my diy productivity planner

this one goes out to my friends who love a pen & paper, writing stuff down.

as a child my favorite purchase was my annual planner. i would go to Target, to  Barnes and Noble, to Everywhere, in search of the perfect one.

it was always a challenge to find my ideal balance of cute & practical. many years i ended up collaging over bits of the exterior and interior because it was either too girly, too boring, too…perhaps you aren’t as particular as me but this planner was 'so crucial to the success of my year' it had to be just right.

well, i’m 34 and i’m not sure i have ever found my version of a  perfect planner, but that hasn’t stopped the quest.

that said, while the sole focus of my past planners was to give a date & time to activities, assignments, tests, and parties, my planner is now a house for so much more - a place to practice gratitude, to set intentions for my day, to dream, and to break daunting dreams into bite-sizeable tah-dahs one day at a time.

and the best system i have found to house all that?

an empty, ruled/lined, black notebook!

and then what do you write inside for said productivity??

the system is an amalgamation of several approaches to planning i have tried over the years. so ready? here we go!

it begins sunday night.

every week i take one page to write down affirmations of my dreams come true that i want to continue to pour into - i have two thriving healthy boys. i am a present and loving mama. my partner and i laugh daily - i remind myself of the abundance already in my life as i set about my merri way to dream even bigger.

then i take another page to write down unrealized dreams as if they have already happened. this part is derived from rachel hollis. she says to make these so audacious that you are embarrassed to show them to anyone. i write three to five personal - we live in a waterfront house with open airy rooms - and three to five work-related - i am a recognized illustrator with a successful line of children's books.

next i highlight one from each side, personal & work, that i want to actively work on that week. and now we are ready to juice the week ahead!

our monday morning practice is here!

and by morning practice, i mean as early as you can feasibly do it.

in this season of life, morning starts around five am but it's not until the kids have shook out their shennanigans and are sitting down to breakfast, that i can sit down with my coffee and write.

each week day has a new page with the date / day of week in the upper left corner.

then, the lines goes as follows

three ways to practice self-care

because being our best human to others begins within.

for me, this usually takes the form of moving my body because it makes me feel so good. it could also be a face mask, dancing to your favorite song, meditation.

usually one of the items is a longer practice (30 m or more) and the other two are shorter (5-10 m).

for example, today i did a morning beach walk, 15 m arm workout midday, and walked to pick up the boys from school in silence.

three specific things i am grateful for that happened in the last 24 hours.

because the abundance of life is here & now.

i try to get as specific as possible with these. for example, instead of writing 'morning beach walk,' i try to be more specific - i am grateful for how salty the ocean smelled this morning, my partner doing daddy duty so i can sneak out, my legs that move me, how refreshing the wind felt on my face.

instead of writing 'family,' i write olin giggling about the jingle bell on the bike ride home from school, stopping to take in the neighborhood christmas lights through childlike eyes, the simple delight of sharing a box of mac & cheese…

scheduled times of the day

because if not here, i'll forget! #mombrain

even though i have a calendar to reference, here is my chance to remind myself first thing in the morning of any calls or appointments happening that day, be it with a client or kid's doctor.

three must-get-dones (mgds) for more the merrlier

because focused baby steps can make quantum leaps.

these are the three things, no matter what, i plan to accomplish that day. for example, write weekly newsletter, two licensing inquiries, and schedule a week of pins. if the project is larger i will break off a hunk of it, e.g. complete one more draft illustration.

easy wins, e.g. fix broken link on facebook, come later or as a mgd on a weekend. 

three adjectives that describe how i want to feel that day.

because we can choose our mood!

creative, present, inspired, playful, joyful, productive, energetic… the words i choose vary depending on what i know i have on my plate that day.

although it seems trivial, it’s a wonder what setting an intention for your mood does.

three people i want to send love to.

because we are all connected and energy is real.

this can be anyone from my grandma, to my friend from third grade, to the cashier at the grocery store. i just take a couple minutes to be still and send good energy out into the world.

mantra time

because the thoughts we think & words we say to ourselves matter.

i relate this to the two goals i am working on - for example, when my top goal was to have my first children's book, my mantra was - i am the published author & illustrator of a colorful & creative children's book.

running list of to-dos

because it's a part of life.

or get-to tah-dahs if you prefer. this list is for both mtm and family/personal stuff. e.g. pay rent, call back grandpa, find local pediatrician, sort photos from phone, design new return address stamp, repot mint plant..

so if you got this far with me, depending on the size of your handwriting, this typically all fits on one page and takes about five to ten minutes.then once the kids are off to school i go about my day, starting with self-care, with my planner on the handy for reference as needed

the wrap up

as i am preparing to wind down for bed, usually with a sweet at my side, i do a final important, step.

for anyone familiar with the bullet journal, here is where my twist on that methodology gets incorporated…. next to the three mgds and running list of tah-dahs i place a

X if the task was completed
/ if the task was started, but needs to be finished the next day
< if the task was missed, and needs to be pushed a day
>> if needs to be pushed a day
>>> if needs to be pushed to a to different week, different month, etc. - in this case i then write the tah-dah on a neon post-it note and place it on a future page in planner so i can reincorporate later on
? if i did the task but either ran into a pickle and need to re-strategize and/or am awaiting another’s reply to complete it

and tomorrow?

the next morning it begins again!

the tah-dah list refers to my marks from monday and carries forward my mgds and to-dos according to the schedule of the day.

some final tips & tricks

all in all, what i most love about keeping my planning in a blank journal is that sometimes i just need space to write down some thoughts - whether personal reflections or notes on an interesting podcast - i record these as * bullets on a new page, or just write them free form...

and, that's it! or at least that’s it for now. i find myself always reiterating my journaling practice because the whole purpose of said practice is to evolve & change.

i hope this glimpse into my planning practice provides you with some nuggets for your own.

as always, if you have thoughts, observations and strategies to share, please comment below. i love hearing & learning from you!