The Plan to Plan

Do you remember the first time you purchased your big girl planner?  Not the one you purchased at the Dollar Tree, Walmart or 5 Below, 15 years ago.  I'm refering to one you got within the last 5 years, that was pretty pricey and super fancy.  Filofax.  Prima.  Carpe Diem.  Simplified Planner.  Erin Condrin.  Heidi Swapp.   The Happy Planner.  Webster's Pages... the list goes on.  You sat at your luxurious and insanely neat IKEA desk and searched for hours online.  You watched countless Youtube videos on reviews and unboxings.  You were in awe of all the secret pockets.  You reached out to friends who already had the planner you were thinking of getting for the real scoop on how they like it.  You fell in love with all the pretty designs and colors.  You created spreadsheets and lists comparing the value of the product, with the time it would take to ship to you, because you needed it soon.
Like yesterday!

I remember purchasing my first brand name planner.
Or as we formally call it now, "Agenda Book" and "Life Organizer".
Because calling it a planner seems girly.


It was the A5 Fluro Orange Filofax.  (Google it!)
I was so bossin' it.  Serious about planning.  Serious enough to shamefully dish out more than two Benjis... because I was so determined that I also needed all of the moving elements.  The budget sheets.  The color sheets.  Grid sheets.  The situation just got real for me.  Knee deep in colored pens (love the Straedlers, btw), different style & shaped sticky notes, page flags, stickers, stamps and let's not even get into the buckets of washi!

I was ready to plan.
I needed to track my water and food intake.  Menus.  Sleep Schedule.  Exercise...
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Outings.  Vacations.  To Do lists.  Goals.  PTA meetings.  Movie Premiers.  Holidays.  Challenges.  Giveaways.  Midnight Sale Events.  Book Clubs.  TV Shows.  Doctor appointments.  Hair & Nail appointments.  Puppy grooming.  Parties.  Bucket Lists.  Everything my noisy brain thought about was considered important enough to plan for.  But it didn't stop there.  I now needed notebooks.  Not only because they were cute, but some day I'd have some use for them.  Like making a list of all the items I needed to buy for the party I was planning out of my fancy planner.

But then that one fancy planner became too little for ALL I needed to track.  I decided to separate my personal life, from my professional life, from my crafty life, from my spiritual life... and soon I found myself going through 7 planners, 5 notebooks and 18 traveler's notebooks and inserts.  I was in search of the perfect tool to provide me the best solution for my tracking.

Except I made one mistake.  A pretty big enough one that would leave me overwhelmed, broke and confused.  I had all these planners and supplies.  I had all of my lists.  I would work on them weekly.  In restaurants.  (Yes, I am guilty of doing this!)  At church.  In the car.  But for some reason I could not stay organized.  I didn't understand how all the effort I had put into planning things for the last 5+ years resulted in disorientation.

What was I doing wrong?  What did I miss?

I needed to analyze the situation.  Pull out an ugly, unpretty, uncolored, basic piece of paper and write down, not only what I wanted to plan, but also create a project plan for my planning.

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Things just got deeper.

This may get weird, but stick it out with me.

It didn't dawn on me, until just this week, that I had not evaluated the situation well enough in order to have a more effective and successful planner life.  So what did I do, you ask?  I pulled out ugly hoarded paper and made lists.  Three lists to be exact.  And I wrote down 3 simple things.

So this blog.
My rants.
Is to share just that.
My breakdown.
My brainstorm.
My lists.

I don't know if anyone has ever thought to do this, but if so, KUDOS to you!  I have not seen/read about it anywhere... so I'd like to share my lightbulb moment from two months ago, in the hopes that it will streamline, stimulate your "AHA!", and solve a lot of our planning issues.

As I stated, I compiled three simple, basic, yet very effective lists.

List #1 - "What do I need a binder, TN, planner, notebook or bullet journal for?"  Make a long list and be very detailed.  One item for each line.  It could be that you use 1 TN for 3 different items, using 3 different inserts.
List #2 - "What tools do I have available to house items from list #1?"  Do I have enough TN inserts?  Do I have calendar number stickers or stamps I can use to label blank pages?  Have I purchased printable sheets I can easily add?  Use what you have first!
List #3 - "What additional tools/items or resources will I need to set everything up?"  Between list 1&2 you should be able to gauge what items you have that you can make use for, and if anything is missing get it.  Calendar stickers are not a "MUST" since you can pencil those in yourself.  But maybe a pen that will not bleed through your page is something worth investing in.

I then looked at all my lists at the same time and created a planner map; directing all the game pieces to their preferred designated areas.  Which item would be better documented, planned or noted in which tool.  I used Tombow markers, washi and stickers to make the process more enjoyable.  The markers served a greater purpose in color coding the system.

I analyed each planner, notebook and TN and how it works.  Can I bend it back?  Can I open the rings easily?  Can I create inserts for it if needed?  How much are the inserts for each, if I constantly need refills?

I wrote a colored number next to each tool / resource.  Then I gave the colored number a matching counterpart.

I made sure to use the TNs, for on-the-go planning, or brainstorming... and my big bulky planners for tasks I need to tend to on an as-needed basis and can stay home.

The process took an entire night to complete (just about 3 hours), and the next part is where the fun began.  Once I established which planner has what purpose, I was able to pull it out, decorate it, add my inserts and "needs" (like washi samples, stickers, etc.), and move on to the next set up.

Normally I'd suggest to sell your extra planners, but I know there is always use for them.  So for now I'm sharing how to put your products to full use and make them work for you.

I won't say I'm completely done setting up my TNs and planners, but for now I have a better grasp at what purpose each one has, and what items will I need to keep the process flow.  Let's get back to enjoying our planners.  To brainstorming our great ideas in our pretty Traveler's Notebooks.  And using our cute supplies to make our pages come alive!

I had hoped to end this blog with the final outcome and result of this brainstorming session.  I'd like to tell you that I have all my planners & TNs set up, just as they were intended to be.  And give you all a walk through of what I did with them.  But, alas, life happens, work and family happens.  So this just may be a preview blog post of a series of planner blog posts to come... depending on your feedback and interest on the subject.

I'd like to share more on this topic, but also provide you with something you can get started with, so I'm sharing my personal list (see below).  You can join me on the "Plan To Plan" journey.  And let me know in the comments what you mostly struggle with when it comes to your planners?  Is it decorating?  Is it time?  Let me know your struggle, and I just may have a solution for it, because it just may be something I have already encountered myself throughout the years.

Thanks for sticking it through this far and don't forget "If you don't use it, when you love it, you won't use it at all!"


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