DIY: Build a Project Notebook and Get More Done!
I’m so ridiculously excited to share this blog! If you know me, you know I love, love, love my planner stickers, washi and planners. Everything paper is totally my jam. Which makes it curious indeed why I thought I could do book boards and project lists on Trello. I made them. They’re beautiful. I never remember to look at them. 🙄
This blog is loooooong. I go into a lot of detail (not a hardship since I love to talk about planners and accessories) but it wasn’t only to wax poetic about my favorite topic. I wanted to give you a thorough look at this method to inspire you to create your own! You might not need all the sections I have and your setup may be different, but I hope you find some tips to help you on your way to a more organized 2019.
I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole on YouTube watching planner videos about a week or so ago. I checked out The Modest Cat and learned all about how to make a sticker planner to use up alllll those stickers that are going to waste. There is a great video here if you’d like to bookmark it for later. From there, that peaked my interest for a Happy Planner, which I’d yet to experience. I’m an Erin Condren girl all the way, and I still don't think I’ll swap out my precious EC for my yearly/scheduled tasks. BUT. The versatility of having a Happy Planner with pages you can remove and other pages you can insert was exactly the right style for my project notebook.
The only problem was I had no idea how to do it!
From The Modest Cat, I stumbled upon At Home with Quita and that girl is a Happy Planner queen! I loved her great tips and the way she showcased each of her methods. You can check out a great video by Quita here to watch later.
I went to Michael’s online, to JoAnn Fabrics online, to Hobby Lobby online… but I couldn't find the Happy Notes I’d just learned about. I did find them on Me & My Big Ideas, the maker of Happy Planner but I wasn’t sure I could wait 7-10 days for shipping. I was ready to begin my project notebook right MEOW.
So the next day I went on a craft store excursion!
Not an easy task when you live in farm town like I do. The JoAnn Fabric nearest me (25 minutes away) had lots of fabric and ZERO planners or stickers. 😱 Alarmed and downtrodden, I left for Hobby Lobby. HL had plenty of planners, especially of their own brand but as far as Happy Notes? Not a one. They did have Happy Planners, however, just three of them, but everything, including the guts that go inside was 40% off. Rather than go home, order from Me & My Big Ideas for full price, I decided to compromise and buy the haul of things I wanted at nearly half-price.
Rather than keeping my notes and random scribbles in this notebook or that, or trying to cram it into my already full EC planner or onto the scant few note pages in the back of the planner, I had room to groove in my HP. Knowing I had lots of categories, I bought the expander rings. And then I came home, gutted that dated 2018-2019 planner and started from scratch.
Here’s what it looks like and how it works:
Now, if you’re not completely impatient like me, or if you live in a town where the nearest Michael’s is closer than a 58-minute drive, I recommend you search out a Happy Notes rather than a dated planner for this project. It’ll save you having to gut a dated planner that you’re not going to use. The only benefit I had from buying a 2018-2019 planner was that it came with 18 dividers, but even that was a bit of a time-consuming task considering I cut and glued scrapbook paper to cover the months. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast doing it, but I just wanted to let you know that there is a more direct way to achieve the look you’re going for, and that’s to buy a Happy Notes notebook rather than a dated planner.
The first page in my Planner Notebook (PN) is my Weekly Planning Sheet. Since one of my personal mantras is “She designed a life she loved,” it only made sense to be completely intentional about how I lay out each and every week in my EC planner.
My top three tasks are to check my monthly calendar view in my planner, on my cellphone and review my Powersheets goals.
Everything below that is a detailed checklist of the items I would like to include during any given week. I may or may not schedule all of those items, but it does help keep me on track.
The right column is a by-the-hour listing of my ideal day. Do I follow this? Not always! Some mornings I get up early and others I sleep in. I’ve learned that I need more rest some days than other and I listen to my body.
Design a life you love, right?
My first divider is for BOOKS - SOLD. This is where I attempted to use Trello. It made for a beautiful and easy-to-duplicate page I never checked. But if you find that you can remember to check those websites, I totally recommend it. I’ve built several boards on Trello over the last few years and return to admire them every so often, but for my needs I really like to put a checkmark in a box with a pen!
Note: If you’re recycling an old Happy Planner to make you’re own Frankenplanner, simply cut your scrapbook paper to 6.5” x 9.25” and glue onto your calendar divider with rubber cement. (Rubber cement dries flat so you won’t have any ripples!)
My BOOKS - SOLD page looks like this. After I started writing for Harlequin I realized that there were a lot of steps to each book throughout the process, and some of them blurred together into a blob since I was writing book after book with them.
The easiest solution for me was a checklist that included things like turning in the proposal (and circling “Y” for proposal accepted!) along with the proposal date, first draft date and payment advance splits. I added to it as I went so that I could remember other little steps like updating the back cover copy (BCC) on my website and whether or not I received my ePub and author copies.
On the back of this “Listers Gonna List” insert is a blank page with dots and gridlines. I used this on another book to write down my word count and goals. You can jot down plotting ideas on here, too!
One of the sheets I utilize for every book is the Quickie Sheet. You can buy a PDF with “forever use” here.
My next section is for BOOKS - NOT SOLD. I can’t show you anything in here (sorry!), but I can tell you what I track:
On a project sheet, I list the idea for the book.
Under planning steps, I might include what needs to be done (I.e., write a proposal)
Under the Action Steps, I use stickers to cover up the Action Steps & Due Date and instead title them “Publisher” and “Response.” That way I can keep track of who my agent submitted to, who rejected the project, and the amount of the offer received.
Read for Fun! Romantic Comedies by Jessica Lemmon
The next section is for Blogging. I blog regularly and have for years, but it still helps to have an idea or two for your next blog! Or, if you’re easily distracted or need to break a big blog down into chunks, this process can help you with that. You can gather photos on Monday and write your blog on Tuesday and finalize the links and formatting and sharing on social media on Wednesday. However you like! I use the Project/Goal sheet for this process, too. In the example, you can see the various steps and notes I took for the blog about Eye Candy’s release as an Interactive game.
I’m so excited to show you the many uses for this section! As the builder and designer of my own website (along with both my husband’s websites and my own art website), I need to keep track of updates. In the slideshow above you can see one of my project pages: uploading excerpts for each of my books, along with my blog project which involves updating the titles and layout as needed and creating graphics for Pinterest.
Some projects are long-term and can’t be finished in one sitting. This is the very reason I started a project notebook! I had both of the examples above in Notes in my iPhone, and then I tried Trello and then I tried just writing them in my EC planner. Nothing kept me on track. This? This is perfect. I can be as detailed as I like and when the project is completed I can throw the page out. Brilliant.
You’ll also notice I included a half sheet here. I love HP’s half-sheets! I have one for general website notes (like update seasonal pages) and I have one with the renewal dates for each website. I also keep a full sized grid sheet in this section with the colors on each of my websites which makes for handy reference.
This next section is for “Team Lemmon” which consists of my agent, personal assistant and as of this month, an editor. I can’t show you much from this section as most project to-do’s and compensation are top secret, but I can give you a peek at my PA’s social media assignments that we’ve agreed on for the year!
Lemmony is the next section! Last year I ran to one of my author besties and asked her to build Lemmony.com for me so I had a place to share my health, wellness and artwork obsession. After that it turned into me providing author design services and now it’s a place to showcase my portfolio. I’ve also completely rebuilt the website since I’ve learned to DIY Squarespace.
Never EVER underestimate an inspired idea. If you’re feeling compelled to start something but don’t know how to do it, my advice is JUST DO IT. You never know where it will lead! (You can check out the website here if you’re curious.)
🗣 FULL DISCLOSURE: This section isn’t going to live here for very long! I caves and ordered a few Happy Notes books and inserts to go with them, including a recipe planner section. I love the idea of having a book just for the kitchen that I can slop soup onto or jot down grocery lists into. That’s my next project. :)
The half-sheets have a weekly meal plan on one side and a grocery list on the other, which is such a great idea.
Over the summer of 2018, visualization and manifestation have taken a front seat in my day-to-day practice. I used EFT work to tap away my fear of flying, so I’m a true believer! (Read all about it here.) I’m still working on building a daily habit, but I love the idea of the MY FIRST HOUR I set for 2019!
It consists of:
Visualizing my ideal future
Reading my affirmations
Re-writing my goals for 2019 (repetition is key!)
Doing a daily bible devotional/prayer
Forgiveness practices (Ho’oponopono)
You can also include sheets in this section for notes from a helpful book you’re reading. (I’m loving Get Rich Lucky Bitch which is on sale for just $1.99 at the time of this writing and worth every single penny!) You can also track your meditation or keep a gratitude journal in this section. Sky’s the limit!
My social media tab is another place to track those big projects that take time and thought and usually can’t be done in one sitting. I don’t necessarily write “post to IG” in here because that’s something I can write in my EC planner and check off for the day. However, preparing the IG grid and writing the posts, grabbing hashtags, etc. are all part of the process that I track in my Project Notebook.
I also have a fitness section in here, but I’m not sure yet how to set it up! For sure, I’ll track my fitness goals and when I work out/what I did. I have a few goal-setting articles to read on how to set this up because—to be completely transparent—this is my scariest goal of the year! Like any new habit, I’m going to need to do this more often to know how to incorporate it into my life.
Last but definitely not least is my reading section. This idea was inspired by Roni Loren who has a lovely and detailed blog on how she set up her reading journal here. With a goal to read 52 books this year, I wanted a fun way to track it. Enter: my half sheet of books to read next and a full page (with printed Polaroid Zip photos!) of notes and fun observations I made while reading.
Bingeworthy Billionaires ~ Read the series
You made it!
Whether you skimmed or read every word, give yourself a pat on the back. And if you have time, feel free to peruse this Blog section and search for other planner related posts, or go to the video sections and fall down the same rabbit hole I fell into a week ago.