Is your pretty planner half empty?

Admit it, you started a new planner this month, right? Maybe you even have a planner board (or two) on Pinterest? Are there a few gaps appearing now, as we approach the end of the month? Documented Life Project, bullet journal, Filofax lust, Hobonichi techo, Moleskine hacks - I've tried them all. Some years they've worked and some years they haven't. I know a few reasons why.

 From top: Hobonichi techo, bullet journal in a Leuchhturm1917, Get to Work Book by Elise Blaha Cripe. Pens are absolute favourites: Pilot's Frixion Ball 07 (Erasable! I like a medium nib, but they do thinner ones).

From top: Hobonichi techo, bullet journal in a Leuchhturm1917, Get to Work Book by Elise Blaha Cripe. Pens are absolute favourites: Pilot's Frixion Ball 07 (Erasable! I like a medium nib, but they do thinner ones).

Build it in to your day

I resist routine.  (Insert pause for the people who know me in real life to fall about laughing.) You know what though? Your draw-every-day notebook, your #100dayproject and your bullet journal are all doomed to fail unless you build it right into your day with some kind of routine. Yeah. Sorry about that. Just ask me how I know.

Things to think about: 

How am I going to fit this into my day? How can I keep the things I need for this process together? Do I need to carry everything with me? Is there something already in my day that I can use to pin this down?

For me, I've promised to touch my main planner once a day. It has birthdays, diary dates, daily to-do lists and my gratitude notes. I check it in the morning with my cup of tea, add any tasks for the day. I can carry it with me, and I only need one pen. More pens are fun, but if you don't write stuff down because you don't have your pale mint limited edition fine liner from Japan, the system will fail. I check in again at bed time, after all the screens are off. I cross off anything that needs it, jot down anything on my mind for tomorrow, and write down  two or three things I'm grateful for today. This last bit really helps me wind down for sleep, but if I don't beat myself up if I don't get to do both check-ins - one will do.

Planners are tools not goals

I hate to admit it, but this is exactly what has tripped me up before. If having a really cool planner is the goal, rather than the process, you will probably fail. I've seen this in Facebook groups for Documented Life Project and for Bullet Journalling. It's easy to get bogged down in perfection and making it pretty. This is the old style over substance trap. I love DLP and I love some of the bullet journal stuff I've seen (especially Boho Berry's). They can work for you, absolutely, just watch out for road blocks.

Things to think about: 

Am I writing everything out twice (once as a draft and once in pretty form)? Do I want to do that 366 times this year!? Will I be able to add stuff to my planner during the day without carrying around five pencil cases of equipment? Will I feel that I've ruined it if I use my normal handwriting by mistake? Where will I be sharing this (and honestly now, how much will that affect how I fill the pages)?

I've had times when I was filling in stuff after it had happened, which is fine of course if you're adding photos or notes, not so much if you're adding your dentist appointment weeks afterward. I've had times when I let comparison come creeping in and stop me in my tracks. I've had times when I didn't have time to use my planner, so I went back to writing things on my hand and on envelopes. If you're spending more time on your planner on the stuff you're planning, it's time to rethink.

Keep it simple

Be clear about what you want from your planner, and what that involves. If you are spending an hour a day tracking every little thing and making your planner just so, you might not have enough time to work on your dreams! If you can't arrange a coffee date with a friend because you don't have the right supplies, you might need to simplify your system. If you have five planners, and end up writing the same thing in three of them and can't find the ticket info that you're sure you added somewhere, you might need to get really clear on what you want.

Things to think about: 

What do you really want to track? How will that help you? What do you love about the pretty planners you've pinned? How much time a week do you have to spend on the fun part of making and decorating spreads? How much do you want to carry around? What do you want to plan for and when and where will you need that information?

This is my system at the moment:

Daily planner - all important dates like appointments, tickets, birthdays; calendar overviews; daily to-do lists. There's space for doodles, notes of memories or ideas, daily gratitude and stuff I want to remember. I do use some bullet journal techniques in this. Remember, it might make sense for you to do this in your phone. I carry it around most of the time.

Bullet journal - personal goal setting, tracking new habits, lists of books I want to read, useful details gathered together (I recently did this to keep track of magazine subscriptions). It's pretty, and it's fun, but I don't want to give it a lot of time daily. I aim for a five minute check in on the habit trackers. Then if I want to spend an afternoon creating pretty lists, reflecting on my goals, or journalling, I can. It mostly lives at home, but might come to a coffee shop or a getaway with a pencil case of lovely pens and some washi tape.

Get to Work Book - I love this. There is space to reflect and dream big, space to plan the nitty gritty of your next project, and space to plan your days, weeks and months. The structure supports structured thinking which I like. It works for me to have separate planners for work and life. That's what I did with the 9-to-5 and it keeps me focused now too. I use it to plan my studio time, my home-based admin and blogging. It mostly lives at home, but sometimes comes to the studio or to a meeting.

It may not even sound simple to you, but it works for me. It started coming together for me when I really looked at how I work and what I'm working toward. For example, I recently abandoned my blogging Filofax, in favour of some tracking and lists in my Get to Work Book.

Resources 

I haven't received anything in exchange for mentions in this post. Sad times. They're all just things I like. 

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin This book really helped me understand how I've kept the habits I've kept and why I didn't keep all those other ones.

Breakfast in Bed playlist by Spotify

Bullet Journal original site

Bullet journalling by Boho Berry

The Documented Life Project

Get to Work Book

Hobonichi Techo

Leuchhturm 

If you are running a creative business, I suggest you check out the wise and wonderful Jenny Hyde's new course, Planning with Purpose  

I'd love to hear about your favourite planner. What works for you? So many of you have mastered this planning lark; I want to see , so share blog posts if you want. Or planner disasters... Are you a January through March girl, year after year?