Passion Planner

Today's post is a conversation piece between Christina and Danica, the Founding Smarty Mommy, on how much they love their Passion Planners. Yes, it's kind of geeky to be this devoted to Excellence in Stationery, but admit it: you really, really want to get into our planners, don't you? You sick monkeys. Well, here you go! A peek inside the life-planning tools and processes of 2 Smarty Mommies. Enjoy!

(Image Source)

Christina: Oh, Danica! I can't thank you enough for recommending the oddly-named Passion Planner (Is it sexy? Is it crucifixy? IS IT BOTH?) as my paper planner this year.

As a long-time devotee of planning my life on paper and then transferring it to a shared family Google calendar, I've been searching for the perfect paper planner for decades. The best I'd come before the Passion Planner was Moleskine's Weekly Notebook design (in a bright color, so it's easier to find) because it offered both weekly planning sections and a space for notes on the same open-page layout. But the Passion Planner is so much better than this, my previous favorite, that it's laughable to even compare them within the same sentence. I just laughed. And again. I laugh!

(Image Source)

So, before I wax poetic, tell me how you found this beautiful beast of a planner and what you love most about it.

Danica: My planners have always been really important to me. I usually get the academic planner from Target. But this year my oldest child entered Kindergarten, my husband went back to work, and suddenly my planner situation got ridiculous. I had to start using post-its as addendum. My days had footnotes. My planner became annotated. As a professor of English, let me tell you, I do not need more annotation in my life. Smarty LZG [from the Facebook group] recommended the Passion Planner, and well, here I am, and here you are. What I love most about the Passion Planner (besides the half hour scheduling blocks, which I never knew I needed so desperately) is that it breaks down my goals into reasonable steps. While I am generally on top with reaching my goals, I always worry that I am not. With my Passion Planner, I can very easily check and reassure myself.

Show me a picture of your week and I'll show you a picture of mine!

Christina: FINE. Here's mine in all its glory!As you can see, I underuse the half-hourly time breakdown in favor of allocating larger, general chunks of time to specific tasks and then fitting in to-do's in the interstices. Since I'm at home with the kids, this is necessary because I can't guarantee that any given half hour won't be taken over by some kid crisis or another.

Needs more bowling.

What I really like about this weekly design is the separate space for personal to-do's and work to-do's. I, like you, had started annotating and adding post-it lists to my old planner, which had rendered it into some kind of 3-D paper sculpture that I had to decipher afresh every time I just wanted to see what I was supposed to be doing. This is so much cleaner and simpler. And, since I love a theme, I'm in serious love with the "Today's Focus" and "This Week's Focus" boxes. Sometimes I write specific tasks in them, but more often I have some overarching theme for the day. It keeps me on-task within that theme without forcing me into specific tasks. For example, my Monday focus was "Kids," and I worked within that theme by making cornbread to accompany our chili dinner with the girls and by throwing an impromptu "Snuggle Book Party" by the fire after dinner that night. This met three of my parenting goals - more home-cooking and hands-on activities together, less screen time after school, and more reading together - in a more organic, less rigidly structured way.

Color coding our regular calendar entries helps me, too. I'm orange, Smartner is blue, Smartling-the-elder is purple, and Smartling-the-younger is green. Beyond that, the color, pen, and pencil choices are driven by what I can most quickly grab.

Now you show me yours! And tell me how you like it ;)

Danica: I can't believe you are still color coding! I keep trying to tell myself that it's silly that you color code, but I'm really just trying to hide my shame at my unintentional pen usage.

Contains bowling; needs more color.

I use the "Today's Focus" to focus that day. It's supposed to be literal, right? One of the biggest issues I have with being an academic is that I generally have a few big projects going on at the same time. This makes me feel behind on everything. But! But! Then I can look at my Passion Planner, and reassure myself that I am indeed on task. Because of ALL THE MEETINGS, I have to use the hourly time slots. This week I have 9 hours of meetings, which is about average for me. Meetings are also when I do my best Passion Planning. It looks like I'm furiously taking notes, but really I'm budgeting our Disney vacation. Oooh, I love the graphing paper in the back for finances!

Also, since I have the academic planner, and it ends in July, I had to download August and September and just staple them right into the planner. It looks totally bad ass.

Christina: You are so punk rock with your DIY Passion Planner customization that I can't even look you in the eyes (*checks out your rack instead*).

And the color-coding is still pretty loose at this point. Standing appointments during the week are color-coded for ease of decoding on the fly, and the different colored list articles are the product of absolute happenstance. It's not that complicated. It's juuuuuuuuuuust complicated enough.

Let's talk about the crazy cultish Passion Plan and Passion Roadmap devices at the front of the Passion Planner! The Passion Plan is basically a plan for meeting your most important goals in your life. The Passion Roadmap is the tool by which your Passion Plan is organized, and it provides space for listing goals that are 3 months, 1 year, 3 years out, as well as lifetime goals. Initially I was all set to make fun of it, as I generally am with all self-helpish things. But, also with all self-helpish things, I wound up finding it wildly useful. What really surprised me was how deeply I engaged with the lifetime planning. I don't usually meditate or experience epiphanies while writing or planning, but I did sort of go trancelike in imagining my ideal obituary - an effective, if maudlin, means of envisioning an ideal life - and the words "writer, teacher, mother, activist" came screaming to my conscious mind. That's what I want my obituary to read: "Christina Miller Larsen, writer, teacher, mother, activist," and so my goals naturally must exist within that framework. Starting with the lifetime part of the Passion Roadmap really led me to clarify my shorter-term goals. It's really provided a clarity I wouldn't have expected.

This reminds me that I should occasionally include "mani/pedi" in my Passion Plan. (Image Source)

How did your Passion Planning and Roadmapping work? Or, what did you find most useful about this planner and its greater life-planning design?

Danica: My GameChanger [a sub-feature of the Passion Roadmap tool] works so well with my tenure track process that most of it is dedicated to that. And it was really great to see where I needed to be publication and service-wise and how to break that down into managable parts. In terms of more personal goals, I was sorta surprised to see that I wanted "healthy retirement" and "well-traveled." I mean, I knew I wanted those things, but I guess I was surprised to see that was EXACTLY what I wanted. I am fairly well-traveled already, and we do a pretty good amount of travelling with the kids, but this inspired me to plan more intentional vacations. I set up a travel fund for DisneyWorld next year, and then we are planning to do an Alaskan cruise two years after that. The "healthy retirement" goal prompted me to seek out some financial answers and make a few adjustments in terms of spending. What I like best about all of this is that the roadmap helped me understand my life goals and how to easily plan those steps out in about twenty minutes. All of these things I kept meaning to do became laid out for me is such a way that I could do them bit by bit. I was intimidated by building a healthy retirement, but not by the step "talk to a financial planner." God, I am such an adult.

Christina: We all are at this point. At least, those of us with Passion Planners!

The rest of you, do consider getting yourself one of these babies if you're in the market for an upgrade in your paper organizational devices and life planning. And, hey! Tell them that Christina and Danica sent you! They won't have the foggiest idea what you're talking about, but the Passion Planner peeps' confusion might be funny! And if there's anything we like more than smart and passionate planning, it's a cheap laugh at an unsophisticated joke! Win-win!

And, for those of you who are interested in further voyeuristic explorations of others' Passion Planning processes, do head on over to Youtube and check out the INSANE number of videos and vlogs people have posted about using their Passion Planners. Happy planning, Smarties!