Thursday, August 30, 2018

Journal Me Organized

Journal Me Organized by Rebecca Spooner (2018)

This isn't the sort of book I normally review - or read cover-to-cover for that matter - but I've been thinking a lot about my planner recently. Before this year I had been bullet journaling for a while (a year? more? I have no sense of time) but I got a little burnt out on having to create the framework for my planner. Even worse was having to do it at a certain time, since with a bullet journal you use however much space you need at the time rather than creating a structure with a certain amount allotted for each day/week/month. So it would suddenly be the last day of the month and I'd panic because now I have to create my new monthly spread and then the weekly spread for the new week and it all had to look pretty but it was a busy day and I only had like 10 minutes to do this project. I decided that I needed some structure.

Enter the Passion Planner. I did a lot of research into planners in late 2017, and this one appealed to me for a lot of reasons. It has a structure, it has a built-in goal tracking feature, and a list of questions at the end of each month to evaluate how the month went, what I learned, etc. It's filled with inspiring quotes! It's designed by a young woman of color, not a huge company! It has a social media presence with various tips and tricks! The month page has spaces to fill in a monthly focus, places to go, people to see, and a "not to do" list. The weekly spreads also list a focus as well as a spot for "good things that happened." Halfway through the year though, the planner started to physically fall apart. I had also become frustrated with the weekly layout because the space for each day was split up by the half hour. My day isn't a schedule, it's a to-do list - so I washi taped over the times and just make lists, but it's really too narrow. The spots could be wider if space wasn't allotted to the weekly focus and good things that happened, which I didn't use after the first few months anyway. I do like the goal-setting aspects, and the monthly evaluation questions. Clearly, I know what I want and I'm going to need to make it myself.

What I'll do is use a blank journal but instead of creating it as I go along, bullet-journal style, I'll create a structure that works for me. I'll definitely be borrowing aspects from the Passion Planner, but leaving out what didn't work for me. So I was looking around for inspiration and Pinterest is honestly far too overwhelming. I also find that all the bullet journal stuff there is too much about being artsy and looking pretty and not enough about being useful. Plus there are always a zillion lists like "50 things to put in your habit tracker" or "create a page where you list all the new hobbies you want to start" and I'm not trying to find more stuff to do, I just want to be more organized about what's I'm already doing. Just at the moment I was looking for it, I saw that a book called Journal Me Organized by Rebecca Spooner was about to be published and I requested it from the library.

It's divided up into four main sections: Getting Started, Breaking It Down, Collections, and Step by Step. In Getting Started, Spooner introduces the difference between cerebral and creative planning, cerebral being more structured (this is me!) and creative being a looser, more artsy method. She also talks about tools - the actual journal, pens, markers, etc - and how to plan your planner and establish a planning routine. Section two, Breaking It Down, delves into all the layouts: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. It ends with Specialty Planning, which includes habit trackers, time trackers, meal planning, and other sorts of specific planning you may want to add. Next is Collections, which are basically lists, or places to organize ideas about something in one spot. Some of these might include a cleaning schedule, bill schedule, movies and tv shows to watch, books to read, goals, rainy day ideas, evening or morning routines, and my favorite: 10-minute tasks, a handy list of things that need to be done that you can do when you have just a short bit of time. The final section, Step by Step, contains detailed techniques for brush lettering, watercolor painting, creating custom tabs, bookmarks, pockets, and even creating your own notebook. At the end of the book is a list of resources, an index (yay!), and templates for lettering and illustrations.

This is a large format book complete with lots of examples, illustrations, and pictures of her planner pages. I'll admit I got very distracted by reading her sample pages and trying to figure out her life and what some of her items mean, which is totally beside the point but also gave me some good ideas. Also I can't believe how busy this woman must be. She's got five kids who she homeschools, plus all the writing and social media stuff she does, plus selling books from a children's publisher, plus all the regular household stuff which includes cooking a whole big meal every night because with seven people in your household you don't have a lot of leftovers.

Despite all she's managing to plan in her own life, I found her advice very forgiving. She's so low-pressure about trying different things and just seeing what works. She acknowledges that no matter how organized or pretty you try to make your planner, there will be mistakes and messiness, and she includes photos of pages where that happened, and pages that she just didn't like how they came out. I found this all SO much better than looking for ideas on Pinterest where everything is completely perfect and the vast amount of content is so overwhelming.

As for what I'll take from this book, I'm definitely a more cerebral kind of planner. Spooner uses a lot of artsy watercolor on her pages which isn't my kind of thing (and honestly way too much effort) so I didn't pay much attention to how to do that, but I may try some of her other layouts. I mentioned earlier how much I like her 10-minute list, and I think I might try to use that. She also talks about "scripting," which is describing a plan for the day rather than just listing out tasks. She likens it to coaching yourself and says it can be motivational as well as rational. I'm intrigued and may try this in my journal (I don't tend to do much writing beyond lists in my planner) although I will definitely still have to-do lists in my planner. I just like the idea of thinking through my day before I create a list of tasks. I'd also like to add something for meal planning and some sort of loose cleaning schedule.

Overall, I found this book inspiring and filled with great ideas for setting up my new planner. Having mostly just used Pinterest in the past, I liked the experience of using a book by one person who goes through the whole process and presents their ideas, and I may look for more books on this topic. Have you seen any books or other resources on creating planners that you found helpful? If so, please let me know in the comments!

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