SALE ALERT: Your Best Year 2017 Goal Setting Workbook

Hey y'all! Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving and break. I'm back at it and will be buried in writing all month since I have an end of the month book deadline, but I wanted to pop in to let you know about a great sale going on today.

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I'm all about the planners, goal-setting, and productivity. And the end of one year, beginning of another is always the logical time to do some review of what's worked and what hasn't and then make new goals going forward. This past year I used a goal-setting workbook called Your Best Year by Lisa Jacobs. 

This is not a traditional day planner. This is specifically a goal-setting workbook for people running a small business. It's not specific to writers, but I find it fits well for that. There are exercises to fill out that help you evaluate the past year--what's worked, what hasn't, the whys. Then it leads you through setting goals and habits for the next year. After that, it's a month by month guide of setting goals, evaluating them as you go, and adjusting as needed. 

I've found this system really helpful for me. Sometimes by the end of the year, it can feel like nothing worked because we're all tired and a little burnt out. But being able to look back at what I set as goals for the year in January helps me to see--oh, hey, I did accomplish some of this. It also helps me see the areas I'm still struggling in. Overall, it's a great exercise in mindfulness and thinking strategically about life and work.

And today for CyberMonday it's 50% off, which makes the download only $7.50. This workbook can be ordered in print or as a download. I like getting the download because then I can put it in my own binder and reprint a page if I mess up something. (By the way, I haven't been asked to feature this and I don't know the author. Just passing along my experience with it.)

So if you're looking to do some goal-setting for 2017, check it out.

There are also some alternatives to this workbook:

If you want something writer specific, Bria Quinlan has created the AuthorLife Planner. This can also be purchased as a print book or download. I haven't gotten a copy of this one yet, but lots of my friends have been raving about it. I believe there are exercises in the front and then it has an actual planner in the back with dates/calendars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you're not an author and not running a business but want to set personal goals, I've heard a lot about the Powersheets workbook. I haven't ordered these and they're on the pricier side (the spiral bound book is $55) but they seem to get great reviews and are very pretty. If you end up going this route, let me know what you think! I'm curious. :)

UPDATE: I ended up buying the Powersheets and I'm really impressed with them. Functional and lovely. :) (And yes, I have no willpower to resist these things, lol.)

All right, now I'm off to the writing cave.

Anyone into yearly goal-setting? Have you used this type of workbook before? What method do you use?

Video Flip Through of the Ban.do Agenda and Sticker Books

Hey, guys! I didn't plan to do a blog post today, but I realized that I filmed a flip through of the Ban.do Agenda and their sticker books and never posted it here. So for you planner nerds out there, here it is!

A flip through of the large 2016-1017 Ban.do Agenda.

And here's a quick flip of the sticker books that you can buy to go with the agenda (or for any planner, really.) This one has music in the background, no narration, so feel free to mute. :)

A quick flip through of the Ban.do agenda sticker books.

Have a great Thursday! 

Unboxing the Inkwell Press Academic Planner (with VIDEO)

Earlier this week I featured 4 Gorgeous Mid-Year Planners. I've ordered the other two on the list that I didn't have, and the Inkwell is already in! So I thought I'd do a walkthrough video for those who may be interested in seeing what this planner has to offer.

Also, things you realize when you tape an up close video of your hands--how chipped your manicure has become. >.<  But anyway, here you go! If anyone is interested in buying one of these or anything else from Inkwell, I have a referral code that will get you 10 dollars off. :)

I know that I've had a lot of planner and organizational type posts lately. Be assured that in the background, I'm writing and planning new books for you guys. :)  But let me know if you like these kinds of posts and if you want more/less. Also, I'd like to know if you enjoy video posts. I'm just learning YouTube stuff, but I think it could be a fun thing to do a video a few times a month (on all kinds of different topics, not just planners), so let me know if you have any interest in that AND I'd love to know what you want to hear about in the videos -- about books, writing, office supplies, planning, etc. 

Thanks, y'all! Hope you have a great weekend!

Seeking Novelty vs. Finding Tried and True: What's Your Style in Life?

This week when I was buying yet another planner (the Ban.do Agenda in the photo), I had that moment of "you're being ridiculous." And maybe I was. I don't need another planner. And do I think I'll use that planner for the next 18 months? Hell, no. I doubt I'll use any one planner for more than three months in a row. 

But then I decided the hell with it because a) planners have become my hobby, b) I recently posted about not apologizing for the "silly" things you're into if it's not hurting you or someone else (or spending money you can't afford to spend), and C) This is a personality quirk. I like variety. The variety is what keeps me interested and motivated to continue planning.

I get bored easily. And that's when I saw that this is an overall pattern in many areas of my life.

Some examples:

1. I rarely cook the same recipe twice because what keeps me excited about cooking is testing out new recipes.

2. I have trouble reading books in a series back to back (unless it's a cliffhanger book.) I need to read something else in between.

3. I never reread books, even my favorites.

4. The books I write don't follow a standard pattern even though they are in a series. I need a new concept, conflict, taboo topic, trope, setting, whatever it is to hook me into writing it. 

5. Vacations - I don't want to go back to the same places all the time. The world is too big and I want to see as much as I can. But my parents love going back to the same spots and I know a lot of other people love that idea of having their same summer getaway each year. 

The only areas I could think of that I don't seek variety and prefer tried and true are:

1. The hubs - Which is a good one to be tried and true about obviously, lol. We've been together 17 years and it still feels new every day. :)

2. Favorite movies and TV shows - I enjoy watching my favorite movies or TV shows over and over again. Every few years, I'll pull out my Dawson's Creek or Friends boxed set and watch them from start to finish.

3. My car - I'm on my third Hyundai Sante Fe. I found the vehicle I like and I'm good. And I keep my car long after it's paid off. 

But anyway, all this got me to wondering how other people are when it comes to this. So I want to hear from you. Do you tend to seek out variety? Or do you like finding the thing that works and sticking with it? Or does it vary depending on what area of your life?

Planner Peek: The Hobonichi Weeks and a Fauxbonichi Journal

Today is going to be a quick post because I have to get myself together for the RT Convention next week, but I wanted to pass along a little planner p0rn. :)

So y'all know that I have a planner and journal obsession. And the journey to "planner peace" is an ongoing one, which means I'm always poking around the internet and looking at all the options. Well, recently, I came across the world of Hobonichis and Fauxbonichis. What the heck is that?

Well, the Hobonichi is a Japanese planner that has a cult following because of the clever layout and the amazing paper--Tomoe River paper. This paper is very thin but can take fountain pens, watercolors, etc. without bleed through, which means that a lot of people use these planners as art journals. Just go on Instagram or Pinterest and search Hobonichi to see. It's amazing what some people do in them. And even if you don't use it for art, the layout is great. The Techo and Cousin versions offer monthly, weekly, and daily layouts all in the same planner. Hard to find. I'm strongly considering buying the Hobonichi Cousin (which is an A5 size) next year. But right now I'm sticking to my modified Happy Planner for my planning (I've put the Day Designer aside for a while because I missed my weekly view.).

However, Hobonichi has a wallet-sized weekly version. And when I saw that, I knew I wanted one. I don't travel with my planner because it's too big. But I needed something to have with me in my purse for when I make appointments and such. Yes, I could use my phone. But I don't work well with electronic calendars. This Hobonichi Weeks would be the perfect size. Plus, I get the Tomoe River paper and they offer an April start version. So I ordered one, and I have to say, it is really lovely. The paper is almost Bible page thin but they weren't lying about the no bleed through. That's impressive. And bonus, the travel wallet/passport keeper I bought fits the Hobonichi Weeks perfectly so I don't have to get another cover. Yay! Isn't it pretty?

Hobonichi Weeks

If you want to check it out, Amazon still has a few Hobonichi Weeks left last I checked, though I think pink is sold out. You can also get them directly from the Hobonichi store, but you do have to use a yen to dollars converter to figure out your costs. And here's the wallet. I did a lot of research trying to find one that would be the right size since there aren't a lot of options for covers for the Weeks version. This wallet comes in a number of different cute colors, is well made, and has the RFID blocking to protect your cards and passports from scanning. I was really pleased with it.

On to Fauxbonichis...

But after doing so much research on the Hobonichis, I discovered that people are doing DIY versions called Fauxbonichis to do their art journaling. (MissVickiBee seems to be the one who came up with this idea. Here's a link to her video about it.) This intrigued me because it would give me a chance to try out art journaling before committing to a pricier Hobonichi Cousin. I am notorious for giving up on journals and diaries. I've never been able to stick with one. But the idea of doodling in a journal and using it more as a memory keeper than a introspective diary type thing appealed to me. So I watched some YouTube videos (as you do) and decided to give it a try in a Leuchtturm journal I already had. (This is the one I have if you want to check it out.)

Well, I have been having so much fun with it! I'm hooked. I think it's serving as a relaxation tool like some people use coloring books. I get to draw and doodle and color, but at the same time, I'm keeping a record of memories and making a keepsake. This is also a nice lesson in fighting against my perfectionism because I CAN'T DRAW, lol. I have to accept that it's not going to look like those beautiful art journals I see on Instagram or Pinterest. And that's okay. The process is fun and I get a little thrill when what I draw actually resembles what I was attempting, lol.

So here are a few pages from my journal. The top sort of resembles the layout of a Hobonichi Techo, but I altered it to fit my own needs, including a place for a mood doodle. He's my favorite part. I've named him Moody Milton. :) I also record the weather for the day and use a little washi tape to brighten it up.

fauxbonichi
fauxbonichi

The pens I'm using are the Faber Castell PITT Artist pens to make the black lines and the Stabilos for colored drawing. Then I fill in with Steadtler colored pencils. Go ahead and judge me for having all those pens, lol. You can really use any pens you want. Just check for bleed through first because though the paper is very nice, it's not the Tomoe River. Some pens and markers will bleed through.

I use this stencil to make my lines and draw my little suns. 

I use this stencil to make my lines and draw my little suns. 

I've been having way too much fun with it and so far. And if you're intimidated by the drawing thing like I was, I've found that the easiest thing for me is to google, "how to draw (blank)" and once I see simple images, I can reproduce them somewhat. I have a hard time just drawing something from scratch without inspiration to look at. You may have no trouble at all, but if you're drawing-impaired like me that might help. :)

Well, this post turned out longer than I thought, lol. But I hope I've maybe given you some ideas and inspiration. Let me know if you decide to give any of this a try!

Also, I won't be blogging next week because I'll be at the RT Booklovers Convention, so see you in a week! :)

 

 

Note: Amazon links are affiliate links. I haven't been asked to feature any of these products. These are things I've bought with my own money and enthusiastically recommend. :) 

What's Your "Escape Hatch"? The Importance of Hobbies

Today,  author Jaye Wells did a fantastic post on burnout. Go read it. I'll wait. She explains how she got burned out when her passion and escape (writing) became her job and took over every aspect of her life.

I so relate to that article. I've talked a little bit about it here, but I definitely was burnt to a crisp by the end of 2015. I love writing. It is my passion. But when it became my job and my world became deadlines and constant writing and promotion and all the business that goes along with being a writer, I lost what Jaye calls the "escape hatch."

Writing used to be my escape hatch. I started writing in high school not just because I loved reading and creating stories but because it gave me a break from the angst of being a teenager. It was an escape from every day life. That's one reason why I went back to writing after I had my son. I was a new mom who had no idea what she was doing and was dealing with a very colicky, non-sleeping baby. When I needed to take a break from all that, I escaped into writing.

That was the best thing I could've done because that's the point where my passion turned into my career. I got my first publishing contract when my kidlet was three. From that point on, writing became my full time job. 

I love it. I feel lucky every day that I get to do this for a living. BUT, it means that writing is my job. It's what I *have* to do now. That takes some of the "escape" out of it. Where do I get to escape when writing gets hard or stressful or a book is fighting me? And books always fight.

That's what led me to my burnout. I didn't have that other outlet anymore. For a while at the end of last year, I didn't even want to read because that's tied to writing. And, believe me, if I'm not reading, that means there's a major problem lol. *cue warning sirens for meltdown*

So after turning in my book, I stepped back and evaluated and took a break. I read non-fiction since fiction wasn't calling to me. I painted and redecorated my office. And I got a planner--seemingly to be more organized--but it ended up being more than that. I discovered there was this whole planning community. And it was a crafty pursuit. There are pretty pens and washi tape and stickers involved! That has become my version of an escape. It's a hobby that will not make me money, that has no pressure attached to it, and that relaxes me. From the outside, it seems like a silly thing. I mean, how many pens do I really need? This many, btw:

My pen/pencil collection

My pen/pencil collection

 

But after reading that post, I realize--no, it's not silly or indulgent. It's necessary. It's self-care.  I found a crafty, creative outlet to be my little escape hatch when I'm not writing. And looking back, I've been doing this all along. When things get stressful, I seek out hobbies. Maybe I start cooking a lot. Last year, it was canning and pickling things. I took a photography course a few years ago when I definitely didn't have time for it. I rebuilt my website because I enjoy the process of taking things apart and putting it back together. It's even in my author bio:

"If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her cooking, watching reality television, or picking up another hobby she doesn't need--in other words, procrastinating like a boss."

But maybe it's not always procrastinating or a hobby I don't need, after all. Maybe it's making room in my head for the writing. It's giving my brain space to "breathe" and refresh. 

And I know that Jaye's post was specifically about writing, but I think it applies across the board if you're doing a job you love. Or being a parent. Or even a job you hate. We need that time to play. We need those things that don't have any stakes tied to them.

So, I'm curious. What's your escape hatch?

Introducing the #ListifyLife Spring Challenge!

Listify Life Spring Challenge - Join up!

I love a list. There's something about that little itemized structure that does it for me. It's neat, efficient, and gets to the point. When I'm brainstorming a new book, all my thoughts are in bulleted list form. Maybe the hero has this in his background. Maybe the heroine met the hero when she was a kid. Maybe the hero has a dog. 

And when I plan, lists are my go to structure, too. That's why the Day Designer works well for me. Half the page is dedicated to a long To Do list. 

So, when I bought a beautiful new gold Leuchtturm journal, I had a plan to keep lists in there. BUT I am a notoriously failed journal keeper. And this felt a lot like keeping a journal. So that got me to thinking--what if there was some structure to the lists I keep in there? A challenge to keep me excited and focused. I started chatting about it with my friend and fellow writer Sierra Godfrey and the Listify Life Challenge was born.

What is it?

There are lots of lists type challenges out there, but maybe are daily and most seems to focus on heavier topics like goal-setting and deep thoughts about life or yourself. That's cool but not what I was going for. I wanted this to be fun, a little silly, something to look forward to. No therapy needed! ;) So this challenge is going to be a WEEKLY list challenge where there is one topic a week. You write down your list on any day that week and take a photo of it to share (or you can type it into a blog or FB or whatever works for you.) Use the hashtag #ListifyLife if your chosen social network uses hashtags and join up with others. :) This is meant to be a fun way to document your year and meet others without being too time-consuming.

When is it?

It starts next week. We're going to divide by seasons. So this first challenge is the Spring Listify Life Challenge and will run March 20 (first day of Spring) through June 19th (last day of Spring). If things go well, a summer challenge will start after that.

What are the topics?

Here's a beautiful graphic designed by Sierra Godfrey. Sierra has also made free printable cards with the individual list topics if you want to print and write your lists on those. (And feel free to post this graphic on your site or instagram to spread the word.)

2016 Spring Listify Life Challenge - Roni Loren

Where to post your lists?

This is the flexible part. This isn't going to be tied to a certain social network. Blog your lists, Instagram them, tweet them, Facebook them. Post in one place or five. It's whatever works for you. I'll be posting the photos of my lists across my networks. And I will blog them as well with added commentary.

Who can join?

Anyone! This isn't just for writers or a particular group. Two of the topics lend themselves more to people who love to read, but other than that, the topics should work for anyone.

Why should you join?

Um, because lists are awesome. And you get an excuse to buy NEW OFFICE SUPPLIES. That should be reason enough. AND you get one free day a week where you don't have to think about--what should I blog about? Or post on Instagram or FB? You have a built in idea. And did I mention the office supplies? New pens, people. Pens.

***

I'm really excited about this challenge and am looking forward to seeing everyone's answers for the different topics. I hope you'll join us and be a fellow list nerd with me. :) 

So, are you ready to play along?

Eating Healthy At Home: How I Meal Plan and a Free Weekly Menu Printable

Weekly Meal Planning Roni Loren

If you follow me at all online, you know I love to cook (and eat!), but I'm not one of those cooks who just comes up with inventive meals on the fly. I've spent hours writing fiction most days, so my creativity is drained by the time I get to dinnertime. I don't want to think about what to cook or how I'm going to make it tasty, which is why for years I've sworn by weekly meal planning. Without my weekly meal planning, I'd end up going out for fast food or ordering pizza every night. Meal planning keeps me (and the fam) on track with healthy eating.

Here's my general routine. On the weekend, I set aside some time to grab a few of my cookbooks off the shelf (or to go to my saved recipes online) and I sit down and choose what I'm cooking for each night of the coming week. This is even easier if you have few main go-to recipes that you use each week. I'm weird in that I like to cook different stuff pretty much non-stop. I have very few go-to meals and those are usually brought out when hubs is out of town and I'm just cooking for me and the kidlet. My theory on why I like novel cooking is that I like to eat in restaurants. But restaurants are expensive and somehow they manage to pack twice as many calories into things--even things that seem healthy. So what keeps me from eating out too much is creating new stuff for me to try to each week, so it feels like I'm going to a new restaurant. (See, told you, I'm weird.)

And luckily, I have a family with an open-minded palate, so they're pretty go with the flow on whatever I decide to cook. (I set up the expectation early with kidlet--you eat what I cook. I may alter his slightly, like not make his serving as spicy or keeping onions out of his or something, but he's expected to eat what we're having for dinner and to try things he may not be sure of. And he does.)

But anyway, I think through my week--which nights are going to be more hectic than others, what nights I'll have more time, etc. Then I lay out the menu on this sheet I designed (see the free printable below if you'd like to download it) and make my grocery list as I go. Then I post the menu on the refrigerator so everyone knows what's coming. Sometimes I'll switch days around during the week--much to the distress of my order-loving kidlet--but otherwise, I stick to the plan. And usually we save eating out for once or twice on the weekend.

The Quick and Dirty Tips on Meal Planning:

1. Gather your supplies: cookbooks/magazines/internet/whatever, a notebook or meal planning worksheet, and a little bit of time.

2. Think through what supplies you have or what you need to use up. (This is where cookbook indexes and internet search comes in handy. Have a cabbage and some chicken to use up, look up the more specific ingredient and work backward from there.)

2. Figure out which days you need to have quick meals and which you can spend more time on so you can plug in meals accordingly.

3. Fill in your go-to meals if you have them. Bonus tip: Pick theme nights like Taco Night, Sandwich Night, Slow Cooker Night, Stir-Fry Night, etc. and then your meal planning will go even quicker.

4. Write down the name of the recipe and where you found it (don't forget page numbers) then plug it into your menu sheet on the appropriate day.

5. Make your grocery list as you go. Bonus tip: There are lots of printables online for grocery lists. If you find one divided by section of the store, you can already have your list done and  sorted by the time you're done meal-planning. 

6. Put the menu on the fridge for you and your family to see, and then stick to it

7. After the week is done, mark down the new recipes that went well to save them for the future. 

It sounds like a lot, but really, it's not. Plus, there are so many benefits.

Benefits of Meal Planning:

1. Eat healthier.

2. Less waste because I know what I need to buy for the week.

3. No thinking involved when I'm brain-drained at dinner time.

4. Saves money.

5. No, "What are we having for dinner?" questions from the family.

5. Yummy, delicious meals every night.

So it's a no brainer for me. I've done it this way for almost a decade, and it becomes like clockwork. Plus, it gives me a good reason to feed my cookbook addiction. :)  Which reminds me, stay tuned for Wednesday when I tell you about my favorite cookbooks, recipe resources, and apps I love for meal planning and cooking. 

In the mealtime, here's your free Weekly Menu printable download if you'd like to give meal planning a shot. Let me know if you do! :)

Click to download

Click to download

 

So do you do any kind of meal planning? What's your process? Any tips to add?

 

What I'm Loving: Tiny Planner Stickers & Erasable Pens That Actually Work

day designer and frixion pens title

Hey guys! So if you read my post last week on Finding the Right Planner, you know that I'm currently in mad love with my Day Designer. Yay for planner peace! And I also mentioned that I'm dialing back decorating my planner because it wasn't working for me. However, that doesn't mean that my planner has to be dull. 

I bought these cute stickers from Faye Creates on Etsy and they are perfect for the Day Designer without being too busy or overwhelming. I have stickers for word count, yoga, dinner, date nights, blogging, reading, planning, etc. But they are tiny and fit on one line of the Day Designer and are uniform looking--which helps me by having a streamlined, non-distracting look.

Aren't they cute? A little pop of color and functional.

Okay, so that's my sticker plan. Next, my new favorite pens. One of the things I hear a lot of people talk about is how they buy a pretty planner or notebook and then don't want to mess it up by, you know, actually WRITING in it. Lol. I so get that. I can be a perfectionist. But the whole point of getting my planner was to help me be more organized and to streamline things and make it easier. Trying to write and decorate perfectly so that it's ready for a Pinterest photo shoot is not what I need my planner to be. (Not that there's anything wrong with the fun decorated planners. I love looking at those and the creativity people put into them. It's just not my need right now.)

So, how did I get over that "I'm going to mess it up" worry? Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens. I'd heard about these in a few groups, but I was worried it was going to be like the erasable pens of the 80s/90s--you know, the ones that tore the paper and made everything look messy? But these are definitely not like that. The ink flows nicely, they have pretty colors, and they erase by heat/friction. So you rub the end of the pen over it like an eraser and the heat makes the ink disappear. (Side note: I wouldn't use these pens if you're writing something that you want to last years or be a keepsake. Or to sign legal documents. I haven't had any issues with them, but if heat can make the ink disappear, you don't want to risk something important getting erased if it's put in the attic or left in the sun in a hot car.)

And for those things that you aren't worried about erasing, I heart the PaperMate Flair pens. They write really well and come in SO many different colors. Oddly enough, my favorite color of the bunch is the navy blue. It's different than a standard blue pen and I love the rich color of it. I've even been brave enough to use these in my planner for events or tasks I know I won't need to erase. :)

Also, a quick note, someone asked me recently if I have all these colors of pens because I color code things in my planner. I don't. I liked the IDEA of color-coding, but when I've tried it in the past, I've found that it's detrimental to the whole "write everything down" plan. If I'm color-coding and don't have the needed color right at hand, I won't write it down. If I don't write it down, it will be forgotten. So I use these colors at will. Sometimes I just use one color for a whole day. Other times I change it around. There's no rhyme or reason to it. All I want to do is make sure that the schedule and to-do list get written. The color is only for my enjoyment.

Okay, so those are my picks. What kind of pens and/or stickers do you like to use? Do you have different pens for different tasks? And do you color code?

 

*Day Designer and Amazon links are affiliate links, but I have not been asked to feature these products and have purchased them with my own money.