Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Planners 2017

Though I love planning, and love planners, I am actually a bit hesitant to post about this topic, as I don't mean to imply by my sharing, that the way I do my planning is the way for everyone. For we are all different in what works for us. But, as I am occasionally asked about my system of planning, and as I love to share about it, I am writing this post! I hope it will be an encouragement to you.

The basics of my planning have remained the same for many years, but the actual planners that I use have changed over the years. For me, I like to find planners that are beautiful, as well as practical. After all, if we are going to use them all year long - and every day - they should bring us a sense of rest and joy as we use them! 

In the photo above, you see my planner choices for this year:

The bright-colored Simplified Planner on the bottom of my pile is my daily planner. Yes, I do pay more than I would like to for this daily planner, but I use it every single day

The soft blue notebook is my daily journal, where I record my thoughts and prayers as I spend time with God each day. It's not really a planner, but yet, it forms the basis for all my thoughts and my planning. I don't know what I would do without a journal to record my thoughts and prayers. Writing is how I process what I learn from God's Word, what I learn through prayer, and what I learn from others through books, speakers, and in real life. It is how I connect deeply with God. I usually fill up about 5-6 or more of these journals each year.

The lovely white notebook is new to me this year. Though the Simplified Planner holds daily pages, this notebook holds my monthly, and weekly goals and desires. I was delighted to find this Recollections binder (Metallic Ivory design) at Michael's. And especially delighted to find it on a great sale day! This binder has multiple add-ons that can be purchased: various kinds of planner pages, stickers, etc.

And on the top of my planner pile is my iPhone, which I use in a variety of ways to keep track of projects, lists, etc. I use the "Notes" app for keeping track of a lot of things, such as: a running list of books that I hear recommendations about, gift lists, medical info, home maintenance records, and much more. (This "Notes" app on my iPhone syncs automatically with "Notes" on my laptop, which makes it very easy to use, and print things out from, as well.)

The two notebooks above are my mainstay for keeping myself on target with my priorities, goals, and desires - the things that are important in caring for family, home, ministry, and personal projects. Aren't they beautiful? I am so thankful and blessed to have these notebooks that bring me joy as I use them, and also, that are so very practical and useful.

My Planning Process ...

Monthly and Weekly Planning ...

The notebook above is where I keep track of my monthly and weekly planning. It also holds various records such as birthday and anniversary lists, a list of books I would love to read this calendar year, etc.

The first step for me is my monthly planning. 

A year ago I purchased a very helpful tool to use in determining which goals to pursue each year ... Lara Casey's Make It Happen Powersheets (intentional goal planning system). It was very eye-opening, and inspirational for me to go through the process of finding the ten top goals that were deepest on my heart for 2016. 

This calendar year I am using this same concept of discovering my ten top priorities and goals for the year. And I will be using the notebook above to keep track of them each month. I was quite pleased to find some add-on pages for this notebook  - pages that hold a list of 10 items (photo above)! Each month I'll list my 10 main goals for 2017 in abbreviated form (a word or two), and then list a few specific steps to help make these goals actually happen during that month.

The next step after the monthly planning, is the weekly planning

This is where I take from my plans for the month, and break them down into specific weeks of the month. The notebook has a two-page weekly spread for each week of the year. 

Instead of using the two-page weekly spread to write out what to do each day, I have chosen to use "wite-out" over the days of the week, and instead, use it to write down the goals and tasks that I wish to focus on during the week. Writing them down by category, instead of by days of the week.

The categories I am using are: First Love (God), My Honey, Family, Friends, Cru, Home/Desk, Home/Care, Personal Projects.

At the beginning of each week (usually on a Sunday evening), I will take some time to look over my monthly list of goals, and then fill in my two-page weekly spread with those things that I want to focus on during the coming week. Also adding other tasks and responsibilities to the weekly spread, as well.

Daily Planning ...

Next comes the final step ...  the daily planning.

This step is where it all happens, and this is where this beautiful Simplified Planner comes in! This planner for my daily planning is amazing - I love it! While I take time each weekend to think and pray through the weekly planning (in my white notebook), I take a bit of time each evening to fill in the priorities and to-do's for the following day in my Simplified Planner. There is one page for each day of the week (though Saturday and Sunday are on the same page). On the left side of the page is a place to write in appointments, and events. On the right side is the "to-do" list.

You can see that I have colored in the dots (six different colors) on the right side to correlate with priorities that I learned years ago from Linda Dillow's Priority Planner. I wrote a series on these priorities here on my blog a few years ago - you can read them by clicking here. (God, My Husband, Family, Home, Personal, Outside Ministry). 

Each evening I look over my weekly list of goals/tasks in my white notebook, and then enter the ones for the next day on the daily page in my Simplified Planner under the priority category where it goes.

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These steps of planning may seem like quite a process. And I do spend a focused amount of time with it at the beginning of a new year. And also at the beginning of each month. But the time spent in the weekly planning, and also the daily planning is minimal. 

And, of course, it is something that I love doing - the process of writing things down takes burdens off my shoulders. It's something that I enjoy, and yes, something I love doing! So though this process may sound burdensome to some, it is a joy and a help to me. And it helps me keep on track with what is most important.

In summary, my planning process:

1) Time spent with God is the thing of most importance - listening, learning, following His leading as to what He wants me to focus on. Each day. From this connection with God, I seek to follow the priorities and plans that He has for me. 

2) Next come the monthly goals and priorities. If I do not keep these in front of me, then the busyness of life crowds out what is most important.

3) After the monthly goals, are the weekly goals/priorities. An important step in keeping on track with what is most important.

4) The last step is to write these priorities, tasks, events, etc. onto the daily pages of the Simplified Planner. This is the planner that stays open on my desk, or my kitchen counter throughout the day. I am thankful that I only see one day at a time, instead of having everything for the entire week in front of me. It keeps things simple, and focused. For the day. Encouraging me to live in the moment

Sometimes I don't even fill in very much for the day, just the main obvious things that actually must be done that day. I'll refrain from writing in too many other things, as a long list of things can sometimes make me feel pressured. But then, at the end of the day, I will fill in those "extra" things that God gave me time to do. These "extra" things are not always "tasks", or "to-do's", but are blessings of connections with family or friends, or even extra time for pursuing some personal projects of mine. 

So my Simplified Planner actually becomes a recorded memory of not only the happenings of the day, and the things accomplished during the day, but also a record of  living in the moment on any particular day. 

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And finally, even though I love the planning process, we all know that life happens, and we need to hold all of our plans loosely. We are not in control of our days, of our moments - and we need to continually surrender our time and our plans to God. 

Though God continually teaches me that it is good to plan and to set goals in order to accomplish what is most important, He also reminds me over and over that it is very necessary for me to willingly release my plans for whatever He may have planned for me on any given day. 

This brings us back full circle to our main focus: spending time with God each day, communicating with Him throughout the day, and following His leading. Each day. Throughout the moments of each day.

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Thanks for reading this long post - may it be an encouragement to you in your planning during this new year! 


  1. Thank you, Cheryl, for taking time to write and share your planning process. I always circle back to your blog when I need to be reminded to be prayerful and intentional about how I spend my days. I am grateful for your words!

    1. Caroline, thanks so much for your comment. It blesses me to know that my words are an encouragement to you! Have a wonderful 2017!