Sunday, August 10, 2014

How I Got More Organized and My First Month in DIYFish Life-Planning Inserts

August marks, for me, the close of my first month in a long time, using daily inserts in a planner, and not just that but my first time using DIYFish's inserts ever. July is my first month feeling really at home in a personal planner.

I was introduced to DIYFish's inserts a long while back, by a friend who was a little bit of a plannerd. Not that I'm one to talk, considering I've carried a weekly planner around with me ever since middle-school, even while most people dropped them or went to digital appointment keepers. Still, it hadn't occurred to me that a planner could be so much more than just a place for homework, appointments you didn't want to go to, and scratch paper.
There were all these forums and social groups full of planners made adorable with patterned sticky-notes and colorful pens; Filofaxes that doubled as journals, diary-scrapbooks, or daily-doodle books; Little binders that collected lists of books, recipes, movies, or whatever else their owner loved. I've always had a soft spot for pen-and paper time-keeping, note-taking, and life-tracking but it had never really thought so much passion could be beautifully put into them. It made me a little embarrassed of my simple planner and daily-use notebook.
Looking at all the different personal binders made me nervous; the prices and variations in colors and styles offered by the different brands were daunting. But somehow I eventually found my Dream-Filo; A personal-sized Woodland From Filo.

It wasn't too flashy, but still cutesy, with a bright green rabbit, and with a nice natural wood-grain texture to it that my hands could have fun holding. It was a nice balance of interesting and cute that spoke to me, something no other planner had ever done. I made it some dividers from art paper to match the cover and set out to making it my own.

It came complete with inserts, so I started off by using those first. It was a hard time at first because I was used to about a quarter of the personal size. Writing bigger and taking care to making to-do lists, and making little doodles on days with special things that happened helped the most. It was neat and 
more fun than my traditional way of going about planning, but the calendar in my phone was still more important to logging, checking, and alerting me of appointments. The Filo was fun but it felt a little bit redundant.
After studying some blogs I took a shot at making more of an effort to plan things ahead and make larger goals about what I wanted to do, as opposed to just to-do lists for chores I didn't typically have a problem of doing in the first place. I took up logging hours worked on drawings and paintings, having long wanted to make more of a habit of working time for art into my day. I picked up an exercise routine and plotted days for going on a run or taking a long walk. Not all these plans were kept to at first, but the habit of thinking ahead, choosing what I wanted to do in advance and setting up little tasks or time slots to for the things I actually wanted to do was developing. With my pages more full of project plans I found some days had space left, most were filled out nicely, but there was a general feeling that more room was needed to track my personal goals or some of the larger projects on my plate.
I started to get interested again in the idea of a daily page, particularly in DIYFish's unique inserts.
It was a little scary at first and there were are many options to choose from in style. I don't decorate or do enough for a Day-on-2-Pages; I'm not currently in class and don't run a blog or store, or even need it to help me keep track of anything more than my personal life and projects. The new Version 3 had just come out and it was tempting to settle back into familiar weekly style inserts, but I really wanted to give a try at expanding my planner's duties so I found a happy-medium in the Version 2.2 Day-on-1-Page inserts.
I went ahead and bought the 3-month-trial version from July to September sometime in late June, and received my digital files in time to spend a day of my weekend printing and cutting my first month out. It was exciting and nerve-wracking looking at how much space there was now! Figuring out what to do with all the new spots I had was tricky and by the end of the month I still hadn't decided a purpose for all the spaces; but it felt okay, because you can change your planner as you change your life, and these inserts really lend themselves to customization.
The first space to think about was the monthly chart area that prints on each month's "cover". I had never had a chart like this at all and wasn't sure what use to find for it. Considering how small my writing is, I started with putting my daily exercises on the left and the amount in each day. Through the month I highlighted as I completed the exercises. I really liked seeing my progress and did a similar thing with my water consumption. The daily pages already feature these little cups that you can fill in as you drink your glasses of water each day but I really wanted to see my progress as I built a habit of drinking more water. I marked in the days at work at the bottom because I wanted to keep track of how that might affect my water and exercise routine (turns out I'm more thirsty at work!). I also started tracking days I bought gas for my car because it seemed a better idea then looking for and through receipts to remember when my car last needed gas. The chart can look huge, but if you can find the right things to track on it, it's quite handy!
I really like how the life planning inserts have a monthly calendar set way to the side that is always visible once spread open on your desk. It gives you a nice place to see the really big events and dates you don't want to miss. You can see my month got a little messy though, I ended up scribbling a lot as plans got pushed around by other things happening those days quite a bit. I'm going to take care not to plan out so far ahead those things that get moved around easily. The reminder section is a very neat part as well, though I didn't have much to remember here at all. This spot would be perfect for weekly repeating events or classes. If school were in session I would definitely have put in class times and room numbers here along with any sort of group or club activities. My favorite part of this spread though is the monthly objective part. My head generates ideas and has random little thoughts or whims frequently, and leaving them in there leaves me distracted and with little actually done. The objectives gives me a chance to pull some of those ideas out and start taking action on them. At the begging of the month I tried to put down at least one thing I wanted to do here, using the second column to scribble some sort of action that could be taken forward. For example I wanted to be more prepared for an Artist Alley event and a step forward to that was to start a tab in my Filo to keep notes, to-dos, and various other info I needed to refer to as I got prepared. Some of these were more a whim type idea and action wasn't always taken, but it helped to get the idea out of my head instead of wondering every other day "I should do this...". For example I wrote in, "I should start a blog (? maybe?)". Writing is fun, and I'd been inspired by the blogs I had seen but wasn't sure what I would consistently write about or where or how to get started. An idle thought gets written down so it can stop worrying my thoughts and when I have time to breath and don't know what to do I look at my objectives list, pick a idle "want to..." thought and look into it. There were a few times that month that I read articles about how to blog and the sorts of places that were good to start at. The objectives area in version 2.2 is a nice place to remind yourself  of what long-term or vague things you want to do or what you want to start and to let projects start taking root, not everything gets picked up but if the thought keeps occurring it might sometimes when you can handle a new project. In version 2.2 the space below the monthly objectives is blank, and I spent most the month unsure what to use it for. Towards the end of the month the habit of the "weekly summary" had grown on me and I wanted to do a similar wrap up with the whole month, so I put that there the first day of the next month after looking through all that months pages. As you can see I was left very excited and happy with my inserts that month,
When getting to the front side of the Weekly inserts, what to write was easy. On the dated pages I wrote out big events; If there was work that day, major chores that needed to be done, if there was a bill or payment due to someplace or someone. The blank center area at the start of each week became where I logged "Art Goal Hours" or the amount of time spent on various art-related projects. I take commissions and have goals to get certain amounts of professional and personal work done so I used the existing graph pattern to draw little bars divided into five minute units that would be fill as work was done. At the end of the week it was possible to look back and see what days were good work days and which were not so good. Unfilled time was transferred to the next week as some weeks I am so inspired I do almost two weeks worth of work and others I wound up burnt out and did maybe a day or two. This system helped me push harder on my slow weeks and relax a little when I was ahead to help avoid burn-out and keep motivation for when I was less inspired. When folded up the Weekly page in version 2.2 is divided into two sections: "What's important this week" and a short to-do list. I used the "What's important" section much like the monthly objectives page, but the thoughts or goals were more short term: Reaching a certain amount of time completed working on art, wanting to tidy my room, or just a thought to try a new skill or recipe that week. The list were things that could actually be done any time that week to achieve one of those goals. When the weekly is folded over the completed week you get the weekly goals of one week next to the back of the next, which in 2.2 has a section for notes and a "weekly summary". I loved the weekly summary section, I already had the habit of making notes in my old planner with thoughts about how my week went or how I felt by the end of it, but because these inserts had me planning and writing more goals I now has a visible way of seeing what I had actually done to move forward. The Summary is where I calculated how much art work got done and summarized what goals were achieved and started musing about what could be done to make the next week more productive. Doing that helped me decided what goals would move on to the next week or what new projects needed to wait a while. The notes area on the right side became a spot for my exercise routine in the last week of the month, but for most of it I was unsure what to put there and stuck stickers or drew a little doodle.
Now the bread-and-butter pages, the daily inserts were hard for me at first. I never had dedicated a whole page to a day and was worried they would go largely unused. But in the end it wasn't so hard when I stopped stressing about what was "important" or "worth putting down". My decorating supplies are few but I did have a multi-pen and I loved doodling on these pages. I used Washi-tape to block out large events: Work, a long day-trip for fun or errands, maybe a party. Even if my Filo didn't go with me, notes were quickly typed in my phone when something significant happened and then they were written in when I got home. I like to see where my day went and it helped me start managing my time a bit better because gaps were typically time spent watching TV or browsing the computer and I started to cut back on those as the month went on. The two left sections wound up pretty fluid for me, the bottom was typically a to-do list, but some days didn't have much to do and doodles, stickers or thoughts filled the space. I typically "thought journal" in the top-left area. Some things written are feelings, others events, like a movie I saw or book I started. Sometimes a interesting quote is written in big, or a little circled memo of someone to call. It was very free-form because everything I wrote, to me, became "important". It could be anything from needing to remember when a commissioner last was sent a progress report, or just what movie it was I saw last Tuesday because my mom saw a bit and wanted to see it from the start, my emotions and thoughts at a time of day felt important too because I could look back weeks later and remember any small event that made my day. I also acquired a multi-pen this month, so my pages turned out more colorful than ever in my planner-keeping history. My initial plan was to color-code items, but in the end that was too complicated and instead switching colors every-other item or note became my habit. That made identifying what was a whole thought or event easier. I did use colors to vaguely denote the "feeling" of an item though: Work or payments are always in red as that color catches my eye first when looking at my page. The light blue usually was a special event or something that made me happy. Green also seemed to become my meal times on accident somehow...

Looking back on my last month, and already 10 days into the next with the same inserts, there is a feeling of accomplishment. Projects and plans are moving forward, healthier habits have developed, and I look forward to each next day. I love these inserts and how customizable they lend themselves to be. I really recommend them for project planning and life-journaling and am so happy Shen came up with such a unique and fun inserts to work in. I can't wait to order the rest of the year or even trying some of her other unique inserts.


  1. I love this post! You've given me so many good ideas--thanks for sharing!

  2. Lots of great ideas. I started writing down things I want to track while I was reading.