PATREON DECIDES: How I Plan for the New Year

Patreon Decides is an installment/series on Fictionally Sam, where each month I hand over decision rights to my Patrons to pick a post topic of their choosing for me to write on.

2020 Planning has begun.

Happy last Monday of the decade storytellers! This month my patrons chose a super odd ball topic for me to discuss here on the blog, which honestly stumped me, because I don’t typically write about my planning life. I kind of just…do it. But there is always a first for everything, and today my patrons over on my Visual Storyteller tier chose for me to discuss how I plan for the new year. So grab your planners, munch on that popcorn, and waddle to your favorite set of color coded pens, and let’s get organized!

Image result for let's get organized gif

Calendars / Planners

I am lost without my planner. Literally my entire life is written into this mass produced calendar that some people I know call it my journal–simply because I put everything into it. From special dates, events, book and movie releases, all the way down to daily things to do. Everything gets shucked into my planner.

In 2019, I decided to switch things up and try my hand at the Happy Planners system, because 1) everyone and their mom was recommending them to me, and 2) they are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. However, midway through the year I stopped using it because the way they have the calendar set up felt more a bullet journal than a pre-made planner. I also stopped using this planner because it was hella chunky and barely could fit in my tote purse; to which I really needed it to fit because again–my entire life is in that planner.

Because of this I resorted to using my good old iCalendar on my phone, to which I had a love hate relationship with because ya girl likes to make notes within the notes and in order to do that–I need to physically write it out…and color code.

I know I am extra.

2020 Mead Planner 9.25"x 11" Cactus - image 1 of 5
Source: Target

So since I knew I wasn’t going to be trying my hand at the Happy Calendar again; I decided to just go back to the basics and waddle my butt over to Target. After a 45 minute pow-wow (I’m not joking when I tell you I am super picky at choosing my calendars/planners) in the planner aisle, I waddled home with my new Mead 2020 planner! It’s simplistic, thin, and most of all–pre-dated! All I have to do is waddle through and enter in my dates and random things that I think of, and boom! All set!

What makes the perfect planner

One of the major things I look for in a planner and is a huge deal breaker one whether or not I make the purchase or not is how the planner does their lines. I need a planner that is blank and has wide enough squares on their monthly spread, but is lined and minimalist in their weekly spread. This request sounds super easy right? Nope. You wouldn’t believe how many planners are either lined or nothing at all. Which is the main cause of me taking so long to find a stinking planner. I need all my boxes checked off or else I’m not going to use the planner and it will have been a waste of money.

And we all know Sam does not like to waste money.

The things I look for in a planner are actually pretty simple (at least to me):

  1. Monthly spread blank, with weekly lined
  2. Must be able to fit into my tote purse and/or backpack purse (she gotta be slim)
  3. Pretty cover (must invoke inspiration to actually use the thing)
  4. the squares in the monthly spread must be big enough to hold multiple events/entries
  5. Months are tabbed off for easy flipping/access
  6. Pages have to be thick enough where I can’t see the next page, and minimal ghosting.

That’s it! Those are my criteria for a planner, and luckily this Mead planner fits the bill with each and every box on my list.

Bullet Journal

Leuchtturm 1917
Source: Amazon

I have had a love/hate relationship with bullet journals. Love because they are unbelievably satisfying to look at and can hold everything and anything you want. Hate, because well…I’m hella lazy and after the first three months of making spreads and making things pretty–I don’t want to anymore.

I began 2019 doing the bullet journal system alongside my happy planner; but just like with the happy planner–I got really lazy and I just didn’t have the energy to make my bujo look–nice. And as we all know from my checklist for the planner, if it doesn’t invoke inspiration, I’m not going to use it. So after February of this year, I stopped doing the whole spread thing, and just waddled it down to the bujo’s most fundamental functions. Gone were the habit trackers, monthly and weekly spreads, and other random spreads I thought were super cute but ended up not using at all.

Bullet Journal…or Junk Journal?

I was so excited for my bullet journal journey that I went and bought the Leuchtturm 1917 bullet journal in powder blue (which was stupid expensive for a notebook, and I have many regrets on that front); but because of what I mentioned before, I ended up ditching the bujo ways altogether. However, I was determined to get my money’s worth out of this notebook and actually use it. So what ended up happening was I just used the notebook for keeping track of my monthly reads; and all the other junk that came to my mind throughout the days.

It slowly became my junk journal, and I actually love it. Whatever I couldn’t stick in my planner (or iCalendar) I stuck in the notebook. From WIP ideas, song lyrics that are stuck in my head, to my to-do lists for the day or week. It was all thrown into the journal.

For 2020, I decided to keep the Junk Journal motif going; as I have come to learn that even though bujos are exceedingly beautiful and I admire them–they just aren’t for me. With that said, my 2020 “junk journal” will continue some traditions of the bullet journal; but won’t be a normal bullet journal in the sense of the structure and constant set-up.

Some of the spreads I have planned to incorporate from the bullet journal life:

  1. 2020 welcome spread (see picture above)
  2. 20 in 2020 (new years resolutions/ goals)
  3. Updated ARC Mountain spread

And this is where we start to deviate from the traditional bullet journal and enter into junk journal territory. Monthly spreads, aren’t a thing in my world/journal. Instead, each month I plan to start off with the new month’s TBR (which is super suggestive because I have never completed a TBR I set out to do in my entire life); and then following that with a list of books read during the month and their star ratings. I have also decided to take a stab at recording the music I am loving that month; as well as the movies and shows I am watching. Everything that comes after those four spreads, are whatever I need them to be in that moment.

And that is how I plan my new year! I am super excited to finish up entering in all my anticipated releases; and really nailing what I want to accomplish in the new year as a new decade approaches. If you’d like to see my spreads and planner after I’m finished; be sure to follow me on Instagram and check my stories! I’ll be sharing my finished junk journal spreads there as well as some inside looks on how I color code my planner!


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  1. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    December 30, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    I geek out so much over seeing other people’s planner habits so I love this! 😍 And your 2020 page is so cute 💕

  2. Olivia-Savannah

    December 30, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Ah, I am sorry the planner didn’t work out for you! I have a bullet journal, but I don’t make it incredibly artsy or anything. I mostly just use it like a planner without guidelines and it’s simple and straightforward and works for me because it’s not really an art project but just for the practicality of keeping me organised! I hope using the Happy Calender will work for you in 2020!

    Olivia-S @ Olivia’s Catastrophe

  3. northernplunder

    December 30, 2019 at 6:08 pm

    yes ive tried the happy planner and it didnt work for me either, it felt too contricting and was too large. plus too expensive outside of the US!

    cant wait to see what else you create for 2020 🙂 itll be grand

  4. Clo @ Cuppa Clo

    December 31, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    Aaaah I started my bujo journey with a lined notebook from The Works because I wanted to be sure I was gonna use it…BUT I love the junk journal and that’s given me some ideas of what to do with some of my other notebooks. eyes the stack of unused notebooks warily Loved seeing how you plan things out Sam <3

  5. Kristina

    December 31, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    ” Let’s get organized! Organized! I wanna get Organiized!! ”
    yep, just seeing that gif had that stuck into my brain 😂😂

    Ooh the happy planner is so pretty !! but I agree, kinda chonky. I bought a super pretty Kate Spade regular planner but jesus… is was SO BIG — and me not being used to planners, I ended up completely ditching it out. so waste of money as it was pre-made 🤦🏽‍♀️

    I had way more luck on the Bujo path! I basically use it to help with my blogging and use my weeklies as a journal (everything goes – money in, money out, what I do at work, when I schedule stuff.. ALL THE THINGS!). I do get ya onto getting lazy to create the spreads though xd but as I’m the one to make them, and aren’t restricted with what the pre-made gives me, I used it WAY more.

  6. Meeghan reads

    January 1, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    I have tried bullet journaling (what feels like) 16,000 times and each time I end up hating drawing up all the spreads each year/month/week/day so I just stop. I need someone to design some pre-made spreads, and then a little clip book that you can put them all in so I can pick and choose which pages I want!

  7. Jeimy @ ANovelidea

    January 7, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    The 2020 page is so cute! I didnt know you were a planner babe! I’m glad you found a planner that works for you, Sam!

    It took me a while to find a system that worked for me. I started with a good ol happy planner with undated pages and the weekly spreads BUT I didn’t like that it was too structured. I started bullet journaling in june last year and I love the fact that I can keep it simple when I want to. I dont stress about making these grand spreads even though I do sometimes. It feeds both my artistic side and my need to be organized!
    However, I found that it was too much freedom so now I use a hybrid: Happy notes dotted sheet and happy planner fill in paper like the Get Social and Daily to do’s.

  8. TheCaffeinatedReader

    January 13, 2020 at 6:03 am

    I love planners but the only time I ever fully use them is when I was a student….I try though lol. Also…YELL AT ME TO GET ON PATREON

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