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Big planner energy -- pretty & organized

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

I am a planner person. I like keeping a calendar. I like organizing my time. I respectfully do not understand how someone keeps all their appointments in their “head” or keeps everything on their “Outlook” or “Google Calendar”.

And I like making mundane things pretty. I follow planner blogs and social media accounts. I have a planner-specific board on Pinterest with several sub-folders. I have more photos of pretty planner layouts on my phone than grandmas have of their precious grandchildren.

Here's a sample:

I know that I am a super-nerd about this, which means I am cut off from understanding how other, less intense planner people feel about their systems. So I asked around. Of the people on my contact list that I could track down, I have learned that planning is personal and individualized. I carry around a personal size because I like how it feels in my hand while others might need a larger size to be able to write more or because their handwriting is too large.

A phone playing a video of a planner resting on top of an open journal and a stack of books.

Slone does not carry a planner but instead uses one of those huge desk calendars. Back when we used to work together, I would sit at her desk sometimes and admire the multiple colored highlighters, her large scrolly handwriting, and the many doodles and shapes she drew while on the phone. I have sent her planners and photos of the largest ones I could find, and none of them could compare to her desk-sized canvas.

Other friends of mine are huge fans of the Passion Planner, which I agree is an awesome system. It’s an excellent size. It slips easily into a bag. It’s a planner that encourages developing a system instead of just marking reminders. Its weekly layout breaks the day down by the hour and still allows space for notes. The company’s website is also great for offering freebies. I would recommend it to students or anyone looking to accomplish big goals.

But the goals and plans of some are not equal to others, particularly because of the phase of their life. My friend Em sent me photos of her Day Designer system. She’s a mom of four and “has no downtime and has to plan to plan.” The Day Designer fits in the pocket of her diaper bag and still offers a monthly calendar, a weekly breakdown, and daily pages.

Day designer planner with a floral printed cover.

She also shared her rotating dinner menu binder – a standard-sized three-ring system with recipes. When my kids were little, I had a similar binder, because negotiating what “everyone” is going to eat every night for dinner is probably the biggest household weight to carry around. Now that mine are older, I am a little more comfortable telling them, “Look, I cook the food and you either eat the food or you can walk to McDonalds!”

A stack of printed recipes for a family binder.

I feel like I am entered the I’m-a-grown-ass-woman-and-my-time-is-precious phase. When I organize my time, I am prioritizing my tasks first. My kids don’t need me in the same way. I also must maintain professional boundaries between myself and my students to ensure my sanity and keep my co-dependent tendencies at bay. This means my tasks are highlighted in pink while family tasks are not highlighted at all.

Open Filofax planner with a Hello Kitty sticker tucked into the front.

My nerdy system is to keep two planners. I have a large professional binder with appointments, tasks, and large-scale goals. It’s an A5-sized Filofax Original in black. All my inserts come from Cloth and Paper. It gives me more space to plan out my large projects, deadlines, and teaching tasks. However, an A5-sized planner is too heavy for me to carry with me everywhere. Whipping out that monster when I am making Behr’s next ortho appointment is too extra even for me. In my purse, I keep a person-sized Filofax Original (I tried the Norfolk and went back to the Original). It has a monthly calendar and daily pages. It’s lightweight, fits in my hand like a wallet, and is easy to write down things without using a table or counter ledge.

No one “needs” page flags, post-its, stickers, colored highlighters, or washi tape. But again, I like to make the mundane pretty. I used to hit up the papercraft sections of all my local craft stores, I don’t have the time to do that anymore. My online sources are Cloth and Paper, The Happy Planner, and Jet Pens.

But also, a lot of my decor comes from things around the house. I rip out pages from magazines. I repurpose cosmetic and skin care packaging. I slice up junk mail. This week I received a blanket with a hot pink cardboard card with the company logo. I sliced it into page flags. Hubs purchased a Lush bath bomb set for Christmas one year and I used strips from the rose-printed wrapping paper to adorn my planner for years.

If I were to offer any advice to anyone thinking about dipping a toe into planners.

  1. Don’t follow the trends. Follow your instincts. If something looks like too much work, it probably is. If you are already wondering how you would lug it around, it’s probably too big.

  2. Don’t drop a lot of money if you can help it. I started out with planners from Target and Walmart. When I was ready to upgrade, I looked on eBay for gently-used planners.

  3. Having the system is one thing, but keeping the system is another. It needs to be something you want to use. This is why I have to make things pretty. If it is pretty, I am more likely to be excited about all the boring things I have scheduled for myself.

Read Books. Wear Boots.



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