When I first looked at the information about this (super awesome) blog hop, I laughed. Get it together? Me? I do not have it together. I sometimes play a person who has it together on the reality TV show called my life. But I do NOT have it together. Not ever.
Fun Fact: You can safely approximate the state of my mental health by the state of my desk/car/living room.
When my thoughts and emotions are disorganized, so is my physical environment. At first it can be the good kind of chaos–distracted by making real progress on that manuscript amidst a pile of candy wrappers and half-empty coffee mugs. Wheee!
Only it doesn’t stay the good kind.
It grows teeth and claws. And the more disorganized my physical environment becomes, the harder it is to get my thoughts and emotions under control. It’s a vicious cycle that results in periodic re-organization jags where I burn it all down.
*cough* I mean, I throw everything away, buy a cork board (or a white board, or an expensive planner), and really commit to “getting my shit together.” I make lists and solemn vows. I grit my teeth.
This would be awesome if I emerged from the disorganized ashes like a phoenix–as fierce and glorious as Angela Bassett in the above gif–but that is not what happens.
All the expensive tools or apps just gather dust after a few weeks (or a month if I’m lucky) of fervent devotion.
All too soon, I stop updating the fancy new thing and feel paralyzing guilt. I just spent so much money (or time) on this new system. I’m obligated to put effort into it, right?
That white board, with the same message on it for two weeks, the one I thought would cheerfully motivate me to GSD…it’s just judging me.
That $100 personalized planner that was going to REVOLUTIONIZE MY LIFE is thumping in my purse like the tell-tale heart.
The obligation becomes oppressive. And there’s really only one way I respond to that…
But this past winter, I stumbled on a system that seems to work for me. In the immortal words of .38 Special, I needed to Hold on Loosely.
Here, have an earworm:
I was clinging so tightly *cough* to those systems that as soon as I slipped up in one small area, I felt like I’d botched the whole effort. I needed something more forgiving. A kinder, gentler organizer. Something to believe in. A space to breath in. *cough cough* OK, I’ll stop with the lyrics.
Thus, my DIY Planner was born with a hefty helping of ZOMG THANK YOU to Bree Bridges for sharing her planner page templates.
The guts of my system:
5.5×8.5 Binder (I chose a plain view binder, but there are tons of cute mini-binders available.)
Tabbed Monthly Calendar Insert (Just double check the size.)
Stickers (I like Lisa Frank, but you should choose your own joyful sticky expression/reward tools.)
My planner cost me a little over $20 to put together. More than snagging a basic planner at the drug store, but way less than some of the super fancy custom solutions.
I clipped out an image and tucked it into the front pocket. In a previous life that plucky little “live happy” graphic was one of the monthly dividers in my insert set. I swap the cover out from time to time. Always something that brings me joy. It’s easy enough to do and doesn’t require a lot of energy.
It *might* satisfy that “burn it all down” urge. Maybe.
Okay, lets look inside.
Pockets for stickers and ephemera. A pen. And I’ve been battling a bout of extra murky depression so I recently added this amazing “Everything is Awful and I’m Not Okay” self-care checklist as the front page. If this seems like something that would be helpful to you, you can snag the full text (and a printable PDF) from Eponis. I printed mine on bright green cardstock and jazzed it up with Lisa Frank stickers. Because that’s what I do.
But my favorite part of the planner is the “to do list” page.
I use this instead of a weekly or daily calendar page. And it makes all the difference. Mainly because if I skip a day (or a week)… there’s no big blank gap sitting there reminding me of my failure.
I sit down for a few minutes with my first cup of coffee, start a new page, and keep on keepin’ on.
Right now my to do lists are a mixture of basic survival, writing stuff, aspirations, and day job tasks. Heavy on the survival because depression sucks. Here’s one from the 27th.
I don’t always put things like “shower” and “eat breakfast” on my list so I can have the satisfaction of checking them off…. sometimes it’s so I actually DO them.
When I’m in the thick of depression and anxiety, setting small goals when that’s all I can manage is key. Goals like…bathe, 100 word sprint (you read that right 100 not 1k), or answer 5 emails. I like to set myself up for success. But even with small goals it isn’t guaranteed. You’ll notice that I included “finish org post” which was referring to THIS post. On the 27th. Well, if you follow me on twitter you might know that as of the 31st I was still not finished. That’s okay too…I just move things ahead to the next day. Keep on keepin’ on.
Hold on loosely. Don’t let go…
I also love that there’s space for tracking word count. I totally use that when I’m in the productive swing of things. It’s nice to look back and see that I had great writing days…and know that I’ll have them again. Other people have fabulous spreadsheets for this–but for me those are just one more thing I’ll drop the ball on at some point in the future.
I do have monthly dividers where I record longer range plans and travel things. There’s also room for jotting down blog post ideas or future project mini-notes. Sometimes it’s nice to look ahead.
October will be a good month. A trip to DC for the Washington DC Romance Writers’ Readers and Bloggers Luncheon (with bonus Elisabeth Lane – Cooking Up Romance slumber party) at the beginning of the month. Followed by a week with my co-author and bestie Amber (you can tell by the cute kitten stickers) in Texas at the end of the month. Oh and my 12th Wedding Anniversary is smooshed in there too. Wheee!
(These things also go in my google calendar where I keep track of appointments and such.)
So far this system has been exactly what I needed. Just enough structure to make me feel safe, but not so much that I feel like a failure as soon as my brain chemistry sends me off the rails.
What works for you? I’d love to hear about it!