Not just a plan­ner

Cal­en­dars are be­com­ing a state of be­ing in­stead of just a place to write ap­point­ments.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - LIVING - By Caitlin Gib­son

The thing with feath­ers ar­rives on a dreary Thurs­day af­ter­noon in mid-Jan­uary, right around the time that most hu­mans be­gin qui­etly aban­don­ing their New Year’s res­o­lu­tions.

But not you. You are open­ing the pink-and-white box, un­fas­ten­ing the col­or­ful sticker that binds the pack­age within, and there it is: The Erin Con­dren LifePlan­ner, its cover em­bel­lished with azure pea­cock plumes and, in del­i­cate, loop­ing script, your name.

Oh, hello, the plan­ner says, its voice the whis­per of Caribbean­blue tis­sue paper part­ing to re­veal the prom­ise within. This is go­ing to be your year.

This is not the flimsy at-a-glance plan­ner your of­fice hands out in De­cem­ber. It’s not one of those ba­sic desktop cal­en­dars you im­pulse-grab near the check­out line at Sta­ples. You don’t just fill out this plan­ner. In the par­lance of plan­ner nerds, you move into it — be­cause this plan­ner is not merely a thing, but a state of be­ing.

Your new plan­ner is but one among a vast and flour­ish­ing spec­trum of elab­o­rate, per­son­al­ized, cus­tom­iz­a­ble plan­ners flood­ing the mar­ket­place, each with a deluxe price tag (typ­i­cally $20 to $70) and prom­ises of dreams re­al­ized, goals “crushed” (in the good way), a bet­ter life, a bet­ter you.

It speaks to you in an as­pi­ra­tional lan­guage that only some­one with dreams as big as yours can un­der­stand. Says the turquoise note­card pack­aged atop your new plan­ner: What you seek is seek­ing you.

If you are a per­son who does your seek­ing on the in­ter­net — and es­pe­cially if you’ve ever given the in­ter­net any rea­son to think that you might be stressed-out, or a mil­len­nial, or a woman, or a stressed-out mil­len­nial woman jug­gling work and a fam­ily — these plan­ners are go­ing to find you. They will most likely ap­pear in your Face­book time­line or your In­sta­gram feed, ask­ing you, “Are you ready for the most or­ga­nized year of your life?” Yes. Yes, please. Then they lure you into a world where serene women plan their days in plush arm­chairs with a mug of tea in hand, where ev­ery win­dow is filled with sun­light and ev­ery pris­tine desk is topped with a spray of col­or­ful pens and a pot­ted suc­cu­lent. Here, ev­ery­thing is calm. Here, there is no over­whelm. (Here, among the plan­ner­atti, the word “over­whelm” is a noun.)

Con­sider the Full Fo­cus Plan­ner, which pledges to help you “ac­com­plish your big­gest pri­or­i­ties with­out over­whelm.” The Weekly Ac­tion Pad prom­ises that you will “feel on top of your to-do list, and avoid over­whelm.” The Emily Ley Sim­pli­fied Plan­ner “stands on the idea that there is more to life than over­whelm.”

Or maybe you want some­thing more ex­is­ten­tial. The Morn­ing Side­kick Jour­nal wants to help you “un­der­stand your why.” The Evo Plan­ner prom­ises to help you un­der­stand the in­ner work­ings of your own brain, so you can use that knowl­edge “to get the life you de­serve.”

These aren’t or­ga­niz­ers or cal­en­dars so much as spi­ral-bound life coaches, and they de­mand your at­ten­tion and in­vest­ment. You’ll get out of them only what you put into them.

But first, you’ll have to an­swer some ques­tions.

Do you want a leather cover or vin­tage flo­ral? A ver­ti­cal

weekly lay­out or hor­i­zon­tal? What is the theme of your year? What are your goals for each month? For each week? Which com­pli­men­tary sticker pack should you choose? Do you need an aca­demic cal­en­dar, an 18-month cal­en­dar, a cal­en­dar that breaks your day down into hours, or 30-minute in­ter­vals, or 15-minute in­ter­vals? Why — re­ally, why — do you feel you need a plan­ner in the first place?

Deep breaths. One must avoid over­whelm.

“What is the magic? Well, she gets to de­sign it her­self. She gets to choose her back­ground color. She can add a photo. She feels like she is part of the process,” says Erin Con­dren, doyenne of decor­ga­niz­ing, founder and cre­ator of her epony­mous lifestyle brand. “Then it ar­rives, and it’s hers to run with. That’s the magic.”

Cul­tur­ally, gen­er­a­tionally, per­son­ally, many of us are hav­ing a mo­ment where we want very much to be­lieve in this kind of magic. We are des­per­ate to cleanse, fo­cus, de­clut­ter, re­claim. We binge­watch Marie Kondo on Net­flix in the hope that we might fi­nally tidy our homes. We or­der a $60 plan­ner in the hope that we might fi­nally tidy our brains.

Those fer­vent urges pushed sales of plan­ner books and or­ga­niz­ers to $386 mil­lion last year, ac­cord­ing to NPD Group, a mar­ket re­search firm. Sales of plan­ner ac­ces­sories — the satin book­marks, the cov­ers and in­serts, the packs of shim­mer­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity stick­ers — surged to $3.9 mil­lion in 2018, an in­crease of 105 per­cent over the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to NPD.

Peo­ple want more than a generic ap­point­ment book, says Tia Frapolli, pres­i­dent of the NPD Group’s of­fice sup­plies di­vi­sion: “Con­sumers are us­ing these prod­ucts as life plan­ners.”

Those con­sumers are mostly mil­len­nial women. Adults be­tween 22 and 40 make up 65 per­cent of Erin Con­dren’s clien­tele, which is also 98 per­cent fe­male. Other plan­ner com­pa­nies — par­tic­u­larly those that cater specif­i­cally to en­trepreneurs or ca­reer goal-set­ters — are more evenly split be­tween the sexes, but the gen­er­a­tional tar­get is largely con­sis­tent.

“Peo­ple ini­tially thought, ‘Oh, this is for a late-40s gal who never un­der­stood dig­i­tal.’ That was the myth, but that’s not true at all. Our core is young peo­ple,” Con­dren says. “I think for them to have ev­ery­thing all in one space and feel like you have more con­trol over it, when you cross some­thing off your list or cel­e­brate with a sticker, there’s that feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment that is not that easy to feel these days.”

The plan­ners find you on­line, but af­ter their un­box­ing, they want you to log off and find a quiet place to put pen to paper — which is, per­haps coun­ter­in­tu­itively, why they might ap­peal so strongly to mil­len­ni­als. They were the kids who grew up with reg­i­mented sched­ules and con­stant pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment, af­fir­ma­tional stick­ers on tests and term pa­pers.

“Maybe be­cause of how we were raised, with ‘you can do any­thing,’ we feel this in­tense pres­sure to do ev­ery­thing,” says Kate Fra­chon, 31, a con­tent man­ager for the plan­ner and of­fice sup­ply com­pany Ink+Volt.

Fra­chon felt the plan­ner’s call, right around the time her son re­cently turned 10 months old.

“I had this com­pletely over­whelm­ing de­sire to get, like, three plan­ners,” she says. “I was fol­low­ing Erin Con­dren and Plum Paper and all of them on so­cial me­dia, and I was like, what is go­ing on? I work at a plan­ner com­pany. I don’t need new plan­ners.”

So she did what any self­ac­tu­al­iz­ing mil­len­nial would do. She talked to her ther­a­pist about it.

“Even­tu­ally I re­al­ized — oh, yeah, I’ve had a new­born, for a whole year my life has been com­pletely out of con­trol. Plus the whole world feels to­tally out of con­trol. So once my baby got a lit­tle older and I was like, ‘OK, I can do stuff now,’ my brain went into over­drive and was like, ‘OK, if I have these plan­ners I could lock it all in and be com­pletely in con­trol,’ ” she says, laugh­ing. “Yeah. That’s why peo­ple buy plan­ners.”

CON­TRIB­UTED BY ERIN CON­DREN

The Erin Con­dren LifePlan­ner al­lows the con­sumer to choose the back­ground color and add a photo.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY SHELBY LOUISE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

The Ink+Volt plan­ner.

CON­TRIB­UTED BY ERIN CON­DREN

The Erin Con­dren LifePlan­ner.

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