Written By: Sandra Hutton @artimmersionstudio

Creativity is in each of us. This is something that I tell my students time and time again. One thing that I have learned over time is that it doesn’t bloom unless you make space for it. Making space isn’t really a novel concept yet it is amazing how we can manage to fill up our time without really nurturing the creativity within us. It’s easy to let minutes turn into hours, and then into days, and then into weeks, months, and years without giving our creative instincts and interests our full attention. All because we are filling up our lives with other things. Some of these “things” represent meaningful investments of our energy, but others represent nothing more than meaningless clutter. And, for many of us, while we are continuing to clutter our lives with commitments that may be empty and bring us little joy, we ignore creative wants and desires–pushing creativity to last place. For some of us, it becomes the thing that we do when we have finished all the other “stuff” and when we do this, we are ignoring our own need for self-fulfillment and happiness.

A few years ago, I purchased a Happiness Planner for a friend of mine who was making some major shifts in her life in order to pursue her dreams. At the same time I bought the same planner for myself. However, rather than starting to use it right away, I put it in a drawer and forgot all about it. Finally, one day while I was doing a little cleaning, I found it and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I came across it during a time when I was really struggling with life balance and I was feeling a little incomplete. This felt a little serendipitous–like the universe was maybe looking out for me.

I have used different planners in the past but I can honestly say that none had a greater impact on my ability to plan my time so that I was caring for different facets of my personality–in particular my creative self. The beginning of the planner is set up in the following way:

-Introductory pages to assess what makes you happy and what causes you unhappiness
-A self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses
-Self-reflection pages on habits that you’d like to improve
-Reflections on gratitude, achievements, challenges overcome, and lessons learned
-Charts to help you visualize yourself in 5-10 years
-Self-reflection pages on what is holding you back
-A page to write a summary of what you would like to achieve in 52 weeks

Following the introduction, there are sections for each week to record: excitements for the week, personal and work goals, and happy things that you will do. There is a section for each day to record notes and sections for reflection including a rating system to “score” your week. I like this planner because it packs a lot into a carefully organized layout. You can record a lot or a little and it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Apparently, there is an app version of this planner too although I have yet to try it.

Using this planner has helped me to elevate my creativity because I am carving out time for it more consistently. And when I carve out time for it, I am a happier, more fulfilled person–no longer feeling like I am pushing things that are important to me to last place. It has helped me to think reflectively about things I can do to complete other necessary priorities, but also practice self-care. This may include going for a walk, photographing nature, or taking time to read. When I ensure that down time is a part of my week, my creativity opens up. Things begin to flow because I have created space for it. My mind becomes less cluttered with the things that aren’t really all that important, and filled with the things that are meaningful to me. Of course there may be some weekly tasks that aren’t all that fun–but they get done too, because I am more intentional about how I use my time. It also helps me to set goals and prioritize; life seems less stressful to me when I do this.

I have pre-ordered my planner for 2022 and I look forward to receiving it! The more I use this planner I realize that I am not only prioritizing my happiness but also training my brain to be intentional with my time, to be open to possibilities, and to reflect on my creative energy. Self-care should never come last. Don’t shove your planner in a drawer and forget about it as I once did. Be intentional and curate your life.