Lessons from a Planner Addict & Best Planners for 2018

Illusions of Productivity

 

This is probably the most exciting time of the year for a planner addict. Lists, resolutions, and goals galore. I haven’t always been a planner junkie- meaning, I haven’t always been a multiple planner user, with stickers and markers and washi tape. But I’ve always been an avid list maker, and I’ve always been a creative person, so when a friend introduced me to this whole planner world, I was immediately hooked because I got to combine two things that I find very therapeutic.

Last year I decided to share this little hobby of mine on social media as I swapped and shared inspiration with other planner junkies, and after having one full year under my belt, I have discovered a few things along the way using different planner systems, trying to find my groove. So below I’ve tried to synthesize and combine every question and conversation I’ve had with colleagues and friends who get curious about my hobby and who are also looking for systems that work for them and their busy lifestyles.

Below I’ve also listed links to some of the best (in my opinion) functional/wellness planners on the market!


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Why I’m a multiple planner user:

This past year I used three different systems- the Bullet Journal, The Happy Planner, and my Google Calendar. I’ve found that using the Google Calendar was the best option for master planning, future planning, and sharing/making plans with my fiancé and friends. I was a strict user of the pen and paper planning, but found that I had a hard time committing to plans because I didn’t always have my planner on me.

I always get this question:  So if you’re using a calendar app on your phone, what is the point in using another planner?

I’m sure many of you have heard that people have different learning and perceiving styles:

Visual or Spatial– meaning you prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

Aural or Auditory-Musical- meaning you prefer using music or sound.

Verbal or Linguistic– meaning you prefer using words both in speech or writing.

Physical or Kinetic – meaning you prefer using your body, hands, and sense of touch.

Logical or mathematical– you prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

I find myself to be very verbal, visual, and logical. I had to re-write out powerpoint slides in school to fully understand the material (very time consuming, I know!). So when it comes to preparing for the week, it really helps when I am able to sit down on Sunday, look at my plans made on Google Calendar, and write them down in a visual monthly and weekly layout. When I do this, other goals or list items come to mind that I just can’t track efficiently on a mobile app. For instance- if I see that I have a dinner party on Thursday night right after work, I will probably then try to squeeze in a little trip to the market earlier that week to grab a bottle of wine and something to contribute. Or if I plan a creative project and aim to start it next month, I’ll want to write it into the month and have the space to write my thoughts and possible action items, and most likely some doodles to go with it.

Planner Systems I’ve used – Pros and Cons:

I toggled between two different planning systems knowing that writing things down, and outlining a logical process was the best way for me to successfully “adult”. I’m a fan of the weekly layout, because I like to see the week as one big picture, rather than one day at a time. But I also know I need space to brainstorm and write notes, while also having visual access to my whole week.

The Bullet Journal

I was drawn to the Bullet Journal system because I loved the freedom of creativity you get to experiment with using different layouts, fonts, and trackers. For those of you who don’t know the Bullet Journal analog system, it is essentially a blank notebook where you draw out your calendar either simply by listing the dates vertically (“The analog system for the digital age”- as they call it), or as some people do it, they draw out a whole month and week with full on trackers, meal plans, and other fun things.

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But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep up with drawing my layouts ahead of time, so it became a journal for random braindumps, project brainstorming, and budget planning with no particular creative direction. Which is fine because the whole point of the Bullet Journal is to “do more with less” but I of course have to be extra and add doodles, stickers, trackers, and all that stuff in order for me to feel creatively satisfied- but I just don’t have time to draw out my layouts the way I want them to be- bottom line.

The Happy Planner

The Happy Planner is the planner I’ve settled on because of it’s scrapbook-like qualities and functionality. This planner uses the arc system meaning you can move sections of your planner around and add sections as you see fit. . It comes in two layouts – horizontal and vertical- and three different sizes.

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I started out using the classic 7×9 vertical layout for work and the mini 5×7 horizontal layout for a personal journal and memory scrapbooking. After a few months of using the classic planner, I found that I was wasting precious stickers and washi tape for a bunch of chicken scratch, so I switched to the bullet journal because it seemed more appropriate for work and for my wallet. I ended up giving my classic happy planner to someone else who needed it, so I didn’t have so much buyer’s regret.

Planning lesson #1- Stick with a Top 3 list 

After using up the Bullet Journal for work. I found that I really didn’t need much space to list out action items for each day. I learned that setting a goal of 3 major assignments per day was more realistic instead of including smaller items. For these, I keep a running list. Keeping a running list of smaller admin items separate from my 3 daily goals helps ease anxiety and stress when it seems that I can’t cross off all my check boxes in one day. Visually, it motivates more productivity vs. stress because the important items are grouped together, and not over crowded with a long list of smaller back burner items.

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This is where the Happy Planner arc system has served me better than the Bullet Journal. Instead of having to re-write the list, I can just move it into the next week. Good news is, there are other brands that use this same system, so if you are not into the girly themes, you can check out these brands:

Russel and Hazel Mini Binder Collection

Staples Arc Notebooks

The Martha Stewart Discbound Planner

Into the new year I have settled on using the Happy Planner Mini as my work planner, and the Classic Happy Planner as my personal planner, wellness planner, fitness tracking, goal setting journal all in one- that I will post more specifics on in another post 🙂 .

Planner lesson #2 -Put your list away!

For me, that most important thing I learned this year was that I spent too much time in the weeds. I often times got carried away with the decorating and goal setting, that I didn’t spend enough time taking action. So this year, when I do my daily reflections, I want to focus on just that, I will leave all the decorating and sticker playing (lol!) for Sunday.

All decorations, stickers and doodles aside, this goal even applies to my work life. Some days, I write out my top 3 and close my planner, so that I am not distracted with other projects. It helps me focus on one thing at a time- ESPECIALLY when I have a lot of work to do, this is how I stay efficient – by putting that list away!


Best planners on the market!

I know that the Happy Planner and the Bullet Journal is not everyone’s cup of tea, so I’ve put together a list of other planners I find very efficient.

The Passion Planner

The Panda Planner

The Happiness Planner 

Bluesky Planners

Day Designer

The Self Journal

The Dreambook Planner

Check out this article in the New York Times making the case for paper planning and a guide on how to pick the right one for you.

Happy 2018 and Happy Planning! 😉

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Meal Prep: Heat Wave Comfort

Illusions of Productivity, Meal Prep

There are so many recipe’s online- where do you start?!? Every weekend, I prioritize my meal prep because it’s the only way I can ensure I get my healthy foods in. In this series, I will share with you my weekly menu – recipes I’ve compiled from some of my favorite Vegan Bloggers. I’ve also included my grocery lists with the total cost, as well as some notes.

I only prep for lunches and dinner, and occasionally – like this week- a snack. Every Sunday I prep my smoothie fruit and veggies, and have oatmeal and coffee when I get to work, so breakfast will not be included below.


Farmers Market – $20

Shopping List:

Lime

1/2 lb of Raw Pecans

Kale

5 medium sized tomatoes

Basil

Garlic

Stone Fruit ( for snacks)

Cilantro

Red Onion

Yellow Onion

Trader Joes: $21.50 

Shopping list:

*I didn’t have any of the spices, which was a lot of the cost…* 

1 can of garbanzo beans

Thyme

Cinnamon

Smoke Paprika

1 can of Mandarin Oranges

1 bag of frozen shelled edamame

1 bag of frozen sweet corn

2 bags of cubed butternut squash

Maple Syrup


Menu

Lunch

Edamame Quinoa Salad

Beet Salad

Vegan pizza

or

Mouth watering Vegan Dog with pickled veggies and sauerkraut

Dinner

Chickpea Butternut Squash Fajitas

Snack

Rosemary Candied Pecans


 

Lunch

There’s been a heat wave in San Francisco and this week I wanted to focus on hearty cold salads that I could alternate. I chose these two because of their durable shelf life and different flavor profiles.

Edamame Quinoa Salad by 86 lemons.

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So this one I completely doctored up. This salad is served cold, and holds up well for the week in the fridge.

Ingredients: 

1/2 red onion 

11 oz of mandarin oranges

1 cup of edamame 

1 cup of corn

1 cup of cooked quinoa 

Bragg’s Ginger and Sesame Dressing measured to your own liking.. 

The instructions are simple – make sure  to cook and cool the edamame, corn, and quinoa; and mix it all up in a big bowl. Bam. You’re done. You can follow the instructions in the original recipe if you need more detail.

 

Beet Salad by Hell Yeah It’s Vegan!

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On this one, I stuck to the original recipe. I had some left over beets in the freezer I needed to use, so this one was perfect!

Ingredients:

6 beets

1 clove of garlic minced

15 basil leaves minced

1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 pinch of ground mustard

*here I had some fancy dijon mustard that I used instead of buying something new.*

The dressing…

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Still hungry?

I meant to grab some ingredients for some scrappy lunch meals to go with these salads, but I work near a Trader Joe’s, so it will make for a nice walk break during work.

What I meant to grab were ingredients for a vegan pizza. Trader Joe’s has a great cornmeal gluten free crust that runs at about $3-$4 that I top with simple pasta sauce (about $2-$4 depending on which one you prefer) and a bunch of veggies, sometimes some vegetarian Italian sausages and some vegan cheese- if I’ve really craving the cheesiness. This is great for packing lunches.. just bake once, then microwave (or toaster oven if you’re lucky) at the office.

Another one of my favorite scrappy faves is my veggie dog concoction which I will probably make again this week.  Find your dogs (veggie or not.. I prefer the “Perk up your pasta” Tofurky, original sausage Italian flavor , about $3-4); Find your buns ($3), and desired toppings. I LOVE these toppings with a whole wheat bun:

Toppings:

Dijon Mustard

Ketchup

Arugula

Pickled Veggies

Sauerkraut

DANG. so good.

*These two products below are a staple in my kitchen. The pickled veggies taste great on tacos as well. 

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Dinner

Chickpea Butternut Squash Fajitas by Sweet Peas & Saffron

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This recipe calls for bell peppers which I cannot eat because it gives me indigestion. I substituted the bell peppers for the Hungarian sweet pepper, it’s not as colorful, but it tastes great and still adds that crunch. The seasoning on this is AMAZING, I made an extra batch of it and poured it on top of the vegetables when it was done baking. This is a great freezer item, super easy to make, and both filling and light.

I didn’t get a chance to make the vegan sour cream, so I just topped it with avocado and cilantro- still super yummy! These measurements yield about 5 servings

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Snack

Candied Spiced Pecans by The Minimalist Baker

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I’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s Candied Pecans, but they run pretty expensive for such a small amount =(.

I made a few changes:

2 cups of pecans *instead of including walnuts; 1/2 pound of pecans = 2 cups – $6 at the farmers market

Then I chopped up 2 sprigs of rosemary from my garden =)

This made my house smell like Christmas ❤

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Here are my main pointers when it comes to meal prep:

  1. Do your menu research!

  2. Always make a list before you go shopping.

  3. Divide and conquer- I take my finished list and then divide it into the stores I go to – Farmers market, Trader Joe’s, Etc. (see featured image)

Thanks for reading! If you like this post, let me know! Do you have any Meal Prep questions?

June 2017 Layouts

Illusions of Productivity, Picture Diaries

A little late on this one, but I’ve had a pretty busy month.

A lot of big things happened in June :

I had a performance, which always takes a lot of time and energy to prepare. But then once that performance was over, it cleared up my weeknight commitments allowing a lot of time to sit and think about my life, which can be a very overwhelming for a Virgo!

Learning how to be still is difficult .

I was apartment hunting with my boyfriend. Then I was looking for someone to fill my current apartment because – Hooray! We found a place.

There were a lot of little things in between: Friends in town, SF Pride, brunches, coffee dates, and consulting projects.

Motivation and inspiration was sparse, especially in a sudden bout of change. Here are some blogs/websites that really helped me remember my goals and focus:

https://tinybuddha.com/ – Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives

The Orange Dot – Headspace: Meditation Made Simple

John WestenBerg on Medium – Productivity, Motivation, and Failure

What are some blogs you enjoy reading?


Alas…. my June 2017 planner layouts ❤

 

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Happy Planning!

-D. Marie

Keeping Goals Realistic-Life is too short, and so is the weekend.

Illusions of Productivity
Reflections on being a #PlannerAddict

&

Illusions of Productivity
*This post is written with my happy planner peeps in mind. BUTTTT, the same practice can apply to anyone who journals, plans, or just loves being productive on the weekends* 

As many of you Happy Planner Babes know, it’s hard to put the breaks on when it comes to buying the Happy Planner accessories. Last time I went to Michael’s, I splurged on a bunch of sticker books and inserts, one of them being the Daily Layout. I thought I would use them a lot being the avid list maker that I am, but they ended up sitting in my drawer for the longest time. I had a major case of buyers remorse.

As my planner evolved into a personal memory journal, I started to find other uses for it. First of all, I would plan my days by the hour in my work planner (of course, makes sense); but I never really planned out the day on the weekends except for the occasional dinner date, or hanging out with friends. Every Friday would roll around and I would have a list of things I wanted to accomplish over the weekend running in my head. By the time Monday came, I would be so bummed out and hard on myself for not accomplishing everything I wanted to do.

Then I started to realize that I wasn’t being realistic; it’s only two days off for crying out loud, that’s hardly enough time to recharge. In order for me to adult on Monday, I really need time to leisurely do chores, be social, and sit on my ass.

The US really needs to adopt the three day weekend. Am I right, or am I right!??!??!?

So I decided to try mapping out my weekend using the Daily Inserts for my Happy Planner. Once I laid out my actual commitments and made potential time blocks for all things I wanted to do, I was able to enjoy my two days off a lot more and give myself a break when I didn’t accomplish X,Y, or Z. Once Monday hit, I was ready.

The Brain Dump side on the back was also another great addition to have so that I could have more space to scrapbook the week’s highlights!

Below you can see the daily layout with both Saturday and Sunday, and on the back I have the highlights from the week. Hope this opens up some creativity for you! I know it has for me =)

Thanks for reading! Happy Planning =)

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On Diets vs. Lifestyle

Illusions of Productivity

I was having a wonderful conversation with friends over the weekend over some sweet treats and wine about healthy habits (ironic, I know). As I happily indulged in a glazed Krispy Kreme donut, I found that I wasn’t engaging in the normal internal dialogue and guilt of “oh it’s OK, I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow” which would then usually give me permission to indulge even more. Instead, I was enjoying every last morsel of that donut and after I was done, I was done. There wasn’t this crazy ravenous sugar monster inside me wanting to eat as much as I could before my “cleanse day“. It was in this moment of donut bliss that I realized I had finally broken through years of unhealthy eating habits and perceptions.

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“Even my conditioning has been conditioned…”

For starters, my sister and I weren’t allowed to eat any sweets when we were young. It’s funny now to think about how I would hustle hard on the playground- I’d persuade my classmates to swap my pretzels for their Twinkies, or my cheese-its for some gushers. Then, when I’d go to a friend’s house, I would eat as much sugar as possible.

In addition to the binge habits that I developed through deprivation of sweet foods early on, I’m half Filipino, so grazing all day over rice and meat during family gatherings was something I just grew up with. Eating everything and a lot is sort of mandatory in my culture. When family gatherings rolled around, it was a given that I would eat until I was uncomfortable and in pain, and just stuff myself until I felt like I was ready to pop!

Now, let’s throw in the fact that I played competitive soccer all my life… playing it so much made working out a chore at times. I remember during my off season, my teammates and I would just binge and binge on junk food, sit around, and just wait until training season started before we “got back into shape”. Saying that it was “seasonal” is even being a little gracious to tell you the truth… all we needed was ONE day off from practice and we would be stuffing our faces with burritos and cupcakes and all the heavy stuff we couldn’t eat before practice or a game. This cycle continued through college and it wasn’t until I was 25, and started dating a vegetarian (who is now vegan) that I realized I had it all wrong. The perception of the words cleansingdiets, and getting into shape were just making it harder and holding me back from being my healthiest self. I’ve wiped all these words out of my vocabulary and replaced it with just one: Lifestyle. 

Whether you have chosen a vegan diet or not, erasing those words from your mind body and soul, will help you achieve the health goals you want.

I always knew that I should be working out a little everyday (I would always curse myself on the field my first week back from a break); I always knew I should eat everything in moderation, and I always knew I should make my own meals to ensure the best quality goes into my body. But as we all know, it’s easier said then done. So what I hope to give you here is some insight and tips that I’ve gained and learned through my crafty planner journey and how it’s helped me improve my healthy lifestyle.

Tip #1. From Diet to Lifestyle – Don’t put a timeline on it.

In talking to friends, and also something I experienced myself, switching to a vegan-ish (more thoughts on that term coming soon 😉 ) lifestyle has helped me make healthy choices everyday instead of seeing it as a punishment for X amount of time. The problem with that, is that once you hit your finish line, you start to #treatyourself, and that one treat turns into a whole pint of ice- cream and a downward spiral back to square one.

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Tip #2. Don’t Lie to Yourself- Log it!

Since March, I’ve been working on the habit of logging my food. I’ve never really been into this and to be honest I only started doing it because I bought a new planner when I wasn’t supposed to! #plannerproblems. At first I had a hard time keeping up with it; but now I’ve realized that seeing all the meals and snacks listed in front of me, has stopped me from my mindless munching.

I make a goal to strictly log my meals Monday-Thursday, the days that I go to the gym. Then over the weekend I loosen up a bit and just enjoy whatever comes my way.

BUT in building up the habit of food logging, I noticed that even when I’m not making a point to log my meals, I’ve developed the habit of eating with awareness. I no longer eat when I’m bored, and I still choose to eat clean.

*side note- you’d be surprised how unhealthy you can still eat as a vegan…I’m totally guilty of being a lazy vegan and eating overly processed food* 

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This is a picture of my fitness journal. It has vertical logging space for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with snack space in between. When I started, I was finding that I was running out of space to fill in all the snack breaks I had. This helped me quit that habit and focus on eating substantial meals instead. On the right, I’ve added a Health Tracker to keep track of my healthy habits that will help me reach my goals: drink tea, take vitamins, stretch at home, and take a walk during my lunch break.

You’re food log doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t even have to count calories. Getting into the habit of writing down every meal and every little snack is a great way to start. Try it! Challenge yourself for two weeks!

Tip #3. Reflect, Review, and Revise!

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This is the most important! Like I said, I started my habit tracking and food logging in March, I was kinda just doing it for the fun stickers 😉 . It wasn’t until a month in that I realized I should revise a few things. So for April I started the habit tracker, making it a goal to log my food everyday. I also started a weekly reflection every Sunday as a part of my habit regimen. This was a total game changer!

I’ve always been one to journal about my emotions, but never even THOUGHT about writing about my health habits. When you journal about your emotions and experiences, you learn from them. You learn about your thought process, how to better communicate to yourself and others. When you reflect on your weekly health habits, you are able to look back on your strengths and weaknesses and revise a plan to make it work. It also pumps you up for the upcoming week. Goals are no use if you don’t look at them from time to time, and setting time to reflect, review, and revise is the foundation to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

What to write about in your Health Journal:

Every Sunday I reflect on food and fitness. This past week I noticed that I didn’t make grocery shopping a priority, so therefore I bought too many meals, and in doing that, I wasn’t able to keep a balanced vegan diet. I noticed that I ate a lot of carbs and not enough vegetables. So I revised my plan, got my a$$ to Trader Joe’s and meal prepped for the week. Meal prepping is hard! But this is the new challenge that I hope to turn into a lifestyle.

This fitness planner has a spot for a Progress Selfie, but I feel weird flexing for the camera, so I just use that space for more health reflection. And not to mention, Polaroid film is expensive and I’d rather save it for other things ;).

Mood tracking is another great thing to include in your journal and also new goals for the next week that may develop. I definitely develop new goals as I let others slip away… and that’s OK! That’s all part of the revision process. =)

Happy and Healthy!

All in all, adopting a healthy lifestyle perception will help get rid of the guilt and self loathing associated with words such as diets and cleansing.  If you need a scoop of that Ben and Jerry’s, go have some! But know that you can have another scoop tomorrow. Log your food, but don’t just log it and forget about it, go back, review it, take note of what you’re putting in your body. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and make it fun! I started doing this because I love stickers and wanted something else to decorate and feed my #planneraddiction; so find a way to make it fun! Healthy choices should make you happy, not miserable.

Keep it up!

May 2017 Layouts & Mantras

Illusions of Productivity

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On Mantras

Each month I review my successes, areas of improvements and ways to to tackle those areas. Last month I incorporated a weekly habit tracker in my planner layouts, which turned out to be a great success.

This month I wanted to focus on having a more mindful approach to my day, so I decided to start with a daily mantra. Keeping up with a daily mantra was a lot harder than I thought! With the constant thoughts running around inside my head, it took a lot of focus to really give my undivided attention to the words I set for myself. I wasn’t always successful and I actually dismissed it some days because I felt my mantra wasn’t good enough or it was too similar to the day before; or I just simply avoided it because I felt I just didn’t have time to think about it. I found that I had to be very intentional about my mantra, I really had to be still physically, in a comfortable place, to say it with a few deep breaths so that my whole body could acknowledge it. I will admit, some days this is hard to do when your focused on fitting so much into your day. But on the days I was successful, I remember it having positive effects on my mind, body and soul.

One day, I was leaving a weekly meeting with my team and left feeling very overwhelmed realizing the long list of to-do’s that suddenly multiplied on my plate. I was getting overwhelmed to the point where I was feeling frustrated; it was almost consuming me because I was holding it all in. When I do this, a knot grows in my chest and I can feel my muscles tense up; I know better than to show this hand at work, so I decided to take my lunch break and go for a walk.

I work in a part of town that doesn’t always smell the nicest, isn’t always the cleanest, and the neighbors aren’t always the most polite. So walking outside with all this stimuli added a layer of frustration. The only place I could retreat to was the mall. Once in the mall surrounded by more people, the frustration kept growing. I quickly darted up to the secret office spaces on the top floor that I had access to having worked in the mall while in college. Finally with some space to think, I was able to calm down my anxieties and reassure myself that “Yes you can. Just one thing at a time”.  I was still anxious so I decided to sit for five minutes and just focus on deep breathing. While breathing, I started to focus on that mantra, saying it over and over again in rhythm with my breath. As my heart rate slowed down, and the knot in my throat softened up, I could feel my mind push aside my negative thoughts and self doubt, then I got into this military mode- where I sternly tell myself what I’m going to do- and I told myself, “You’re gonna get up, take some deep breaths, you’re gonna go back to work, and take it one step at a time. But first you’re gonna get a twenty minute massage from the massage guys outside Lucky Brand and THEN it’s game time.” And that’s what I did.

Yes, of course the massage was a big factor in all this ;). BUT I will say, I hardly felt that massage because I was so focused on breathing and repeating my mantra. I said it over and over for twenty minutes straight. I remember looking out of that little face hole in the massage chair, staring at the floor and letting my mind go numb with the hum of my mantra. With each breath, I could feel the masseuse push through the tension more and more. I carried this mantra back to work, inside me like a tribal drum making way for my path. I kept focusing on my breathing using my mantra as the metronome to my breath and could feel all areas of my being relax, and more importantly I was able to focus and finish out the day with some work I was proud of.

Now, even with a few successful days like this (I only had a massage that one day..), the true challenge was initiating this intimate moment with myself. In realizing this, I was reminded of the sad reality that it’s hard to own our waking moments, our downtime, our day, when we have some many things to do to make sure we can pay our rent, and secure our place in this cycle that gives us this “comfortable” lifestyle. Giving yourself a space of vulnerability is difficult, but once done, I find it can do wonders for my state of mind.

For June, I hope to carry on the daily mantra challenge, and hope to utilize the Relax Guided Breathing feature on my fitbit to help center myself and have “mantra time” on my commute to work.

One word that I used in a lot of my mantras was “today”. Saying it makes me feel more grounded in the moment. Today – Today is still today. Today is not over. Today you can. Today I will accomplish x, y, z. What are some mantras that help you get through the day? Do you pair it with a breathing exercise? Do you say it out loud or quietly to yourself over and over? I’d be interested to hear how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily practice.

Planner Layouts

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…and that concludes my monthly report in Illusions of Productivity =)

On Burnouts & Inspiration

Creative Writing, Illusions of Productivity

Feature Photo Cred @fitnessxart

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It’s a fact – I have too much on my plate. I have FOMO (fear of missing out) and a desire to learn everything and do everything. I work a full time job at a non-profit and do social media consulting on the side; I’m in two music ensembles; I have a personal blog (hello thanks for stopping by); I workout 4 times a week; I’m in a relationship (shout out to my awesome boyfriend <3); and I try to keep up my professional network and friendships. It’s CRAZY. I know. But I’ve always operated this way, packing my schedule to the brim. I am often finding myself in a position where I feel burned out. Here are some quick fixes to recharge my inspiration when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

First things first – routine is everything & a little inspiration along the way can help.

First of all, routine is the key. In case you couldn’t tell from the theme of my blog, I’m all about planning, down to the last second. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t stick to my weekday goals and schedule, then I get overwhelmed and frustrated when it comes time to have professional meetings, rehearsals, or even dates! I feel unprepared, stressed out that I have to catch up (which I ain’t got time for!)

I’ve joined a couple entrepreneur and solopreneur group chats on Facebook that have been really inspiring and has helped me realize that I’m not alone in my insanity. One thing my favorite girlboss duo Sarah Elder and Andrea Holland of PRtraction said was that being an entrepreneur means you’re working ALL the hours, contrary to what people assume (you know, that you get to choose your hours).

My other favorite duo are bloggers Linda and David of Kinlake, they travel the world and work remotely as digital nomads. I love their segment ‘Gone Nomadic’ explaining their journey. It’s encouraging to hear how they debunk the myth of the freelance traveler; it’s more than just wandering around aimlessly – it takes a lot of planning, preparation, structure, and discipline in order to have that freedom.

When I start to get lazy, I change it up.

More facts – I change my bedroom layout quarterly (maybe even more), sometimes all I need is a fresh start. When all my clothes have been piled and scrunched at the foot of my bed for days, maybe a week, with shoes and purses and unopened mail dispersed all over my room in disarray – I know it’s time to move my furniture around.  To me, there is nothing more inspiring than a fresh new layout, a fresh new look, and a fresh new environment.

In a study done at the Princeton Neuroscience institute, they found that physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information. The clutter competes for your attention, wearing you down and resulting in frustration. Scientific proof or not, I’m sure many of you can relate and agree with this point that in order to get things done, you need a clean desk, countertop, canvas, etc. I know decluttering is key, but sometimes I can lose the inspiration, and that’s why rearranging my room resurges my excitement to have an organized clean space. It’s like buying a fresh pair of white sneakers: for the first couple of days, maybe even weeks, you try your best to keep them clean, paying attention to all the scratches and marks, brushing them off at the end of the day. But after a while, you start to let it go, and eventually they become a bit battered and grey and become your go-to pair for a pickup game of soccer in the park. Then it’s back to the shoe store for a fresh pair.

Dressing for success really is a thing.

On a more extreme level – I like to change my look (obvi); my hair has been blonde, pink, blue and now I just chopped it all off. But I realize this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or bottle of dye). But, in this same vein, a less extreme way would be to clean out your closet, sell your clothes and refresh your wardrobe. It doesn’t have to be a huge money venture, one-thing-in-and-one-thing-out is what I (try) to say. You can sell your clothes and buy some pretty awesome gems secondhand.

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In an interesting article by the Wall Street Journal,  Why Dressing for Success Leads to Success, Ray A. Smith states that in dressing up and dressing the part, people were more productive in a work setting. Outward confidence begat intrinsic confidence. Better dressers even tend to think more abstractly – which is the style of thinking seen in senior executives and other people in power.

I like to think about being a little girl and playing around with my mom’s lipstick and high heels. My mom, as a businesswoman, was always wearing the classic 90s pencil skirt with tights and high heels. To me, this carved out my perception of what being a woman was. My sister and I would play dress up and play out these scenarios of working in an office and such. Likewise, as I got older and I started interviewing for jobs, there was and still is a sense of excitement when I get to put on a pair of pumps and walk the walk. All of a sudden, with every high heel click-clack, I felt a bit more feminine (read: powerful).

So when I start feeling a bit drab or like I’m half-assing my life, I change up my look, buy a new lipstick shade, chop off my hair, and I feel like I’m ready to conquer the world again.

Step outside of yourself. Meet new people. See new things.

I mean really.. duh.. this is a given. Like you didn’t already know this. But sometimes it’s easy to forget to just be still and observe. Sometimes when I forget to bring my laptop home from work to work on my other work or if I left my cello at my boyfriends house, I’m forced to think outside of my list of to-do’s.  At those times, (with my Type A personality let’s be real, god forbid I spend this accidental down time sitting on the couch) I get outside and start walking.

I’m fortunate to live in a city where there’s always something creative going on, always an open mic or poetry slam at a nearby cafe. When I get to be an observer of someone else’s creativity, I feel a sense of reassurance and empowerment. I’m not talking about watching an A-list top 40 musician in concert (of course there’s loads of inspiration and empowerment there) but I’m talking about seeing other hustlers who work day jobs who make it a point to pursue their creativity and share it. I always write my best poetry or have the best rehearsal after I’ve stepped outside myself and watched someone else perform their art.

Everyone is different.

What inspires you? I’d be interested to hear about what you do to recharge. So please share!

Thanks for reading and keep on hustling.

Planner Layout Review: April 2017

Illusions of Productivity

And just like, that another month flies by.

This month was all about daily habits. I kept a log of fitness habits, and personal habits, after a month of tracking, I can say that I’m finally feeling the benefits.

Top 5 Successes:

  1.  Went to the gym 3 times a week at the butt crack of dawn.
  2. Played more bass guitar
  3. Cut out unhealthy snacks
  4. Crossed 2 things of my “Life Maintenance” list (FINALLY)
  5. Incorporated creativity *offline* into my everyday life.

Top 3 Areas that need improvement:

  1. More cello
  2. Less multitasking. More focus – specifically at work.
  3. I need to go through my mail. -_-

This weekend I hope to catch up on a few blog posts I’ve been drafting, and some other creative projects I’ve been working on. Thanks for stopping by.

D. Marie ❤


Personal Planner

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My newest planner toy! The HP Sprocket photo printer. You can peel off the back and make them stickers! You already KNOW ya girl is scrapbooking like crazy with this thing ❤

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Fitness Planner:

I bought fitness stickers mid- month, so the other two weeks aren’t worth mentioning 😉

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Work Planner:

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Happy Planning!

On Creativity

Creative Writing, Illusions of Productivity

“Creativity is intelligence having fun” – Albert Einstein


Working in front of a screen inputting and analyzing numbers all day takes a toll on me mentally and emotionally. I work full time and consult on the side, sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about all the things I want to do and have to do once I get home. It’s also hard to find personal time, I really need to carve it in anywhere I can. Having a Type A personality , I find it hard to sit still, there’s always something I should be doing.

With the constant need to feel busy, I find that cultivating my creativity helps satiate the angst I feel in empty spaces. Not only does it help my mind step away from my lists and anxiety, it gives me a fresh look at how to execute all of my projects. Even if you don’t consider yourself an ‘artist’ here are some reasons why you should incorporate creativity in your weekly or daily habits.

Creativity is within all of us.

Contrary to belief that the creative process is a right brain activity, Social Psychologist Graham Wallas’ model of the creative process emphasizes that from Preparation to Verification, creativity is a whole brain activity. When you think about it, humans in nature are a creative species, our ability to manipulate our environment is what sets us apart from other animals; so to say that one is not creative is to deny your innate ability to solve problems, which is essentially a creative process.

One of my favorite modes of creativity is sketching. The act of taking in a scene and translating it onto paper is a remarkable skill. Now, I’m not the best at it, but I enjoy tapping into the basics of perception, shadows, and shapes. The senses used to solve the problem of translation from the intake of what you see, to manipulating your tools to draw it on paper, is something I feel helps reset my brain when I’m having a stressful week or am in need of inspiration for words, or other departments of creativity.

When you draw, you become more aware of details and awaken many suppressed senses. While starting out my sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge you see above, it took me awhile to get the correct proportion of the towers, which even still could use some improvement. This mental exercise in itself- spatial improvement and functional connectivity –  helps relieves stress, sharpens your brain agility, and improves emotional awareness (Bolwerk, 2014).

Awakening of the senses.

This awakening of the senses that study after study proclaims art and creativity does for the brain, is something that is so important especially now in the digital age. One thing I hate about social media is that you can easily find yourself stuck down a rabbit hole staring at your phone screen! I’m guilty of this, and when I finally snap out of it, I feel like my brain has been buffering, numb, or blurry – kind of like when you use the street view on Google Maps and the image is a blurred collage of earth toned, pixelated streaks… yea, that’s my brain after wasting an hour of my life scrolling through Instagram.

One of the reasons I’ve started blogging is to expand my creative practice. I was telling a friend the other day that I kinda (key word KINDA) miss writing essays! That was crazy to hear coming out of my mouth; but I felt like in this ‘like, share, comment, tweet in 140 characters’ age, my thought process was becoming too shallow. So for me, blogging is another creative process where I can practice formulating complex thoughts and expand one simple idea into a beginning, middle, and end (like this post ;)).

Simple modes of creativity.

Even if you can’t commit to a full blown essay or mural of the Golden Gate Bridge, there are little things you can do to squeeze in that little bit of creativity. One of my favorite tips I heard from a colleague is that she challenged herself to write haikus on the bus instead of looking at Instagram. I don’t find myself writing too many haikus, but one thing I do enjoy is experimenting with descriptive language – writing a small paragraph about the scene I find myself in. I use my phone to keep these notes, and sometimes these paragraphs turn into something more that I expand on later.

Force yourself to learn something new.

I’m a huge fan of formal instruction, I take cello and bass lessons at a community center. I’ve finally convinced some of my musically curious friends to sign up for a class! The point is not to chase some pipe dream of becoming a professional musician, but to force myself to step away from the screen, learn something new, and awaken my musical senses. If you find that adding that little bit of creativity on your own is something you can’t commit to, then sign up for that guitar or ceramics class you’ve always wanted to try! Find a community center, many of them have sliding scale prices; you’d be surprised what your public library offers- plus you get the benefit of building your creative community.

Creativity is our super human power!

We are a creative species, it is our super human power and you should find ways to inspire yourself to create every single day. When we create, we are changing the structure of our brains, creating new connections in our neural pathways, lighting up different parts of the brain (Scientific American, 2007). Think about it this way – your brain is a muscle and therefore, you should exercise it like one. Don’t let your brain become a couch potato.

Personal Reflection and Growth Mindset

Illusions of Productivity

 

I call my planner obsession “illusions of productivity” for a reason – I’m really not the best at adulting, but I enjoy making lists and goals to make me feel like I am in control and that I am going somewhere with my life. Now that I’ve been actively writing down goals, setting intentions, and reflecting on them month to month, I’ve found that even though I fall off track towards the end of the month, just the act of setting aside time to reflect on myself helps me stay motivated to keep up my positive habits. I want to do so many things, and it takes a lot of time management to put in the work to improve myself in all the different departments I dabble in – music, fitness, consulting, being in a relationship, and personal time… it’s a lot to juggle, but keeping sight of what I’m doing right versus what’s dragging me down helps me grow. So keep at it! Even if you fail, just writing down your goals will help you get there.

Someone asked me yesterday on my Instagram, “How do you view planning and what does it mean to you?”. I had a hard time answering it right off the bat because it was such a personal question. But after some thought, I realized I love to daydream, and for me, making lists, checking boxes and planning, is my way of building a ladder to reach the stars. #justkeepswimming.