1 Recollections™ personal planner
2 Journaling stickers
3 Design in 365 day planner
4 Sticky note reminders
5 Dailygreatness® business planner
6 Create 365™ The Happy Planner
7 Yellow pad (letter size)
8 Gratitude journal (Studio Oh!)

9 Daily journal (Studio Oh!)
10 TUL® gel pen
11 Thank you notes (Moo)
12 Mini business cards (Moo)
13 Book proposal (calendar page)
14 Daily affirmation book
15 Truthbomb deck (Danielle LaPorte)
16 Iphone 6

I’ve been on a search for the perfect day-planner for years. As a creative entrepreneur building a personal brand and writing a memoir, I need a planner that is both flexible with day-to-day changes and focused on my big picture. Equal part date-keeper, note-taker, task-tracker and doodle-saver, my perfect planner keeps me organized and accountable and becomes my safety net for brainstorming ideas. It’s the one place where the 1001 thoughts in my head, constantly battling for my attention, hang and party together. When not laid open beside my laptop waiting for the next round of check-box confetti, it can be found tucked in my trusty tote bag ready for a road trip, and it goes everywhere  –  school functions, writing retreats, client meetings and at times, yes, even vacation. Like my words, my art and my personal brand, my planner is forever tied to my heart’s desires so I invest the time, energy and funds into making it both functional and FUN!

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Here’s what my perfect planner looks like this year…
(click each item below for information on where they can be purchased)

1 Recollections™ personal planner

I realize this may seem counter-intuitive, but this is actually the first of two planners. Available through Michael’s Art Stores, I couldn’t resist its compact design, flexible insert system and beautiful zippered vinyl case. I initially picked it up as an experiment, but now I’m using it for anything that doesn’t relate to my writing or personal branding goals. It holds my business appointments, daily task list and its 6-ring hole punch design means I can insert small notebooks for each of my clients. When it’s time for a client meeting, I take only what’s relevant and leave the rest behind. That feature alone keeps me focused.

2 Create 365™ The Happy Planner™ Value Pack Stickers

If you follow my work at all, you know that I love hand lettering. That being said, I don’t have the skills to nail the perfect lettering on the first shot, so I like to carry some handy dandy stickers in my planner to spruce up a page when it feels a little too drab or “tasky.” There are tons of beautiful sticker packages available and I highly recommend picking out a few. I like this set simply because the make me smile when I use them. Maybe next year I’ll design and produce my own set to make others smile too.

3 Design in 365 day planner

This is a new product from a Italian design team who just funded their Kickstarter campaign. I backed the product by purchasing their “Design Your Business in 365 Days” planner in pdf form. What I like most about this planner is that each week features a series of hard-hitting questions to help brand and market a business to the fullest. It’s quite intensive and not for the faint-hearted, and requires separate journal space to properly answer the prompts. Each week is broken down by a full page per day, too much for my needs, so I print a few pages at a time and insert them into my main planner to see what works for me and what doesn’t.

4 Create 365™ The Happy Planner™ This Colorful Life

Again, stickers make tending to my planner more creative and fun. Plus, some of these stickers include short “to-do” lists that are perfect for smaller sets of tasks.

5 Dailygreatness® business planner

By far, this is the best planner design I’ve found for entrepreneurs who are launching their business, a new product or creating their personal brand. The first few pages help users define their core values and beliefs, focus on time management, business goals and personal growth. I’ve attended many brand and marketing programs from university level courses to Marie Forleo’s B-School, and as a part-time college educator I’ve coached hundreds of graduating seniors using the principles from leading books on brand design, but none are as clear, concise and affordable as the first 20 pages of this planner. What doesn’t work for me about this planner is that I want to move pages around and the binding prevents me from doing that. I want to separate those branding pages into bite-sized tasks and eventually move them to the back of my planner. I also don’t need to carry around the weight of an entire year especially when I want more pages for journaling. So I’ve carefully removed the binding, individually trimmed pages and inserted only those I need into a separate binder. See the next item below for just how that works.

6 Create 365™ The Happy Planner™

I was first introduced to this new modular planner right before the holidays and was immediately intrigued. Unfortunately, I am also easily persuaded by shiny new things and tend to spend way too much money on the latest creative fad – just ask my kids or take a look at the storage boxes in my garage. So before investing in a new system, I did my research first. I looked at dozens of other day-planners including the beautiful books from Danielle LaPorte as well as the two planners  mentioned above. In the end, I wanted a little bit of each so using a modular binding system like The Happy Planner™ made complete sense. I also waited until after the new year when Michaels had their 50% off sale and I could buy twice as much. See how my mind works? The biggest advantage for me with this system is that I can move any page in any order I want. I can insert dividers, pockets and even pages I print myself. Using this system meant I also had to purchase a custom hole punch, but that’s a small price to pay for the flexibility it gives me. I hate tearing out pages and using oversized three hole punch binders. So, whalah! This planner lived up to its promise and I’m a very happy girl.

7 Yellow pad (letter size)

A couple years ago I attended Robert McKee’s Story writing seminar. He said two things I’ll never forget.
Write the truth and Who’s got a yellow pad? Hold them up please…THESE people are gonna make it!
Nuf said.

8 & 9 Gratitude journal & Daily Journal

Once I found the perfect journal, there was no going back. Sure, I love the way a good gel pen rides along on a Moleskin, but the Coptic bound journals from Studio Oh! make writing either side of the page a breeze. Plus, they have a good sense for design and offer a wide range of sizes and styles. I’ve filled six of there journals already, and have a few waiting in the wings. I typically carry two with me at all times, one for messages of gratitude and commitment, and the other for daily journaling.

10 TUL® gel pen

Like the perfect journal, once we find a pen that fits comfortably in our hand there is no letting go. At first, I used to stockpile Uni-ball Signo gel pens – bold please, not medium and never micro. But lately I’ve grown more attached to TUL® gel pens. Yum, is all I need to say.


11 & 12 Thank you notes & Mini business card

As many of us do, I keep several thank you cards and business cards tucked in the pockets of my planner. My favorite cards of all time come from MOO, and again, they are an investment in your brand. In my graphic design career I’ve designed hundreds of business cards, unfortunately most of which are gang printed on cheap paper and handed out at networking events by the hundreds. To paraphrase the wise Obi-wan Kenobi “these aren’t the cards you’re looking for.” LUXE MOO cards are printed on heavy card stock and can be ordered with a color core and even foil stamping. They make an impression. They make people want to hang onto them. They make a difference. Again, yum.

13 Book proposal

It took me almost 6 months of educating myself on how to write a book proposal and another 6 weeks of focused time to complete it. Next to raising two amazingly talented kids and writing the book itself it was one of the best experiences of my life. My mother passed away just over a year ago. In her final years as she lost her memory, she also forgot how to protect her own well-being. Although her dementia wasn’t advanced enough to place her in a home, I kept an eye out for the signs. She did however, have another sickness – co-dependency. Her son, in his late 50s, scolded her if she put a cup on the wrong shelf, turned up the corner of a rug or bought the wrong kind of cinnamon rolls. When Mom lost her job, she became his personal chef, maid, and errand girl, all at the cost of her emotional and physical health. Statistics about the rise of elder abuse today are truly frightening and I will be sharing many of them in the months to come.

But while my mom endured depression, lost her home and defended her abusive son to judges and doctors, I had my own lessons in detachment. I faced divorce, bankruptcy and rebuilding my career. My world felt heavy and gray until I learned to rely on my creative strengths to pull me out of that darkness. With over 25 years experience coaching students and professionals in the arts, I’ve always looked at people and circumstances through the lens of an artist. My memoir shows how I turned that lens inward and rather than reacting in fear, negativity or defeat, I asked myself, What can I create from this?

In this photo, I show page 39 of my 65 page proposal. It’s my road map for the next six months as I build awareness for my story and the disturbing rise of elder abuse. A book proposal is a business plan one that requires daily focused attention. If you’re a writer, musician, dancer or visual artist of any kind and haven’t already written your book proposal, business plan, or personal brand assessment, contact me and I’ll be happy to send you some resource tools.

14 Daily affirmation book

For the past four years I’ve kept at least one book daily affirmations right next to my planner. Whether its Iyanla Vanzant’s 40 Days and My Soul Opened Up, or Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening, I enjoy taking a few minutes to ground myself with spiritual wisdom from inspiring authors and poets. This year I am kicking the year off with Kyle Gray’s Raise Your Vibration. Most mornings, or just before I sit down to journal, I read a quick passage that sets the tone for the rest of the day. I can’t recommend this practice more highly.

15 Danielle LaPorte’s Truthbomb deck

These small 3 x 3″ cards beautifully printed on matte coated paper is like having an oracle in your hands. Some people use these cards as writing prompts, others use them in coaching or in group discussions. Danielle even made an app for it, but I’m a little old fashioned and prefer the cards. I carry a few in my planner and leave them in random places when I’m on the go. I’ve left them on Christmas trees in Starbucks, on mirrors in my favorite restaurant bathrooms and in between the pages of self-help books in Barnes & Noble. It feels good to pass along positive thoughts to my fellow man in surprising ways.

16 Iphone 6

I’ve included my phone in the photo because this is my lifeline to clients, friends and family. It holds my most cherished photos and videos, alerts to calendared events, contact information to clients and links to my writing. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m highly active on Facebook, Instagram and Medium. I believe it’s a privilege to stay connected to thousands of passionate artists across the globe and I’m very grateful to be part of that circle. I also don’t take things for granted when one or more of those passionate artists are sitting right in front of me. My phone is silenced during lunches with friends, tucked in my purse during movie time with my kids and usually turned off by 10pm each night.

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So that’s it – all sixteen pieces of the perfect planner pie. I have no doubt there will be some adjustments made throughout the year. After all, change is the fun part! But my goal is to take the best of what works for me then design and market my own planner this fall. If you are interested in seeing what that will look like, click the link below and I’ll keep you in the know.

Happy Planning my friends!