A few months ago, as many of us were transforming into human puddles, Carolyn Todd, a senior writer at SELF, asked staffers how we were marking time during the new coronavirus pandemic. I’d started using my iPhone calendar differently, even though social obligations were few and far between. It had become a de-facto diary. Every single day felt the same, but I could look back on each week and remember that I’d done person-like activities (l.e., yoga, happy hours, and therapy), albeit on Zoom and FaceTime. Well, friends, I’ve kicked my calendar-gazing up a notch. I secured a paper day planner, like a high school student, and I’m cataloging my daily activities by hand now.
Enter: the Day Designer, a charming paper planner meant to nudge folks toward productivity and balance. The name alone makes me feel like I have some control over my life. And within the first few pages, it’s clear that the idea is to start with big dreams and then design each day to meet your goals. There are prompts to get you thinking about the months ahead (something that might be hard to do right now), and there’s another page that allows you to turn your big picture into smaller goals, with target dates to keep you on track. Even though I purchased this planner specifically for the daily and monthly features, it’s nice to reflect on what I want life to look like over the next eleven months.
The brainstorming prompts are cool, and the monthly calendar is exactly what you’d expect from a paper planner, but the Day Designer really shines in its daily layout. It is—quite literally—a tool to design each day. If you’re someone who likes to create to-do lists and schedules, you can do both things on one sheet of paper. Each day features two areas where you can write your to-do lists. The idea isn’t that you double your daily tasks. Instead, there’s a large area for everything you have to do and a smaller area for top priorities. An hourly schedule runs along the side of each page so you can plot your tasks and appointments for each day. And there’s a notes section as well.
There are also sentimental touches to remind me that life isn’t just about work. Since I started using this planner, I’ve gotten up early for what I call “P Time” (it’s basically “me” time using my first initial). I write down the meals I’m going to make. I actually schedule in time for lunch. There’s a box for “later today,” which encourages me to think about how I spend my nights, and a gratitude section that I imagine can help you start or end each day with appreciation (I don’t use it, but I absolutely should). The layout is clean, and there is lots of white space for my sticky notes and doodles. There’s even an encouraging quote near the top of each page.
I grabbed a 2020-2021 academic planner that runs from this past July to June of next year, but there are full-year planners for 2021 and undated planners available as well. At 9 inches (width) x 9.75 inches (height), the planner is bulkier than anything I would’ve used in my pre-pandemic life—it would take up a lot of space in a tote bag. But nowadays, when most of my life happens within four walls, it’s a great way to add structure and intention to my day. It reminds me that my life is still full, even if it’s more local—my relationships, hobbies, interests, and obligations are multifaceted—and I can design my day accordingly.
2021 Daily Planner: Black Stripe