Design-Friendly 2017 Planner + Printables
Oh la la! Time is slipping away from me this year.
I’ll be honest, I prepared this blog post three weeks ago already and I just got around to pick it back up to finish it. Fittingly, this is exactly the subject of this week’s post: how to stay sane when you are juggling many projects in your personal and professional life. The funny thing is that a lot of my friends often comment on how organised I am, they describe me as “a planner” and this is not exactly how I see myself. Privately, I get a little panicky about my to-do lists growing further and further out of control with every passing week and if I’m honest, setting priorities to stick to is not something that has always come naturally to me.
In fact, I would argue that the quest towards having a better work/life balance (or actually a better life/living balance because you know, budgeting, groceries shopping, paperwork might not be your day job but it’s definitely work) is something that takes a lot of work. I know there are some people who might naturally juggle between things easily and hardly ever stress about what doesn’t get done, but I’m not afraid to say that in my case, it takes a lot of focus and preparation to achieve everything I need to do. It’s far from effortless. Speaking from experience, if I really want to eat well, exercise, meditate, read, and sleep well, I’ve found out that I need to carve that time out of the commitments of every day life consistently. It doesn’t just magically happen (wouldn’t that be nice?).
So today, I wanted to write about what’s been working for me, how I’ve learned (slowly but surely) to plan personal and professional projects more effectively. I wanted to share some of my tips and ask for yours, and take this opportunity to showcase some design-friendly 2017 planners that have caught my eye recently. I’m saying recently because for a long time I’ve kept my to-do lists on my phone, using Trello or even my iPhone notes, but I want to move to paper and print and if that’s your case too, well it’s never too late, we do have ten months to reach our goals this year.
Planning more effectively: what works for me
Tip 1: Shut down the noise
At any given time, I have a lot of things whizzing in my head competing for attention. For instance, I might be worrying about getting artwork delivered by a freelancer in time for a work project, making a mental note to add this and that to my grocery list, and remembering I still need to book a restaurant for a friend’s birthday party. It can be exhausting and most importantly, however much progress I seem to make on these day-to-day tasks, there will always be new ones popping up, which can be disheartening because you feel like there is no progress.
What works for me: I compartmentalise. I separate my to-do lists from one another rather than having all the things I need to do in one place. If I’m at home and I think about something at work, I try to push it out. And likewise, if I’m at work (aside from my lunch break) I make it a point not to let other thoughts or worries come into my head. At first it was not easy to do this and I worried that if I didn’t jot something down right away, I would forget it. But after a little practice, I got used to it and it helps me to focus my energy and attention on different things at different times.
Tip 2: Assign time values to tasks
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you have 40 things in mind that need to get done this month. The danger is to start with what’s less scary, or more enjoyable to you, or to procrastinate and not start at all because you feel that if you don’t have the time to do everything, with a slot of four hours to tackle your list, it’s not worth it. But then there’s panic on a Saturday morning and you might sink your whole day pushing through to get done all the things you didn’t get a start on during the week rather than taking some time off and relaxing. All because you feel late. Familiar?
What works for me: I highlight dependencies between tasks so that I can identify which ones really need to be done first, and I intentionally separate them across weekly periods with a realistic deadline. I don’t do things now that can be done later, unless they’re super quick things that are better out of the way than on my list. Additionally, I assign each task a realistic time-value of how long it will take, and when I do this, I often realise that even if I have 40 different things on my to-do list they’re not all created equal, won’t all take as long, and they definitely don’t all need to be done as soon as I have a little free time. Essentially, I spend a little time deconstructing my to-do list, but it saves me energy and anxiety in the long run because I won’t feel overwhelmed or confused as to where and when to start.
Tip 3: Ask for help
This is related to the point above. Once I’ve separated and deconstructed my to-do lists, I often realise that there are tasks I took on that I don’t have to do myself. This is something that is often true at work where I seem to either volunteer for things all the time or just naturally add things to my list every time someone suggests something needs to be done in the future. But it’s true at home too. If Rob and I are planning a holiday, I’ll always be the one who throws herself mercilessly into looking at the 248 AirBnb listings, comparing the TripAdvisor restaurant reviews of our destination city and planning a ton of activities to pick from, complete with times and prices. But of course, the hours spent on this are not spent tackling my own to-do list or even just spending time away from the computer, reading a book or meeting a friend.
What works for me: Whenever possible, I force myself to delegate and ask for help as appropriate. In the workplace let’s be honest, the more you take on, the more people will expect you to do, so it’s just not a good long-term strategy to constantly overachieve, and most of the time it won’t necessarily be rewarded. Doing your job well and efficiently, according to the expectations and targets that have been clearly outlined is more than enough. And in my personal life, if I’m planning some things with friends or family, I try and make sure that tasks are split equally. You can be assertive while still offering other people a choice, for instance by saying: “What do you prefer, looking for accomodation options, or city guides we can browse for activities?” It’s always more motivating to do things together, working towards a common goal, and it’s much more efficient.
Tip 4: Choose convenience
I don’t think I need to break this one down. Being a high-performing young adult is hard work :)
What works for me: Wherever I can, I try to make my life easier. We’re lucky to have access to great technology today, we live in an age where user experience is key to a lot of the products and services which compete for our attention, so why spend hours tracking my budget on Excel when I can use Monzo? This is a card and app that you top up from your bank account and that can track all of your spending in real-time, separating transactions into the right categories so that you can see at a glance if you’re keeping to your budget. Similarly, I don’t want to spend hours recipe-hunting and groceries shopping on the two days of the week that I have free. For a particular occasion yes of course, that’s part of the fun! But for casual weekly evening meals, no thanks. So something like Hello Fresh has been a godsend. A weekly box of fresh groceries that is delivered right to your door with all the ingredients necessary for five delicious recipes (and super high quality meat and vegetables might I add), I’ve found that it actually ends up being cheaper than last-minute dashes to the store while hungry, where I’d end up buying random things, unhealthy snacks or blowing £25 on just one meal. There have been no more lazy pasta or pizza evenings for us in months, we’ve discovered tons of great recipes and really enjoy spending 30 minutes in the kitchen together after work because the hassle has been taken entirely out of the equation.
Tip 5: Keep Yourself Accountable
This is a nice transition into sharing my design-friendly diary and calendar picks. A little tough-lover here but you will know this already: at the end of the day, no one else is responsible for the pursuit of your goals but yourself. Whether it’s about improving your home decor, saving more money, organising a great trip, or career progression, what works best is to commit. Say your goals out loud, write them down, plan them out in a realistic way, put them up on your walls, tell other people about them. It’s much easier to keep yourself on track when a project is in front of you everyday. Below are some nice picks that could help you with this, I hope you will like them. Some are from the stationery e-shops I’m following, and some are great printables that you can download for free.
Design-Friendly 2017 Planners: Shopping Picks
1 // The Planner by Seeso at Fox and Star (£20)
2 // Dark Palm Planner by Ooh Deer (£11.95)
3 // Index Card Calendar by Present and Correct (£19.50)
4 // Yearly Planner and Stickers by Evermade (£10)
5 // 6 months Planner by Sticker Stack (£13.50)
Design-Friendly 2017 Planners: Free Printables
1 // Free Printable Monthly Calendar by Foreign Rooftops
2 // Free Printable Calligraphy Calendar by Victoria Behun
3 // Free Printable Monthly Planner by Dawn Nicole Designs
4 // Free Printable Weekly Planner by Eliza Ellis
5 // Free Printable Monthly Calendar by Design Corral
Over to you!
What are some of your tips and tricks to keep yourself on track when you’re juggling many different tasks and projects that are important to you? What do you do to have a healthier work/life balance and stay sane? And finally, if you have kids – just let me know, HOW are you doing it? I’m only half kidding here, this is something I am very aware of now that I turned 30. There are so many things to do and so little hours in the day that when I find myself struggling to keep on top of my goals, there is a little voice inside my head that reminds me that one day I will have children to care for, keep safe and entertain and that this will be a completely different ball game. I have no idea how all those badasses working moms do it and I really admire them. So if that’s you, please do share some of your secrets!