Artful Planning: Managing Life on a Beautiful Grid

Failure in retirement is not an option

Recently, I missed a staffing commitment as a Medium editor. I’d offered to cover someone’s morning shift, but I forgot to write it down or add it to my Google calendar.

I’m retired, but now I’m also a writer and a caregiver. I have other interests and a so-so social life. And I should not have missed that commitment!

So embarrassing.

When I worked in college administration, I was the queen of lists. I carried a notebook everywhere — always a cute one with a sparkly or colorful cover and an inspirational saying on the front (like, “You’re a Goddess” or something equally nauseating to my colleagues). I had a process for keeping my lists current, week after week. My Outlook calendar was my other professional “Bible,” so to speak. My administrative assistant always had access to my calendar. This enabled her to pull me out of the weeds or out of a thorny meeting for important moments noted on my trusty calendar.

You’d think as a retiree I wouldn’t need that kind of help anymore. Perhaps I could manage my life with the monthly calendar we always keep on the side of the fridge. Yet old habits are hard to break and I’ve found a few benefits (and surprising joys) of carrying around a weekly planner.

Last fall, I started out retirement with a Clever Fox undated weekly planner. I scouted around for layouts and page styles and liked the philosophy behind this brand’s planner organization. (I am not a paid spokesperson.)

Clever Fox — Goals by Life Area Overview (Author’s photo)

This planner gives me the chance to set goals within broad categories they call Life Areas. I identify these and then create a vision board for the year. Quarterly and monthly, I can set goals and assess prior outcomes (successes, etc).

Goals are important in retirement too!

But my personal sweet spot is in the weekly plan. Each page layout includes seven days on the left. The right side is sectioned to include such things as, the week’s priority, a daily task checkoff, a wide grid for notes/art/doodles, and to-do lists.

Two more boxes allow me to evaluate my goal progress for the week and look forward to the next. This last section is the one I use the least each week. I just can’t muster the interest to evaluate my “work” each week. Did I mention that I’m retired?

I tend to use these blocks for separate lists: books to find, gifts to buy, the odd reminder. Sometimes I use large stickers to cover the boxes with inspiration instead. I also don’t use the included monthly and quarterly assessments. I’ve had enough higher ed assessments to hold me until the grave. I just get on with planning my weeks.

Author’s Planning Tape and Sticker Samples

My favorite part of weekly planning is the artistry. I have invested a tidy sum in washi tape and stickers, and I now have time to hunt them down. To my credit, some have been snatched from the clearance shelves. Still, I may need an intervention since I already had to purchase organizing containers to store it all. I’m convinced that the weekend hour I put into laying out and decorating the next week’s schedule helps me achieve my goals. Well, most of them.

Some days, motivation, or lack thereof, trumps even the pretty planner pages.

I’m a writer now. Planning and maintaining an organized, workable schedule is important to my writing goals. Still, some things take precedence. My husband has appointments, as do I. Those go onto the page first. Then, I add other fixed-time events like an outing with friends or a morning hike with one of my hiking groups. Next, I plaster little “Write” stickers on nearly every weekday. (The write stickers pictured here came from Etsy.) Anything else comes after writing in my weekly planner.

I may choose to write on the weekend, but I don’t “plan” for it. Every day may be Saturday to the retiree, but it’s still a weekend! We all need to factor in moments of rest and meditation.

Knowing I’ll need a new blank planner for October 1st, I began researching options that might fit my needs better now that I have experience with the layouts and the unique creativity I can engage in. I could not find another planner or loose planning page sets that provided better layouts for my planning style. (Or maybe I fear change!) I purchased my next Clever Fox planner already! The cover is a shimmery rose-gold. Yummy!

And, I really shouldn’t ever miss another commitment. Should I?

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