Mental load – it’s a catchy new feminist term for all the mental gymnastics moms and women, in general, do to keep their households running smoothly. A comic from a French cartoonist titled “You Should’ve Asked” has been making the rounds on social media. While I don’t think women are the only ones’ saddled with an overwhelming mental load, I do think that every woman struggles with it. But, how does someone, in the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off?” Easy, a paper planner. I’ve used a paper planner from my first semester in college and to this day I find it is one of the most valuable items anyone, especially working moms, can use. From the tactile satisfaction of using your favorite pen on fancy paper to never forgetting another birthday again, there are so many reasons to invest in a paper planner – I’ve compiled my favorites here.
Satisfaction of finishing a to-do list. Seriously, is there anything better than checking things off a list? I’ll wait…exactly, there isn’t. Whenever I’m able to cross out everything that needs to be done I really feel like I’ve got my life on track (even if it’s patently a false presumption). I’ve used a habit tracker in my bullet journal since I started using that system and the satisfaction of coloring in that little square has started multiple good habits – flossing, taking my probiotics, reading to Livia and having “no spend” days to name a few. Clicking on an onscreen box doesn’t even compare.
There is a planner for you. Do you want a pretty planner? Look into a Lilly Pulitzer or Vera Bradley. Do you want a simple, blank planner? Can’t go wrong with The Simplified Planner. Do you want to customize everything? Check out an Erin Condren. Want total flexibility? Try bullet journaling. Paper quality the most important? Look at the Rhodias. These just barely touch the surface of the planner universe. I can think of, at least, another 10 planner designs off the top of my head. Seriously, whatever is the most important feature (or features) to you there is a planner system that accommodates it.
Never forget anything ever again. This is the number one reason I need a paper planner. I’ve religiously used a paper planner since I started college seven years (geeze, seven years already?) ago. In that time I’ve used two Mead Five-Star Planners, a Vera Bradley, a Lilly Pulitzer, The Simplified Planner and the bullet journal system – I don’t forget about things like birthdays, appointments or parties anymore. I can schedule doctor’s appointments a year in advance because I write it all down. The freedom that comes from unloading that mental load is surprising. Moms, especially, carry a large mental load and having a planner gives space to get the clutter on paper. Keeping upcoming events on paper, lets me know well in advance if I have something coming up and I need to make plans or arrangements.
Bill tracking is easy. This in the same vein as “Never forget anything ever again.” It’s easy to write down “pay the mortgage” on the 20th of every month with a reminder three or four days before or to write a reminder that the car insurance gets auto drafted on the 8th of every month. If you, like me, constantly forget if you’ve already paid the water bill, I write down the check number, the date it was sent and the amount of each bill I pay. So when I have a moment of panic, I just flip back until I find the bill I was looking for – problem solved!
Easily get a quick at a glance look at the day, week or month. This is my number one complaint with digital planners – getting a good weekly or monthly overview is impossible. I love being able to flip to the month and know what is going on in seconds, instead of having to click on the little calendar boxes for each item.
Paper planners can keep everything together. From grocery lists to bills that need to be paid, to party invitations or reminder cards I have all sorts of stuff in the pockets of my planner. Even better, I can throw half of those away once I’ve transferred the information into my planner. It’s a great place to plan meals, keep track of kids growth and milestones, make Christmas and birthday lists among hundreds of other uses. I am the queen of forgetting good gifts or baby names and since I’ve started keeping a running list of things I don’t have to spend time and effort trying to remember what it was I forgot.
Paper planning provides “unplugged” time. We, as a whole, spend far too much time in front of screens. I enjoy the organic and tactile process of getting away from the computer, cell phone or TV and just planning. It’s time I can spend to focus on getting everything cluttering up my mind onto paper. Honestly, even if this were the only benefit of using a paper planner I might do it anyway. I hate how much screens eat up my time even when I make a conscious effort to put the phone down and walk away from the TV. Screen time hurts our eyes, our circadian rhythms and makes us much less happy with what we have – having a specific time to put all of that aside is grounding and makes me a more pleasant person.
Planners are keepsakes. I’ve kept all of my planners since Doug and I got married and sometimes I like to pull them out just to see how different our lives were four years ago. Sometimes I’ll flip back through an old planner to get inspiration for meal planning. My favorite is to look back on the months that I was pregnant with Livia and remember the excitement that came along with expecting our first baby and after she was born, I wrote down her height and weight from doctor’s visits (because I’m terrible at baby books). One day, maybe, she will come across this stack of planners and get a look at what our day-to-day was like before she was born or when she was a little kid.
Paper planners save my butt. They keep me on top of everything I need to take care of and they remind me of anything upcoming. I love being able to take quick notes about something funny Livia said or did to remember in the future. The freedom that a planner gives me to forget all the clutter in my head keeps me sane. What is keeping you from using one, if you don’t? What is your favorite planner design or planner system? Let me know in the comments below!