In 2012, for the first time since I started carrying a pink Filofax in high school, I didn’t buy a desktop calendar or planner. Going paperless, reducing desktop clutter, streamlining everything via computer to iPhone seemed like a good idea. Productivity is enhanced by less clutter, right? Um, no. Paperless isn’t working. I have been waiting, longing, for a return to paper in 2013. So, when Whitney English first mentioned that her new planner, The Day Designer, had gone to press, I was beyond thrilled. The end of the year couldn’t come soon enough.

Whitney and I crossed paths because of our mutual love of all things paper – she as a designer and stationer, and me as calligrapher and writer. I’ve found great ideas for productivity through her blog series Finding Purpose. When I heard about The Day Designer, I told her that couldn’t wait to order one for next year. She then very graciously asked if I’d like one. Now. In my year of living paperless. If she only knew.

For the last few years, I’d been using a Russell +Hazel mini binder, filing their calendar pages with my own mix of post its and to-do lists and project plans printed from my computer on R+H refill paper. I don’t have a 9-to-5 schedule. I need a planner that gives me more room to  juggle various projects. That has more room for the workend-weekend than just a little box at the end of the week. A freelancer’s agenda. This. A planner designed by necessity by someone else who couldn’t find what she needed on the market. And did I mention the cream and black stripes? And the daily quotes?

I’d already contemplated whether to pre-order the blank Day Designer or the 2013 one, but her offer brought out the Veruca Salt in me. I didn’t want wait until 2013. I wanted to put it to use now. This yearlong paperless experiment? I was cutting it short. Or was I?

Ironically, The Day Designer arrived now, just before Rosh Hashanah. A new calendar for a New Year. Just not one that fits the Gregorian calendar. I started using it today, after spending some time checking out all its nooks and crannies.

Beyond the monthly and daily calendars, the tiered to-do lists, and other things that make my Type A-creative heart happy, the book includes charts and lists to help define longterm goals. Saturday and Sunday share a page, but it is a large one, with room for the to-do’s and tasks I often need to accomplish. No more little Sat/Sun box mocking me when weekends become workends.

I’ve been reading and writing and talking a lot about time management and technology. The more I read, the more I find myself needing to get back to pen and paper. The cognitive changes taking place the more our lives are spent staring at screens are having a real impact on my creativity. And not all in a good ways. I return to my well worn copy of Twyla Tharpe’s The Creative Habit. Seeking reminders of the importance in ritual. (That’s a whole post in itself.)

Lately, I’ve been discouraged and maybe even a little nervous. Focus had never been an issue. My memory and attention to detail had always been good. But changes have crept up one me. To stay focused, to pay close attention, is requiring more energy. Reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows has been both reassuring and alarming. Our brains are changing because of all the screens – from desktop to laptop to the palm of our hand. Some of these changes, some of what the screens bring, I love. But not all of it.

I want to use technology more selectively, and I plan to keep writing about what I am learning, what I’m reading and what I am experiencing firsthand. And by writing, I mean both with keyboard and Le Pen.

So I return to books. To paper. To The Day Designer.

Thank you, Whitney, for this very timely gift. (No pun intended.)

UPDATE: Whitney is doing a giveaway on her blog, not one but THREE Day Designers. Head on over to her site now to enter (through 9/26). Go on. Now. What are you waiting for?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

22 thoughts on “Putting Pen to Paper: The Day Designer and Creative Habit

    1. alexandra Post author

      I went with the blank so I could start using it now. Even if I had been using my usual setup and not gone paperless, I think this is much better than what I had put together on my own.

  1. Amanda Jayne

    I live and breathe by my phone, but I cannot let go of my Filofax. I just can’t make sense of a calendar or to do list unless it’s actually on paper. If I wasn’t so attached to my Filo I would be….more tempted than I am right now to buy this planner which is really tempting me…..

    1. alexandra Post author

      Funny enough, I had an email in my inbox from Filofax today. I started using the Russell and Hazel system because it worked best to juggle my work writing, editing, photography and life. I carry a small Moleskine to jot notes and hope now my phone/iCal will simply be a way I sync info on the go. Finding this balance is a work in progress.

  2. Jenna Hatfield

    I use an Erin Condren (.com) Life Planner for my paper planning. I also just got a new journal. I need some… space… to write… that isn’t so everywhere and all the time and zomg.

    Those look lovely, btw.

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  5. Krishann

    Lovely post! I hate using the voice feature on my iphone and my thumbs and fingers are over trying to type numerous notes in the calendar and note sections. My mind can not hold all of the things I need to do and I love writing my to-dos and then getting to cross them out or check them off. I also like being able to see the entire month on a calendar rather than having to click on all the little boxes to see what I wrote. I feel like I am rambling now so I will go now and visit her shop 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. alexandra Post author

      The Day Designer is just about the size of an iPad but grabbed a ruler for more accurate measurements 🙂 9.5 H x 7.5 W. It’s about 1.25 inches thick.

      1. alexandra Post author

        I’m so glad I could be of help! I’m on my third DD – Sept-Dec 2011, 2012 and now 2013. Can’t say enough good things about it!

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