A few years ago, I was in a job I hated, I had dropped out of college, I was in thousands of dollars of student loan debt, and I had no direction in my life.

Yet, I always felt so busy but deprived of the time to do or invest in the things I wanted to accomplish and spend time with the people I loved.

That all changed when I picked up my first planner and committed to using it.

You see, I have always been more of a “Type A” personality – the competitive and ambitious type. I still remember so clearly the first ever planner I got in 5th grade. It had a horribly bright, orange clipart Tiger cover on it, thick paper, with small, silver coiled binding. I treasured that thing. I loved writing in it. I loved seeing what was coming up next. I loved feeling productive and being “ahead” of my homework. Since 5th grade, I’ve had multiple planners and desktop organizers, but none had been life changing like my first Erin Condren planner was.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon Erin Condren planners, but I was hooked. Could you be organized and make it bright and whimsical too? Sign. Me. Up. I was always drawn to organization, but feared becoming a crazy, stuffy, obsessive type person. I had a limited mindset that I wasn’t creative. These things just aren’t true. Sure, they come more naturally to some personality types. But anyone and everyone can be organized. I truly believe this with all
my heart. I think it takes hitting rock bottom to see that it’s time for change, it’s time to make better decisions.

My planner became my happy place. I would look at it often when I was at work, motivated by the cute, small stickers and plans for fun things I had written down that afternoon. It gave me peace, it gave me an exit plan, and it gave me hope. It helped me see that I had more control over the outcomes in my life than I initially thought.

Soon after I began using my planner, I realized a few things:

1. I was a human being, and I needed white space in my planner.

White space in design is not a good thing, but in our real, actual, very mortal lives, white space is necessary. It’s a very good thing to have in your planner, scattered throughout your weeks. It means you don’t have anything planned. You can be spontaneous. You can rest. You can relax. You’re giving yourself space to be a human.

2. I was doing a bunch of things I didn’t like, with people I wasn’t fond of, in places I hated.

That’s what happens when we don’t take ownership over our lives and schedules. Truly. You have more control over these decisions than you think.

It’s easy to idle by in life, on cruise control, then realize we ended up in the middle of nowhere.

Your planner can help you get back on course and sail to where you need to go next.

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3. Time is precious.

It goes by so fast. In my deepest bouts of depression, time seemed to drag on forever and ever. Yet, I would flip the pages in disbelief that I had let another month go by, sitting in the same space I had been when I had began that month. Enough was enough. It was time to change.

4. Daily habits, when done in the right mindset, add up immensely over time.

Do what you can, when you can. Habit trackers (remove “like” ) in bullet journals can be powerful tools to help us see how far we’ve come and not forget our progress. They can motivate us to not break our streak of drinking enough water for 2 months straight, or help us see that 5 months ago, going to the gym wasn’t a regular habit, but now you can’t imagine a day going by without getting in your exercise.

I hope this encourages you to give paper planning a shot. Pen to paper is a powerful resource that we take for granted and don’t utilize enough! Buy a planner and don’t be afraid to write in it and make it work for you. After all, we will never live through the same date again, so you might as well take action and make your planning happen, even if it is messy at first.

Today could very well be, the first day of the rest of your life.

Lorna Bailey currently lives in the spunky but welcoming town of Eugene, Oregon with her husband, dog and cat. During the work week she aids a writer and speaker remotely as an Executive Assistant. When she is not working, you will find her writing, hiking, serving in various ministries or watching anime.