Ara & Method to the Madness Planner

Hello Planner Community! ❤ As you may have noticed, I’ve been rather absent for most of August. I took a small hiatus to focus on my personal & family life but I am back now with tons of planners to show you all! Today we are digging into the Method to the Madness Planner (Madness Planner for short)!

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This post is special to me because it’s a planner match featuring… myself! I struggled with how to write and photograph this post–my #plannermatch posts are usually a little shorter and less structured than my regular reviews. But I do really feel like it is the best format for telling you about this gorgeous quarterly undated planner, thoughtfully created by Jocelyn Schade in Nebraska over a period of two years.

The basics:

  • Undated, Quarterly planner (3 months at a time).
  • Casebound with a single ribbon for marking your page.
  • Monthly, Weekly, and Daily pages.
  • $30 price tag plus shipping.
  • Three colors to choose from–white, pink, and black.
  • Portable 6″ x 8″ size with lay-flat binding.

The name of this planner comes from the Jack Kerouac book On the Road. There is a section which reads:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

Inspired by this passage, Jocelyn created this planner for the Mad Ones–rather, for us. For everyone, for anyone. There is so much to love about a planner designed so openly, a book to hold your life but also your most important realizations, dreams, and machinations. This planner is for the Busy Mom but also for the Gap Year Student, the Executive Director of a small nonprofit but also the Homeschooling Parent. This planner is for you. You do not have to be overwhelmed by life to use it. You do not need a membership to the Busy Moms of Instagram club to resonate with it.

Let me be clear: I have absolutely nothing against the Busy Moms of IG. These ladies are up to their noses in life and astonish me with their daily achievements. But often I feel that planners are marketed to the Overwhelmed by Life demographic–the “Do you have so much going on that you don’t know where to begin?” kind of tagline. Now, this is a legitimate challenge that planners can absolutely help with. I’ve definitely been the Overwhelmed by Life person, getting sick because I was trying to pack so much into each day. I marched feebly through untreated pneumonia for three weeks while in grad school before stopping to take care of myself, for example. But I have also been in a season of molasses s l o w. Where getting out of bed is a victory, and appointment times in my planner just reaffirmed my lack of productivity as they spread out before me, blank. (This can, too, be overwhelming sometimes.)

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The Madness Planner is designed for the fast and slow seasons in life. For the busy and not-so-busy days. It is undated, so if you are careful to plan day-by-day then you won’t waste any space and can go at whichever pace works best for you.

Jocelyn initially reached out to me with an offer to send me a planner for my thoughts. She wanted to call and chat about it, so we set a date. We talked for an hour and a half. We talked about the planner industry, the variance of planner designs, and what we thought was missing from the market.

We talked about the struggle we’ve had with planners in the past because as creative workers, we felt that we weren’t supposed to be structured–that creativity meant chaos, not order. Order was culling, not helpful. But (obviously) this is not true. Planning doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative. It isn’t stifling, it’s helpful. I am sure that you, dear reader, know this. But it took a little while for me to realize that planning could be empowering. Jocelyn, too, had this predicament. She wants the Madness Planner to serve as a flexible planning system for anyone & everyone.

Let’s take a peek inside!

You get a Manifesto at the beginning of the planner which encourages you to reaffirm a commitment to yourself. Signing this manifesto serves as a nameplate. I like openness but also like to understand the intention behind something, so I love the included Key. You get a Death Game, Goal Setting pages, a space for your Schedule, Weekly Pause & Plan, Month Review, some Extras, a spot for your Daily Love Bomb, Make Your Move, Daily Shot o’ Dopamine, and a reminder to Live Now. Jocelyn leaves you with a note:

This planner is a place to anchor your big dreams, mad ideas and truest truths. So make it yours! Use what you want, skip what you don’t. Make a mess. YOUR way is the RIGHT way to use this planner.

And it is. There is no wrong way to use this planner.

Every planner has something called The Death Game, which helps ground you. You take fifteen minutes and answer the questions. I don’t want to ruin it for you–but at the end of the fifteen minutes, you get a clearer picture of what’s important to you in life.

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Here’s the best part–throughout the planner, these skull icons are randomly dapped in with your To Do lists. They serve as a reminder to think about those important things in life and to remind yourself to work on/towards them.

The goal setting section of the Madness Planner is there, but it’s up to you whether or not you want to use it. The pages are minimally designed to fit a multitude of project types. There’s a blank page for brainstorming or drawing out your ideas, a place to write in your goal/project, a few lines to explain your why, and a task list with check bubbles. It helps break down projects in bite-sized pieces but also gives you room to be creative, which I love.

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These planners are quarterly, which means that you get three months of monthly, weekly, and daily spreads. I love that the pages are designed with minimal color (this coral pink) and simple sans serif text. With this layout, you can start your month on whichever day you please. (I prefer Monday starts myself.)

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The weekly spread is also open–there are plenty of lines on the To Do list (an entire page!) that could be used as a grocery list, weekly brain dump, or just running task list. There is a second page that could be used as a place to write meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It could be a place to write down appointments/reminders for the week ahead before you fill in your days.

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The daily spread is across two pages! On one page you get a spot to leave a “Love Bomb”–gratitude, a good memory or experience, self-care, etc. Whatever it is you want to record, you have the space to do it. I’ve been using these sections for gratitude. Every day I write down 5 things I’m grateful for. I try to do it in the morning, but it can also be an excellent exercise in reflection in the evening. Then there is a blank space and more lines for whatever else you want to write about. Expand a journal entry, take notes, etc. Space is abundant and undefined.

The second page of the daily spread has a space for writing the day/date at the top, which means that you can only number in as many days as you need to use. There is a line with the M icon, representing the one thing you want to prioritize for the day. It could be a task, a reminder, an appointment, etc. Then you have the icon and line for your Shot o’ Dopamine. What will you do today that makes you feel good? Is it working out, walking your dog, pancakes in the morning, finishing a project you started, etc. I like that this doesn’t have to be about working out. Sometimes I just like to take a long walk and I like being able to have a spot to celebrate that. Sometimes feeling good is finishing a book. The flexibility of this tiny section helps me take the time to feel good about something each day. I get to change it up or decide what that is each day. 🙂

Then you have plenty of lines for a To Do list, complete with check bubbles. I love love love the way Jocelyn has designed the schedule space. There are icons for morning, afternoon, and night. Space for what you need to write down, from appointments to reminders. No incomplete appointment times column! Just write in what you need.

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Lastly, there are a few notes pages at the end of the planner. These are great for when you want a little extra space, but there is plenty of room throughout the planner as well.

And of course y’all know that I didn’t want to leave you hanging without a pen test! The Madness Planner uses 70# bright white paper. It feels nice to write on–a little textured but in a standard matte way. I prefer Pilot G-2s in 0.5 or 0.38 on this paper, personally. There isn’t much actual bleed through, but there is a bit of ghosting, especially with thicker rollerball pens and highlighters.

Why do I match with this planner?

The Madness Planner is created in an open format that is easily customized to the individual user’s needs. I love the portable 6″ x 8″ size and the daily spread across two days. I also love the intent behind this planner–it truly is designed to be helpful and accessible to any type of user.

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I love that there is still room for your schedule without limited you to a certain timeframe. I also really like that you can tackle each day as it comes. This works really well for the user who likes to plan out their day in the morning or the night before. The Madness Planner is conducive to this ritual. 😉

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I also love how this planner can be used as a journal and a planner at the same time. There is plenty of room–you will never run out of space. I prefer my gratitude sections to be larger than a small space–I like to write out and detail what I’m grateful for, to really capture the feeling so that when I read back over it I feel like glowing. The Madness Planner has so much space for whatever is going on in life. I love the unique way in which the Madness Planner captures standard planner features–Make it Happen instead of “Priorities”, a Shot o/ Dopamine instead of “Workout today/health today?”

A planner is a tool, and it is only useful as long as it is being used. The Madness Planner has managed to reframe some of the things I struggle with in many other daily planners. Do I really need to pick three priorities each day? Isn’t priority supposed to be one thing? Can I feel good today without it being related to working out or eating a salad? Can my schedule section accommodate something that starts at 10 PM? My life doesn’t always fit into the 6 AM–9 PM timeframe.

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The Madness Planner works for me as a book I can bring anywhere. If I’m waiting for my car to be serviced or for a doctor’s appointment, I can whip out this planner and write down my thoughts or some notes. There’s space for it all. ❤

The only criticism I have is that there are only 30 daily pages at a time. For months that are 31 pages, or months the begin on a Friday or something, it can be a little challenging to align your month, weeks, and days. You can’t really start your weeks on the Monday or Sunday if it’s the 27th of the previous month, for example. You’ll run out of daily pages. There are a few daily pages in the back as extras, but the weekly planning pages simply can’t be Monday–Sunday if you want to match up to the daily pages unless the dates work out that way.

A shout-out and full-hearted Thank You to my friend & lovely hand model, Kathryn! ❤

And…a surprise! Jocelyn & I are teaming up to do a giveaway! The winner can pick one Madness Planner of any color, gratis! Details are in my Instagram feed, @plannerisma. Go check it out! ❤

What are your thoughts on this week’s blog post? Did I resonate with you, or do you have some quibbles? Let me know! The planning community is an open and vibrant place!

Until next time!


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