Back in January I had an idea. Unplugging. Getting off the grid, at least a little bit.
When I was a kid I used to have a friend who was one of the most talented doodlers I knew. She’d draw in everything. She used to fill up entire blank books with magazine clippings, neat poems, drawings, and colorful pops of material. Her notebooks were a combination of notes and arrows, funny sayings and bubble letters. I used to watch my mom doodle while she was on the phone. Tight perfect circles repeated over and over across the page. A series of stairs here. A palm tree there. Even my dad had some measure of drawing skills. He’d sit and doodle on a drawing pad for hours, the soft scratch of his colored pencils across rough paper lulled me to sleep. I guess you could say that doodling was in my blood.
For me it started with a Peachy Folder. It eventually evolved into a Filofax whose pages I’d fill with doodles and deadlines for whatever homework details I had coming up in high school. I even went so far as to keep the pages after they were written in as a sort of tangible diary of what I was doing and feeling, and who I was hanging out with. Seriously. I still have them stashed away in my attic as we speak.
With the advent of the old school Palm Pilot (yeah, I’m old enough to have had more than one!) and eventually the cell phone and iPhone, as a society, we’ve moved away from the pleasant quietude of scratching away at pieces of paper, making notes, writing deadlines, and drawing pictures. While it may seem exceedingly childish to do, it’s not.
If you’ve set foot in a bookstore or any airport store that sells books and magazines in the last few years, you’ve probably seen them. The adult coloring books with their complex black and white designs just begging to be doodled in and colored. It’s become a thing, too. Last year, around this time, there was a serious shortage of colored pencils worldwide prompting the biggest manufacturer of the little wooden tubes to double down on shifts to meet demand. The trend isn’t flagging either. According to the Washington Post, coloring books, blank books, and planners are still big business in the book trade and it’s growing. We may rely increasingly on our digital devices to keep us on time but some of us are still trying the old pen-and-paper trick and we’re willing to spend on the ones we choose.
Which brings me to the Ink + Volt Planner. I contacted the company back in December about getting my hands on a sample and they were happy to oblige. I’ve been using their year-long planner for the last few months now and it’s been an eye opening experience.
The Spark planner, as it was known, (now it’s known as the Ink +Volt Planner) was a passion project for Kate Matsudaria, a female tech entrepreneur. She launched the planner on Kickstarter as a way to mesh her desire for a diary and a day planner, as she notes in her blog post about the launch. It combines pages for goals, daily tasks, calendars and writing prompts into one, compact book–that doesn’t look like something that belongs on the kids table–but rather on the executive’s desk.
My experience with it has been an interesting evolution. At first I approached it as if it was a chore that I had to do. One more thing I had to add to the list of “Honey Dos,” in my head. Once I sat down, pulled out my colored pencils ( a set of gorgeous Derwent watercolor pencils my love got me for Christmas) and my Super Markers (I bought them for a project I was working on for my yoga certification back in December, too) and set to the task of translating the little red and green boxes on my Google Calendar, to actual tasks in my Ink + Volt planner, I found I slowed down. I thought more about each individual task, what it meant to complete it, what I needed to do to get there. I thought about the things I associated with that task, what those things meant to me, whether I found joy in them.
In addition to the simple month-by-month calendar, there are pages for each week. Each day is broken into three sections–Morning, Noon, and Night. In each section I wrote and scribbled the important things breaking days into sets of tasks, and their time of day. The process of doodling and writing those tasks down made them stickier in my head somehow.
One of the most interesting pieces of the Ink + Volt Planner is the Goal setting element. Each week there’s a page to write down goals for the week and review your weekly, yearly, and monthly goals. I usually shy away from goal setting in my daily life. I blame it on the years I spent as an athlete, setting time goals, weight goals, and distance goals each and every practice. I find it sets my teeth on edge. That’s not to say that I don’t set goals for myself. Each year I sit down and write a list of the professional goals I want to hit–whether that’s writing for the New York Times, or landing a cover story for Entrepreneur Magazine.
In this case however, I gave it a shot. The first few weeks I wrote a few easily achievable goals. Simple things–take the dog for a walk at least 3 times this week–clean the kitchen–try to listen more and talk less. I found that once I started, my goals got bigger, more well defined, better–if not a bit less achievable. I think, sometimes, what keeps us from setting goals, is the fear of failure. I know that’s true for me but, as I worked on it, I found that I was less afraid of not marking off a goal on my list. Writing them down at the beginning of each week, helped them stick better. The act of thinking about them and putting pen or pencil to paper, somehow made it easier to stick with them. I haven’t landed my byline in the New York Times, yet, but I have no doubt if I stick with it, it will happen.
My theory and Kate’s theory, it turns out, has a basis in science, too. Progress on goals (even small incremental progress) is a key factor in finding happiness and balance in our lives according to a story over at Psychology Today. What’s more, a writer over at CNBC recently sat down with a life-work coach at Google and discovered that writing down goals in your calendar, like you do in the Ink +Volt planner, is the only way to sustain that kind of happiness.
Other people’s experiences aside, I’ve found that the Ink +Volt planner is a fantastic tool for managing my time, setting goals, and thinking about the direction my life is taking in an active way. Sure, my doodling hasn’t gotten any better, perhaps I’ll never be a phenomenal sketch artist but, there’s a certain joy in writing tasks down and marking them off in a neat little notebook with tangible heft.
Color me impressed.
Oh–and next week, I get to ride along in an Aston Martin Vulcan on a track. So there’s that, too.
Thanks to the kind folks at Ink + Volt for the sample planner. I love it.
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