Unboxing: Blessed is She 2019-2020 Academic Planner

Every year I tend to buy at least two planners: my Erin Condren for the year, and I’ll experiment with a new brand that I haven’t tried out yet, just to see if the grass might be greener elsewhere. This year, it was a close call between the Cultivate What Matters planner (bright, fun, playful, inspired) and the Blessed Is She (BIS) planner (modern, functional, Catholic-focused). You can see from my post title which one I decided upon.

And then this week, a lovely gold box with Scripture showed up on my porch. Continue reading

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Some Women Go for Gucci, I <3 Erin Condren

With today’s launch of the 2019-2020 life planner by Erin Condren, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my obsession collection of EC accessories for the life planner from over the years. I first heard about Erin Condren back in 2014, when their 2014-2015 “Party Pops” planner cover was launched. I immediately fell head over heels for the fun, bold colors, confetti-full cover, vellum overleaf page, and vertical layout.

In 2015, I got my first life planner and it was okay. It seemed like just another in a latest of phases as I moved from one agenda calendar system to the next (remember my Filofax phase, anyone?). But it wasn’t until the release of the 2015-2016 life planner, with its newest option, rose gold foil, coils, and metallic covers, that I fell hard. That rose gold, hitting at a time when it was just starting to rise in popularity (but had always been a favorite of mine), it was irresistible. There was no going back. I was going to commit to being an Erin Condren woman.

Yes, I can hear your thinking now, “She is seriously crazy. Nobody gets that excited over office supplies.” That’s okay. If you understand my addiction, we’re bound to be friends. If you don’t, well, you can stop reading now if you haven’t already. This post of gushing over paper products is continuing anyway!

The 2017-2018 release with the “Painted Petals” was another favorite. I remember bloggers not being crazy about the design but I quite liked it, and found it charming. Even a few years later, I’m still seeing versions of this pattern in other folks’ collections and thinking to myself, ‘Wow, that’s gorgeous! Why didn’t I think of that?” I think this was the year that I tried the horizontal layout and discovered that it just wasn’t for me. Considering how pricy these are, it was quite the learning experience.

For 2018-2019, I was looking for a cheaper option and found a lookalike at Michaels. To be honest, I can’t even remember the brand now. Compared to EC, the stickers just weren’t as dazzling and I missed the interchangeable covers. I did rescue the cover by carefully cutting slits into each of the coils before removing it, and the rose cover looks quite pretty with my other EC covers:

The knockoff brand was doomed from the start and in late winter 2018, I was already considering another life planner for the 2019 calendar year. I settled onto a hardbound life planner, nearly 1/2 the cost of a coiled version, with the 2018-2019 design of “Woven Wonder”:

It’s been a decent planner overall. The cover has a buttery feel like their hardbound journals that I quite like, and a lay-flat binding which is an absolute must. I also really like how portable the hardbound is, which is far less bulky than the coils when bundled in a bag with other stuff I’m toting around. That said, I do really, really miss the flexibility of the coiled design, the interchangeable covers and the myriad of accessories you can purchase (see samples below):

With the arrival of “Kaleidoscope”, EC’s 2019-2020 pattern, am I considering dropping the hardbound in July and switching to an 18-month coiled option? Maybe. I’ve heard from some of the bloggers that the life planners are going up in price and I’m waiting to see how much and what other changes are anticipated. I do absolutely adore the Kaleidoscope pattern and a number of the accessories are on my wishlist for later this year. Erin Condren, I’m taking down notes!

I’m also super-stoked that EC is looking into branching into planner charms. I found this one on Etsy a number of years ago (see left) and I still adore it. Yes, those are tiny, pastel-colored macaroons. Isn’t it darling? They’re also releasing some Easter-toned pastel bands that I’d love to add to a growing collection:

And that’s basically it, at least, all I could find at the top of a hat. There might be errant “Keep It Together” bands lying around someplace, right alongside wherever my rulers and zippered pouches have gone off to. For you EC enthusiasts, you’ll note that some of those covers aren’t strictly by Erin Condren, and I’m okay with that. There’s such a wealth of artistic talent, on Etsy and elsewhere on the web, that self-expression shouldn’t be limited to one designer’s current craze. Sometimes, you just want marbled pages or a cup of tea.

This is where I turn the conversation over to you, happy reader and fellow enthusiast. What type of planner girl are you — hourly, horizontal, or vertical; coiled, hardbound, petite, or the new binder option? Favorite metallic finishes? Favorite lifestyle planner bloggers that I shouldn’t miss? And what about today’s launch of new products are you most excited about?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Have a great day, and keep reaching higher!

The Health Benefits of Journaling

Do you currently journal?

If not, perhaps you should.

Based on a study by James Pennebaker, a researcher and psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, journaling may help strengthen your immune cells (Source). It also has mental health benefits, which is what I’m focusing on today.

Image courtesy of anankkml, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of anankkml, FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I don’t journal all of the time, but when I do, I find that it does three things:

— It is a stress-reliever
— it helps me increase my focus
— it empties out the ‘mental clutter’

We women carry a LOT on our plates whether we’re single women, married, or single/married with kids. We’re working towards that GPA, or trying to get the kids interested in creative arts/sports, or meet that target at work, or arrange that amazing weekend getaway with our spouse. We’re trying to juggle all of that in our brains, well, it’s a lot to remember, and it can get overwhelming. And that’s when we’re at our best and just dealing with positive stress. That doesn’t even take into account NEGATIVE stress. As if one type of stress wasn’t bad enough, there are actually two. Did you know that?

The two types of stress

There is Eustress (positive) and Distress (negative).

Examples of Eustress:

In my college years, it would’ve been me striving for a 4.0 GPA, which I considered a good challenge, but it can be any challenge that you competitively strive for.

Today, it might be the (good) anxiety created by going on carnival rides, or trying to meet goals I set for myself, or perhaps engaging in a challenging hike.

Examples of Distress:

In my college years, it might’ve been struggling with a college course that was “beyond me” or trying to juggle family time, social time, my day job and my night classes all at the same time. Not fun.

Today, it could be a conflict in my relationships, an illness, outstanding financial difficulties, or trouble at work.

For more examples of Eustress and Distress, see this article on Stressors at MentalHealth.net.

So, there you have just a couple of examples and I’m sure some people will have more stresses, others less. We’re all different. But, what we have in common is that with all of that on our mental plate, if you’re trying to juggle it all, it’s a lot to remember and it can get overwhelming. (Other sentence was better).

The link between stress and memory retention

 

Image by renjith krishnan, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by renjith krishnan, courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Imagine that all of the things that come up during the day that you have to remember are eating up the processing RAM on your mental computer. They’re things that you want to be able to retrieve easily so you keep them close at hand, instead of deep in your hard drive, like your long-term memories like your fifth birthday.

The problem is that your RAM is finite and if you’re using all that RAM to keep those short-term to-do’s close at hand, you won’t be able to use it to focus on other programs, like the one that helps you concentrate at work, remember to pick up milk at the grocery store or call your best friend back.

When I journal, it’s like I’m saving all that info to a flash drive instead of relying on my RAM. Sure, I could theoretically transfer it to the hard drive but have you SEEN my storage system? It’s a mess. I don’t want to go there. And yeah, there’s a chance my “flash drive” could get misplaced (though probably not permanently) and it frees up my mental RAM to run some of those other programs instead.

Wow, I just geeked out there.

Anyway, all that mental clutter creates stress as you try to balance remembering it all and living your life to the best of your ability. When you jot things down, you can see the big picture and make the choice to focus on one thing, one goal, at a time, and devote more of your mental energy towards that task, without trying to recall all of that other stuff you need to do in the background.

How do I start?

Journal-writing is a great way to alleviate some of that stress, and it’s practically free. All you need is a pen/pencil and journal, or a word processing/note app on your phone/tablet/computer.

When you write, make a point of jotting down the date and day, and if you have a mind to, do an ice breaker like documenting the weather or perhaps what book you’ve been reading lately, or what bit of scripture you’re working through. Then, go ahead and do a brain dump. Let it all out on paper. It may seem counter-productive to take time to put down everything you think you know but we multi-task so much and carry so much that it’s hard to see the whole picture at times. Carrying all that mental clutter alone is enough to create negative stress that can affect our attitudes and maybe even our health, not to mention negatively affect our focus/concentration/engagement on the situation at hand.

Go ahead and write it down. Whatever you need to do, whatever is bugging you, get it all out there. You won’t be showing this to anyone (unless you want to). This is just for you.

What I’ve found when I journal is that it helps me articulate what I’m thinking even in the process of writing it down, so I come to understand my feelings better. It helps me to see the whole gamut of responsibilities and/or goals that I currently have to accomplish in the near future. It’s amazingly freeing because it allows me a release — if it’s all on paper, I’m (theoretically) not going to lose it and I don’t have to hang onto it mentally anymore.

So why not give it a shot? Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take 5-15 minutes and sit down with a pad of paper and your favorite pen, and jot down what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, or whatever those to-do’s are that you might forget between now and when you actually get around to doing them. You may just discover that in doing so you’ll have more clarity, better focus and perhaps better overall health.

For more information, I recommend this article on journaling for mental health, by the University of Rochester.

Erin Condren Accessories, Part 2: The Unboxing

THEY’RE HERE!!!

Yes, my first-ever order of EC accessories arrived — earlier than expected which was a great surprise.  That purple mailer may soon grow to be one of my favorite sights in my mailbox.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the package itself but as I did the unveiling I found a bunch of bonuses I hadn’t ordered, way cool!

EC-bonuses EC gift labels

There were two stickers with inspirational quotes in Erin’s festive colors, a coupon code for $10.00 off my next order, and a sample pack of their gift label collection, personalized with my name.  Plaids and paisleys are my faves. 🙂  Thanks Erin!

EC pen holder

The pen holders are really simple. It’s a peel and stick design with a transparent backing so it doesn’t interfere with your notebook or journal’s design. I stuck mine on the inside back cover my Punctuate (B&N) journal and it’s good and tight on there.

It fits most pens but my Pilot Precise V5 (extra fine) rollerball pens are too thick for the elastic. Your standard ballpoint is thinner and should work just fine. If I hook the lapel clip of my Pilot to the elastic, it hangs there without any problems too.

EC elastic bands-classicThe elastic bands (classic in red, blue and silver) were one of the products that sold me on trying out Erin Condren products.

I love book bands and I’ve seen some of the competition with some lesser quality stuff on the market and these EC elastic bands really stand out.

These fit comfortably on my A5 Filofax (Original) and fit snugly on your standard 8.5 x 11″ spiral-bound notebook. Although it fits on a letter-size Circa notebook (Levenger), the 1/2″ rings have a bit more capacity when overly full than the elastic’s designed for.  It works, but you might not want to keep the band on there long-term and strain the elasticity.

Sliding them off and interchanging them is super easy!

 

EC event stickers

Apologies for the glare.

The stickers (blank and event) all came bundled together and the colors are so vibrant and fun that they’re just plain yummy. My favorite color combination is the sheet with all of the greens, blues and purple (not pictured).  I’m looking forward to trying these out to see if they remove easily and how easy/hard it is to write on the blank labels.

My A5 Filofax Original’s pockets are not compatible with the length of the sticker sheets but they do fit well inside as stand-alone products. You could also cut the sheets down to size to fit inside a top-loading pouch or a zipper sheet. For now, I’m going to leave them as is, tucked inside the back of my Filofax.

Overall, I’m pleased with the accessories and I’m looking forward to seeing how well they hold up to a writer’s daily use/abuse.

Have you purchased EC products in the past? Which ones would you recommend? Which are your favorites?

Like what you see here and want to try Erin Condren products for yourself? Click here for your $10.00 off coupon for your first order.  Let me know what you end up getting too! 🙂

EC-all-06-20-14

Erin Condren Accessories

EC-shipperRecently I received a “$10 off your first order” offer for ErinCondren.com so today I thought I would talk about some of the accessories Erin offers to accompany her Life Planner system, and what I’ve purchased.

First off, I should clarify that I actually use an A5 Filofax Original which I’m still trying to settle into and I’ve blogged a bit about.

Checking out Erin’s website, a lot of her products look to be compatible with what I am using and I love branching out and trying new products.

  • For my first order, I picked up a couple of penholders (img) that I thought would be perfect for attaching to my journal (Punctuate! by Barnes & Noble) and my spiral-bound 2015 planner.

I browsed Office Max this weekend and they do have some comparable buys for the elastic bands for your journal, planner, Life Planner, or Filofax, but honestly, zebra stripes and a shocking pink just don’t do it for me.

  • So I picked up a set of elastic bands in coral, teal and a silver glitter (img) that are adorable!!  I’m guessing on the exact color names here. If you’re more of a golden girl, they’ve got a trio of gold bands that are simply luxe.

One of my favorite features of the website is the customization that’s offered from the covers of the Life Planner system, to blank stickers you can add with your own photos, appointments, play dates or whatever takes your fancy!

  • I ordered a set of the 120 blank stickers (img) to try out and I’m curious if ballpoint, rollerball or pencil will show up/not smudge on these.
  • I’ve also ordered a set of the customizable event stickers with personalization (img) for various writing assignments, appointments, local events, and time with friends.

The catalog image has different colors from the preview page so I’m guessing that what’s on the preview are the current colors in stock.  I hope that it does rotate from year to year because if these fit my planner, I will be buying a LOT more. I didn’t want to copy pics from the website but I’ll post again when my order arrives and share pics of my new accessories and how they’re working out with my planner system. 🙂

It’s birthday season so I may also spring for a Life Planner soon (a girl can never have too many planners…) A big thank you to Organized Jen who blogged about Erin Condren’s Life Planner and introduced me to her products.

Jen is hosting a giveaway that you can enter for one of the latest planners – but you’d better hurry because it’s ending soon!

Get $10 off your first order with Erin Condren (and I will too!). Let me know what you think of her products. Being organized is always stylish!

Adapting Your Filofax To Fit Your Needs

IMG_2936A month + after Christmas, I thought I’d post an update about how my new Filofax is coming along.

Organizing By Section

I am finding that I am not using as many of the sections as I originally thought that I would with my Filofax.  I’ve been shifting things around again since my last posting and can’t seem to bring myself to do the scrapbooking habit that so many women seem interested in (sorry!).

Inside the front flyleaf (reverse side), I’ve added a large post-it on which I’ve scribbled a sort of ‘section key’ to help me remember what dividers are what.  So far I’ve got:

  1. Filofax registration #, personal information & contacts
  2. Weekly agenda
  3. Charts
    (daily, weekly, monthly, also morning and evening routines)
  4. Lists
    (TBR, movie list, bucket list, etc.)
  5. My Personal ‘Life Accounts’, which are basically goals by category, based on Michael Hyatt’s system
  6. Targets, Milestones & Rewards
  7. Extra blank paper and such — I like to keep a little bit on hand, and some at home

Ideally, what will work best is a natural flow from section to section. For me, it makes sense to get the personal info. out of the way (or alternatively, at the very back), then launch directly into the agenda.  I’m using the calendar feature more than any other part of my Filofax.  I wish that I also had the horizontal yearly calendar add-on and the two-page monthly view.

Running Out of Room?

Some bloggers are reporting that they are running out of room to write in their agendas.  With my week-to-a-page (column view), I have not found that to be a problem.  It does seem to offer more room than the alternative format (horizontal view) but I also do far less decorating.  See how that works? Less decorating = more room for actual substance. 😀

I do wish that you had the option of replacing the size of the binder or the strap.  If Filofax had an interchangeable ring option (like Levenger) and/or an interchangeable binder strap, then it would be a bit more expandable.

Weight & Size

I’m finding that using my Filofax, the size (A5), is too large for my current purse size so I have to carry it by hand or carry a second bag.  I don’t mind either of these options really but I’ve noticed that the leather covers are rather thick (maybe to be more sturdy?) and that adds to the weight.

Has anyone else noticed this being a problem?

Maybe because of the weight issue, and less of the size itself, my Filofax isn’t as fleshed out as some people’s might be.  I need to find a work-around for that. Suggestions appreciated.  I have removed the month at a glance calendar completely to free up some space.  My earlier ventures to try labeling each section with my K&Co. label maker was in vain.  The labels don’t stick well to the pages and they add additional bulk between the pages.  I’ve removed almost every last label at this point (lol).

Future Ideas To Explore

I might further condense my Filofax by removing the “Life Account” sections entirely and have sort of a secondary binder as a Filofax Reference that I keep solely at the house.  I find that I’m using my Filofax for the agenda and the notes section and I’d like to create more room for those features.

I am debating between purchasing more paper refills for the notepaper or investing in a Filofax hole punch.  If you’re a Filofax user, how do you handle the refill dilemma? What are your recommendations?

Pinterest is a great resource for free printable ideas for your Filofax. Have you pinned any great finds?  I’ve seen a few ideas I want to explore but first… I need to buy some new color ink cartridges. ; More to come as the exploration continues!

My First Filofax – 2014 Setup

For Christmas this year, I received my very first Filofax.  As there are already a million blogs devoted to Filofax (I may be stretching the numbers a wee bit), my blog is NOT going to turn into a Filofax addict’s haven, but, I can’t let this momentous occasion of my first Filofax pass without at least a nod at how popular these things have become.

This is an A5 Filofax “The Original” in a color that I believe is called ‘Retro Yellow’:
IMG_2935

There’s branding on the spine of the exterior of the Filofax with an ‘f’ encircled, and a button clasp closure on the front that says “Filofax – The Original – Est. 1921”.

Inside the front cover is more of the Filofax branding in the bottom left-hand corner verifying that this is the real deal, made in the UK with real leather.  Although I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and watching YouTube videos, I haven’t done much decorating yet so the setup’s pretty simple — but evolving.

In the photo below, you’ll notice the Filofax has a pen loop and a couple of smallish pockets (for business cards) that I am using to store removable, writable ‘flags’.  There is also a larger pocket that I have some post-its stuck inside for quick retrieval.

I’ve kept the flyleaf included with the product and created my own cover page (yellow):

IMG_2934

My understanding of the Filofax system is that it comes with different inserts and calendars.  Mine came with the week to two-page view, column style.  It also included a black ruler, 5 tabbed dividers (blue) and a variety of papers — blank, ruled, grid (white), and some ruled color papers too.

The Customer Service Dept. didn’t have quite the product that my gifter was looking for (a Personal size) so they supplemented with a bunch of freebie inserts. Super cool!  I’ve salvaged the packaging to create additional flyleafs throughout and some top-loading envelopes (see below).

IMG_2937

I am not much of a scrapbooker (yet) but I’ve always loved vision boards so I have been taking clippings out of my magazines and pasting them inside of some of the pages.  I tried a K&Co. label maker (Target) to name the dividers but found that the labels just limited the space I could be using for additional pages.

Since I didn’t know that I was receiving a Filofax, I’d bought an inspirational planner from B&N a couple of months ago.  I’ve salvaged several great photos from that into a Smashbooks-type of inspirational words and pages that I can scatter in my book (see hot air balloon photo –last image).IMG_2933

Other than the basic agendas, I am using the dividers to keep some categories — Focus, Capture, and Schedule, all based on Enjoyette’s system, check out Enjoyette’s great YouTube channel.

Additionally, I have a section of vision boards and goals under “My Life Accounts”, based on Michael Hyatt’s free e-book “Creating Your Personal Life Plan“.

I’ve also adapted Michael’s concept of weekly and quarterly reviews to fit my own needs. I’ve got my typed notes with my agenda so when I sit down to review my previous week’s activities and upcoming week’s plans, I can remember to follow the steps. 🙂

I am crazy for lists so I also have a section just for books to read, movies to see, things to do, etc. I also have a bucket list I call my “Life List”. Just at a glance, a couple of ideas I’d like to do are visiting the Crayola factory, going horseback riding, attending a Broadway show in NYC… modest goals, I think.

IMG_2936

Here’s hoping that 2014 will be a great new start to better things – and a Filofax to get me there!

Have a Filofax and want to share suggestions? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your ideas.  Got a question about the products shown or my setup?  Ask away. 🙂

The Scientific Link Between Tidiness and Tranquility

green spray bottle

Photo Credit: Winnond, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This past week I have been on a staycation, tidying up around the house in preparation for hosting my sister’s upcoming nuptials.  At this point in the week, I am just concentrating on picking things up off the floor, sorting through piles of mail, catching up all of the laundry, taking out the recycling, that sort of thing.

In the process of all of this tidying up, I’ve discovered something precious: tranquility.

Tranquility: “the quality or state of being tranquil; calm:” (OxfordDictionaries.com)

Tranquility is usually the last thing one experiences as a wedding approaches.  For me personally, I have discovered a correlation between the cleanliness (read: tidy) of my home and my peace of mind, ability to take on (and focus) on new projects and general contentment.

How can that possibly all come from bins full of trash and full hangers of clean laundry?

Over at The Unclutterer, Erin Doland talks about the correlation of physical clutter and our ability to focus, drawing on a survey done by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute. In her article, Erin discusses the scientific link between tidiness and the ability to focus on tasks at hand.  In my mind, that means that tidiness = focus = tranquility.

Why is this important, as a writer, an artist, or any other creative mind?  Think about your workspace.  Is it cluttered? Until this past week’s staycation, I had unpaid bills, unsorted mail, unopened mail (from 2010, 2011, EEP!), and lots of dust bunnies everywhere.

Writers and computer peeps, check out your Mac/PC desktop.  Is that cluttered with files?  What gives you greater peace of mind, an empty (read: clean) virtual desktop or one with dozens, if not hundreds, of links, files, etc?  I know what the answer is for me:  empty, empty, empty = happy, happy, happy.

I usually keep a few aliases up on my desktop, just for quick access to the files I use the most (see below).  Like my current desktop picture? I found that in a re-post over at PlottingBunnies.wordpress.com.

lauren_miller_desktop_11-13

To sum up, if you find your virtual (or physical) desktop needs some TLC, take a time out and tidy up.  You may find that your ability to focus increases, your attention span lasts longer, and you’ll have a greater peace of mind knowing that you’ve improved your life a bit, if only until the next time the mailman arrives.