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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!