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How to Organize Your Life with a Notebook

Did you know that the 3% of Harvard MBA graduates who had WRITTEN down their goals, on average, made 10x as much as the other 97% combined?

Let that sink in.

It seems like everyone has shifted entirely to technology these days (that used to be me until recently!) While the convenience of “clouds” and “airdropping” seems effortless at times, I wanted to share my recent journey and how the physical act of writing things down has changed my life.

My journey with organization and planners

For more than a decade, I was devoted to paper planners. I loooove making lists and the odd satisfaction of crossing off a "to do" felt like I was conquering the world!

I’d also jot down weekly goals and special memories from that week. It was like a diary disguised as a calendar.

But I kept running into the SAME problem…

I’d NEVER have my planner on me. Planners don’t fit in cute clutches, right? ;) So when I went out to dinner with friends, two things would happen. I’d either forget to write down commitments or accidentally double book. 

OR I’d tell people “let me check my planner and get back with you!” and never would. As deep as my love ran for pen and paper, it just wasn’t working.

So I switched. Technology allll the way baby.

Not only did I never mess up a plan again but I LOVED how accessible my schedule was. Anytime. Anywhere.

Until something happened…

A few months later, I realized I lost something VERY important along my electronic journey.

I was frustrated and frazzled. I’m a very “go with the flow” type of girl, but this was on a whole new level. I had turned from proactive to reactive.

It was NOT good, guys. Why was this happening?

So I did a self assessment.

After thinking back, I realized I was no longer writing down goals (like I’d do in my paper planner). I also found it challenging to see a full calendar week on a tiny screen, and therefore not prioritize my week accordingly.

For example, I’d have “Mom’s Birthday” in my phone, but failed to include “get Mom a present” in the days prior. This is much easier to do when you can see more.

As a result, events and deadlines would “sneak up on me.” I was scrambling ALL. THE. TIME.

While I knew I still needed technology, something HAD to change. But what?!

Duplicating everything on my phone to a planner didn’t make sense. And going back to a full-on planner? Been there, done that.

The email that changed it all

Until one day something happened.

An email from AT-A-GLANCE came across my desk. They asked if I’d like to test out some of their planners. Since I was in a major flux, and their stylish designs had me at “hello,” so I leaped at the chance!

My biggest discovery? There are different TYPES of planners. Each one works for YOU depending on your lifestyle and goals. After trying different formats, I found one that gave me the best of both worlds.

Meet the AT-A-GLANCE Harmony Notebook. It’s SO PERFECT for my mom, work and personal life. Just after a couple weeks, I noticed a shift in my organization and attitude. I felt like a much better mom, too!

Here’s how to organize your life with a notebook (what works for me, at least!)

  1. The secret sauce to the Harmony Notebook as a planner is it works like a guide. As much as I WISH I’d write down lists every single day of the year, it’s just not happening. With the “fill in the date” line at the top of every page, you get to use the pages as needed! Not one day goes to waste if not used.
  1. The dedicated sections act like an accountability coach and a reminder to plan ahead! I’ve found I can easily capture my thoughts and dreams in addition to tracking my goals. Each page is formatted to include space for “Top 3,” “looking ahead,” “keep track,” and “win of the day.” After years of using my phone, I NEVER ONCE typed these ideas into my Notes section. It’s a small everyday detail that adds up BIG.
  1. With the large notebook size, you get plenty of space to schedule, write down ideas, and prioritize. I try to plan on Sundays in bed so I can kick off the week feeling accomplished and on track. It’s usually one big brain dump, too: meal ideas, P’s schedule, house projects I want to accomplish and multiple lists. 

I like to keep my work and personal lists separate. It’s a lot—so I appreciate the generous amount of room to let my thoughts breathe and scratch things out, too!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout the years, it’s that the most successful people are not making one-off "to-do" lists. They are dependent upon their planner. They prioritize items to do and plan out what has to be tackled and when.

As we wind down for the year, this is a great time to schedule time on your calendar to reflect on 2020 and plan for the year ahead. Knowing what you know now, what goals will you WRITE DOWN for 2021?

If you are ready to make 2021 your best year yet (and leave 2020 in the dust), be sure to check out the Harmony Collection from AT-A-GLANCE for solutions that might work for you! Let’s celebrate what we’re thankful for and reach our goals together.

Nicole Regan is a Chicago-based design influencer and the creator of Cedar & Rush, a popular style and entertaining blog. She lives just outside the city with her husband, Sean, daughter, Penelope and pup, Larry. Follow her on Instagram (@nicolearegan) for her unique blend of style and entertaining inspiration.