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Around here, school is back in session! Back to school time feels like new-start-time for me, too, which often means a new calendar and/or trying out a new planning system. I love a new calendar, a new planner, a new notebook.

I have explored all kinds of formats!

A few years ago, I made my own planner book.

I cut a length of canvas, painted it up and made the signatures inside, following this tutorial.

The first monthly spread looked like this:

I used it as a calendar for two months and then used the rest as an art journal. I didn’t like the scritchy-scratch way it felt to write on the gesso squares I made for each day.

I should add that another reason I quit using it is because not knowing if I would have the right number of pages wigged me out. In a three-ring binder, you can insert pages, move them around. In a bound book, of course, you can’t do that. It made me twitchy.

Somewhere along in here I used a three-ring binder for a while. The best part was getting to pick out a new one at Target. The down side was carrying that bulky thing around everywhere. Next!

My moleskin notebook worked pretty well; I used white paint instead of gesso for the squares on the month layout.


Around in here is when I hit on traveler’s notebook. I love the romanticism associated with the traveler’s notebook – rugged and weather beaten, toted through forest hikes and coffee at Paris cafes, recording deep thoughts.

I’ve never hiked a forest nor traveled to Paris but just the idea of a traveler’s notebook connects me to it.

I ordered inserts for my traveler’s notebooks. I made a few of my own.

I’m not sure why I moved on.

Next I tried bullet journaling.

After a while, it seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

Then I remembered that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are plenty great planners out there! That meant the next trip I made to Jackson, I had a mission to find a new planner. Fun! I found this one at Barnes & Noble. Watercolor + books = love it!

I love the nice, thick cover. Toting it around reminded me of being back in school. I liked that. The space for the daily lists was a bit small for my tastes so I moved on.

It didn’t hurt that it was end of the year and I happily went with the new year, new you phenomenon that hits around that time. I heard about the Ink and Volt planner and got one in late December.

It has creamy paper and plenty of space for writing out yearly and monthly goals, and lots of ways of helping keep those goals in front of mind.

But the weekly format with its days divided into morning, afternoon, and evening sections didn’t work great for me. I (finally) figured out that dividing tasks by day usually made me feel more frustrated and/or defeated than anything. I’d load up tasks on Mondays and Tuesdays, not get them done, and generally feel like poo. That made it harder to get things done for the rest of the week, since I’d already proven to myself that I couldn’t complete what I wanted to do.

I treated myself to the Get To Work wall calendar. (The Get To Workbook was yet another planner I bought a few years ago that I found, although gorgeous, did not work for me.)

Then! I hit on simply grouping like tasks together: everything I need to do on my computer – such as edit photos, draft content for my newsletter – in one section. All the things to do online on another. Emails to send, things to do at home, and errands to run. Make is for art. It and the computer section tend to be the biggest.

This way, it doesn’t matter which day I do them. Feels so much better.

There is something to be said for finding the way that works for you.

Once I did, I restructured how I plan and set myself up for success.

I still make a list of what I want and need to do. The trick is that there is no specific date or day or time associated with the task. I write it down and then give myself all kinds of breathing room around how and when it gets done. This has proven to be my ace in the hole.

It took me years, literally years, to realize this. No matter how attractive the orderly, usual system was, no matter how much I wanted to work that way, it just doesn’t. And no amount of e-courses and Get It Done systems and different planners would change that!

That’s the Rebel (a la The Four Tendencies quiz) coming out.

(The Four Tendencies quiz was developed by habit expert Gretchen Rubin. You can take it here and see what yours is. I thought I was a Questioner before I took it!)

When it comes to planning, it doesn’t matter how much I *want* to follow my carefully made plans: as soon as it’s something I should do, my Rebel self says, “Nope and you can’t make me.”

If you don’t have the Rebel tendency, there’s a really good chance that this sounds crazy, maybe even stupid, to you. And that’s great! More to the point: Find the way that works for you and then own it like nobody’s business.

Once I hit on this, it was solid gold. Now I batch like tasks together, which makes it doubly efficient. It works.

What works for you?