Why a Fancy Planner Gives Me Hope

What does it cost to make sense of the world? For me, $55, plus shipping.

After a crisis, one thing that makes me feel better is filling out my planner. I find comfort in the tedium, in going over dates and marking the passage of time. If I run out of birthdays to write down, I look for historical events, or fictional ones. I even have a Harry Potter calendar on my phone. When my life gets stressful, I like to make lists, and I like to cross them off. It may be a false sense of control, but it helps me to try to make order out of nonsense.

Since the election, stress has gotten the better of me. I feel like I have no capacity to function the way I need to. One of the ways this shows up for me is losing something the second I put it down. Besides making me lose my mind, everything I do takes twice as long because I forget my laptop at the office and have to go back, or I can’t find the paper I was just looking at and have to print it out again.

I’m trying to do the work, but to do that I have got to get organized. I have tried everything from a $13.95 plain Moleskine to a $39.99 computer program to help me get there. But works best for me is the Get To Work Book planner.


At $55, it’s one of the most expensive planner options I have tried, but it is the only one that I have ever stuck with. I’m now on my third. (I promise I’m not getting paid for this, I just really, really like it.)

I wouldn’t call this planner cheap. It’s not a plain notebook I can make lists in and refer to (which I’ve tried), and it’s not the free app that comes on my phone (tried this one, too). But the pages of this planner provide structure to my days, months, and years, and allow me to see my week or month laid out at a glance. And when you have a rough week, or month, or year, there’s something to be said for physically marking off those days and watching them accrue. I like physically seeing my progress through time. I like being able to hold my year in my hands and feel the weight of it and know I made it through.

It helps me face the future, too. A blank notebook is endless possibilities — a beautiful thing, but one that can be paralyzing, too. A planner with days and weeks marked out helps me break down my goals and lists into manageable portions. When I’m feeling lost, I can return to my to do list and see clear steps forward on specific days at specific times.

I have been overwhelmed a lot in the past few weeks. I have felt like nothing I do is enough to change anything, and that it will never be enough. In those moments, when I feel like I haven’t done anything to contribute to bettering the world, I like to look at my planner. There, I can see a record of senators I’ve called, or places I’ve donated. It still doesn’t feel like enough — I don’t know that it ever will — but I appreciate the tangible evidence of lists crossed off. The ability to see progress I have made gives me faith I can keep going.

I love to look at other people’s planners as well as my own, and I often scan Instagram tags to see what other people do with their to do lists. The Get To Work Book has one of the best feeds. It’s part motivation, part beautiful images of their product, and part images of other people’s planners. This is the best part. These snippets of other people getting work done and planning for more gives me hope that I can too.

I admire all the artistic bullet journalists out there — your pages are beautiful — but if I try to make my planner too pretty, I’ll never use it for fear of messing it up. In my planner, I force myself to just keep going, even if I make a mistake, and no matter how many times I write down the wrong thing on the wrong day. I try to bring that attitude to my work, choosing to keep going when I mess up and not get bogged down in trying to reach perfection. There’s too much to worry about already without worrying about doing everything perfectly. I do my research, make a list, do what I can, and move on to the next thing.

To me, a planner isn’t just a fancy notebook. It’s a way to keep me tethered to reality when the world seems like it’s breaking down. And if I have the cash to spare, $55 to help me move forward in the face of overwhelming dread is definitely worth it.

Rae Nudson is a freelance writer and editor. She can now cross this piece off her to do list. You can follow her on Twitter @rclnudson.

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