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Dreams and Goals and Rituals and Planners and Plans


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“She designed a life she loved.”

That was my only take-away from the Erin Condren planner website last fall. That saying.

Sam loved EC planners so much, long before she ordered this year’s, and had encouraged me to look into them. They are beautiful and exciting and usable. If I had ordered one, my cover would definitely have had that saying on it.

Somehow though, I knew it wasn’t THE planner for me. Maybe being so very lured by the fun colorful extras raised my suspicion. It just didn’t feel effective for me, for now. It was likely at that moment that I started to realize I didn’t really know how to navigate my way from 2016’s stuck me to “a life she loved.” 

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(Settle in. This gets long. See the post title? I promise I will make many short posts in the future, but this is my life changing, so it’s huuuuge!)

2016’s me needed help getting off the couch, help figuring out what to do first, and help figuring out just where she was headed in the future. I talked about her in last week’s post here.  I’m very glad that 2016’s me finally felt like moving forward, and I’m very glad she kept looking for a planner with the right fit. 

I had NOOOOOOO idea that I would find a planner that would revolutionize my whole future view. That is no exaggeration. And from the sound of things in the associated Facebook group, I am not the only one that was struck with that feeling, that change of view. 

I found the Rituals for Living Dreambook + Planner.

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(This is where I start hopping around from planner-infatuation, to how-to, to planner-infatuation, to my experiences with it, to planner-infatuation, to how I am finally putting my 2017 ducks in a row three weeks into the year. Maybe you caught a clue that I LOVE THIS PLANNER! Isn’t that pure white debossed cover beautiful?)

Did you notice “Dreambook” in the name of the planner? That’s where the revolution happens if you need it. This is not just a planner, or even a goal-setting coach within a planner. It is a unique planner plus a workbook that guides you through all aspects of your life to discover your core values, your purpose, and to dream up your perfect life three years (and further) into the future. For those already headed where they want to be headed, the dreambook portion would expand, update, clarify, refine that vision. 

Needless to say, 2016’s me was feeling pretty STUCK. But eventually she, I, got started on answering the Dreambook questions. Having owned my Dreambook + Planner since the first week in December and browsed through it a few times (thinking, WOW!), I wisely began the written exercises five days before Christmas. I have such good timing that way.

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After digging deep and often surprising myself in my vision/forecast/dream responses, I moved on to pages with beautiful central mandalas to use for mind mapping your 1-year, your 3-year, your 10-year, and even your Lifetime goals based on that envisioned future. Mind mapping feels so much more complete and creative than just writing out a list of goals! Having the chance to sort my thoughts into those different time frames — focusing in and out on my dream in many ways — showed me just how powerful this year’s work could be. (I admit to writing out an exhaustive list of goals extracted from my writings, plus projects and goals already on my mind, before mind mapping. You cannot take the list maker out of the engineering mind, no matter how well you help her dream.)

Suddenly I realized I simply wanted all those overdue projects done now, so I could get on with the rest of everything I had mind mapped, get on with my unburdened life! Gimme that dream future!  I was feeling pretty UNstuck! 

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The next step, of course, is taking those mind maps and breaking them down into goals and projects. (Hey, look, there’s a place in the book for a goal list! And for scheduling all of them!) Then there’s the work of breaking those goals and projects into tasks, and then scheduling those tasks onto your week’s planner pages. 

And then doing them. Ruh-roh. 

I tried. And stalled out on the doing. Second week, I tried again, stalled out again. All that in 11 days. ACK! Oh no! 2017 is trickling away! My mind wanted it all — I was trying to get all the projects started, but I could not get myself to do any of the associated work. Talk about feeling quite REstuck. 

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A timely excerpt from  the book, “The Well Life” was posted in the Facebook group by its co-author Peter Borton (Briana and Peter Borton are co-creators of the RFL Dreambook + Planner as well as that just-released book.) The article was about the expansions and contractions that happen when we make changes in our lives, how our ego is not so quick to expand sometimes, that we have contractions back to the familiar. It gave me an understanding, and a flexibility in my thinking to wait out this contraction, coax my poor little ego along, adjust and be ready for the next expansion. I wrote myself a message for the future, about expecting and allowing for these expansion and contraction woes, and included my own current thoughts that helped me adjust and understand this particular time. I hope that it helps me through the next time!

*insert cartoon panel of woman on a long shallow staircase, kindly but determinedly pulling a sad-faced, crying blob, dressed in tshirt labeled “ego” up to the step she is standing on* (I can’t cartoon or this would actually be an image.)

Needless to say, The Well Life is on my reading list this year.

It is sure to fit one of my Reading Challenge categories.  I have a project planning page made up for it!

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And then, yes, I went back to my plan and delayed starting some of those goals, staggering the start weeks; it was just too many new balls to juggle. Now, it is time for the third try! Third time’s a charm, right? Through all of this, I never once, not one little pico-second, had the thought of giving it up. An awesome change. 


Now, about the planner part! The planner of the RFL Dreambook + Planner guides you through structured weekly planning sessions. Planning with this system is more than just putting items on your to-do list! Each week’s 2-day spread has a place to write down your week’s Focus inside one of the beautiful mandalas used throughout the book. Each day’s time schedule is bookended by blocks to write in your Intent for the day at the top, and your Gratitude at the bottom. Seeing these three declarations every time you check your planner keeps you focused and motivated. It is a complete and workable planner arrangement, but of course one could always customize it. I’ve done the planning sessions twice now, and except for hardly actually doing any of the goal work, I love it. A lot!

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An unusual aspect of this planner is the concept of Ritual in daily life and how to use it. Ritual doesn’t mean any kind of religious ceremony here. The definition of ritual includes “a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed.”

The first and most important ritual is the weekly Ritual of Planning! Also, you can ritualize small actions, big important changes or celebrations, daily routines, even a move to a different mindset. You don’t have to make any at all, but since ritualizing something is intended to make it special, important, more worthy of your honoring it, it can be very helpful. I see it as one of the key features that makes this planner different and effective. I have several now, and love it.

Most fun of all of the ritual ideas is the list of Rituals for Thriving on each and every weekly spread. Rituals for Thriving are a range of activities “to feed your body, mind, and spirit.” During your weekly planning, you’re encouraged to sprinkle choices from this list throughout your days — dancing, reading for enjoyment, socializing, and many more.

You may also choose to do that week’s Ritual for Living Challenge, a tiny gem in 1″ x 1.5″ of space on the page that will shake things up, maybe something practical, maybe enriching, maybe involving others, maybe anything!

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To help you with keep track of new rituals and your already well-established routines, there are two more blocks per day on your planner pages — kind of an a.m./p.m. arrangement — to write them into. Yay! No more routine and repetitive stuff cluttering up the to-do lists and appointment slots!

One of the rituals I made is a very brief “Changing Hats” ritual. Since I have always resisted moving from one activity to another unless it was at my own whim, this seemed a perfect chance to try the ritualizing. I have had the seed of this ritual for a few years now. You’ve maybe heard me speak of changing hats, taking off my Project Planner hat and putting on the hat of an unquestioning worker-bee as a way to compartmentalize the hard tasks.

Here’s my new, ritualized version: I close my eyes, breathe and relax, see myself deliberately taking off ball cap A, willingly setting aside A’s activities, then putting on ball cap B, assuming the mentality of a motivated accomplisher of B’s activities. The hats are embroidered with the name of the activity they represent. Breathe deeply again, open eyes, and get busy. 15 seconds, boom! Kind of dorky, but I’m ok with dorky … as long as it works. I haven’t practiced my new official Changing Hats Ritual many times yet, but I am pretty sure it is going to prove more useful and effective than the previous 2-second movie that only came to mind in cases of severe task-dread! Side note: I think I found the source of this particular Failure to Adult that I can deal with later.

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I mentioned earlier that I’m a list loving, engineering-brained, obviously word-loving dreamer and planner. I even have a dedicated composition book just for brainstorming ways to get this all working together. There were a few things in the weekly planning sessions that I personally needed to expand upon. Since two things had worked so well for me in the past, I added them in: the methods for project management and for “inbox” processing from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book. My “basic black” project management notebook is pictured further up; so sophisticated and professional, doncha think? Hey, function over form right now.

Do you realize how many types and sources of “inbox” information we have? Snail mail and email, of course, but what about that agreement to take the cake stands to Sam done through texting, and the promise to send Becca a website address done in Messenger? That quote I want to use someday in an art project that I copy/pasted onto a Google Keep note, or a name and phone number scribbled onto a physical sticky note? Yikes! 

I took the bones of Getting Things Done’s inbox-processing flowchart (flowchart! color me giddy!) AND the RFL Dreambook + Planner’s weekly Ritual of Planning tasks, and I created my own expanded, detail-catching, exhaustively thorough agenda: Gail’s Weekly Ritual of Planning Agenda. Ta-Daaaa!

My planning agenda undoubtedly seems way overdone, and I’ll tell you that I made it that way on purpose! My intent is to be able to use it to carry out my weekly planning even in the worst of my sleep-disturbed, fibromyalgia brain-fogged forgetfulness and slow thinking. Life with Gail means putting coping mechanisms in place before they are needed, as many as I can! 

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You’d think I was managing big business. LOL Whether I’m busy or not, the process can be used, and that’s what I want.

What are my other tools?

I use Google Calendar to keep ALL my appointments, immediately entered — I never take an appointment card. That’s also where I keep my weekly housekeeping routine, listed by day as a repeating event. Brain-fog back-up, remember!

I make notes to myself almost always digitally now. Google Keep is my newest love, thanks to my sister April. I occasionally use Evernote for quick notes, or especially for longer project ideas. I have other stuff going on in EN anyway, and my default EN Notebook is called “Idea Catcher.”

My address book is my phone’s contacts — immediately entered. Must remember to back it up more often! 

But here’s an issue with this planner — any planner. I’m not really supposed to carry a weighty purse around. No matter how awesome the bag, how convenient the stuff, it’s not a good thing for me. Taking a full tote bag to the car and back is not a problem, but heading into a store to shop, walking through a mall, and other places you actually carry a purse, I need to limit what I carry to a lightweight collection of necessities. I don’t plan on carrying my RFL DB+planner around with me, but will use my phone with Google Keep as its stand-in.

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Ah, I love Google Keep! Getting Things Done says to sort the tasks that have to wait until you can talk to a particular person, or be at a particular place, onto  specific lists called agendas. They are headed with “@person” or “@computer” etc. I keep a few basic @gendas ready to use in Google Keep, and then I make/delete others as needed.

How about a GKeep note titled @Shopping? So useful! I use my @Bob (hubby) list when I tell someone I will talk to him about something, and @Sam for blog ideas. On errand day, I will load up my @Shopping and @Errands lists with the stops I need to make and the lists of items and tasks that need to be taken care of. There’s no “Save” to hit/click with Keep, and therefore no inadvertently lost entries. There’s no paper list to lose! *win!* There’s no trusting my memory! **Double Win!** I can enter things quickly at home from my computer with full keyboard. I can cross off list items, leaving them lined through in shadow print on the note — best memory back up ever LOL Plus, who doesn’t enjoy the reward of seeing the list items getting crossed off! Once home, I can cross them off for real when reviewing the planner.

Some days, though, I like to use my sticky notes. Errand list. Shopping list. And Quick-Stickies: brief sets of simple to-dos to accomplish within the next 15-30 minutes, no thinking required. Quick to make, quick to accomplish (intentionally so,) quick gratification. My Quick Stickies help me focus on the here and now of my tasks rather than constantly seeing — rethinking — the big picture in my planner. Sometimes blinders are good. 

I really wanted this beautiful Week-at-a-Glance planner to fit in to the final process somehow. For someone like me — green! — green + pink! — patterns! — it was irresistable on discount from a closing office store. I think I will make it into a health record for the year because I can’t bear to not use it!

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I already have a Ritual for Menu Planning! Check this post out! Instead of printing recipes nowadays, I’m using my Pinterest board “It’s on the Menu Plan” to transfer pins to, or pin directly onto when the they will be used soon. My wifi-only tablet is dedicated to kitchen use. In its stand on the counter — this bamboo one from Pampered Chef rocks! — we cook right from the internet.

Let’s go way back to the beginning of this post, and my concern over being lured by the Erin Condren planner’s colorful and exciting appearance. In all these photos, have you noticed how perfectly black and white, how perfectly ready to decorate, the pages of the RFL Dreambook + Planner are? All those mandalas call out to be colored. And I need bookmarks and some index tabs for it … :)

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Once I know it won’t be procrastination, stalling, any kind of avoidance activity, you can bet that my markers and colored pencils and my washi tape — eeeep!– will meet planner pages in an explosion of COLOR! You’ll probably see some fun results through the year on our blog Facebook page

Today, Sunday the 15th of 2017, I planned out my upcoming week in my Rituals for Living Dreambook + Planner for the third time, using my own Weekly Ritual of Planning Agenda for the first time. I made myself a deal to use it 2 more times before making further changes. Less playing around with planning, more doing.

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This week, I’ll be giving my tasks and projects another run using my “Changing Hats” ritual. My focus will be mucking out my garage since the temperatures will finally be above 33F for a few days!

In case I have tempted you, you can order an undated RFL Dreambook + Planner, or just the RFL Dreambook (which includes week-planning instructions) any time of the year from thedragontree.com/lifestyle (no affiliation yadda yadda.)

Sending success vibes to all! 



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