Paper Planner

With anxiety sky-rocketing over this past year, I’ve been looking to “complete” more of those invisible tasks I mentioned in my last post by writing them down or scheduling them in my calendar and whatever necessary office requires an appointment as soon as they come to me. Once I’ve written an item down as a future task in my planner or called the office to make the appointment, I can release that task until it’s due.

For this reason, I highly recommend a paper planner. I’ve been using a paper planner for several years and finally have my system down to an art. This year, I’m using the Blue Sky Day Designer Daily/Monthly 8×5 planner. I’ve been on the Day Designer wagon for a while but this is my first time using such a small version. I was worried that it wouldn’t be big enough to accomodate all of my notes but I use the paper planner for quick reminders and abbreviated schedules and keep the details in my online calendars. I used to think I could walk away from the online calendars once I got my paper calendar up and running but alas. Those insane bloggers with the multiple calendar transfers at scheduled intervals? Yeah, that’s me now.

At the start of the year, I go through all of my calendars and get all of the important, known dates transferred into my paper calendar monthly views. Before the start of each new month, I go through my online calendars and transfer dates that I’ve scheduled on my phone into my month view as well. Before each week, I transfer dates from the monthly calendar view into the specific days along with work meetings scheduled on my work calendar. It sounds horrible and redundant and inefficient but it keeps me sane. Different strokes, am I right?

Anyway, I color code the thing too. Pink for my daughter. Blue for my son (I know, I know. The gender sterotyping is appaling). Green for my husband. Gray for work. Red for personal to-do items. Purple for fun items. Yellow for info-only.

Once I started doing the calendar transfer thing, I figured I’d be one of those people who gets into the stickers or uses a stencil to make perfect shapes to color or maybe writes in different colors but in practice I’ve found the more complex it gets, the less likely I am to stick with it (and I couldn’t stand the colored writing).

I use “◯” is as an event indicator. I freehand it. I make a tiny circle in the middle of the hour line if I have an event on the half hour and if it’s an odd appointment time I follow the “◯” with the time (example: “◯:45 doctor”). The planner I use comes with square boxes for tasks so those get color coded as well. Checkmark = complete. Strikethrough = didn’t do it and not moving it forward. Right arrow means I moved it forward to a future date (and here’s the key: you actually have to write it down on a future date; it might not be tomorrow but it has to be scheduled). I put the anniversaries at the top right corner in the quotation box. Highlighters can be purchased here.

I’ve even started to put basic reminders about how to be a good person in my calendar like “call your best friend” or “Jane’s big presentation.” I used to think that if you were a good person / friend, you’d just remember those things. And maybe I still do. But I also believe that I’ve got what I’ve got with regards to mental capacity and what I got currently includes a lot of unecessary clutter and anxiety choking out the important things. So I’ve started writing them down when I hear them and replacing “absent minded” with “intentional” in my running narrative.

If your axiety has you feeling absent minded lately, I hope you’ll consider my strategy. More importantly, I hope you’ll share yours!

What tricks do you use to keep ahead of your anxious thoughts? How do you stay on task?

Word of 2018: Engage

I received a Day Designer planner from my parents for Christmas and immediately devoured the annual planning pages. In previous years, I’ve chosen a phrase or a Bible verse as my inspiration for the year but I’m letting my new planner set the course this time around. As such, I’ve limited myself to one lone word for the year:


If I had been allotted two words they would’ve been “Head Up” but “Engage” meets the one word challenge set by my planner and takes me one step further, from limiting my phone time and passive involvement to actually stepping into the daily swell of things when I might be inclined to tune out.

I have a bit of a phone problem.

I spend far too many hours on the stupid thing. I don’t know all of the people I’m investing in online (their houses though!) which means the time I spend with them is time I don’t spend getting to know the intimate details about the people immediately around me. Ya know, those with whom I daily interact in person.

It’s gotten bad.

I downloaded the Moment app which tracks your time by app and even prompts you when you’ve reached your daily limit or are in the black out periods you set for yourself. It helped for a while until the reminders to get off my phone became too persistent and I turned them off (yes, really).

To be a little more transparent, I’ve known it’s been an issue for a while but I have a hard time kicking the habit. Educating myself seems to help a little (Irresistible by Adam Alter was fantastic; it’s somewhat empowering to learn that apps are designed to addict users). Tracking my time helps a little more (until I sabotage my own boundaries, that is).  But the biggest motivator of all is when my daughter’s “Watch this!” sounds strained instead of full of three-year-old excitement. *Gulp* I look up from my phone and see her searching eyes and I know without a doubt that I need to change.

Yeah, like I said, it’s gotten bad.

So I dove into the annual planning pages of my new planner with that in mind and I wrote down my values, my strengths, my passions. I documented the things I did in 2017 and how I wanted to handle those categories in 2018. I circled relationships. I committed to spending more time with my head up, more time outside (although I admit I put that in the second quarter goals because… brrrr). I committed to more fun.

I also committed to more organization but when I looked outside this afternoon during a KonMari-inspired tidy, I saw a pink fluff of snow gear joyfully plodding through knee-deep snow and thankfully had the clarity to think, Hey idiot, put on your snow gear. Layer up. GET OUTSIDE like you said you would and be with these rosy-cheeked people you love!


And I did.

Dear 2018,

May there be many more days like your first. May I have many more days like today: Engaged.


Meg Danielle

We’re in trouble…

I have spent days researching planners. I have looked through websites. I have signed up for free downloads. I have walked through Michaels just to look at stickers and washi tape on display; I made purchases. I have even stooped to Youtube videos.

Who is this person I am becoming?

I don’t like her.