My friend Heather calls me boxy. This is how she describes Type A, borderline OCD people that try to fit her ameba-self into a neat little box. Bow and all. We compliment each other well, I shove her, kick and screaming, into the little box and she pushes me to be more outgoing and break out of my “boxiness”.
You could assume that my personality would manifest itself in a way that would leave me tied to some sort of planning device or implement. I have struggled with finding a process for keeping a calendar or planner since graduating from college. Somehow, I never really found a way to organize my personal and professional life in a concise and efficient way. I’ve owned more planners than I can count in the last ten years but have always lost interest in them shortly after I’ve started using them. I’ve never really found the right mix of customization, open-space, or fluidity where a planner was actually helpful. I always felt like I was working too hard to make them keep me organized. In the drawer they would go, and off to the store I would go to replace the latest model. I have purchased two custom planners in my life, both from a company called Plum Paper. My original planner was pretty, but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to customize it and started with the idea that I would also use it as my notebook for all meetings and brainstorming. I quickly lost interest in the planner aspect of the book and eventually felt the material was too high-quality to use as a brainstorming notebook. I always felt guilty when I used up page after page to doodle, cross out, and write gibberish. So, sadly, eventually, even my custom-made planner ended up making it to the drawer in my office where my unused office supplies go to die. Full on boxy.
As the whirlwind that is my life started to pick up over the last two months I found that I needed something that I could use to organize both my personal and professional life. It needs to be functional, attractive, balance the line between and hourly schedule and open blocks for each day, and give me enough structure so I know where to go for each part of my life. I’m a high maintenance planner user.
Some might ask: “It’s 2016, why aren’t you just using the calendar on your phone?”
I do, for the day to day details and meetings for work. I still can’t get it to work for me beyond that, I continue to feel the need for something I can hold and write in at a moment’s notice.
Now, some might say: “Lady, you’re nuts!”
To that, I would say: “Certainly.”
I am well aware that me high maintenance nature when it comes to planners, and other office supplies frankly, is a little crazy and irrational. We can address that on another day.
While putzing around on Instagram a few weeks ago, I came across a discount code from Plum Paper that would save me 20% on a custom planner. Curious, I went to their site to check it out and kill some time. I found that their original “Family Planner” had now transitioned into a “Life Planner” – a weekly planner with 7 customizable categories per day. The set-up is essentially the same as they were a couple of years ago, but this time the idea of using each of those boxes for different aspects of your life instead of just the different PEOPLE in your family sparked some inspiration in me. I spent another thirty minutes browsing cover art and customization options and eventually hit “PLACE ORDER”.
I’ve only just started to use my new Life Planner, but I can already tell that I am gaining the ability to organize my personal and professional life in a way that makes me feel structured but not tied down to an hourly schedule. That in itself is an accomplishment!
For my fellow boxy people, here’s a tour inside of my new Plum Paper Life Planner!
First, I love the new watercolor patterns they have available! There are a couple of different versions, but the black was the most attractive to me. My original cover was a chevron pattern that looks like wood. I loved it, but didn’t opt to have a monogram or anything written on the bottom of the planner. After going over several options in my head, I chose my first and middle name for my new planner. It felt more personal and like I had some ownership over the book.
The planner is broken down by month – you get to choose the month your planner starts and have several options in terms of months included. I went with 12, let’s face it, that is a long time for me to use a planner. I’m shooting for a fully utilized planner next March!
Each month also includes a highlights page, there is room for three goals, important dates, birthdays, events, etc. In true boxy fashion, I have yet to decide how I want to use that page each month. I’m not one that sets “goals” lightly so that will take some time to figure out. I do, however, appreciate the space to do some monthly planning amongst my day to day planning!
The weekly pages are broken down into seven customizable categories, I chose:
- Don’t Forget – My Top Tasks for the Day
- Morning – My Schedule for the Morning, usually anything before 12pm
- Afternoon – My schedule for the afternoon, usually anything from 12 – 5pm
- Evening – My schedule for the afternoon, anything after 5pm
- Home – Any “Life” tasks or items that I need to remember. Bills to pay, pet meds to administer, chores to do, etc.
- Blog – Posts for that day or tasks related to this blog
- Justin – Typically for Justin’s schedule, this has been helpful for doctor appointments
There are a lot of features to this planner that I love and very few that I am not so crazy about. I wish it was a tad bigger, I don’t necessarily want it to be 8 1/2 x 11 but maybe just a little larger than it is. I’m a big writer. Wednesday is always BY FAR, my least favorite day to fill out on a planner, typically that day is so close to the spiral that I have a hard time writing – I’ve found a strategy around that for the most part, but some extra room on the left side of the spiral would be helpful. I do love the tabs, the colors are light but vibrant and very well reinforced. They seem to be sturdy enough to stand up to a year’s worth of (ab)use. Secondly, I love that they gave some suggestions on how to customize the seven categories, I never would have thought to pick anything other than sections of time. I LOVE that I have sections for my life that are not restricted by hours as they would be in a traditional planner. Last, but certainly not least, I loved the pattern detail on the monthly pages. It just was a prime example of the little artistic details that went into designing these planners.
After a whole five days of using the Plum Paper Life Planner, I am hooked! I’m hopeful that I will keep finding ways to make this tool work for me on a daily basis and that I will have finally found a strategy aimed at establishing a work-life balance…at least where my planner is concerned.