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by Kaitlin McManus | December 11, 2018


Planner Spread January

Grown, responsible adults keep a calendar—or so my mother has told me my whole life. So, this time last year, I decided that my New Year’s resolution was going to be to keep a calendar. I ordered an expensive planner (to make sure I used it, the logic of which is a bit unclear to me these 12 months later), as well as a dot-matrix notebook for bullet journaling and a pocket planner with a subway map that I didn’t need. I was ready to try it all.

I failed. So hard. I didn’t keep up with it much past filling in all those birthdays I never remember. A friend of mine who’s too interested in astrology told me that as a Sagittarius-Capricorn cusp, I was destined to fail from the start—Sagittarians are free-spirited wanderers, and not even the anal-retentive Capricorn can rein them in. Astronomy may be nonsense, but my friend’s comment did get me thinking about how, despite wanting to stay organized, it was at war with the part of me that could not care any less. So I did what any good Capricorn would do: I set cunning traps for my weaker-willed half, to make it be the responsible adult I’m capable of being. Here are some of the ways that I’ve tricked myself into keeping a better calendar this year that you can implement in your own quest for enlightenment via organization.

1. There can only be one

If you’re anything like me, a new project or goal can be very exciting (I’m told this is “so Sagittarius” of me). When making a commitment to get organized, however, less is more. My first misstep was buying three planners (and downloading an app for my phone…). If all my plans are spread across four calendars, then it means I’ve got four times as much work to do in keeping them up to date. That’s insane—I’m just making this thing I barely want to do harder for myself. So despite how “smart” having a regular, digital, and pocket planner might sound, my advice would be to pick one method. You can compensate by getting a planner with all the bells and whistles and supplemental pages, if you think they’d be useful for you

2. Talk about your calendar—all the time

Let me assure you that, unless you’re on BuJo Instagram, no one cares about your planner. Talk about it anyway. Your friends will be super annoyed by hearing how much you “totally rely” on your planner and how you “can’t remember anything unless it’s written down”. Chatting about getting coffee next Sunday? Stop the conversation while you write it down. Why? Accountability. If you tell everyone about your grand plans to get organized, then there’s more pressure to follow through. This tactic also works for eating better, getting to the gym more often, and a slew of other New Year’s resolutions, if you don’t mind being that obnoxious friend who only talks about their self-improvement journey.

3. Look at it

You know what’s so much better than planning out your week? Pretty much everything. Come Sunday night, my planner does not appeal to me. I’ve got TV shows to watch, Red Dead Redemption 2 to play, and friends to dish with—who’s got time to nail down if that meeting is at 3 or 4? If you lack real willpower, like me, your best bet for actually sitting down and using your planner is to make it as visible as possible. That way you see it, and feel guilty about not using it. Mine is bright yellow, covered in obnoxious stickers, and sits upright on my desk. I’m literally always looking at it. And after an hour or so of trying and failing to ignore it, eventually I sit at my desk and just get it over with. It might help you to plan a planning time (that’s right, it’s getting meta now)—I usually do it Sunday nights because I’m a wreck in the mornings and barely get out the door, but if you’re more of an early riser, you could knock this out over breakfast or while waiting for your roommate to get out of the dang shower already.

4. Carry it around

I will admit that this is perhaps a little easier for women—since the majority of us carry bags—but I would recommend the men try this, too. Room inside of my purse is at a premium so, if I’m carrying something, it’s something I need. Start finding room in your purse or backpack for your planner. If you’re lugging it around all day, you might as well use it. Not to mention it will always be sitting there, judging you, every time you root around for your wallet or gum.

5. Put your whole life in it

If you’re anything like pre-planner me, you’ve got about a thousand little scraps of paper and Post-Its floating around with phone numbers, appointment times, and all those other details that make your life run. Well, take all that stuff, write it down in your planner, then throw your notes away. Don’t keep them as back up. This way, you’re forcing yourself to rely on your planner. When was that doctor’s appointment again? It’s in your planner. What’s the exterminator’s number? I dunno, check your planner. If all the stuff that you need to know is written down in one place, you’re more likely to reference it again and again, thus building the habit.

Make no mistake, keeping a planner is a tough change to incorporate into your life. But, despite the love-hate relationship I have with mine, I have to say that I definitely miss fewer appointments and social events. It is worth the effort and psychological self-warfare it can take to stick with it and hold yourself accountable. So make your mom proud: keep your schedule together.


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