How I’m Using my MAMBI Happy Planner: Weekly Layouts

I’m now about 4 weeks into my new powerfully proficient planner plan for 2016 (how’s that for alliteration? ūüôā ) ¬†In my first¬†Planner Tips post, I shared my initial tips on using my MAMBI Happy Planner- my planner of choice for running my writing¬†and personal lives. With consistent use, I’ve fine-tuned some of my best practices with the Happy Planner. One of the things I like about this planner is the 3 sections, but I also admit that these blank sections be a bit intimidating when you first start using the planner. ¬†There are several examples and ideas floating around on how people use their’s but here is how I am currently using mine:

MAMBI Happy Planner layout














  • Left hand Notes Section

I use this section to list the things I want to do in a particular week. ¬†I tend to be a bit over eager and always list way too many items. ūüôā ¬†Due to the volume of tasks¬†I usually list, and the fact that I have to maintain a certain level of fluidity in my schedule, it’s not feasible for me assign tasks to certain days for the entire week in advance. ¬†Instead, I use this notes section as a holding ground of sorts. ¬†I start the week off with a few assigned tasks on Monday and Tuesday and just go from there. ¬†As I finish tasks, I scratch them off my the master list and then schedule in¬†additional tasks for other days in the week.

I’ve learned through trial and error, that the only place I need to actually scratch through items is the master list. ¬†I use symbols and marks on the actual day boxes to denote incomplete tasks, the need to reschedule something, etc. So far, this has really worked for me and¬†has eliminated visual clutter by eliminating repetitive writing and¬†having too many cross out marks.

  • Section 1- Top Things for the Day

I use the top section to denote the most, important things/appointments/reminders/etc. for the day.  I also use the space to jot down my breakfast plans for the day.  Each morning I have to oversee getting myself and 3 kids ready to tackle the day, and my breakfast usually never crosses my mind.  I look at this planner every morning and each night before I go to bed. The reminder to either fix my smoothie or pack up my cereal for transport to the office has been instrumental in me actually eating breakfast Monday-Friday.

  • Section 2- Role Tasks

Whenever I plan out my goals & plans for a new¬†¬†year, I set them based on the primary¬†roles I want to focus on for the year. ¬†For example, the roles of mother, writer, homeowner, “me”, and photographer are a few of the roles¬†I’m focusing on for 2016. ¬†As such, each week I have tasks to do for each role in order to make progress on the goals I’ve set.

  • Section 3- Home Life/Personal

I use the section to denote dinner plans, any activities the kids have going on, gym days (denoted here with the peacock feather stickers), hair washing days, chores &¬†errands, and anything else that pops up in the home life/downtime category. ¬†This is also a good section to note¬†tv programs. ¬†I’m constantly forgetting to set my DVR to record new shows or special programs that I want to watch, so sticking them here is a good reminder to either watch them live, or schedule the¬†DVR (via an iphone app) to record them for later.

  • The Weekend Boxes

I’m still playing around with a better use for the boxes for Saturday and Sunday. ¬†The weekends are a time for me to relax more, get in some social time, and to catch up on anything that slipped through the cracks from the week. ¬†I’m currently using the top & bottom sections the same way I use them¬†throughout the week. I don’t list my meal plans because I’m a bit more spontaneous on the weekends.

Because I have a lot on my plate this year as far as my career, writing, photographer goes, I think I’ll use the middle boxes to keep track of the good things that happened during the week. ¬†It’s nice to see a bit of positivity¬†during some trying weeks.

  • Decor

I’m still embracing the less is more philosophy when it comes to decorating my planner. ¬†I can’t be productive with an overly cluttered planner. This¬†includes the use of too many colored inks, too many stickers, messy handwriting, and cross out marks everywhere. ¬†I approach decorating my planner by first selecting my primary & secondary color inks for the week. ¬†I like to use the secondary color to cross off items from the master list and to use as the asterisk color on any tasks of special note. ¬†Just wait until I show you my monthly January layout. ¬†You’ll quickly understand my need for a consistent color palette. ūüôā

I use stickers mostly to:

  1. Interject a bit of fun (and because Yoda is a bad ass)
  2. Denote gym days- I just select 3 stickers for this, it changes weekly
  3. Denote hair wash days (I LOVE the afros).
  4. Add in 1-2 motivational quotes per week

I think I’m developing a sticker preference for smaller, simple icon stickers that I can use denote activities and for special emphasis.

I’m not a huge washi ¬†tape fan, but i do like the group the top 2 sections together and the leave the 3rd section solo with a little washi boarder. ¬†For me, this helps me keep the “Business Areas” of my plan separate from the¬†more personal/social section.

Here are some layouts from earlier in the month. You can see the progress in the first set from how it looks after initial decor to how it fills up through as the week progresses.


Happy Planner layout- elephants








I found a pack of Star Wars stickers in the $1 Spot at Target, so they make for some fun weekly layouts.

MAMBI Planner

Happy Planner layout- Yoda

10 Goal Setting and Time Management Tips for Writers to Kick off the New Year

This is a guest post by Lisa Sullivan


WritingHappy 2016, fellow writers! A new year brings new writing goals and ambitious plans to achieve them. To help you along, here are some goal setting and time management tips for creating  and achieving your 2016 writing and time management goals.

1. Eliminate distractions.

  • If you sit down to write, then write.¬†Do not use writing time to¬†check social media, websites, email, text messages, Angry Birds, etc. Do not let mindsucks, timewasters, and energy drains¬†tempt you away¬†from your writing. Set clear boundaries with people and pets to let them know that writing time is writing time.

2. Separate writing tasks.

  • Multi-tasking (switch-tasking) is¬†proven to be unproductive, so focus on one writing task at a time. Schedule prioritized time for brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, proofing, planning, promotion, research, business/admin, etc. Draft, revise, edit, and proof when you are freshest. Promote on social media at¬†peak times¬†to maximize return.

3. Organize your space.

  • Make your workspace work¬†for you by having all you need right at your fingertips:¬† laptop, paper/pen, coffee, passwords, etc.¬†Make your workspace comfortable¬†so that you love working in it and can totally escape to it to plunge gleefully into your writing tasks. Leverage¬†your VAK style¬†(visual,¬†aural, or¬†kinesthetic) to create an uber-productive, energy-freeing work environment.

4. Empty your mind so you can focus on writing.

  • When¬†something besides writing¬†is on your mind, it clouds your productivity.¬†Deal with it¬†then get back to writing, even if it takes days, weeks, or months to resolve. Journal about it, talk it out, or workout to clear your mind for a more productive writing session. Similarly, take frequent breaks ‚Äď the mind focuses best in 20-minute chunks.

5. Set goals that are not just achievable but motivational.

  • Goal setting is not the same as goal achievement, and goal achievement (in my lexicon) is not the same as goal accomplishment. Goal achievement, in a nutshell, means you visualize¬†where you want to end up¬†then plan and strive to complete incremental tasks to get you there. To stay on the path of completion, you must¬†believe you can achieve, make a reasonable plan, and commit.¬†Goal¬†achievement¬†is the logical¬†conclusion¬†to the milestones you have completed on a prescribed path. Goal¬†accomplishment, on the other hand, is emotional and thus more powerfully motivating. What pleasurable, emotional feeling will you get as a result of completing your writing exercises? Holding your book in your hands? Getting accolades, awards, or royalties for your work? Connecting with your readers? Leaving a legacy? Starting a new career path? Doing something you‚Äôve always wanted to do? Finishing something you started a long time ago?¬†Overcoming barriers or fears? Dispersing your message to the masses? Making yourself/your mom/your spouse/your kids proud? Whatever that emotion is for you, pinpoint it and hold fast to it because it will best lead you to goal accomplishment (in contrast to goal achievement). Emotional motivation is a much more forceful predictor that you will reach the end of that long, lonely writing path than setting word count goals and deadlines will be. The bottom line is,¬†you know you¬†can¬†do it,¬†so ask yourself why don‚Äôt you¬†or why will you?

6. Associate with supporters.

  • Beware! Some people in your writing circles wear masks of¬†amity, but their face underneath is one of¬†enmity. To them, getting published and selling books is primarily a competition, and YOU are their rival. ‚ĶDitch those people! They do not want to help you achieve your goals at all.¬†Associate with those who are genuinely supportive¬†of seeing you achieve your writing goals, and help or¬†thank them profusely¬†in return.

7. Strike while the iron is hot.

  • Does a great idea strike you while bathing or driving along the highway? When, without warning, the next scene of your WIP starts to fill your mind, stop what you are doing (if you can) and capture it ‚Äď and¬†keep going¬†with the moment until your imagination iron cools. You never know:¬† that brilliant idea may never strike again or in the same way later. There‚Äôs no reason to wait for a scheduled writing time to make great progress. (Just ask Bob Dylan.) Write it down, type it up, or leave yourself a voice mail message right then and there. So what if you are the one who looks like you are talking to yourself in the car but, unbeknownst to all, you are recording voice memos on your smartphone about a new scene idea or character brainstorms? If it helps you reach your writing goals, then do it.

8. Take care of yourself.

  • Be well rested, healthily fed, and free of stress to be the most productive writer you can be.

9. Deal with Writer’s Block.

  • Either plow through it (i.e., keep writing) or give your mind a break ‚Äď the words WILL flow again. On the other hand, are you truly suffering from Writer‚Äôs Block? Maybe you are procrastinating. In that case,¬†read my book for more tips¬†on how to overcome procrastination.

10. Stay dedicated.

Now, go forth and write your novel! Make it happen this year. Enjoy the journey with smiles and good times. Best of luck to you in 2016!
© Lisa A. Sullivan, 2016

Lisa SullivanLisa A. Sullivan is an award-winning trainer and recipient of the American Society for Training and Development West Virginia Chapter’s Workplace Learning Professional of the Year and the Federal Executive Association of the Eastern Panhandle’s Manager of the Year Award. She is also owner of publishing house LASBooks,  the author of the Time Management Workbook, a blog, and four other books.  Her fiction work has finaled five times in different contests over the years.

Join her free Time Management Workshop at the Hedgesville Library in Hedgesville, West Virginia, Saturday, January 30, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LASBooksWV.

Planner Tips: Using My MAMBI Happy Planner

Today marks the first entry in my new “Tools and Tips” series! Being an avid planner for the past 17 years, I figured my first set of planner tips should revolve around my¬†(mis)adventures with my new MAMBI Happy Planner¬†and how I use it to keep me on track and accountable to my 2016 author and personal goals.

I’ve been using¬†the Passion Planner¬†the last 2 years for personal and professional organization, but¬†as¬†a creative being, I found myself wanting¬†something more to keep me engaged in my writing and personal goals.¬†Luckily, several of my author peeps are avid planner horders and I came across the¬†Happy Planner. ¬†This planner provides a weekly layout I really, really like and lots of space to note tasks, events, and random bits of¬†creativity. ūüôā

Being the anal, perfectionist that I am, it was overwhelming to tackle a new planner. What if I mess it up, or use it wrong, or…. See, this is how my crazy mind works. ūüôā ¬†So I hit the internet to see how others were using their planners. ¬†Since the primary focus of this planner is to track my personal and author roles, the videos I found didn’t exactly cover all the angles I needed.¬†So I brainstormed a list of possible uses for my Happy Planner and¬†I will¬†implement and tweak these until I come up on the best use and¬†practices that work for me.

MAMBI Happy Planner planner tips
MAMBI Planner

And without further ado, here is my very first week spread!

Since this is was for the very first week of 2016 and I was fresh off of a one¬†week, intensive goal planning spree, I felt a little bit of the dark side of the Force would be needed¬†to hit the ground running and incorporate several new routines into my life. (gym, gah!) This is my planner after a little bit¬†of decoration and my initial notes for the week. ¬†I need plenty of white space to avoid visual clutter and for flexibility to add items as my week progresses, so I won’t decorate as much as some others do.

For now, I use the left hand side to note the¬†major tasks I need to complete for the week. ¬†In order to keep me focused on my overall mission, these items are all attached to a specific role (more on those later) I want to focus on in 2016. ¬†Since there is only so much I can plan for an¬†entire week when I sit down on Sundays, I’ve learned to be flexible when it comes to actually¬†accomplishing my set tasks. Seeing all I need do that week listed on¬†left works for now. ¬†As I traverse the week, I pencil them in as I see fit.

I’m currently using the daily columns to track my meal plans, appointments, key reminders, and my writing tasks. ¬†I’m still on the fence as to how to best use the 3 boxes per day, so for now the top box is for important reminders, appointments, and that day’s breakfast smoothie. ¬†(I may move to a Big 3 focus for this box in the future.) ¬†The middle box is being used to note my writing and author related tasks. ¬†I use the last box for my household, mom, and “me” roles, such as dinner plans, family activity reminders, etc. ¬†The 3 red star stickers are both visual interests and denote my gym days this week.

As of right now, I have no idea how to best use the weekend boxes since I tend to go “off grid” on Saturdays and Sundays. ¬†And since I do love motivational quotes, I like to randomly¬†pepper in a few each week to provide a bit of uplift.

MAMBI Happy Planner Tips

Here’s an updated shot of my planner a little later in the week. ¬†Each morning¬†I take a glance at it and determine all I need to do and what activities I want¬†to do¬†that day. ¬†Knowing me and my propensity to take on too much, I try to limit the top box to the 3 major items I need to keep in mind for the day. ¬†I also think I need to limit the number of tasks in the middle box,¬†but for now it helps to see them¬†even if I don’t manage to accomplish them all that day. ¬†It’s simple enough to move them to another day later in the week (as you can see by my many arrows-lol)

So, here are this week’s big wins:

  • Using the left hand side first to list out the week’s most important tasks
  • Using the top box for my main priorities for the day
  • Easy to look at–not going overboard on colors and decor

Here are the areas I plan to tweak:

  • Better use of the middle box
  • Neater penmanship (it’s a struggle)
  • Brainstorming more ways to bring in additional role functions weekly

So this ends my week one recap on the Happy Planner weekly layout. ¬†I’ve made a few¬†adjustments in my weekly spread which, I’ll share next¬†next week before I dive into my monthly planning tips. ¬†In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at this week’s planner theme before I started writing in it. You just gotta love those cute elephants! ūüėČ

MAMBI Happy Planner tips


Tools & Tips

The JourneyOne of my new features on the blog this year will be a series of articles on various tools and tips I find helpful as I navigate my roles of author, writer–yes, I make a distinction between these two occasionally, this being one of those times– ,¬†amateur photographer, and several other roles not listed. ūüôā

I thought it would be helpful to others to share some of the tools and tips I use to stay focused, on task, and accomplishing my goals.

For now, I will focus on planning/time management and Scrivener. ¬†I may pepper in additional tools and tips I stumble across, but I will focus on these two areas this year as they are the most¬†important¬†two avenues I use to navigate this thing called “My 2016 Goals”.

So, first up will be an¬†intro post on art of planning and planning systems, which will come next Tuesday. ¬†I’ve been using a planner to accomplish my professional goals since 1999. ¬†This year, I decided to use two planners to help guide me through my professional career¬†goals, my author goals, and keep my personal life on track. ¬†And being the lovely, yet neurotic, anal retentive perfectionist that I am, trust me when I say it’s been fun trying to make my new dual planner system work.

Check back next Tuesday when I’ll¬†share the results of my first week on¬†my new planner system. ¬†As a treat,¬†I’ll leave you with a quick look at my initial layout¬†for the first week in January. ¬†Yeah,¬†a little bit of the dark side of the Force was needed to get me through this first week of the new year. ¬†ūüėÄ

MAMBI Planner