Planning, Organization, and MotivationPosted: May 12, 2014
It has been a long, hard winter. The cold has lingered and clung, with our last snowfall in April. April. The dark cold days and the stress of work and an arduous moving process left me with little motivation to do much of anything. I felt like March was trying to drown me in gloom, with snowfalls almost every week. But after this long winter, it finally seems like summer is hurrying in. These past few weeks have been mild and usually sunny. Last week, the temperature nearly reached eighty degrees. I have finally put on my first sun dress of the season and the weekend before Easter, I spent the entire evening in my backyard with a dozen friends. Even after sunset, we could pull on a sweater and stay out to enjoy the night air. Spring is finally here. I needed it. I think a lot of us needed it.
I’m starting to wonder about the new year. Yes, of course, even when it is miserably cold in January, the days are (slowly) getting longer. But sometimes its so hard to look ahead past the cold gray days. With these last month of warmth, I am finding the motivation and energy that has been lacking. I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions this year. I think I will be making May Resolutions and taking advantage of the initiative that this beautiful weather encourages in me. Even now, with a couple of post-graduate years under my belt, I feel a little unsteady in this “adult”, “real-world”, “job-based” life. I’ve spoken before about my ingrained sense of cyclical time: in school, I would have 4-6 busy weeks and then have a break. If some sort of responsibility came up, I could usually make it wait until that time where I was not busy–this was the time to finally catch up on what I had ignored. I getting closer to breaking these cycles. But as I started to merge these six-week spans in several months, and then into a full year; I found myself getting more and more disorganized. I didn’t have a plan for long-term. I didn’t have routine.
That is my main goal for these May resolutions. To find routine and organization. I realized that, somehow, after graduation, I stopped using a planner. My planner use has never really been as an appointment book: my phone’s calendar app can take care of that. In fact, I survived the year of 5 jobs by only scheduling in my calendar app without much trouble. But now, with my primary job at full-time hours, I have tasks and projects, lists and assignments to do. And that is what I have always used a planner for–a place to store my To-Do lists directly next to a schedule. I like planners that lay out a week over two pages, with a calendar by month to track important dates. I then use each day as a daily To-Do list, allowing me to mark future tasks on the appropriate days, or look back to see what was not finished on previous days. After more than a year adrift, trying to keep track of countless post-its and scraps of paper, I knew I wanted a new planner. I also knew I wanted more. I wanted something pretty, with options for meal-planning and grocery lists. I’ve been toying with the idea of meal-planning for a long time, and knew a pretty new planner with spaces to fill would prompt me to make a plan and stick to it.
I launched a full-scale search in December. But I never found a planner I liked. It seemed like the only planners with meal plan space were Mom Planners. I don’t need the space to keep track of four people’s schedules. I looked at options on Etsy, but still couldn’t find any I liked that seemed worth the money. I did find several “Print Your Own” planners on Etsy which gave me an idea. If I couldn’t find a planner that I liked, I could just make one! (I think I was still riding out on the tail-end of my Christmas crafting binge) Between all of the vacations and deciding what I wanted, I finally finished up designing my planner at the end of January. All-in-all, with my exceptionally basic Photoshop skills, it probably took me around 5-6 hours to actually make the design (with some time spent catching up on this newer version of PS that M has). This included: a 2-page month calendar spread, a 2 page weekly spread, a meal-plan/grocery list page, a 2-page notes spread, and a cover page. I left the dates to be filled in, so I simply had to organize it month, then the number of weeks+a notes/menu combo for each week. I planned for the months to rotate through colors.
At this point in the process, though I much prefer 5″ x 8″ inch-or-less planners (so that I can hold onto the deluded hope that it will fit in my purse), I had given up on that desire and designed my planner for a full 8.5″ x 11″ size. I thought that trying print and chop in the correct order on half pages would be far too difficult. I looked into online printing and binding for my design, but that was even more expensive than the Etsy planners. M offered to pay for it as a Valentine’s day gift and I refused. The printing cost really was not worth it. Just when I was about to condemn myself to a giant planner, M sprang into action (probably because his girlfriend has spent a week staring at a design file in utter hopelessness) and figured out that with an In-Design file and Adobe Reader’s printing options, we could make this planner happen in the correct order (in a way that did not require me flipping and feeding each individual page) and would allow me to print them on the half sheet! He really is amazing. So finally, one night while everyone was at work, I set up my old printer and let it go. After about an hour of bated breath, I was finally able to be certain that it worked! I chopped the pages at work, where I have access to a straight edge trimmer, purchased an Levenger hole punch and accouterments from Martha Stewarts Discbound system, and after a morning of paper-punching, I had my planner.
I spent the first first weeks giddy with achievement, and, happily, I’m been using it religiously. Since it was made to fit 8″ x 11″ pages, the Daily columns are now a little thin. Certainly still workable, but I’m already working out little fixes because you can bet I’ll be making my own planner again for 2015! #PlanningForTheFuture. Ahem, anyways, I am thinking that I will make the day spaces horizontal across the page. I soon realized that I forgot to put day titles in the monthly calendar. I also, now, several months of meal planning in, have realized that the weekly column on the Grocery page is enough for my meal-planning–writing my meals out twice uses more time than it saves me. In next year’s, I may devote that space to a daily cleaning planner or a workout planner or something like that. In the meantime, I do like my “Goals” on the month pages. Since my daily categories are really To-Do lists, each day/week already gets ‘goals’ in the tasks. But the the over-arching goals for a month help me stay on track with bigger projects and also all of those “I-Really-Should-Do-This” sort of tasks, like researching classes or planning to clean out my car. The “Inspiration” section on my weekly pages usually gets a quote. Again, I like being reminded to actively look for something positive and/or inspiring each week.
This planner has certainly been a life-saver and is getting even more use as I try to sort out my life after winter and after our students’ performances. I’ve got six weeks before the crush of summer camp begins, and many tasks to catch up on. Luckily, now, I have a way to keep track of it all.