It's a dilemma I face every year... buying a new journal/planner. I have a lot of stuff going on in my life, personally and professionally, and I have always needed a place to keep it all in order. Years ago, I only kept a daily journal in a basic "blank" book that I bought at the local bookshop. I had friends who used a really basic spiral notebook... but I liked the hardcover for durability. I found that simply writing in it every day, with reminders at the end of an entry about what needed to be done the next day, was sufficient. I was able to take my daily emotional and intellectual inventory, track goals, and remind myself of what I needed to do the next day. Super simple. It worked great for two and a half decades.
Then my son was born, and I began pursuing a more ambitious writing career. Time to find a better tool. I discovered the Franklin Planner, while working at a newspaper, and it worked quite well for several years. I was able to keep track of interviews, writing deadlines, family obligations, and my son's extra activities at school. My daily journal still worked well to keep track of emotional components, personal inventory, and goals. Two books to keep my life well ordered didn't seem excessive, especially because I generally used one during the day, and the other only at night.
Enter computers into my daily life, college, and the adventure of building my own businesses; three of them, over the years. Carrying around a laptop computer, AND a daily planner book, PLUS my daily journal felt like doing the work three times. I'm not a fan of redundancies, so, I shopped and shopped, trying several different styles of planners. Some worked, others didn't. I went digital for a while, and then back to paper. But frustration lingered because I still felt like I had too many tools, doing the work too many times over, and never truly finding an effective solution.
It's now 2019, soon to be 2020, and let's face it... I'm getting older. My tolerance for extraneous nonsense is dwindling. I have a husband whom I love to spend time with, books to read, books to write, a business to grow, my family is a constantly changing component to my existence... and I have dogs! At this point, I'm all about simplifying wherever possible and only focusing energy on what I really want in my life, not doing the work three times!
In October, I began shopping, again. The planner that I found and used last year worked well... but it was still too much work, and it didn't really have the daily emotional piece I was looking for. It was nice, just not perfect. I wanted a planner that would combine my daily journal work, daily personal inventory trackers to eliminate the need for long-winded entries, a system to track goals and progress on those goals, and a daily calendar to keep my professional responsibilities and appointments in a format that reduces stress. I searched both digital and printed formats for nearly a month... I couldn't find anything that met all of my needs and requirements.
Frustration can sometimes be the wizard of invention. Out of sheer shopping overwhelm (and a desire to spend as little money as possible), I sat down one weekend, and I made my own planner. From my experience with the Internet "window" shopping I did on Amazon and other websites beforehand, I figure I saved about $35.
Using Microsoft Excel, I made a monthly page, a weekly page, and a daily page. Each one contains all the aspects of recording, tracking, and managing my emotionally undulating, very busy life. I have a comb binding machine, which I obtained years ago when I was making training manuals, and bought some plastic "month tabs" from the office supply store. I grabbed a couple of pages of card stock and plastic overlays, and created my own cover... something that would remind me that I am in control and responsible for my own destiny - a mini vision board, essentially (see above). I put it all together, and was extremely pleased with the outcome.
The vision board piece is another thing I try to do every year, so it was helpful to have everything pulled together in a single resource that I could always carry around with me.
In December, I began my beta test. I wanted to start a month early on the off chance that I hated it and needed to actually buy something else. Just like with writing a new book, you never can tell how it's all going to turn out until you beta test it. It's printed on standard 8.5" x 11" paper, and fits neatly into my tablet briefcase or laptop backpack, so I can take it to meetings and events. No, it's not digital, and yes, I still keep my appointments in my Google calendar synchronized on my tablet, phone, and computer... but the simple fact that it allows me to contain, track, and reflect daily in a single book, is a huge step forward in stress reduction. The best thing about having DIY'd this project is that after using it for a year, I have the ability to tweak it... move things, eliminate things, add things, in any way that I find most effective. And, I don't have to spend a lot of money doing it!
Yup, frustration is indeed sometimes the motivator of creation.
Click the images below to see the detail of my planning pages.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!