Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Book of Aim Zing*

(*Cross-posted from my other blog)
I have a friend, Jena, from high school. (I also have a friend, Ginna, from high school, and my kids refer to them as "Tornado Jena" and "New Mexico Ginna" to keep them straight. I'm sorry you have to be "Tornado Jena," Jena.) Jena is one of those people whom everyone loves. I sort of wanted to resent her when she joined the cross-country team our senior year (she was one of those adorable, sporty soccer players) and instantly became one of the best runners on the team. But I couldn't. She was just too sweet, and funny, and fun. I had an AP Psychology class with her, among others, and I have nothing but good memories of that. Then we lost track of each other for a few years. And then somehow got in touch again, and suddenly we were writing long emails back and forth, exchanging favorite book ideas and parenting ideas and (later) homeschooling ideas, and it was like no time had passed. I'm so grateful to have friends like that!

That's a lengthy and sort of unnecessary introduction, because what I want to talk about isn't Jena herself, but this goal book she made. But I feel like in some ways, I have to start with Jena herself, because she is IN the book. It's fun and colorful and happy, just like she is. It's amazing, just like she is. Aim . . . zing. Ha!

Okay, so, here's the short version: Jena loves to draw and doodle and make lists, and every year she makes a goal book for herself. You can read her own words about it here (I love the way she writes). She uses it as calendar, planner, quote book, goal book, kids'-cute-sayings-book---everything. Every year it evolves. This year, she made it in downloadable format, and customizeable so that anyone can use it. It can be arranged in any conceivable way, for any conceivable use. And it is ADORABLE. Doodles and boxes and circles and clouds, all intended to make organizing your life easier and more fun.
I was intrigued when I read her posts (here and here) about how she uses her book. She breaks her goals into pieces---weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals---and looks at them throughout the year. She writes down quotes to memorize. She keeps lists and sorts things into categories. Her book is a work of art! I admit that, seeing how she used it, I wanted to try it myself, but I was a little reluctant, because I am NOT a goal-book type of person. I don't make New Years Resolutions. (Not in a militant, "I WILL NOT make them!" sort of way---I just . . . don't.) I don't like writing down goals. I do like spreadsheets. I do like being organized . . . but sometimes I don't like being organized. I love my iPad. I also love colorful pens and post-it notes. Unpredictable, that's me! :)

But I wanted to try it out anyway. Mostly, I was pulled in by how CUTE it was! Colors and doodles. It looked fun. And I was tempted to do everything exactly how Jena does it, so my book would be as cute as hers. But I reminded myself sternly that if I was going to benefit from this, I had to make it my own. I had to make it work MY way. 
Oh, good. My way. Thank you, Vizzini. What's my way? That was the question at hand. Well, okay, I use Numbers and Pages and a Calendar app on my iPad extensively, so this book didn't seem like it would be useful if it just reproduced those things. But the first thing I thought of was the little books I used to carry around with me in college---just notebooks where I recorded images; odd things I overheard or saw; the details of everyday (as pictured above). (For a masterpiece in this form, read this!) The iPad isn't very good for jotted observations---too much trouble to turn it on and find the correct app, and in digital form you can't have the fun of flipping through them for inspiration, or adding little descriptive drawings. So this goal book seemed like it might be just the thing.

And as I thought about it, the bon mots of the kids (as we call them) needed a home, too---somewhere close at hand and easy to peruse when you need a laugh. And a place to take notes in church---I still prefer paper for that (less clinical, more friendly, less liable to be mistaken for someone texting or playing Angry Birds). And doodling! While note-taking, if desired. I am not a master of the form like Jena is, but I have my own preferred methods.

With these ideas in mind, I started to get really excited about the book. First I had to find the perfect house for it. Jena's is all printed on beautiful linen-y paper, which I would have liked to do, but I just wanted to get going on it, so I used the cheap-o stuff we have around, and it's fine. The cover was a thorny issue, though. First I thought I'd use a cute binder, but I couldn't find one that was right. Then I tried using some cute paper in a binder cover, but I didn't like that either. Binders are . . . how can I put this? It makes no sense, but they just aren't . . . friendly, in my mind. They are kind of cold and poky and mean. But report covers . . . they hold their pages snugly, like a novel, and they're soft instead of hard. They are friendly! So I looked for one of those. And I found one in yellow! My favorite color, so that was clearly meant to be. :)
Ah, much better.

The report cover won't hold the whole year at once, but it will hold half, and that works fine for me. In June I'll switch my calendar pages over and we'll be good.
At the beginning of the book, there are pages and pages of boxes to fill in with . . . whatever. I told you I don't like writing down goals. But I DO like checking things off a list. So I wrote down things that I don't really think of as GOALS. Just stuff I (or we) want to do and it will be fun to do it, and this will give me a reason to do it, and remind me to do it, AND I get to check off a box. Yay!
I totally needed a place to write down books I want to read. I have been keeping a list on my iPad, and on Goodreads, but again, it's a pain to access, and because I never look at it (unless I'm adding another book to it) I always forget what the books are when I'm at the library. And now I can check them off when they're read. And remember what they were, if I want to recommend them or revisit them later (since I forget everything these days). 
Another thing I love to do is memorize things. Just ask Abe---every time I see one of those "Gettysburg Address: Learn it, Live it!" billboards by the road, I launch into a recitation and there's no stopping me. I love having poems to say to myself when I'm sitting and waiting for something or during a quiet moment (ha ha). So I thought it would be fun to memorize a poem every month. I printed out a bunch of these blank pages and wrote out the poems I wanted to learn. Now when I have a spare minute I can turn to them and work on learning them! And write analysis notes by them. It feels like I'm in college again. Yay!
There are pages that are useful for a traditional "to-do" list format. I like how I can use these for a whole month at a time (scheduling things to be done on a specific day stresses me out, and I avoid it if possible).
I know I said I love my iPad calendar, and I do (alerts! repeating events! color-coded by family member!) but I actually am finding it quite nice to have this one filled in with the basics as well. It gives me a picture of the whole month, and what is coming up, in a way the digital one doesn't. Also, it allows me to draw little pictures and write down menu ideas or other random things as they strike me. I made sure I just scribbled out my mistakes right at the beginning (rather than white-out or something), so I won't get all depressed when I inevitably spoil the symmetry of my writing or smear my ink. I have to allow myself to get somewhat sloppy or I won't use it! I like how there are blank boxes for just whatever on these calendars.
After each month's calendar (and each one is different, with a different color and quote and so forth) there are pages for daily goals and lists. These are the pages I'm using for my notes and observations and random thoughts. I LOVE having a place for these things; it makes me feel like a real writer again. So for example, I'd read a couple of quotes on paradox that I really liked, and I wanted to think about them more, but generally speaking I am so overwhelmed with trying to just survive the chaos of each successive moment that I always forget what it is I want to think about. :) But I wrote down the quotes and I left an empty box by them, and sure enough in church I heard several things that seemed connected to my earlier, half-formed ideas, and then because it was on my mind I encountered the subject again in a news article, and that gave me a few more ideas about it so I wrote those down too. I love thinking about something fruitful during downtime rather than running my mind over things I'm worried about or can't control! Maybe these thoughts will turn into a poem someday, or an essay---but either way it just feels good to THINK. (Did I ever imagine, back in college, that I'd have to "schedule in" time for thinking? I did not. But what did I know?)
As I was busily working away on this book, happily switching between pen colors and so forth (this isn't a post about pens [more's the pity] but I must recommend these erasable markers shown above---I love them so much!!) my son Abraham kept commenting wistfully on how fun it looked. He loves list-making and planning things out, and it finally occurred to me that I could print out a book for him too! He was beyond excited when I told him he could have his OWN goal book. He told me which pages he wanted me to print, and I found him a binder to use (he told me he understood about binders being "unfriendly," but it bothered him more how MY book lost its margins in the binding of the report cover).
Abe adores being able to check things off of his list. He puts random things like "Do the Rubik's Cube" in his book just for the joy of checking them off. :) "This is just the sort of thing I like to do ANYWAY, but now it LOOKS better!" he told me. And it's really fun for me to see the types of goals he wants to set for himself. I love seeing what is important to him, what he wants to remember, and how much he's trying to improve himself and take control of his own time. He would fill up twice as many pages, if he had them. He told me he is RESTRAINING himself and purposely NOT starting to fill in March yet, because he wants to still have it to look forward to later. Whenever I get out my book to look at, Abe runs to get his, and we sit companionably and fill in boxes together. I love it.
And here's something totally adorable: for my birthday, Abe made me "An Addition to the Book of Aim Zing," containing pages that he thought might prove to be useful supplements to what I already had. For example: a page to write down "Funny Jokes" I wish to remember, a page to collect "favorites" for each month (I love that idea; how perfect for our family scrapbooks!), a page for my goals about the piano, and a page of "secrets" (this is folded up and enclosed in a sheet protector so I can write down ideas for presents I want to give to people, and he assures me he WILL NOT peek at it). :)

In summary: I, the non-goal-setter, have been able to turn this "goal book" into just the sort of random, hybridized Book of Everything I want it to be---and it makes my scribblings and ramblings seem beautiful and sort of charmingly idiosyncratic rather than deranged and disorganized---and it has even talked me into setting a few actual goals for my own Betterment. Which is all pretty . . . amazing, I think. Good work, Jena!

You want one, don't you? Well, you can buy one for yourself, here. (And of course Jena's not paying me to say this or anything. I just think this book deserves a wide and appreciative audience.)

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