A new planner is a magical thing. You open the box or pick it up off the shelf, and it's like the clouds have parted, a ray of golden light is shining down, and somewhere a holy choir is singing out a note of pure joy. Those beautiful blank pages represent boundless opportunity. You can do absolutely anything with them! ...then you get it home. Suddenly all that opportunity feels oppressive instead of exciting. The unlimited potential becomes unlimited pressure: don't mess this up! Don't ruin this perfect thing! And before you know it, that planner you were so excited to use has become a very expensive paperweight because you can't bear the thought of despoiling it with writing.
And that, my friends, is tragic.
1) Your planner needs you to give it purpose
That planner has only one reason for existing: it wants to help you. Its job is to assist you in manifesting measurable, practical change in your life. No matter what kind of change you want to make - whether you want your schedule to be more organized, or you want to be healthier, or you want to build a business - your planner can help you achieve it... but only if you give it that purpose. Until you give it a purpose the only thing it can do is to sit on a shelf and look nice.
Now, if nice things sitting passively on a shelf makes your life qualitatively better, then you don't need this story and you can stop reading right here. If you're anything like me, though, you need a tool that's much more active. Give your planner a purpose so that it can do its job and help you make your world better.
2) Your planner needs you to give it personality
To be fair, your planner already has some personality. That's why you chose it, after all. Each planner has its own style and we gravitate toward planners that match our personal aesthetic. The thing is, that personality isn't unique. We tend to think of an empty planner as a beautiful thing, but it isn't: it's just a carbon copy of a thousand other empty planners. Its prettiness is hollow, just a veneer with no substance underneath. That planner is one basic bitch until YOU infuse it with character.
But how do we do that? I mean, that's why we need all the stickers and washi tape and clips and tassels and charms and all that stuff, right? Nope. Don't believe a word of it.
Scrapbook companies and trendy businesses would loooooove to have us believe that we need things in order to express ourselves, but the truth is that you don't need jack. Your planner might be nothing but a bunch of plain pages tied together with bits of string, but if you're filling it up with dreams and plans, it's more wonderful than the most pristine leather-and-steel tome.
Write in your planner. Mark it up. Mess it up. Use it to create. That's how a planner becomes beautiful: not through empty unblemished pages, but through a unique life lived to its fullest.
3) Most of all, your planner needs you to use it
Remember the Velveteen Rabbit? Remember how they became Real?
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
--The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
The concept of Real applies to planners every bit as much as it applies to beloved stuffed animals. If you've given your planner a purpose and a personality, it can help you to make your life amazing... but only if you use it. We've bought into this idea that a soulless stack of mass-produced paper is more valuable when it's empty than when it's filled with a well-lived life. What the hell kind of attitude is that?!
YOU are what is beautiful about your planner. YOU are the thing that makes it something special. Invite your planner into your life. Make space for it. Love it for the messy, mixed-up, gorgeous thing it'll become and it will help you turn your dreams into reality. Help your planner to become Real, and it will help you to do the same.
Does this mean I shouldn't spend time decorating my planner?
OF COURSE NOT. Goodness knows it's hard enough to make time in our busy lives to sit down and write anything out by hand, let alone checking multiple calendars to make sure appointments are noted correctly or tracking social media platforms to keep a business plan up to date. I know that if I don't spend some time sprucing up my pages with a bit of trim and glitter, I start to feel overwhelmed by the weight of all those tasks. For me, being able to think of my planning as a fun craft project rather than a boring chore is what gets me to use my planner in the first place.
Just make sure that your decorations are about you, and not about what you're "supposed to do" or about keeping up with Miss Picture Perfect Planner on Instagram. Don't get lost in comparing yourself or your planner to what anyone else is doing. There is no "supposed to"; this is all about you. What's going to work for you? What's going to make you happy?
Need some help figuring out what will work for you? Want support for keeping yourself on track?
I hear you. Some days I just need to share with other planner girls who'll understand. That's why I created the Rebel Planners group on Facebook - it's a space where all us unconventional ladies can come together to gush about our goals, vent our frustrations, and support one another in pursuit of our dreams. Head on over and check us out. I hope you'll join us.