A Little Bit of This and a Little Bit of That…Life during the holidays and of course digital planners

Happy Holidays! Working in retail at this time of year is exhausting. My last two days off in a row were on the 11th and 12th of December and my next two days off are on the 28th and 29th of December. I have worked six 8 hour shifts within that period. Those who have never worked in retail, may not understand how exhausting it can be but for someone who came from a sedentary job and is just shy of 60 years old, let me tell you, it IS VERY exhausting. I don’t just stand for my whole shift whether it is 4 hours, 5 hours or 8 hours, I also move massive amounts of product through the till, sometimes lifting as much as 50 lbs and serving hundreds of customers a day. I don’t just deal with the physical product but also respond to the customer’s mental state and questions. It isn’t just exhausting physically, it is exhausting mentally.

Consequently, my one day off on Christmas day was spent in pain and recuperation. Customers periodically ask me if I have any plans for Christmas and I usually give them a vague reply of something like, “no, it is just me and my daughter”. I don’t explain to them that in this job of retail, where I stand on my feet my WHOLE shift, scanning item after item, after item, causes my body to seize up once I have a chance to sit down to rest, or lie down to sleep. When I finally decide to get up again, I have to do so slowly because of the stiffness and pain.

It takes one whole day to recover from working a 20 to 24 hour week, and during the holidays I worked 29 and 33 hour weeks with my days off scattered where I only had 1 day off at a time. When I have two days off in a row, the first day is a day of recovery and the second day is a day of getting things done that I need to get done. This means for the past couple of weeks the things I need to get done had to be spread out on the days I didn’t work an 8 hour shift or on my single days off cutting my recovery time short.

I need to add, I do this on minimum wage income. This job does NOT pay enough for a single person to live off of, let alone a single parent with no other income, even at full time hours. Keep this in mind the next time you are in a store and looking at the person who is helping you or serving you.

Today, I am back to work, yes on Boxing Day, working another 8 hour shift. Thankfully, after tomorrow, I will finally have two days off in a row. I’m hoping for some downtime of one whole day to just rest. I am hoping 2019 will be a better year.

Regardless of whether it is holiday season or just normal everyday existence, I have to consciously work in my creative time. Lately, all my creative time has been spent digitally from my desktop computer, mostly because just pulling out a few supplies feels too exhausting. I almost didn’t get my daughter’s presents wrapped because just thinking about doing it took too much energy.

I kind of miss working with real paper and various art supplies so I’m hoping to do something physically creative on my two days off, but it might end up with me just pulling out some knitting I haven’t touched in a while.

If you have been reading my posts, you will know my focus has been on digital planners/journals. I have become somewhat obsessed with them. I never imagined I would love working in them as much as I do. But because I do, I also want to share it with others. The problem with writing a blog about what I’m creating, especially in regards to these journals is that sometimes what I want to share is very, very personal. Which is what I want to do today.

I’m so happy with my digital planner spread from Christmas Day. When I look at it, I feel compelled to share it and write about it. I may have been in pain all day, on Christmas, but my creative spirit was alive and wanted some color. This is my spread. Forgive the blurring, it isn’t your eyes. I did this on purpose to preserve my privacy, so I could share what I love about this spread.

2108 Journal V3 25December4blurred

This whole page was done in Affinity Designer (AD). The background was painted with AD’s paint brushes. The background isn’t blurred, only the text and personal pictures are blurred. I used some different brushes to create a blending effect. The mandala came from the coloring app on my phone called “Happy Color”. I used AD to crop them to fit the area of placement. The other graphic of the elves and gifts is from the same app. I like adding some of the ones I color each day. I color them during my breaks at work and in the evenings at home.

Lately, I have been creating my journal/planner pages completely in AD. I export them as a PDF file and use Xodo to combine the pages into one PDF file. Later I will add links so the PDF file will be easy to navigate.

I do it this way because Xodo (desktop version) doesn’t work in layers. Working in an application that supports layers gives me more control over what I can do in my journal/planner. Xodo also doesn’t have the ability to make images transparent. These are two things I like having available to me when I work on my pages. I do have the option of making the images transparent in AD first and then using Xodo to add them to the page.

I’m still trying to decide on the overall process for how I like to work in my digital planner/journal. In order to help me decide, I have been testing various options between Xodo and Affinity Designer. I’m working on gathering all the information I have and I plan on writing a post listing the pros and cons. To help me gather the information I need, I began creating my own journal/planner from scratch. The only thing that is NOT my own, in the image below, is the wood grain background which is free for personal use from https://texturex.com/.

Bright Planner cover

The above image is the front cover of my journal/planner. I used AD to create it. I could have done some in Xodo but AD has a lot more options to get a 3D effect.

The next two images are the blank and dot grid pages I have created, again in AD.

Bright Planner blank spreadBright Planner dot spread

I created the dot grid in AD. It is a transparent image, so it can be layered over other pages.

I also created two calendar styles, as transparent images, to use in my journal:

I created them with six rows because of how some of the months end up with 5 weekends. I’ll probably make another set with just 5 rows. I don’t like putting the last day or two of the month at the top of the calendar which is why I wanted 6 rows.  A good example of a month that does this is the month of December 2018.  If, I use AD to place them on the page, I could remove any of the rows or boxes not needed for the month but if it is a transparent image  then the rows and boxes cannot be removed.

What I like about AD, is I can build and contain the various calendar styles in one file. Using the layers, I can group those that go together and hide or show the style(s) by selecting or deselecting the group. This reduces the amount of files I have.

I can do the same thing with the items I previously created, a couple transparent graphics for creating lists:

I learned I can use a spreadsheet to help create trackers which I need in a grid format. A small version can be seen in the image of my 25 December journal spread above where I am tracking my reading of the book of Job. Another tracker I created is for my journey with reading the bible from front to back. I put this tracker at the beginning of my bible study notebook/journal.Journal V3 bible reading tracker

This tracker is really a copy from a spreadsheet I created. I imported it into AD on a transparent background and exported it as a transparent PNG file. The titles I added after I placed the image over my pages. As I progress in my reading I highlight the chapter I completed reading. Once I complete each book in the bible, I then highlight the name of the book.

Journal V3 bible reading tracker highlighted

I further track my reading by adding into my monthly calendar what book and chapter I read each day. Eventually, links will be added to the calendar so it will take me to the notes from that day’s reading. That day’s reading also includes a copy of the scripture from a PDF version of the bible. This means ALL of my personal journaling, bible notes, and scripture will be searchable through a PDF viewer. This is an important feature of a digital planner/journal. This is probably the MAIN reason I have decided to go digital with my journaling. If I had been doing this for everything, including all my studies, school or otherwise, I would have a huge personal historical and informational database I could reference. Not to mention, all the things I don’t remember about my past would be accessible not just to me but my daughter if she ever wanted to take a look at what I was doing on a particular date and time, or what I had learned about a particular subject.

Being able to access and quickly find something within my notes became even more important to me when my daily reading turned into studying. Since I became so disillusioned with the churches I attended many years ago, I felt if I picked up my bible to read that I should do so with the intent of learning what the bible had to teach me, instead of what others wanted me to learn from their interpretation of the bible. Finding a way which will make my studies more effective and efficient brings joy which I had not expected. Instead of trudging my way through handwritten notes and fumbling my way through the bible trying to find some particular reference, scripture or note I wrote, I’ll be able to open my document and enter search criteria to find what I’m looking for.  I’m building a searchable database I’ll be able to use and my daughter can also use.

I’m still learning the ins and outs of exactly how I want to create this living document which I can add to for the rest of my life and my daughter and her children after her if they so choose. I can either build the basic structure in AD and then add my notes, graphics, pictures, etc. and annotations in Xodo, or I can build it ALL in AD with my notes, graphics and pictures which can then be annotated in Xodo or any other application which will allow annotation in a PDF document. These are just things I need to iron out. If I choose to build the basic structure then that structure could be used by others for their own journals/planners. Which is what many are doing today and sharing online.

Many of the graphics created could also be printed out and used in a physical planner/journal. In fact, that is how my bible reading tracker originally started. But, since I started playing around with the digital journal I haven’t felt any desire to return to the physical journal. In fact, I haven’t touched it since I started working in my digital journal. The rest of the pages in my physical journal will most likely be used for sketching or possibly a sort of collection of physical things I want to keep, like the lovely sentiments my daughter wrote to me on the gifts she gave me for Christmas.

If anyone is interested in the trackers or graphics I have created, just use my contact page to send me a personal message.

Trying something out…

The below picture is a screen shot of Xodo on my desktop. This wasn’t exactly an intuitive program to learn. I had to search several times to find where things could be done, like merging PDF’s and deleting pages. Sometimes I had to do a google search to get some tips or explanation on how to do something because Xodo’s site doesn’t have much “help” detail for the desktop application. I was finally able to figure out a lot of what it can do. I haven’t tried everything and probably won’t since I don’t plan on sharing my files with others.

I was quickly coming up to the end of my trial period with Affinity so I decided to try something I have never done before, either in a bullet journal or in graphic software. I was watching Boho Berry’s video series “One Month in my Digital Planner”, I think it was day 4 when she worked on her mood mandala and started actually drawing the mandala. If you have read very many of my posts here you will know I LOVE hand drawing mandalas and that they are my “go to” when I feel stressed or need to ground myself. Watching her made me wonder how easy it would be to create a mandala in Affinity Designer or if it would be very difficult.

I decided to kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Having never done a mood mandala, playing with it would do two things.

  1. it would help me know if I would want to include a mood mandala in my journal each month
  2. it would help me learn how to make shapes in Affinity Designer

I was surprised how easy it was. There of course was a slight learning curve on how to make the various shapes. It definitely helped to have watched a couple videos on YouTube by East Coast Charm for her “Affinity Designer for Beginner” series. Her videos helped me see how easily shapes can be created and manipulated.

Here is the page I added to my December journal with the mood mandala I worked on so far.

mood mandala

Since today is my last day of the free trial with Affinity Designer, I probably won’t do any more on this until I can purchase the program which probably won’t happen until January.

That might be in question since I broke a tooth the other day and now need to get a crown on it. This is going to seriously eat into my budget since the job I have now has very minimal dental coverage and my daughter isn’t covered at all. She also needs to have a tooth worked on and I won’t know the impact financially until her appointment in early January when the dentist will evaluate what needs to be done.

Times like this (and this is minor, but still.. it ) make me realize how much I did not appreciate what I had before being laid off. The impact of that lay off reaches far into the future, possibly even impacting my daughter’s future since I no longer have the income to send her to college. I mention this because I can’t stress the importance enough to people I know and those who read my posts, that no matter how good your present situation is, PLEASE, don’t take it for GRANTED. No one ever knows what the next day will bring and if you can be like a squirrel and hoard away what you might need for winter, maybe things would be different for you. The stress I’m under would be far different if I had done things a bit differently and done more with what I had. Okay, off my soapbox….

Affinity Designer is a program which excites my inner artist and designer. What I have discovered in its ability is most likely just the tip of the iceberg. I have used Xara in the past and loved it too which is another fairly inexpensive product but there were limitations with it which I so far have not found in Affinity Designer. I haven’t explored it’s brush options yet which I’m looking forward to exploring once I purchase the product. With just the few things I’ve done so far on it, I think it is well worth the money. Hopefully, in January, I’ll be able to explore more and try making more elaborate mandalas.

 

I’m making progress and learning something new every day…

Every day, I’m learning something new on this journey with my digital planner. I find new and exciting ways to work with it. There are a number of things I’m finding out, like certain applications can make the PDF file cumbersome. I worried about someone being able to alter or delete what I had written since my writing was mostly done as annotations. This is basically a journey about discovering the limitations of certain applications and the never ending abilities of another application.

For instance, some limitations I ran across:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (free version), allows for annotations but doesn’t allow for entering text upon the page.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements, allows for importing text from a single page of a PDF but is very difficult in designing graphic elements I want to add.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (free version) and Adobe Photoshop Elements doesn’t allow for adding links, internal or external.
  • Adding text in Xodo to a PDF is purely annotation, which means the text is editable in PDF viewers that support annotation.

I needed the following:

  • my writing/journaling to become permanent within the PDF document, so it can’t be altered later in PDF viewers
  • Elements and graphics need to be permanent within the PDF document especially when in viewers
  • Be able to annotate/highlight/strike-through, etc to my writing/journaling and imported text from other sources and have it recorded/searchable in the PDF document

This still takes 3 applications but the way it is done is now completely altered and will make my final journal/planner more functional and permanent as an archival artifact.

I was up late last night playing around with this change in my process and this morning I successfully used it for my morning Bible study. By the way, it was one of Boho Berry’s digital journal videos which gave me the idea for the change in my process. Here is my page from my Bible reading this morning, using the free planner mentioned in my previous post:

2018Dec12 Bible journal

The bible text comes from a free downloadable NLT bible in PDF format. The planner is one of the free digital planners I’m using. If you bother to take the time to read my notes and reflections forgive me for the personal content. I am a bit nervous in sharing it since it is so personal but I wanted to show how versatile a digital planner can be (without blurring stuff out) for so many things.

I wanted to have the chapter in the bible next to my notes and reflections. With the change in my process I am now able to highlight not JUST the scripture but I can also highlight my notes and color code them to match so I can easily find the verse which supports the notes I made. This is very much like what I’m doing in my journaling bible by hand but now it is all digital, AND in a PDF document which can be searched so I can find any references I might be looking for. I can read it in a PDF viewer, like any PDF document and search ALL content.

Below is a couple pages from another free digital planner I will be using in 2019. I found this planner “Sirena” through the Friday Freebies in Boho Berry Digital Planners Facebook group and is by Chanel Fana. The original page looks like this:2019 week layout

I altered it to look like this:

Sirena - 2019 weekly layout

I learned I don’t like To Do lists when I started working with a bullet journal. Whether I did them daily, weekly or monthly, they were too repetitive and made me feel like I was a failure because I didn’t complete everything on my list and often pushed things out several weeks or even months. Therefore, I changed my list to “What I Did Today” which makes me feel a whole lot more accomplished and productive.

In order to track the things that are time sensitive, I will most likely create a page with those time sensitive items listed so I don’t forget something important that needs done. I’m good at keeping these things in my head but occasionally I need reminders.

The year at a glance original page looks like this:

2019 year at a glance

I altered it to look like this:

Sirena - 2019 YearAtaGlance

One of the reasons I altered it was because I didn’t have the fonts used by the creator so when I imported the PDF into my application, the font defaulted to the Arial font which also altered the way the dates lined up and appeared. The other reason I altered it was because the weeks in this planner started on Monday and my week starts on Sunday. This planner also has monthly calendars I will also need to change and I’ll probably adjust the daily pages as well just because my dailies are really just journaling about my day.

It might be obvious to some but not all, why I am not just creating my own planner or using the planner as it is. When I started, all I wanted to know was whether it was worth my while to use one but I needed it to function for my needs. I was fairly sure I wouldn’t like it and wouldn’t stick with it, so finding one already created was a simple way to find out without having to go through creating all the graphics needed to make it LOOK and FUNCTION like a digital planner, especially since I’m working from a desktop computer and not from a tablet or iPad. iPad seems to have an abundant of choices to use for digital planners, while the desktop (Windows) is fairly sparse, unless you want to spend a crap load of money. I had to find out how feasible it was.

Finding the free digital planners was a God send. In the first day or two I was able to play with them in their original format just to see if they were functional on my system with apps I had or could afford.  Since it was functional, the rest was about whether I could alter it for my needs. There will never be a planner exactly the way I want it to be, digital or paper, so altering it is a necessity.

Since I’m not selling the planner and only altering it for my personal use and the planner is free, I felt I could share one or two pages here so you could get an idea of what I’m writing about. If you are interested in this planner or the other one above, I recommend joining Boho Berry Digital Planners group. You can find them in the resources provided in the Friday Freebies.

I am SO VERY GRATEFUL for the digital planners which people have created and share freely. Doing so enabled me to explore digital planners without spending any money since I wasn’t sure if this would be something I would stick with. I also wasn’t sure if I could find software within my price range which would allow me to do the alterations I needed for my purposes. The digital planners I have come across are reasonably priced so I might find myself buying one at some point in the future, if I don’t want to create my own. Even so, I would still have to alter a purchased digital planner for my personal needs.

As it turns out, I only need to purchase one application and it is a one-time fee under CA$70, unlike many applications today which are cloud based and now require monthly/yearly subscription fees. For someone on a restricted budget, I am so thankful I can still find applications I can download and use on my computer. I totally get the need for cloud based applications but I feel these companies are doing a disservice to those who don’t need it or are restricted financially. Okay, I’m getting off my soapbox. lol

You might be wondering how much time this takes compared to a handwritten journal/planner or just using MS Word like I was using. There is, of course, a learning curve which means it will take some time initially to learn how to work with the digital planners and which software/apps you prefer to use. The time it takes to learn depends upon your current skill level with the computer/tablet/iPad you are using and how comfortable you are with working with and altering graphics.

I do recommend trying several different applications (you can usually download free trial versions) if they are within your budget. I have some older software programs to experiment with which I purchased when I had the money. These programs are now cloud based so I don’t have the more updated software. They were enough to use for comparison with other programs so I could determine which programs worked best and whether I wanted to spend the money to upgrade any of them or buy a different one. Discovering a far less expensive program was another God send (it was mentioned in the Facebook group by someone). This program is much easier to use than the more expensive ones which means it greatly reduces the time to learn it. It also means once I’ve learned it, the time to create my pages from beginning to end is fairly equal to if not better than making them by hand. I was only using the bare nuts and bolts of MS Word so it was no where near as pretty. Any increased time in my planner to create beauty makes my artist’s brain sing with joy.

I was able to do my morning bible study in the same amount of time I was doing it before when writing my reflections in MS Word and adding my notes in my journaling bible. This can easily replace that process without increasing my time with that task.

My daily journaling may take more or less time depending on how creative I get. Even if it takes a bit more time, it will be worth it because of the added benefits I get with having it all in a searchable PDF format. I can’t stress this enough. Granted MS Word is searchable but I had some in MS Word and some in handwritten form. I went to MS Word originally so I could ease the strain on my wrist when I was doing my morning pages. Then I realized I could search it when I wanted to refer back to past entries. But my bible studies and my calendar which has my appointments, work schedule and bible reading noted in it, was handwritten. These were not searchable which made it really difficult to find anything I need to go back and reference. I tried indexing but that didn’t help. Plus, I can have all my journals in one place.

What can I say, I’m a digital girl at heart, and it turns out I was wrong. Digital planners/journals ARE for me, they satisfy my artist, writer and analytical minds.

Well, here is a bit of an update. I discovered if I save my PDF in Xodo as a flattened file then all my entries I made in Xodo are made permanent and can then be selected to be highlighted, underlined or other things. It also reduced the size of the file significantly. The good thing is I can still open the PDF up in my graphic designer program with all its layers in tact.

Okay…. so….. I’m learning more than one thing in a day…..

In case you are wondering, the graphic designer program I found is called Affinity Designer. Every time I work with it, I’m amazed with its functionality.

The three programs I’m using on my Windows 10 computer for working with my digital planner are:

  1. Xodo
  2. Affinity Designer
  3. Foxit Phantom PDF

I tried a few others but these gave me the functionality I desired and are within my budget.