What I Learned From My Planner Addiction.

Every addiction we have, or had, or think we maybe used to have, can trace its deep and tangled roots down to a feeling.

My well-documented planner addiction has been burning, slow and hot, for quite some time.  Once the wayward cousin of my drinking addiction, my planner obsession became the golden child once recovery hit.  For years now, I've searched for The Perfect And Completely Life-Altering/Life-Affirming Planner that would make my life feel how I wanted it to feel.  

There's so much hope in those pretty little books.

I've used the Arc system.

I've used Emily Ley's Simplified Planner.

I've used Passion Planner.

I've used the Flourish planner.

And most recently, I (once again) made my own planner out of this super cute notebook from Staples:


It was a monthly layout, and every deadline, event, or appointment needed to fit into one of those small squares.  I liked it that way.  There were also sections to track meditation and thank you notes that needed to be written, as well as a big, general notes/lists/thoughts section.  But with school and work gearing up again, I started to get squirmy with my self-made planner.  See, the reason I decided to make my own in the first place was because almost all of the other systems I mentioned break each day down into some sort of detail; some hour-by-hour, some simply day-by-day.  Even the day-by-day breakdown has, historically, stressed me out - how am I supposed to know EXACTLY WHAT TIME I'm going to fold these baskets of laundry!?   Please stop being so bossy, Planner Creators, what with all of your STRUCTURE.

I kept trying to make myself into a daily or weekly planner gal, but in the end I just wound up with a big ol' pile of what felt like (expensive) failure.

Last Thursday night, all of this came to a head.  I'd had a rough night, having fallen deeply down the rabbit hole of I'm A Giant Piece of Garbage Who Doesn't Deserve Anything I Have And Will Likely Never Succeed Because: Garbage.  I eventually found myself sitting outside.  I looked up and said aloud, "What is wrong with me?  Please - anything - help me."  Then I stood up. I straightened my shirt and my shoulders and I marched inside and fired up the laptop.  

I had no idea what I was looking for.  I had no plan.  But soon, I found myself on the website of a woman who'd done a giant planner review.  After I read that, I found myself reading a post she'd written about her morning ritual.  She gets up early, makes tea, reads, writes, exercises, and showers.  Now, that's the plan.  That doesn't mean it always happens exactly like that.  But the intention is there for her to have two hours of quiet to herself before her family wakes.  

Reading Kayse Pratt's words made me come back - to myself, to who I want to be.  And I realized in an instant that the reason a more detailed, structured planner has never worked for me is because I've never made it work for me.  In the past, I'd become intimidated when the schedule said to stop doing one thing and start doing another - but I'm not done!  I don't want to do that yet!  DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!  After reading that simple blog post, it all came into focus.

Here's what it boils down to: getting organized = getting more done.  Getting more done = feeling better and more successful.  Feeling better and more successful = jhdftykjshgsk.  See that?  That's my brain short-circuiting because it doesn't know what will happen if I feel better and am more successful.  Because right now?  I'm pretty much more successful than I've ever been in my life.  I have every single thing I really want. And yet I know there's even more out there for me, and my brain doesn't know how to process that because MORE = NEW and NEW = SCARY.

The new New-Age crowd calls this having "upper limit issues".

Let's recap: I realized I needed to get over myself, I took action by looking for tools, I found said tools, and then had a breakthrough realization about how I've been addicted to standing in my own way because I'm more comfortable being moderately successful and mostly happy than facing the unknown of my full potential and joy.


All of this ultimately led me to Staples, as all the best realizations do.  The next morning, my children played on the tablets attached to retractable wires while I scoured the planner section with renewed focus and determination.

As I was standing in the Kate Spade for Staples section, I noticed a shopping cart full of color to my left.  I walked over to it and the woman standing near the cart smiled and said, "If you can give us five minutes, we'll have this all set up for you."  I peered into the cart and almost peed my pants.  It was full of Erin Condren planners.  

Now, all of you planner buffs likely understand why this was exciting.  But if you're new to this, lemme tell you what: Erin Condren's planners are a pretty big, fun deal.  They're colorful and sturdy and have just enough extra Notes pages without being too bulky.  Erin's an entrepreneur who's made it big and I admire her.  (It's worth mentioning that I was this close to buying one of her planners the night before online, but didn't because I just really wanted to see the inside of it.  I chose to be responsible and was rewarded!)

I tried hard to busy myself for five minutes while the nice lady stocked the shelves.  I semi-succeeded.  Once her cart was empty, I swooped in - "Thank you!" - and started studying.  There were many different covers and there were two different weekly layouts - a vertical weekly and a horizontal weekly.  I opened up both and laid them side-by-side.  I liked that there were no hour-by-hour sections, and in the end, also liked that the vertical layout was divided, by day, into three sections, presumably for Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.  I flipped to the back and discovered not only a thick, file folder-style page for loose papers, but a clear, resealable plastic envelope for things like stamps and business cards.  I might have gasped.


I picked out a few accessories - a clip-in-able, laminated meal plan, some color-coding stickers.  I paid, waved my kids over from their tablet trance, and when they came almost immediately and without complaint, I knew the heavens had listened the night before.


Like every other addiction I've ever had - shopping, alcohol, Facebook, seeking self-worth via this blog - The Planner Addiction was never really about planners.  It was about fear.  Fear of success, fear of becoming.  Getting stuff done, having a life that flows well and feels good, and succeeding in ways I haven't even dreamed of yet? I was surprised to realize how scared I've been of that.

But the gears are beginning to creak and turn.  I've successfully created a morning routine that involves 5:00am, me, meditation, my bike, and a good book.  I'm getting laundry turned over before the kids wake up.  Most importantly, I'm functional and ready when they do wake up, which makes for the kind of flow-filled mornings I've been craving.

I'm not a Bible reader, but I read something recently and chose to extrapolate what I needed to hear from it: "God doesn't promise to save us from the flames.  But He has promised to be with us as we walk through the fire." (Isaiah 43)

We're not doing it wrong because it's confusing or uncomfortable or harder than we thought it would be.  Life is sometimes hard because it's life.  There will always be flames.  And running to different addictions can feel like the natural thing to do when we don't want to face the heat.

But if you take one thing away from this post (other than a burning desire to run to your nearest Staples) please let it be this: face the heat.  Turn right toward it.  Look your flames in the eye and feel them burn.  They will not kill you. They just want to see how close they can get, how bold they can be.  Once they see you're immovable, they're gone.  

All that from a night looking up, asking for help.