Are You a Paper Planner Person?

January 2021 is coming! If you are a paper planner person, I have two things to say to you:

  • You are probably already in possession of your 2021 planner.
  • You are my kinda people.

But first, it is so weird to be a planner person and to look deep into the eyes of 2021 and see very few things to plan. Just like that last nine months. Yet I still have goals and a schedule, so here we go! Big dreams on pause. Small steps and what’s next in clear view. We are often what we do. The pandemic has forced us to face who we are. Oh, and quick question. What day is it? “Blursday.” Here is a great seven-minute story from CBS Sunday Morning, December 27, 2020: Going to Plan B: When COVID pulls the rug out from under you.

I love planning. I love paper planners. I work at living an intentional life and these tools help me. I can be a procrastinator and a last-minute kind of person, too, and planning provides more of a guardrail for that.

Maybe I should open a planner store or work for a planner company. I have a good time looking for the right paper planner. Too good a time. I enjoy seeing what friends are using for their planners. It’s a hobby as much as it is a practical resource. I own multiple planners and calendars. I’m not sure if I’m asking for help or bragging. I’m not sure if I need an intervention or to start a club.

For a brief time, I used only a digital calendar, my phone’s iCal, and then also Google Calendar. That didn’t work for me. Putting pen to paper makes a difference. The full visual of a month or a week on paper gives me a better sense of time and space for planning projects, next steps, and prep work. Paper planners also permit doodling and decorating with colorful stickers or stamps and art, which is important to me. That’s a creative outlet I find useful, relaxing, and rewarding. As a result, I am now a hybrid planner person, using a combo of digital and paper. That has worked for me for years.

Planners and Systems

My hybrid planning includes:

  1. Phone iCal digital calendar: For appointments, scheduled things, and repeating routines. I love the convenience and mobility.
  2. Paper planner: For plotting out the months, weeks, and days to plan projects, next steps in pursuit of goals, and preparation for various coming events and activities.
  3. Teacher planner: Used exclusively to plan my writing business in blocks for all the aspects of my duties and projects as a writer.
  4. Bullet Journal: For collecting notes on projects, making lists, mapping out a plan, notes from a phone call, and all kinds of notes and doodling. This tool broke me of the scattered sticky notes life. Weekly, I summarize any growth opportunities, celebrations, and blessings from the previous week to help keep perspective.

I like Franklin Planners for a variety of reasons and keep coming back to them. I was required to use one as part of my graduate studies in educational leadership, and that is something that has helped me to this day. When priorities are important, planning is the tool for success.

Wanderlust Planner – 2-page per day

I also like some of the features of the Happy Planners, along with some of the planning stickers.

Planner and stickers from Happy Planner
The big clean boxes on the 2-page monthly spread are perfect in the Happy Planner.
I like the three horizontal blocks for each day in the Happy Planner.

I started using a teacher planner in August for my writing business. It adapted so well to tasks that I treated as I would have subjects and periods in the school day. After so many years as a teacher, it felt quite natural.

Teacher Watercolor Planner Month
Teacher Watercolor Planner – Week: I like how I can plan various parts of my writing duties: Book project, blog post, author platform, marketing, craft, etc.

I also use a Bullet Journal, as I mentioned above. I’ve modified it so that it works well for me. For more information on Bullet Journaling, I recommend the book, The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future. Or check out the website: Bullet Journal.

My current bullet journal

Wall Calendars

I also love wall calendars both for the art and for the practicality. Time is a gift, and wall calendars remind me of that, and make me pause when I find myself wishing time away. Here are some of my favorite wall calendars.

Erin Vaughn 2020 Trees Calendar
Susan Branch Desk Blotter – June 2021
Susan Branch working on her illustrations.
  • For practical planning:
    • Wanderlust Wall Calendar: We post a 12-month wall calendar in the kitchen to communicate housemate dishwasher duty rotation, monthly house dinners, reserving the kitchen or living room for guests, and the dinner duty schedule for my husband and me. (Photo below.)
    • Paper Source Mini-Accordion Calendar: It is helpful for planning in business and personally to have a quick view of the next 90-days. (Photo below.)
    • Paper Source Great Big Calendar: This large planning calendar was on my desk at the office, but now that I work remotely, I repurposed it. I use it strictly for work deadlines and meetings and it hangs on two large clips on the wall behind my studio desk. It’s part of my virtual meeting background. (Photo below.)
This is our 2021 Milton House Calendar because we all want to travel again.
My 90-day view using the mini-accordion calendar.
The Great Big Calendar

When I look for a paper planner, I look for a pretty design, a monthly spread with large blank boxes, a place for notes, a place for scheduled appointments and tasks, and a place for the to-do list. For my Bullet Journal, I use a Leuchtturm1917 journal with dotted pages. What do you look for?

What works for you in planning? Do you have a favorite planner brand?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.

– Mary Oliver

Here are some other questions:

  • Do you put work and personal things on the same calendar? I keep them separated, but I might blend them this year.
  • Do you tend to be the planner in your family?

Perhaps there are four kinds of people in the world. Paper planner people, digital calendar people, hybrid planner people, and then everyone else. This time of year, switching calendars and setting up new planners, is fun for those of us who are planner people. I hope you are pleased with your new planner and that you have a year that is organized, relaxing, and filled with moments that become great memories.

May your new planner full of blank spaces bring a sense of hope. I share your optimism.

Stay planful, my friends!

Have a Resilient Christmas!

Christmas is around the corner with New Year’s Eve and 2021 just beyond that. How are you feeling today? Are you, like me, working to wrap your head around a pandemic Christmas? Are you looking at your 2021 calendar hoping for better days? I cannot believe we are still dealing with these restrictions, over nine months later.* Is pandemic fatigue or frustration fogging your season?

Heading into my 10th month….

I made a list of my favorite things about Christmas, the fun and meaningful ones. I assessed the list and realized most of my Christmas favorites can still be part of Christmas 2020. That was so encouraging and provided a good perspective. A few things were adapted in new ways. And just a couple were actually put on hold this year.

Perhaps you too have noticed how much is similar to past years. For instance, here’s a few:

  • Decorations inside and outside our home
  • Enjoying some of the same favorite holiday foods
  • Stockings are hung
  • Baking cookies
  • Pretty presents wrapped and ready for delivery
  • Holiday music playing
  • Steaming hot cocoa fills our mugs on cold evenings
  • Taking a drive after dark to see Christmas lights
  • Favorite Christmas movies and claymation stories entertain
  • Cards and letters are trickling in
  • Plenty of Hallmark movies with quaint snowy towns and holiday romance. Who ever tires of a happy ending?
Decorating at home has gotten simpler over time. The tiny tree is still a happy tree.
Favorite foods – I love Stouffer’s lasagna, especially at the holidays.
A lovely neighborhood home with gate decorated
More outdoor decorations in our area
The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.
Gifts wrapped and waiting to go.

And yet hovering over everything is the ominous CoVid19 cloud and all the challenges with that. It has taken the shine off this time of year for many, even if only slightly. It also brings a more intense sense of missing and longing for people and traditions, not part of this year. I have to acknowledge that for many of us this time is also littered with disappointment, stress, uncertainty, painful loss, and limited social life for those following guidelines. Those are weighty things for sure.

Sometimes this virus feels like a Grinch ready to steal Christmas. So much is so different. Yet we can choose to not let the pandemic ruin Christmas. I hope we can all find a centered place of contentment, reflecting on the good we have encountered this year. What can you find to enjoy? Who can we encourage? Maybe we can express thanks to any essential workers with whom our paths cross. Perhaps we can focus on what we have, what we hope for, instead of what is missing and has been lost. Then the Grinch virus will not ruin Christmas. It is about more than the fixings and the fuss.

From the TV special, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)

I know some are so lonely and blue this Christmas because of cancelled plans and limited contact. My heart goes out to them. It is so hard to overcome in these circumstances. I pray those dear ones can find hope and joy in their holiday, too.

Here in Los Angeles County, we are on a stricter “Stay at Home” order through Christmas. For most years of my adult life, I’d be thrilled to be asked to stay at home for Christmas. But somehow this is not exactly what I meant.

We are having a very different December. Christmas celebrations for us won’t include the physical presence of family or friends beyond our CoVid home bubble. We choose to do what we can to slow the spread and to follow the county and state requests. That isn’t easy, but we feel like we want to contribute in that way.

I hope you and your loved ones are doing OK as you finish planning and preparations. I also hope you are kind to yourself this year, accepting what you cannot control, and enjoying what you can. Maybe if we just have a day without controversy, conspiracy, or conflict. That would be a good gift. And I hope you, like me, are able to enjoy a slower schedule.

In closing, I also want to wish happy holidays to all my friends who celebrate different traditions with family and friends. Perhaps you recently finished the meaningful time of Hanukkah. For those honoring Kwanzaa, you will begin soon and are probably already looking forward to the feast. As the different celebrations always remind us, we can get through this together.

Stay resilient, my friends! And merry Christmas to all celebrating the birth of Christ this week.

I toast to you and yours this Christmas with hot chocolate in hand. Cheers!

P.S. *Speaking of nine months of pandemic life, here come the babies! Perhaps you’ve noticed that we are heading into a little baby boom, and it’s underway now. New sweet little ones are making their way into the world, and we are cheered by that for sure!

Simmering Scentsibility

Years ago, I found a recipe for simmering scents that bring a sense of the holidays to our home. I made a batch recently. I love that the ingredients are all-natural and incorporate my favorite holiday smells. There are no exact measures on this for the ingredients. If that makes you uneasy, the photos will help. Once you get more adventurous, play around with various amounts of this or that and see what scent gets the emphasis.

Add the following ingredients to a small saucepan or pot:

  • Lemon slices
  • Orange slices
  • Rosemary sprigs (I cut some from our backyard plant)
  • Vanilla (a few drops)
  • Water

I also add:

  • Cranberries (I toss in a handful mostly for color)
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Whole cloves
Ingredients gathered and ready to go in the little pot to simmer.
Everything is in the pot, ready for the water.
After adding enough water to fill the pot at least halfway, place the pot on the stove.
Set the heat at medium to bring it to a boil. I also set the timer for 3-minutes so I don’t forget it and get busy elsewhere in the house
Bring it to a boil. The cranberries will pop when their skins burst. I don’t think I caught that sound on the video. No cranberries were harmed in the filming.
I bring it to a rolling boil and then turn the heat to low. Just watching this video calms me. I can almost smell all the delight.
Once it’s on low, keep an eye on it. You don’t want it to boil dry. You can add more water along the way. Always clean your stove before photographing a close-up.

I often turn the burner off, and the smell continues to waft as the brew cools down. Then I don’t worry about it burning dry. I use the same mix for a few days, just adding water and reheating it.

Turn on some holiday music and fill you home with the sounds and smells that can bring simple joy, even in these uncertain days.

Stay charming, friends!