In late November, I began my yearly reflection on what did and didn't worked for me in the last year and started considering adjustments for the new year.
In 2020, I used a single planner for the following categories: Finances, Business (work)/Blog/Store, and Fitness/Health,
This year I'm keeping some things the same and completely overhauling others in my quest for organization and planner peace.
I plan to follow up quarterly, so I'm writing this post as much for my own accountability as I am sharing my reflections and ideas with you. :)
Let's start with usual the elephant in the room. Finances.
In December 2019 I decided that 2020 was going to be a "no spend" year. I wrote out a sheet in my planner of the rules and guidelines for my spending.
I budgeted and tracked my business expenses digitally using My Music Staff for general bookkeeping and a P&L for my studio.
For my personal budget I used a Numbers spreadsheet.
So I set my goals and then just tried to not spend money. You can probably guess how well that worked out.
Some of it had to do with it being 2020 (hello Amazon!), but most of it had to do with my system.
I wasn't able able to clearly see what I was and wasn't spending my (and my studio's) money on, so I get to the end of a quarter and be WAY over budget in some areas and WAY under in others.
Then I made two discoveries. The first was Dave Ramsey's EveryDollar app. This app does everything my spreadsheet did and more. It's clearer, does the math better, it's easier to use...overall it's really a much better system.
I've been using it for the past couple of months and I LOVE IT! My favorite feature is the "fund". A fund is a way for you to budget for big expenses over the course of the year.
Here's how they explain it: "Imagine you have a $300 insurance bill due in three months.
Set $100 as the "Planned" amount. In three months, you'll have $300 when you need it."
Side note: did I really just say "nifty"? Ooph, I'm getting old.
The second thing I discovered was Mike Michalowicz's book Profit First. I won't be going through all the details of the book in this post, but I highly recommend reading the book.
I will be implementing the Profit First system - in addition to using the EveryDollar app - in my business beginning this month and will update you after the first quarter. #accountability
I love the flexibility and creativity that The Happy Planner products offer, but trying to plan 2 businesses and a personal life in a single planner just wasn't working for me.
I've been using a Happy Planner for almost 2 years and I've seen a lot of people purchase 3-5 planners for a single year.
I seriously thought the were crazy. Honestly, who needs more than 1 planner?
Turns out, I do!
It's not that I have a lot to plan every week, it's more that keeping everything separate makes more sense to me. When things make more sense, I don't overthink as much and am more productive.
I've decided to take the year one quarter at a time.
For the first quarter of this year I will be using a combination of my own 2-page monthly calendar and Elizabeth Caldwell's Teacher Entrepreneur Planner for my blog/store planning.
For my music school planning, I'm sticking with a vertical Happy Planner and a new daily page that I created a few days ago. (I'll update you on that as well)
Near the end of the quarter I will evaluate my systems and decide what needs tweaking and what works as is, then adjust accordingly.
Let me know if you're interested in seeing more about my planner set up. I've been considering a flip-through video.
This is where I failed the most.
I had it in my head that if I wrote down my weight every day and if I planned what my workouts would be for the week that I'd have success.
I used the long range planning pages of my Happy Planner for my workouts and created my own version of it for my weight.
In theory it all sounds great, but practically speaking it just didn't work for me.
I got discouraged when the scale when up - even though I know there are so many factors that are out of my control - and on days when I physically didn't feel up to to the workout I planned, I either did it anyway and ended up feeling like garbage for the rest of the week or I beat myself up for not "sticking to the plan". Neither of which was healthy.
This year, my fitness goals are different than they've ever been. This year, I simply want to be active.
I'm not a naturally athletic person, but I used to be active. Teaching elementary and middle school kept moving, but now that I spend so much time sitting for work, driving and my other hobbies, I'm not so active anymore and it's time to change that.
I'll be using my own 2021 At a Glance Calendar planning pages, but instead of tracking weight and workouts I'll be journaling what I did and any new skills learned that week.
I'm also looking for new active hobbies, so if you have something that you love please share it in the comments! :)
What are your favorite organizational systems?
How are you going to plan your awesome year?
Picture this: You've opened your new brick & mortar studio and had your first week of lessons. You straighten up your lesson room then head to the office to shut things down for the weekend.
On your way you glance at the waiting room...the floor is filthy.
You poke your head into another lesson room...there's dust everywhere.
You look in the bathroom...did they even try to aim, how are we out of paper towels already and why is the sink covered in bubbles?
You're exhausted and really want to go home, but if you leave it you'll still have to deal with it Monday morning.
So you spend the next 2+ hours scrubbing the entire place. Your husband calls to make sure you're okay and asks why you're not home yet. You burst into tears because you're completely spent and aren't even half-way finished cleaning.
Welcome to business ownership.
The realities of owning a business with a brick and mortar location can be overwhelming at times. We need the most help with "menial" tasks at the beginning, while we're still getting our bearings in the business world. The problem is that's the time we need help the most is the time when we typically can't afford to hire said help.
This is where I was a couple of years ago. I did (still do, but not for long) EVERYTHING for the business side of my studio and I was on the verge of burning out.
I hired teachers to help me teach new students, but couldn't afford to have someone come clean, or take phone calls while I taught, or run my social media accounts, or handle advertising. It was all on me. And I was at the end of my rope.
That's when I discovered how important it is to have solid systems. I carved some time out of my day off and did some research. Once I got past the "a business owner should never clean the toilet" advice, I found that the most successful system for me would be a cleaning schedule.
A cleaning schedule? Like a chores chart? Really?!
Yes, really. And yes, it really helps.
I tried a few "premade" schedules, but found them either lacking or overwhelming, so I created my own schedule.
I divide each day's tasks into two categories, before teaching and after teaching. I should note, this is a mental division of tasks. They're all just written out on the schedule. When I come in, I get my self unpacked and start the firsts thing on the cleaning schedule. When I'm done teaching, I finish the list and we're ready to start again the next day.
I'm still tweaking the schedule to suit my needs, but I have to say, the academy stays clean and I get to keep my sanity.
Want to get your hands on an editable version of my cleaning schedule? Click here to download your own free editable copy.
Let's talk planners!
I have had almost every kind of planner out there.
No, really, I have.
I call my planner my Brain Book because everything that's in my brain goes into that book.
Before I started using planners, I used $0.99 notebooks to keep my life in order. When I realized I needed more, I explored as many options as I could before spending any money.
I decided to start with a basic $4 dot-grid notebook from Walmart and I was very proud of the fact that I didn't spend a lot of money on it. Then I went with an Erin Condren dot-grid notebook (wow expensive) and have since tried every notebook/journal in between, except for the the Leuchtturm1917. One thing I knew was that a bound notebook wasn't going to work for me.
So I continued with my dot-grid pseudo-bullet journaling and my Brain Book became a creative outlet.
But then I got tired of having to draw out everything every week and wasting tons of Post-It Notes waiting for the right pages on the right week to put my notes into my Brain Book and completely messing up my lines and having to start all over again and problem and problem and time-consuming problem.
My Brain Book was becoming a project. Instead of serving me, I was serving it.
I was at my breaking point. I had spent 4+ years using a dot-grid notebook for my Brain Book and now it was time for something different.
So as 2019 started wrapping up, I did some more research. I decided a notebook wasn't going to cut it anymore and I had to upgrade to an actual planner. This time I was more careful about determining my requirements before researching options.
Here are my planner requirements:
I get all these things with the Classic Happy Planner from Me and My Big Ideas.
I purchased it for $14 on a Black Friday sale event. I tell you the price so you know that using a mainstream planner doesn't have to be expensive. Something I wish I had known sooner!
Yes, I now spend money on stickers to make my planner pretty as well as functional, but that is completely optional. The planner works just as well without them.
This 7 x 9.25 inch book (#1) is a disc-bound planner (#2 & #5). I chose one that has a little color, that isn't intrusive (#4) and the vertical layout has 3 boxes per day (#3).
This year has been the first year that I've liked my planner for more than 3 months. It's not perfect, and my planner works well, yet I still feel like it could be more functional.
So, there will be changes for my coming 2021 planner and I can't wait to show you everything!
Do you remember when I promised a series on my morning routine and how I was experimenting with different routines and would fill you in along the way?
No? It's okay, I almost didn't remember too.
This series began about a month after I started this blog. It was going to be my first big series here and I was excited to dive into different morning routines with you.
Then…well you know what happened. Our world was turned upside-down by the coronavirus. I know, I'm tired of hearing and talking about it, but this virus is a major game-changer in our lives and our routines.
This blog series is a perfect example of how life got upended. I had planned to post a different routine that I tried every couple of weeks with a final summary that should've come out last week. Instead, I went into survival mode and if I'm totally honest with myself (and you) I still feel like I'm there.
I've been trying to write this post for the last several weeks. I spent hours over spring break thinking and staring at the blank screen in front of me. When it came down to writing, I just couldn't find words appropriate to the situation.
Here we are on May 1st and I still don't have the words. So rather than of giving an in-depth review of the routines I tried, I'm going to share my takeaways to help you build the best morning routine for you!
WHAT KIND OF MORNING ROUTINE DO I NEED?
That my friend, is a question that only you can answer.
Morning routines vary widely from person to person and what works for me will not necessarily work for the mother or father of 3 or for the senior in college or for the nurse coming off of a 12-hour shift.
To find the right morning routine, you have to know what your priorities are for the day and what will serve you best.
ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
Every morning routine I researched fell into one of three categories: productivity, self-care, or mindfulness with the allowance for overlap.
Remember, a good morning routine always serves you. When you know what type of routine you need, make sure you choose activities that answer the following questions for that category.
Questions for Self-Care Routines:
Questions for Productivity Routines:
Questions for Mindfulness Routines:
MY BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS
Start the day well rested.
You won’t enjoy your morning routine if you’re trudging through it groggily and half-asleep. Get yourself a good 7-8 hours of sleep. I know, it’s not always easy for us to get the right amount of sleep, but you’ll be amazed at how good you feel when you’re well rested!
Make sure that your morning routine serves you in every capacity.
If you need quiet and contemplative, focus on activities that calm and center you.
If you have a lot of energy and need something vigorous, throw in some exercise.
If you need a boost in creativity or productivity, find ways to spark your imagination.
Just because going for a run then doing 20 minutes of yoga before having your coffee and breakfast worked yesterday, doesn’t mean it will work today. Find what you need and adjust your routine to meet you where you are this morning.
Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need for your morning routine.
I tried several 30 minute or 1 hour morning routines and they ALWAYS took longer! It started making these routines feel like a to-do list instead of the enjoyable way to get my day started. Give yourself at least 10-15 minutes more than you think you’ll need and future you will thank you.
Plan your morning routine before you start.
I know what you're thinking. "Christie, I'm not going to know how I'll feel in the morning, and what kind of routine I'm going to need, how can I plan it?"
Hear me out.
If you start trying to change your morning routine flying by the seat of your pants (like I did), you'll get overwhelmed, frustrated and you'll stop before having a routine becomes a habit. Creating a plan for each one of the routines listed above will set you up for future success.
So, what makes up your morning routine? Is it serving you or will you be making a shift? Let me know!
I, like most people, thrive on routine. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all are more productive, healthy, and happy (in general) when we follow a regular routine.
I've recently discovered that I'm one of those weirdos who loves having a routine while simultaneously feeling stifled by it. Especially if it's very detailed. But before we get into that, allow me to flashback for a moment.
When I taught in public schools, I was on top of things. Productive, efficient, effective, energetic. All things administrators and parents want in a music teacher.
That was me. At least while I was at school.
Here's a quick breakdown of my day:
In the morning, I had enough time to get ready and that's about it, so I'd get up, shower, and get dressed. While my coffee was brewing, I'd put together my breakfast & lunch. I'd have my coffee in the car and I was ready for the day.
At school, I'd have breakfast (oatmeal while on hall duty w/orchestra teacher), prep for classes for the day. Then I'd teach, prep/plan, teach, lunch, teach, meetings, and after school ensembles.
When I got home, things...well they fell apart. I didn't belong to a gym or have anything regularly scheduled, so my health and fitness were lacking. I lived alone so my cleaning habits were lacking (I'd sporadically deep clean everything then do nothing for a month...not the best of times.) I was in a miserable relationship, so my mental health was lacking. And I didn't have an instrument in my apartment, so my practice was lacking.
At school I seemed to have it all together. At home, I was lost.
Why couldn't I keep my life together?
Because at school, my schedule was set for me. I had no choice but to teach classes at their appointed times, eat lunch at 1pm, go to the bathroom on my break even when my bladder was ready to burst 90 minutes ago (I feel you teachers!).
It was easy to keep the routine because the schedule was already determined for me. When I got home, I was able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted...or not.
I was a young adult and up until that point the schedule I followed my ENTIRE life was one that someone else had set for me.
Think about that for a moment, especially if you have children.
How much of their time is scheduled FOR them as opposed to being scheduled BY them? How much responsibility to they have over the use of their time? How much choice do they have over the use of their time?
I did not feel prepared for adult life. At least not for the time I wasn't working.
Fast forward 10+ years and my daily schedule is totally different.
I have the entire morning to do whatever I need/want. I technically don't have to be at work until 1pm. Most days (like today) I'm working several hours before that, but I don't have an actual routine.
So who needs a routine? Well, I certainly do!
Over the next several months I will be trying different morning routines to find what helps me be most productive while not making me feel over-worked or overwhelmed.
Okay, confession: I started this experiment earlier this month and I think I've found a general outline that works for me, but I'm still going to try out other routines.
I'm excited to see how this changes my productivity, my mental health, my physical health and my overall outlook on life and work.
I'd love to hear about your routines. Morning, work, evening, workout, meal planning....whatever you've got, let me hear about it.
Drop me a note and let me know!