This guest post is brought to you by Amanda Evanston, a painter and maker from Chicago. She blogs at auntpeaches.com.
There are two kinds of people in this world; people who write things down, and people who write things down on napkins. I fall in the second category. Sometimes I run out of napkins and it ends up on my hand or the back of a receipt. One time I wrote down important tax information on tissue with lip liner, and then blew my nose in it. It’s a problem.
People make fun of me for it. I have a friend, let’s say her name is Theresa (it actually is Theresa but I’m spelling it different to respect her privacy – am I a good friend or what?), and every time I see her she finds an opportunity to rub her superior organization skills in my face. She’s always pulling out her leather bound book of magic. This thing. I’m telling you, it is like her third hand. It started as a calendar, I think, but she guards it like a child, carrying it with her everywhere, consulting it before meals, even buying it outfits. Stickers. Ribbons. Miniature markers from Tokyo. This strikes me as excessive, but you know who is never late? Theresa. You know who always has a stocked pantry, clean laundry, and a seasonal wreath on her front door? Theresa. You know who has sent me a birthday card every year since we met? Theresa. Why? Because she keeps a stack of cards right there in that leather bound book of magic of hers, along with a pocket full of stamps, return address stickers, and two different colored pens, and everything else on the planet she doesn’t want to forget. Because that is what planner people do. They are diabolical. AND I WANT TO BE IN THE CLUB SO BAD!
Day planners have reached near-cult status in the last couple of years, and I have been outside looking in the window, standing in a pile of crumpled and inked up paper napkins. So when Michaels asked me if I wanted to try a week with one of their most popular planners, I said “Let me at it!”
We are looking at the Create 365 “The Happy Life” 18 Month planner. First of all, it’s a honker. Second of all, if it’s anything in a word, the word would be flexible. It wants you to customize it on every level. Lots to cover here but in comparing it to the others on the shelf, this one had three major selling points that tugged on my purse strings.
1. Disc Binding
You can add and remove pages, or move them around however you want. Want to put March in front of February – go for it. I don’t need all the daily pages of the last three months – so they got yanked out. I also don’t need daily pages for more than 6 months from now – so they got yanked too. Boom. Now the book weighs half as much. Much more purse-friendly. Now you have room to add stuff (we’ll get to that later) or keep it slim and seasonal. Your call.
Granted, the same could be done with traditional clamp ring binders, but if you have ever accidentally sat or stepped on those things, you know they are temperamental – if one ring goes slightly off track, the diagnosis is terminal; it’s only a matter of time until you buy another, or quit using it altogether. Spiral bound ring binders are even worse. You can’t add or subtract pages, and stuff gets caught in the spiral. I was using a spiral bound calendar for a while there a few years ago, but then one day at the grocery store I had to get to my wallet and yanked it out my purse and you know what yanked up in it? A dirty sock. It was mortifying. It just flung up in to the air and landed on the scanner, then they had to clean wipe the thing off with Windex while I watched in horror and disgrace holding my dirty sock. (I know what you are thinking, and yes, it’s a long story, but I switched socks earlier because sometimes that happens, then it got caught up in the spiral at the bottom of my purse, then it got flung out, then it got handed back to me by the clerk with pinched fingers and a look of disgust. Not that I blame him. I blame the spiral. Never again! )
2. There isn’t Too Much Muchness
And by that I mean, in addition to the monthly overview, each spread is a week and there’s plenty of room devoted to each day, but not every day has page with times and itemized lists. I don’t know about you, but I’m not that exciting. I don’t need to look at a book full of near-empty pages. And anyway, anything time specific goes in my phone with an alarm attached, which is handy, however, it does not allow me an overview of my week – a hard copy planner is perfect for this. You can see the big stuff and small stuff at once, break down benchmarks, etc.. For someone like me who is self-employed, most of my goal setting is on a weekly basis, so this is ideal. I suspect some people work in daily or monthly rhythms instead. Knowing how you are naturally wired is key to getting a planner that works for you (and doesn’t just look cute) (but let’s face it, looking cute is key too!). After a week of using it as a functional planner, my spread looks occupied, but not dysfunctional. Some folks like their planners to look like ten pounds of sugar in an eight pound bag. I’m okay with what I have. A year from now, come back and let’s see if I mix it up a bit more.
Bonus track: The space allotted for each day is around 3”x 8”, which, if you are really on top of it, also doubles a swatch space for adding photos, keepsakes, and or special memories of each day as it passes, turning it into more of a retrospective journal or a scrapbook than a forward facing planner. It does double duty. Nice!
3. Monthly Highlights
I have not seen this in other planners. It’s an open block for birthdays, important dates, rememberings, and a list called Currently. That last one is the one that grabs me because it will make me list what I’m reading, planning, watching, eating, drinking, listening, celebrating…etc. Granted, I drink things every day, but do I have a signature beverage this month? Maybe I do and I don’t know it? Or maybe I need to get one? Would that be hard? No. Would it feel special to switch to a new one next month? Umm, yes! Now THAT is goal setting I can handle.
Same with other stuff like music and tv shows etc. We all move in seasons and cycles of these things all by ourselves, but there is something oddly compelling about improving the intake when you know you’ll be putting them into a list. I have had the same book on my bedside table for months, but if I knew I’d be listing it twice, I’d probably hurry up and finish reading it. Lists are powerful like that.
Also, if your quality of life is determined by how you spend your days, then it is small, daily shifts that add up to big changes. So, I like this. I’ve got this! I mean, the cover of the book literally says YOU GOT THIS! and it might even be right!
Now let’s talk about accessories. I love any kind of accessory, but paper accessories? This is my jam. Michaels carried over 100 accessory items in this aisle, but I decided to start slow with a handful of item-specific sticky notes and some washi tape. The Create 365 line has a bunch of pre-punched add-ons; double-sided pocket folders, dividers, journaling prompts, loose leaf paper, inspirational quotes and inserts. I thought these would come in handy…
It’s a pre-punched stack of lined paper, 40 sheets, the front divided in half with a long list of check-off boxes on the left, and an hourly list on the right, with a box titled “Grateful For” on the bottom. I don’t need a calendar like this for every day, but there are certain days or specific projects where this format is perfect – having it as an occasion add-in is crazy helpful. Plus the back is titled “Brain Dump” which sort of inspires an opportunity to say/think/write whatever you want. I don’t care how organized you are; everyone needs a mental junk drawer. And the fact that the planner invites these moments of organized chaos and layers them in-between clean design and pretty graphics makes me that much more anxious to use it. A good sign if ever there was one!
I’m only a week in to the journey, but it’s feeling pretty swell so far. Will this be my official segue into the day planner club? Only time will tell, but I am excited to find out!