written by Lee Wiser McIntosh
Anyone else want to call a Mulligan on 2020?
The days and weeks became pretty blurry at times, and it seemed that time was stretching out languidly into an unpredictable future.
Still, time proceeded at its normal pace. Twenty-four hours per day.
And those days became exceedingly busy. Boxes were checked. Jobs were completed and billed out. And the weekends even came, though virtually unrecognizable at times.
And through all this, I became even more dependent on my calendar.
This past year, as I developed content for The Jewel Vox, the designer in me needed beautiful visual tools to stay on track. The content strategist in me required functioning power tools to remain organized and focused. Yes, get me to my Zoom meetings on time, but also remind me of my goals and how to break those down for the week, month, quarter, and year. Clients consistently asked for planning tools and so I set out to design some. It was only when I was actually sitting down with a graphic designer to work on a branded planning calendar that it occurred to me… “not yet,” which, for me, happens to be one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language.
I have a digital “Not Yet” folder and a physical “Not Yet” folder where concepts and dreams reside. Inside these folders are images and notes, to be acted upon at a later date. These folders are safe repositories—a place of anticipation, not procrastination, that are visited throughout the year. They not only represent potential but also a resting place for ideas, which deserve my thoughtfulness, but are not seasonally appropriate for whatever that particular month, quarter or year holds. The “Not Yet” folder effectively clears space—mentally and physically—so I’m able to focus and prioritize. They remove that manic quality of trying to think about too many things at once.
There’s nothing like cracking open a new calendar in January with page after white page of all that beautiful negative space. The calendar provides a structure into which we carve out time for what is necessary and important, as well as joyful and desired. Historically, I have used the A4 Architects & Designers Diary for over 30 years. They consistently deliver an über simple and elegant Germanic aesthetic year after year. Consistency is a comfort, and there are no surprises here. It provides weekly structure and leaves plenty of room for notes. The A4 is steeped in design world esoterica. The introductory pages delve deeply into historical design icons to geek out over. But this year, I was dealt a blow. I experienced a betrayal: they changed their binding from a book to the “new” lie flat spring coil that I could not abide. Instead, I invite you to join me on an abbreviated journey down a wondrous rabbit hole in search of a new calendar/planner.
I have always been, and always will be, an analog kind of girl with an analog calendar and color coded notebooks, where I keep meeting notes and quotes… written in long hand. The brain processes the handwritten notes differently than typed notes. Science backs this up. So does my personal experience. A few years ago, I was in an important meeting with a follow-up meeting the next week. I took careful and copious notes on my iPad only to be the “deer in the headlights” at the following meeting. Yes, the notes were there, but my brain had not processed anything. At all. The resulting cluelessness was jarring. This was my personal wake up call to the limitations of note taking with technology. I have witnessed this same effect in others of all ages.
Like the website, which is no longer just a website…it has evolved to become the cornerstone of all your digital marketing; the calendar is no longer just a calendar. To be effective, it needs to help you move forward, and the calendars that I looked at dig down into journaling, inward and outward reflection, as well as lots of goal setting and productivity hacks. A calendar is now more accurately marketed as a “planning tool.”
I asked some very busy people in the industry for their take on calendars and planning tools, and there were some recurring themes and strong love/hate feelings toward analog/digital options. Google Calendar was the overall winner in the digital race. For printed calendars, the more basic the better. And the hybrid contender was… digital pages that can be printed out to see daily appointments with room for your chicken scratch. The printout is especially nice if you like that hit of dopamine that comes with physically checking off items on your to-do list.
Gigi Ferranti, the designer at her New York based eponymous line, said it best: “The only confusion I have with planning is the actual planning itself! I would love to have a crystal ball.”
No crystal ball, but here is a handful of calendars/planners that I reviewed that are worthy of a share. Operative phrase: “a handful.” I’ve merely scratched the surface with a bias towards ones that real people in the jewelry industry would work with.
Full Focus by Michael Hyatt & Company.
This is definitely a power tool for the high-powered executive or someone who wants to be one! The planner stands alone, but also dovetails with the coaching that Michael Hyatt & Company is known for. Their mantra: Achieve more while doing less. For straight up practicality, nothing beats it. They are beautifully bound and more importantly, provide beautiful structure and are backed by their proven expertise in time management. It’s pricey and purchased by quarterly subscriptions, so your annual budget would actually be $159.96-199.96, depending upon your binding choice. Their following is devoted, and the planner is the natural extension of their online training. Take a look for yourself at fullfocusstore.com, and also explore the library with a bevy of books on productivity.
Simplified by Emily Ley.
A cheerful aesthetic pervades this product offering, and everything about this planner’s “minimal and meaningful pages” resonated with me. It should, as their target audience is women. They are “passionate about simplifying life to allow for more of what matters most.” Included with the purchase are monthly coaching sessions with Emily delivered to your inbox. Quite frankly, I’d cheerfully open that email because I’m pretty sure what she has to say will be relevant content. The planners are available on emilyley.com and also at Target, Staples and Office Depot through a partnership with AT-A-GLANCE. And jewelers, take note of the pitch perfect marketing on this website. They know their branding and their customer, and the use of video to market the planners is brilliant.
Sacred Ordinary Days.
Here’s a dark horse I didn’t see coming, but I cannot stop thinking about it. This planner really brings it back to basics. Way back… centuries in fact.
The Sacred Ordinary Days website greets you with the words “Cultivate peace, presence, and purpose.” They’ve condensed the elements of the liturgical year into daily and weekly observances. That sounds monumental… because it is.
Think that maybe you’re interested, but feeling dubious about committing to a year? They offer a monthly PDF download to test drive. I also appreciate their intentionality in working with their neighbors, making it ultimately a local project. It was printed in Waco, Texas and then book-bound just down the road in San Antonio.
I’ve had the opportunity to use it, and the contemplation of centuries old practices lends context to the modern day. Prayers, quotes, and familiar Judeo-Christian voices offer a sustaining rhythm that’s more relevant than ever. Truly a planner for real people, not automatons… because productivity alone isn’t very gratifying if it’s not purposeful.
“Our hope is that our planner will help you do your work effectively, joyfully, and sustainably—no matter what your work is.” Sacred Ordinary Days
I was once told that if you really want to know your priorities, review your credit card and bank statements. That will reveal more about your values than simply writing down what you think you value. Likewise, reviewing your calendar is a reality check. A game tape that shows where you went wrong and what you did right. You can reflect upon the relationships that you invested your time, the goals accomplished, and those that are still a work in progress. If ever there was a “Man Plans. God Laughs.” year, it was 2020. It was a year to cautiously make plans, knowing full well to realistically expect to re-schedule those plans, or in many cases, completely redesign your business strategies.
As a creature of habit, the A4 Architects & Designers Diary has always been a done deal. But I’ve been forced into new territory by the “new” spring coil binding I cannot abide. You just never know what will push you into a new space. I’m surprised that I’m leaning toward emilyley.com‘s Simplified Weekly Planner with the pineapple crest. Not really my aesthetic, but I’ve recently relocated to South Carolina and that optimistic pineapple is symbolic of the southern hospitality in which I find myself immersed.
In reality, I use a hybrid of digital and paper planners with a bias toward the printed version. This bias is shifting slowly towards digital due to the sheer amount of data management required to run a consultancy. Not just webinars and Zoom meetings, but multiple projects and campaigns with lots of moving parts. I also love Evernote. Evernote is the cilantro of organizational tools. You will either love it or hate it. (For the record, I love cilantro too.)
At least once a week, my random notes from notebooks and my calendar are condensed and tagged in different digital notes and notebooks on Evernote. From handwritten notes, to using a highlighter on standout thoughts, to finally being typed up… the thoughts have been thoroughly processed and are searchable. Whether they end up in the “Not Yet” folder or in a blog post, one never knows.
We do know, however, that business in 2021 will look nothing like it has in the past. The pandemic served as an accelerant to changes in the way we do business, especially the way we manage our time. We will continue to do more with less and seek to maximize the value that everyone brings to the table. All those planning tools—digital or analog—will aid and abet our decision making that ultimately leads to one decision…
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
Happy New Year, y’all.
ADDENDUM: 1 December 2020 the emilyley.com Simplified planner was purchased. It wasn’t an easy decision, but after all, 2021 is a new year, and there’s never been a better year to start out doing things a little differently.