Well, maybe CULT is a bit of a strong word... but let me tell you that I certainly have entered a sub-culture that I did not know existed.
When I was in college, I used a student planner to organize my studying, papers, tests , and reading assignments. It helped me keep my college life in order and was just a simple weekly spread that had a lined box for each day.
After I graduated, I went back to kind of winging it through life. As I mentioned in my very first blog post here, it really wasn't until I had Jenna 11+ years ago that I really started getting serious about having a planner to keep track our activities and commitments. For years I have just bought $10-$15 planners at Staples or Walmart or this one below, which I have used for the past few years, at Office Max.
You can see that it's the same lined boxes that served me well in college.
And then I started my business and this planner stopped working so well. Because I work generally in three hour increments with clients, and my clients live anywhere from down the street to 45 minutes away, I was not factoring my travel time before, after and even in between two clients. Right now Michaela is doing track after school each day and Jenna is going to rehearsals after school for the musical she's in, so my built-in babysitters for Alec are not always available. What I was finding is that I wasn't keeping good track of where everyone was going to be in the afternoons- and whether someone would be home for Alec to come home to after school.
I became very interested in hourly planners that broke down each day into hour increments so I could fill in schedules and see where I had overlaps.
I started looking on Pintrest and found all kinds of planners. I did lots of research and googling and read blogger planner reviews and compared what I ultimately wanted with what different styles offered.
So after all of that I can tell you that it is an entire industry of planners you can buy pre-printed and bound, planners you can print out on your own, there are different layouts (vertical vs horizontal vs hourly), there are people who love coil-bound planners vs people who love disk bound binders (think like a heavy duty three ring binder), and there are stickers.
Oh, MY, there are stickers. Stickers for decoration, to-do lists, headers, strips, dates, laundry, to pay bills, to mark paydays, flags, circles, hearts, boxes, to keep track of your exercise, your water intake, for meal planning, different activities, stores you go to, and banners for the weekend.
And you can buy these stickers through the planner publishers or craft stores or you can go to Etsy and find hundreds of women who design, print and ship stickers as a business. HUNDREDS.
And once you buy the stickers, you can write out your schedule for the week, add the stickers for embellishment, and then take a picture of your spread and post it to your Instagram account with all the sticker shops labelled so OTHER planners can buy those stickers and use them in THEIR spreads.
And the PENS!! What kind, gel vs. roller vs. markers, what diameter point, smoothness vs. drag, consistency vs. skipping, permanent vs. erasable, color options, bleed through on paper of different brands of planners.
And if you want to keep diving in deeper, you can follow on Instagram these other women planners and see their spreads. And join groups on Facebook made up of literally thousands of women who "plan" and sell stickers and accessories and judge other women's spreads and business practices and sometime de-stash (get rid of their extra stickers) and sell their extra supplies. So they can, presumably, buy more supplies for their planners.
And there's the issue of handwriting. Some of the women who post their spreads have pretty much perfect penmanship- like uber-teacher-writing- and some do not. There are lessons you can take to help improve your handwriting for your spreads.
Oh, and the planner women call themselves "llamas". I am not making that up. And they get insulted pretty easily and will rip you a new one if you get them angry or annoyed. But they are very loyal to each other and help each other out. They have actual conventions where they all meet up and have fun.
So it's a whole... thing. And I thought I was just kind of looking for a way to make sure my 7 year old wouldn't come home to an empty house.
That all being said, I do want to give you a quick peek into what I ultimately chose and how I'm liking it so far.
This is a meal planner from www.shop.carrieelle.com.
First of all, it is rainbow so it makes me happy every time I look at it. Second, a big part of our monthly expenses goes towards our grocery bills and I am always experimenting with ways to keep cost down and plan out what we're having for dinner.
It has a great monthly layout so you can see the whole month and plan ahead for special holidays, events or anything that might affect your dinner plans. I'm also hoping that after a few months I will be able to take several weeks of meals and just repeat them.
Another great feature is the Notes section, which I used to write down a master list of all the meals we eat on a semi-regular basis, so I can choose from there in making my weekly plan. There are plenty of pages in here to add more meals, recipes, ideas, etc.
Plus it's pretty. :)
Here is the layout for the week, with a space for each day and a perforated Grocery List sheet you can tear out and bring shopping. The first few weeks I will be writing on these sticky note flags as I get the hang of things. The sticky notes also give me the flexibility to rearrange meals when I'm planning so we don't have beef three nights in a row or forget that I have a commitment at 6:30pm on Thursday and have to eat something that's quick to clean up... situations like that.
Another great section in this book is a guide for Gatherings, like parties or holidays which require more complicated meals. I love how this is laid out and will definitely be using this section.
This planner also has a section for freezer and pantry inventories, which I hope to be utilizing more later this year as I try to buy more on sale and have a decent food stockpile to shop from weekly.
Overall, I really love this planner and am excited to make this whole process streamlined.
Now for the BIG ONE... my new main planner. I chose the Erin Condren Life Planner in the hourly format. You can look it up and see all of its features but I love the size, the laminated cover, and the pretty colors. And who doesn't love a personalized cover?
Here is a peek of this week's spread. It took me a little bit to get used to the layout and how I block time, but I'm getting into my groove. I find it really helpful to visualize the whole day. The left hand side has a nice to-do list area that I fill in during the week as things come up.
Of course it also has a monthly layout which clearly I don't use too much. Still experimenting with that.
One of my favorite parts of the planner are these extra pages that are divided into sections. People are so creative with these pages and use them for all kinds of health tracking, goal setting, memory keeping, and a whole host of other things. I have been happy so far using it for routines... which is my big goal this year. I need to write down daily, weekly, monthly routines and then DO THEM. For my self, my home, my business, and my life- having these routines and systems in place will help me stay on top of my business and life a whole lot better. Again, I am using sticky notes as my scrap paper in case I want to make changes.
There are Facebook communities for people who love Erin Condren planners, and they have good recommendations for stickers, how to use some of the bank notes pages, and general information and support.
I also splurged and got a second Erin Condren planner for my business, but this is just a monthly layout, not weekly. This will serve as my official record of clients I've worked with, how I was paid, client info and has tons of "notes" pages both intermingled with the monthly layouts and at the back of the planner for any kind of business planning, goal setting, resources, projects, or notes I need to have for my business. It's already greatly impacted my efficiency and effectiveness.
Then we come to the Granddaddy of them all... the Powersheets Planner.
I found this totally by accident while skimming through an Instagram feed and was immediately intrigued. What was this? Could it help me be more intentional in my hectic everyday life with a home, business and three kids? This is sold through www.shop.cultivatewhatmatters.com and unfortunately they are all sold out for 2017, but may be restocking later this year.
Powersheets is written by Lara Casey, who wrote a book called Make It Happen, and focuses on how to discern what you want to intentionally spend your time doing every day, week, month and year, with the emphasis on cutting out things that are creating static in your life and focusing on what you want your legacy to be when you are 80. What really matters? What brings you closer to God? To your loved ones? To your authentic self? It takes you through 31 pages of self-discovery and analysis before you even start thinking about your goals. Then you develop the goals and break them down into smaller parts, and put those smaller parts into a plan for each month. The part I really love is this- every quarter you objectively look at what is working and what is not working and re-assess the goals. I consider myself pretty in touch with who I am and what I want and I found that writing all of my thoughts, feelings, goals, aspirations, and fears was really powerful and eye-opening.
Here is a blank monthly Tending list:
So this is not a weekly planner in which you write down your schedule. It is a map you follow for the year to help move you towards what you want and away from what you don't. I love this. There is also a Facebook community of people also doing Powersheets who provide encouragement, support, and help to people who are stuck.
Powersheets encourages you to chose a word of the year to focus on , and mine is STRIVE. I'm striving for more balance, better routines, growth in my business and faith, and striving towards better health habits.
So that's my new Planner Lineup. I have really enjoyed getting to see all these different features that different planners offer and have already thought about next year and what I will use. They are fun, pretty, and a great way to stay better organized and on top of things in your life. I did NOT realize it was such a huge sub-culture, and while I have been surprised at a few things I've seen and read, most of these communities of women are creative, smart, and inspiring.