setting up your planner for a productive year

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One of my favorite parts of a new year is cracking open a fresh planner and preparing for the months ahead. I’ve used many different planners in my life from Lilly Pulitzer (loved these in college) and Day Designer to random off-brands, but my brother got me a Passion Planner for Christmas last year and I’m obsessed with it, so I got another one for 2019. My advice below works really well if you also have a Passion Planner, but it can definitely be adapted to any planner on the market.

gather your supplies
First things first, you’ll need supplies. I recommend a good black ink pen (Pilot fine tip ones are my favorites), some colored pens or highlighters, cute washi tapes and lots of fun stickers. You’ll want things to not only make your planner look fun, but to help you keep things organized. I personally don’t use any colored pens at the moment other than a gold one for drawing designs, but I use washi tape to section off things. You can use colored pens to color coordinate your different tasks and activities. As for stickers, I like buying mine from Michael’s, Etsy, and Kawaii Pen Shop.

decide on formatting
Next step is to decide how you want to use the spaces in your planner. My planner is set up with each day of the week having hours of the day, a to-do list section, and a blank section for every week. I don’t actually use the hourly scheduler, but you can definitely do so if you have a really scheduled out day. I tend to just use that area to list out my daily tasks.

You also want to decide how to use the blank spaces in your planner, which vary from brand to brand. Last year, I feel like I didn’t use my blank spaces to the fullest and I’d like to change that. I’m going to use them as a space for my monthly bucket list and also paste in a custom insert which I’ll talk about later. The point is that deciding how you want to lay things out ahead of time will help you to take advantage of all your planner offers and keep everything neat and orderly.

create your goals
If you have a Passion Planner, that means filling out the beginning of the year goals and subsequently following the roadmap laid out for you. If you’re setting up a planner without designated goal planning, decide how you want to set it up. I suggest picking your big goals for the year then breaking them into quarters, monthly, and weekly accordingly.

As an easy example, let’s just say one of your big goals for 2019 is to make an extra $10,000 from a side hustle. That would mean your broken down goals are to make $2,500 every three months, $833 every month, $208 every week.

One note on goals is that they don’t have to be professional or money related goals. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had this weird thing in my head where I felt like I needed to make these big professional goals every year and sometimes it would just stress me out because I was making arbitrary goals that I didn’t even really care about. Personally, I don’t love to plan ahead too much professionally because I prefer to keep myself open to all opportunities. Therefore, my goals tend to be related more so to personal development and fitness.

input recurring activities
Once you have your big picture items figured out, start filling in your planner with important dates like birthdays, travel, and recurring activities. Recurring activities include things like classes, clubs, meetings, blog posts, workouts, coffee dates, and so on. I like filling these things out ahead of time in the calendar view of the planner.

customize with inserts and tabs
Finally, customize your planner with printable inserts and tabs. Most planner brands offer printables that you can get online to help track and organize things like workouts, budgets, and meal planning. I’ve seen a really cool printable where you list all of the meals you like to cook regularly, put it in your planner, and every week, you use a highlighter or sticker to point to the meals you want to make that week. That’s always helpful because I feel like I’m always forgetting what foods I like to make, which is dumb when you think about it.

This year, I’m using the Passion Planner’s printable workout tracker. I’ve just been tracking my workouts by checking “workout” off my daily to-do lists, but this will be really helpful to ensure that I’ve done the amount of exercise I want for the week and also to look back and see what specific workouts I’ve been doing.


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Ultimately, your planner should be customized and tailored to suit your lifestyle and needs as best as possible, so it’s really different for everyone. But, I find that the top down view, that is, looking at the big picture then filling in the details is really helpful. The key after that is consistency. Make sure you’re referencing your planner daily and keeping track of your to-do lists and goal progress.

hello, january (and 2019)!

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Happy New Year’s Day! What did you all do last night? I genuinely hope there was lots of champagne involved. I’m really excited for 2019 and for giving the blog a little bit of a refresh. One of my favorite blogs, Camille Styles, always has an editor’s letter at the start of each month and Man Repeller even does themes. I really love the idea of that and wanted to give it a try for myself.

Each month on the blog this year, there will be an overarching theme that the content will link back to. January is all about starting fresh, getting organized, and creating good habits. We all want to get optimized for the best year ever, right? One of my favorite things about January is sitting down with my passion planner and mapping out not only what I want to accomplish that year, but also how I want it to feel from then through December.

Have you ever done that thing where you pick a word for the year? I’m trying it out for the first time this year! My personal word will be joy and my professional word is revel. Joy is pretty self-explanatory. I decided on the word even before I went to see Mary Poppins Returns on Christmas Eve, but seeing the movie made me even more sure in my decision. I consider joy to be the next step after gratitude, so this is my inspiration for the year. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll really get it!

As for revel, it’s kind of similar to joy but my intention is to celebrate and acknowledge even the smallest achievements in my work life and to really enjoy what I’m doing everyday. For the first time in a long time, I actually genuinely enjoy the work I’m doing but I still have to be mindful of not letting the day-to-day feel mundane.

I hope you guys choose a word for the year, too, and are setting all of your intentions so you can grow this year and enjoy doing it. Some posts coming up this month will talk about how to set up your planner, getting your life organized to start fresh, ways to get more out of trips to the museum, and another fun collaboration with Boden.

Happy New Year!

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book report: december 2018 + christmas at hogwarts reading challenge

GOAL PROGRESS: 57/50

We’ve reached the final book report post of 2018 and I’m excited to say that I surpassed my fifty books goal by reading 57 books total this year. That means I need to up my game next year by aiming to read 70 books. I’ve been doing the 50 books challenge for the past few years, so I definitely think it’s time to stretch myself a little more.

At the start of next year, I’m going to share my top ten books that I read in 2018 but for now, let’s get into what I read this December:

Factfulness by Hans Rosling
You will definitely see this on my best books of the year list because I think it may have actually been the best book of the year and one of the best books I’ve ever read in general. You have to read this book. It’s all about how wrong our negative world views are and how the media skews data to make the world seem much worse than it is. Furthermore, it will make you recognize how blessed you are and how extravagant most of our lifestyles are compared to many others in the world.

The other four books I read this month were part of the Christmas at Hogwarts Reading Challenge. In the new year, i’d definitely like to keep doing these themed challenges because they really are a lot of fun. I followed the map below to chart out what I read.

One Day in December by Josie Silver
This was my first Book of the Month book and I had to get this one because the cover was so cozy and beautiful. I actually wasn’t sure of the book at first when I started reading it, but then I got hooked and probably read 3/4 of it in one day because it ended up being really cute. It’s the story of a girl named Laurie who locks eyes with a guy on the street through the bus window and has an instant connection only to find out months later that he’s her best friend’s new boyfriend. The story spans several years after that and it’s really the perfect cozy winter love story.

Christmas at Hogwarts Reading Challenge

Finish Your Coursework - Homebody by Joanna Gaines
INSTRUCTIONS: Finish your current read.

I absolutely loved Joanna’s new home design book. Obviously, all of her design work is stunning but what I appreciated most was the layout of the book and her organized approach to combining styles to find your own personal style. I always thought my interior design style was Traditional-Modern-Bohemian, but it was made very clear by this book that I’m definitely Traditional-Modern-Rustic. I got so many ideas from this book and if you’re in need of some home design inspiration, definitely check this one out.

Visit the Three Broomsticks for Mulled Pixie Wine - The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking
INSTRUCTIONS: A book that should only take you a day/evening.

I read The Little Book of Hygge a few years ago when it came out and then again this year before gifting it to a friend, but this year I finally got ahold of The Little Book of Lykke was even more interesting! While Hygge was all about how the Danes stay cozy, Lykke is about the ways Denmark has set up their public society to enhance the happiness of its citizens and ways that other countries do similar things. It was so good and honestly made me want to pick up and move to Denmark.

Exchange presents in the Common Room - Heart Talk by Cleo Wade
INSTRUCTIONS: Book featuring friends or friendship.

This maybe wasn’t conventionally a ‘story’ about friendship as it’s a book of poetry and thoughts from Cleo Wade but it really feels like it’s written by a friend for a friend and it’s all about self-love and positivity, so I think it counts. This is a book you need to buy a physical copy of to put on your table and read daily.

Fly around snowy Hogwarts grounds - Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
INSTRUCTIONS: Book with a building on the cover.

I really liked this one! It’s such a good story for the Christmas season, too. This is all about a family who are quarantined for the week of Christmas at their country estate in England because the eldest daughter has just returned from treating contagious patients in Liberia. Over the course of the seven days of quarantine, secrets come out and drama ensues. Although most of the characters were fairly unlikable (save for Jesse), I still really enjoyed seeing what happened to them over the course of the story. My only complaint is that I’m really tired of books that subtly shame women who choose their careers over traditional concepts of marriage and family. Can we stop doing that all the time?

Attend the Christmas feast -
INSTRUCTIONS: Watch a Harry Potter movie.

I’ve, of course, seen all of the Harry Potter movies many, many, many times but I have tickets to the studio tour in London this spring so I wanted to see them all yet another time, in order to get ready! We watched The Sorcerer’s Stone, which I actually hadn’t seen in awhile (meaning like a year maybe lol), and for some reason, this time around was really magical. It was like seeing it again for the first time, so I’m glad we did it.

ten memorable moments from 2018

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Well, we only have four more days left of 2018. Can you believe it? Getting to the end of my passion planner is so weird and feels like it came out of nowhere! But, then again, this year almost feels as though it’s been several in one for me because I’ve been a bit all over the place.

I wanted to gather up some of my favorite moments from 2018 to share with you. It’s really hard to narrow it down to just ten because I feel like I had such a fun year with a thousand photos to prove it. I’m going to go in chronological order since that’s easiest!

living in new york + doing freelance work //
This is technically more than just one singular moment, but oh well! Getting to live in New York for the time that I did was a huge part of my 2018. Even though there were definitely elements that were less than perfect (brutal winter, weird roommates, subpar apartment, etc.), I seriously got to do a lot of really cool things and meet some amazing people. I freelanced for some incredible companies, too. My favorite was definitely Refinery29 but I also loved the PR work I did for Sundance and Palm Springs Film Festival.

new year’s day sunset at the chrysler building //
On New Year’s day last year, my brother got engaged so we all went to celebrate on, I believe it was, the 74th floor of The Chrysler Building (which is 77 floors total) with wine and the most amazing 360 view of the city. We stayed for the whole sunset and I even got a time lapse video of it.

meeting diane von furstenberg //
One moment that still feels surreal to me was meeting Diane von Furstenberg for a mentoring walk and event. The morning started with a walk along the High Line, then ended up at DVF Headquarters where Diane hosted a breakfast talk with several women in business. She’s always been a huge inspiration to me and one of my favorite role models, so it was a crazy exciting day.

seeing the band’s visit on broadway //
When I was working at R29, we got tickets to see The Band’s Visit on Broadway and at that point, I didn’t know much about it other than having seen the adverts on the subway. I was expecting to have fun because it’s a Broadway show, but I was legitimately blown away. We had really good up front seats and could see all the details on the beautiful sets. The music and performances were incredible and the show ended up being the Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen of 2018, winning ten Tony’s including Best Musical. Plus, we got to see the show on Tony Shalloub’s last night with the entire original cast.

the james turrell exhibit at moma ps1 //
I had read a lot about Turrell’s skyspace pieces which are these rooms in various locations with a hole cut out in the ceiling. It sounds really random, but the sky and light come into the room in such a way that looks really beautiful. I think I first heard about it on Abbi Jacobson’s podcast, A Piece of Work. My best friend Caroline was in town for the weekend, so we went to MoMA PS1 in Long Island City to see the skyspace there. Oh my god. I really can’t even describe it fully, but we sat in the room for probably an hour because it was so stunning.

birthday trip to palm beach //
Even having grown up in Florida, I’d weirdly never been to Palm Beach so we went for my birthday this year and I fell in love. We had margherita pizzas and Aperol spritzes at Pizza al Fresco, went shopping, had dessert from Piccolo Gelato, and stopped by the beach on the way out. It was a really fun little day and I need to go back soon!

the royal wedding //
Yes, I got up at 4:45 am for the royal wedding and had homemade scones with tea all morning. I’ve always followed the royals and was really excited for the wedding because I adore Meghan so much and it’s fun to see an American marry into the royal family. I think she’s such an amazing role model and I can’t wait to keep watching her do her thing. Plus, the Givenchy gown? I cried. The Mulroney kids, George, and Charlotte? I cannot deal with how cute.

becoming an entrepreneur //
A big thing this year was unexpectedly leaving a job to be self-employed full time. Basically, I freelanced for the first five months of the year, had a full time position over the summer, and then was laid off because the nature of the role had changed. It felt pretty unfair to be honest, but the role had become something I had no interest in at all and I really just dislike working in traditional job settings. Like Newt Scamander says, “My boggart is a desk job”. Becoming self-employed since then has honestly been the best thing ever.

my brother’s wedding //
I mentioned up top that my brother got engaged on New Year’s Day and then in November was the wedding! It was the loveliest backyard wedding on the river with fairy lights and a food truck and we all had the best time. Plus, I adore my new sister-in-law 😊

connecting with new and old friends //
A big theme this year was friendship. I met so many amazing new friends in New York as well as a new friend here at home that I’m really grateful for. I also got to connect with old friends from college and even high school, something I haven’t really been able to do much in the past few years.

What are your favorite moments from the year?

the cutest treat for your nutcracker viewing party

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One of my favorite things to do each Christmas is watch The Nutcracker. If I can’t get to a ballet performance, I always love watching a past performance online. This year, The New York City Ballet’s 1993 performance is available on Netflix, making it super easy to enjoy from home. This story always gets me in the most festive mood and also reminds me of when I played the Sugar Plum Fairy in a school Christmas play when I was little! #goals

I feel like when you watch The Nutcracker, it’s only right that you have a really cozy, festive treat with you like hot chocolate or a sparkling cocktail or, in this case, a sweet cupcake. I have a list going on holiday treats I want to bake this year and cupcakes actually weren’t on it until I saw this set of Nutcracker cupcake toppers and obviously had to have them.

To go with the toppers, I made my favorite cupcake combination: dark chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream frosting. I used the chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and then made the frosting with real butter, although you can definitely use vegan butter if you prefer.

For some reason, I’ve always had trouble getting the perfect cupcake in the past. They tend to come out too dry or they sink in the middle, but this time they were perfectly moist and the frosting was incredible. As in, I would like to eat it with a spoon. The raspberry is sweet yet tart, which helps to give the cupcake a rich flavor rather than just saccharine.

A few tips for the perfect cupcake:

  • Once the oven has preheated, let it sit for a while. This ensures it’s getting to the right temperature, fully heated, and is ready for your batter.

  • Use room temperature ingredients. This is especially true for frosting. Using room temperature butter will help it to blend more smoothly and prevent lumps.

  • Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting. I find it helps to bake the cupcakes right before you’re going out for the day and then coming back to frost them when you get home.

  • Be precise. This is so important in baking! Everything from the measurements to how you measure them (it really does matter that you use dry measures versus liquid measures) to how much you fill the cupcake tins. Follow the recipe precisely for best results.