Planning 2018

By Julie, cozy in her apartment, but bundling up for the bracing 12 degree weather in Boston

plannersI love planners. My search for the “perfect” planner is ongoing, and this year I decided I wouldn’t try to make one fit perfectly. I chose instead to employ four (!) to make an attempt at managing this year.

In this picture, the top planner is a Hobonichi Techno Planner. This I a lovely design, with quotes, moon phases, grid paper, and other bits. I look forward to using it to capture quotes, zentangles, doodles, and gratitude lists.

The pink Leuchtturm 1917 is the 2017 Bullet Journal I’ve been using. I have a new notebook for 2018. The Bullet Journal systems is terrific. It allows me to take notes all in one place, and use a cataloging system in the front to track them. If you are so inclined, there are a lot of blog articles, Etsy shops, Pinterest boards, and Instagram posts dedicated to Bullet Journaling. You can use any notebook, and make it work for you. Keeping notes together is my only hope.

The next planner is a Freedom Mastery Planner. Part of my goal planning for 2018 is about diving deeper into the realms of gratitude, and higher meanings, and I find this planner and its prompts to be helpful in that. Also, the planning layouts (monthly and weekly) will help me keep track of all things. I do use Google calendar for specific appointments, but blocking times for writing, exercise, crafts, chores, etc. is helpful in managing the important parts of my day/week/month.

Finally, a new to me tool that I am already finding helpful. The Plot Your Work planner is made specifically for keeping on top of multiple writing projects. Since I have two books due in 2018, and a third book I am thinking about, a place to keep notes, break down quarterly tasks, stay on top of author work (marketing, blogging, etc.) is very helpful.

I’ve never started the new year with so tools to keep me on point. As it is only the second day of this new year, so far so good. We shall see if I remain as enthused and/or organized as the days go by.

Tell me, dear readers, do you love planners as much as I do? Any particular ones that work best for you?

A Traveling Gal

TN PictureIn January we Wickeds discussed the planners we use in our lives. I had just invested in an Ink and Volt planner, which worked well, for a while. I used in in combination with a Bullet Journal that was less of a planner, more of a journal, a single place to capture notes, thoughts, ideas, and lists.  I love the bullet journal idea–analog in a digital world. I am not a visual artist, so it wasn’t beautifully laid out, but I tried. The “daily recap” habit also didn’t happen. But in January I committed to using a system for this very full year (writing, work, and life), so I had to move to a second bullet journal (actually a Leuchtturm 1917) in March. That’s when it all fell apart. I lost control of my index. I started jotting notes on post its. I had a mid year system breakdown. It wasn’t pretty.

A few weeks ago someone linked to this post by Kara Benz aka BoHo Berry, a bullet journaler I followed in Instagram. She announced she was moving to a Traveler’s Notebook. I read the post, watched the video, and sent a text to my best friend, Tracy. “I think I found the holy grail.”

Traveler’s notebooks are collections of individual notebooks that are all kept in one folder by elastics. Before I bought the folder in the picture (and indulgence that I LOVE), I took the system out for a trail run. I bought four A5 cahiers, some elastics, and used binder clips to hack a old notebook to see if I liked the system. One notebook was for work, one was for writing, one was for my personal life, and one was for a trip I am taking in August. I was sold, so I decided to take the plunge and get a nice notebook.

Julie's Traveler's notebook shown by the side.This system works is organized chaos, which suits me. In my personal notebook, I make lists, copy ideas, write quotes, keep track of my workout and meditation goals. In my writing notebook, I have been plotting, asking questions of my characters, fleshing things out, doing research, noodling ideas, building up steam in preparation for writing. Work is work–I’ve been using the bullet journal techniques to keep track of the dozens of projects we are working on in preparation for next season. And in my trip notebook, I’ve been writing down timelines, confirmation numbers, packing lists, agendas. On the trip I will journal, add ticket stubs and postcards, and have it as a keepsake.

The nice thing is that each notebook stands on its own. Once my trip is done, the notebook is removed. Plotting a new book–it gets its own notebook. I’m teaching a class in the fall–new notebook. I’ve also been exploring inserts. BFF Tracy sent me a link to this insert, a calendar that helps you learn Tarot. I mean, come on!

Now, lest you think I am the only person who bullet journals in a travelers notebook, or thinks about it, there is a Facebook group for us. Etsy enables us in a million different ways. And then, there’s Chic Sparrow

Friends, have you ever tried using a traveler’s notebook? How are you on your planner journey mid year?

Wicked Wednesday: Wicked Goals for 2017

Wickeds, any big goals for the year? Any big happenings? Any “maybe this is the year” dreams?

Edith: Nope. As far as I know there are no family weddings coming up (although possibly stay tuned for news on that front…), no dream vacation scheduled, no grandbabies due. I have three books releasing this spring, and I do look forward to the year’s conferences: Malice in April, Bouchercon in October, Crime Bake in November. My only personal big happening is going under the knife for a new knee eight days from today. I think that’s enough!

Liz: My biggest happening is selling my house and moving. Although I’m staying in img_1804Connecticut for now, I’m looking forward to living in a more urban area. Mostly looking forward to NOT being a homeowner…

Barb: I have no idea what is going on this year. I have no book contract after March. I’m not co-editing the Level Best Books series anymore. There are a number of things brewing in my personal life that could lead to big changes, not all of them good. When I managed a lot of people, I generally found that planners are not good reactors, and reactors are not good planners. The people in our support organization thrived on coming into work without having an inkling of what the day would bring. The programmers hated a change made to the schedule six months down the road. I am a planner, so I keep telling myself the uncertainty is good for me. Roll with it, I tell myself. So far, myself doesn’t seem convinced.

Julie: I’m really trying to get into a yoga practice. So far I’ve started a Beachbody 21 day yoga retreat twice. Best of intentions, but it isn’t working out too well so far. Healthier is a definite goal over all. Two books to write, so that includes trying a standing desk.

Sherry: Barb, I love your planner/reactor thought. I’m a reactor. That said, I’m looking forward to A Good Day To Buy coming out in April, a couple of visits to Boston with the Wickeds, Malice, and Bouchercon in Toronto — I’ve only been to Canada once and that was in 5th grade. And I’m going to write a Hallmark movie and sell it — right?! If I say it enough times maybe it will happen.

Jessie: Like Barb, I’m a planner. At the beginning of every year I sit down and write out a few goals. This year mine include at least one international trip, mastering the art of dictating my writing and taking on a more active role in a volunteer organization. I also have two books set to release in the fall.

Readers, same questions for you. Any big goals for the year? Any big happenings?Any “maybe this is the year” dreams?



Wicked Wednesday: Planners


Ink & Volt Planner, decorated by Julie

Well, it is 2017, and we all know what that means. Time to break out a new planner! For some of us, this decision took up a lot of time in late 2016. Wickeds, do you use a paper planner? Any particular brand? Do you use it for all aspects of your life, or one part only? What do you like best about your system? Let us know!

Liz: I love planners. I love planning for planners. And I love trying new ones. I have a couple that are high on my list to try, but towards the end of last year I got the Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner from Dragontree. It doesn’t have pre-populated dates so you can start whenever. There’s a lot of planning involved meant to help you articulate your dreams and goals so the actual work makes sense and is following a path. I did a lot of the pre-work at the end of the year and now I’m looking forward to trying the actual monthly planning piece. It breaks it down as nitty-gritty as you want, with monthly/quarterly/yearly goals, monthly/weekly/daily tasks and life planning, and even gratitude reflections. I’ll let you all know how it turns out!

Jessie: Like Liz, I adore planners. I find that by writing things out by hand I manage to meet more of my goals. This year I am using a new planner from Ink and Volt and so far, it is all I could ask of a time management/ course setting tool. It has a great weekly spread with just the sort of flexible structure that helps me to mindfully manage my time without squeezing the joy from my existence. There are monthly goals and a habit tracker which I am using to develop a meditation practice. Since I work from home I use a single planner for my professional and private life. I have a second notebook that I use to track quarterly goals, evaluate my long-term plans and to record appreciations on a weekly basis. I know that sort of planning isn’t for everyone but it has worked extraordinarily well for me for several years. In fact, I don’t believe I would have my career without it.

plannerBarb: I love my planner. That must be a writer thing, based on what Liz and Jessie said above. However, being a person who loves her routines, I didn’t search out a new one this year. I’ve been using a Levenger Circa junior-sized notebook for almost two decades. I use the monthly calendar tabs as dividers and all my notes– business, volunteer, vacation journals, writing, home life, to-dos, etc.–are chronological. After three or four months, I archive the calendar pages and notes. I just did this for September-December 2016. I’ve found over the years, that I can remember when something happened much more easily than accessing the information any other way, so the chrono style suites me much better than dividing things into categories, some of which, inevitably don’t make sense in the long run. The one exception is my current book or short story. Because the Circa pages are so easy to move, I can take notes out of my chrono notebook and put them into the notebooks housing my writing projects. My husband makes fun of me for still using a paper calendar. But then, during our more-or-less-weekly meetings to sync up, I make fun of him because he has to wait for his computer to boot up and then needs all the details in order to make an entry.

Sherry: Oh, Barb — it’s not an all writers thing. I use my phone and my calendar for planning. My husband and I share a calendar so we can see each other’s events. It’s cold, it’s sterile, but it works for me. However, Liz was here over the weekend and she was looking at planners while we were out. I have to say her enthusiasm for them and all the beautiful ones we saw did tempt me. But did I succumb? No. I’ll make a note about it on my phone and set a reminder.

Barb: Sherry, laughing at this! I do think if my husband and I shared a calendar, we’d be better informed. But then we’d miss all those lovely “discussions.”

Jessie: Barb, my husband and I sit down every Sunday for a weekly planning and appreciations/goals date. It is one of the highlights of our week together. I had no idea anyone else did that!

Edith: I don’t use a planner and I still use a paper calendar – two, in fact, plus a table EdithCalendarof due dates and release dates. This year I finally got comfortable with my Google calendar, and I love that it syncs itself between my phone and my computers. (That SO ages me – of course our phones are also computers these days! Oh, well. I claim my position as the oldest Wicked and I’m proud of it. I earned these wisdom wrinkles.) The picture to the right is from two years ago. Nothing but the year has changed on the wall in front of my desk. I love my Tibetan Nuns Project calendar. It’s compact, easy to carry somewhere, and doesn’t take up a lot of real estate. And I also “archive” my calendars – that is, I don’t throw them away and can check back to see when something happened or where I went.

However, my additional responsibilities as President of Sisters in Crime New England has already overtaxed my planning skills, and it’s only been four days… I’ll figure something out. And for writing, I just put everything in Scrivener. So far it’s working for me. Why change that?


Last Year’s Decorated Planner Pad

Julie: I am a planner addict as well. In fact, Jessie introduced me to Ink and Volt, and so far I LOVE IT. Because of the way it is structured, around yearly and monthly goal setting, it inspires. But since time isn’t broken down into hours, but instead in blocks, it melds well with my “at some point this afternoon I have to write thank you note to donors” rather than “I failed because it was scheduled from 1-2, and something else happened.” I also use Google calendars for meetings and appointments, and update the paper calendar daily, but writing things down, including notes, color coding, making accountability lists? I love it. I was a huge Franklin Covey fan, so I use parts of that system as well. I also have a Bullet Journal that I use for notes, plotting, inspiring quotes. Basically, my planner is a diary that helps me stay organized. Other great planners include the Passion Planner and Planner Pad. I am intrigued by Liz’s Dragontree Planner, and may explore that when I have more time to noodle.


Friends, do you use a paper planner? What system do you use? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?





One Track

Jessie: In New Hampshire, trying to admire the daffodils through the swarms of black flies. 

When I was a child my parents often criticized me for having what they called a “one track mind”. I would become passionately interested in a subject and would investigate it, consider it and talk about it animatedly until they pointedly asked me to keep my enthusiasms to myself.

As an adult, I’ve delighted in giving my interests their head and have followed quite willingly wherever they may lead. I love to live my life that way and I have fallen down many research rabbit holes I am so glad to have traversed.

IMG_1058 copyAn ongoing passion for me is goal setting and productivity. I know it isn’t for everyone but it is the only way I know to stay on top of the things in my life that are important to me. I use planners and notebooks and calendars and mind maps. I have a yearly theme and quarterly action items. I list top three items I will almost always complete.


One of my recent discoveries is the concept of the Personal Kanban. I had been looking for ways to keep on top of multiple looming deadlines. My lifelong habit of delving into a subject headfirst served me well as I dashed round the internet looking for solutions.

PERSONAL KANBAN2016When I fetched up at Personal Kanban I was sure I had hit on the right method for me to sort myself out. It was everything I could have hoped for, including permission to indulge in two of my favorite organizational tools: color coding and sticky notes. I was hooked at first sight. To the left is the one I have set up in my office, which I have been using every day for the past two months.

The system is simple. Anyone can do it using minimal supplies and little time. It isn’t complicated or time consuming to learn. It doesn’t even require access to technology of any kind. It creates a tangible, clear view of the items on my ongoing to do list versus the things currently on my plate. It even addresses those things I must keep track of, but that are in someone else’s hands at the moment.

To make one of your own you simply create four columns on a white board, chalkboard or even a mirror, as I have done. You can use dry erase markers, if appropriate, or sticky notes. The columns are labeled BACKLOG, DOING, PEN, DONE. Mine are in purple at the top of my mirror.

Then you proceeed to write down all the to do list items on your mind in the backlog column. I write mine on colored-coded sticky notes. Pink is for actual fiction writing. Yellow is for administrative tasks like blog posts, emails and banking. Orange is for personal life. Small blue stickies are for travel plans. Green flags are knitting projects.

Every morning I take a look at my board and evaluate what I am actually doing until around lunchtime. I place no more than five items in the doing column and hopefully, a maximum of three. I check the pen column to determine if I need to check about progress with anyone else on an item. I scan the backlog for items that have increased in urgency.

I move stickies back and forth between the columns, if necessary,  as the mood strikes or circumstances demand, until I am finally able to move them into the done column. At the end of the week I am able to look at how I have spent my time and whether or not it pleases me. I don’t have to keep all my obligations in my head and I feel far less overwhelmed.

Freeing up the head and heart spaces allows me to continue to burn with enthusiasm for the ideas that intrigue me and makes me more productive too. That’s one track I’m sure I’ll be happy on for a very long time.

Readers, do you have a one track mind for your passions? Do you use organizational tools to free up mental energy for things that interest you more than keeping on top of your to do lists?