with the index card Hipster planner, along with the full monthly view and the colorful planner, all could happen in one notebook.
My system is still less than perfect.  I’m still trying to work out which paper ruling and size I really want to use.  I’ve tried a smaller, thicker journal from Barnes & Noble that was grid-ruled.  I switched to a Leuchtturm Master notebook with dot-grid.  Then I transitioned into a Leuchtturm Medium A5 notebook with dot grid, and eventually into a Clairefontaine grid-ruled A5 cloth-bound softcover notebook I got from Goulet Pen Co.  I’m still not sure how much to put into this notebook.  I’ve decided to use a ruled Clairefontaine staplebound notebook for my “journal” instead of brain dumping into my bullet journal like I did when I was using the Leuchtturm Master notebook that had much larger pages.  I’m torn between using the notebooks up quickly by keeping my journal writing and stuff I am doing for challenges like #30dayscribe in the same notebook and using more pages per day, versus keeping the bullet journal more concise so that I’m not having to re-write my Goodreads Challenge  list of 100 books in a new notebook every month.
So far, I think that I like the A5 size better than larger format for it’s portability.  I like the dot grid better than graph paper only because some of my pens are too pale to see against the blue lines on the Clairefontaine paper.  I like using washi tape along the edges of pages to mark them.  I’ve decided to choose a color to signify the month’s pages.  I also have tapes assigned to collections that spread throughout the notebook, like my blog post log and blog idea pages.  I like the Clairefontaine paper because it’s thicker than the paper in the A5 Leuchtturm notebooks.  But I really like the hard covers of the Leuchtturm notebooks.  I might get a Master Slim to keep track of long-term projects/tracking.  Stuff that I don’t need to carry with me daily.  I’m hoping I figure out a perfect system for me eventually, but it’s going to take years of trial to get there.  What I love about the Bullet Journal system is that if something doesn’t work for you, you just turn the page and start over!

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