planning a spiritual calendar using non-linear time, soft deadlines and small bites

so what does recording and journalling and planning have to do with fiber arts and ritual tools? well, a lot actually. there are a lot of benefits to keeping a spiritual calendar as well as personal and project oriented ones. but my brain is wired in a way that makes sticking to those calenders after i’ve made them a bit difficult. 

a binder with colorful tabs wrapped in washi tape.

my brain gets the happy reward juice from writing things down, so i need to break up the big tasks into small ones in order to not feel like an entire year of projects has been completed when i have only just planned them. therefore, in order to actually finish things, i have a three pronged approach. non-linear, soft deadlines and small bites. 

non linear starts with what i call the amorphous cloud. i make a general list of all the ideas i want to touch on during the next 5 years and then break that down into Past, Present and Future bubbles. i used to do the mind mapping technique, but now i just draw boxes and fill a sheet of paper until i need to break out. 

planning a tiny tarot deck for my own use. there is a stack of blank cards, a pen, pencil and brush.  the top card has a test drawing of stones, vines, clouds and bowls with random water color testing.

giving myself the freedom to switch things around as my health, interest and resources wax and wane has helped immeasurably in sticking to my plans then adjusting as needed so that i finish things in a relatively good time. but also, realizing that not everything is going to be fast and efficient is just as important. slow fashion and slow crafting is a deep and integral part of ritual tools. like i said at the beginning of the year, time is an important material in ritual items and some of those tools take months to years to complete and i have to not only be ok with that, but plan for that. and that is where my journals come in.

i use 3 ring binders that i make art out of to keep my planner stuff in. making the binder is the first task and i usually start a few of them at a time when i need new binders. having more than one in progress means that i have choices for different uses, but also i’m thinking to my future needs and creating a base of extra materials to continue when i reach that point. 

if i need 1 binder because my current one is getting full, i’ll decorate 3 and put aside 2 more with the materials to finish them because who knows how easy it will be to find those materials in 5 or 10 years? so that is one project that will take me approximately 1-3 months that will last me for 5-10 years. not too shabby! the trick is to plan that binder decorating project *before* i need them. like, a year or two before i need them. that type of task goes into the “Future” section of my planner. 

a closeup of a leather stitched binder cover in pinks and green with a lady bug crawling across it. she's been visiting my houseplants this week!

the Present section is for immediate project pieces that i have deadlines for. where i put those in my calendar depends on whether they are soft deadlines for myself or hard deadlines for other people. hard deadlines are in Google Calendar and have a small page in the planner and either a large section in my ongoing project binder or it’s own binder/folder depending on the project or tool being created. 

and in true non-linear thinking, the Past section is for UFO’s (unfinished objects), items that are long term in their creation, items that are complete and projects that are still in the brainstorming mode, but far enough along to be more than just an idea. 

there are a lot of ideas that i recycle and reuse over the years. i keep lists of shower thoughts and brainstorming results in a creative compost heap called the Idea Bank. and just like a bank, once or twice a year i’ll go through those ideas and sort them into past/present/future projects to think about adding or improving on in the next year or so.when i withdraw an idea, i try to deposit a few to keep it balanced. i have a surprisingly small amount of ideas in the IB right now because this past year i sorted and consolidated all of my journals as my new year resolution, but what i have left is growing a nice crop of offshoots and making a great seedbed for the next couple decades.

a colored pencil map i drew back in highschool in greens and blues showing islands and a compass rose.

i think the most important part of this system other than the fact that it works for me is taking small bites. each step is it’s own project and i keep track of it and plan for it as if it were a project itself. that gives me a lot of joy in finishing things and being able to make things in batches as well as prep multiple projects without losing steam. i am a sprinter running a marathon, haha. running one mile a day still gets you to 30 in a month and my knees appreciate it. 

this also includes my spiritual calendar. my People and my personality are not bound to the corporate grind. my calendar is centered around the growing seasons of my area because i garden and tend the land i live on as a part of that bio system. when i am out of sync with the seasons, i am anxious and depressed, so to support emotional and mental health and be able to do what my Gods and Allies ask of me, i do my best to track the seasons and create my spiritual calendar of service, festivals and offerings accordingly. 

pen and ink drawing. a closeup of fingers doing stranded knitting and a knitting pattern planner open on a table.

microclimates are interesting in that my seasons can be different than a friend’s who lives a couple towns over. my celebrations are of the first blush of henbit i see greening up in my yard, the first baby rabbit dashing across my driveway, the first thunderstorm of the year where i rinse and bless my skeins of yarn spun during the winter, the first frost sparkling in the grass and the dry spiky brown seed heads of the zinnias i collect in fall.  these are some of the things i look for locally and, add to that the astroweather, and i have a pretty full calendar. 

which brings me to non-linear calendar records. a lot of my spiritual calendar is written after the fact. my calendar at the beginning of the year is pretty sparse! it’s filled with big projects that have been broken down into smaller ones, and the moon signs and a smattering of birthdays, big astroweather things if i remember them, a personal ephemeris of dates of things to watch out for and an unanchored list of things to do each season. and then i fill those things in as they happen.

4 fate dice showing 3 plus sides and one minus on a grid planning out my ritual comic.

there is no point to me of planning things to the minute. that just makes me stressed and doesn’t leave open any room for joy. my life is so simple that as long as i hit the high points each season, i have plenty of room for new experiences and soft deadlines. i prefer to read back over my previous records and then do divination at the appropriate moon phase to plan my month as i go and record how things went after the fact. putting *is* before *should*. 

should is full of so many possibilities that i get swamped with decision fatigue and end up defaulting to nothing. is is what i am holding and doing and experiencing *now*. is is my truth, should is my guilt. and i have no room for guilt in my life. “would have beens” and “could have beens” are fodder for the compost of my idea bank and fun stories to think about when i’m throwing out ideas to add to my binder, but until they become *is*, they are just that, idea fodder. 

a knitted sweater with various green, blue, pink and multicolored stripes that i hand spun and have been working on for the past 5 years.

so february is over and i have finished the small bites of beginning the Now projects for the year and planned out my binder for my garden and given myself a lot of fun ideas to keep me running on creative juice during what is looking like a difficult summer this year. my Google Calendar is a bit more full than i prefer and my UFO’s list is dwindling, so it’s time to add more to my Future list and stay on target as much as i comfortably can, but be compassionate to my future self if she struggles with this globally stressful year and prepare to support my friends, family and community as well. 

plans are made for breaking and records in uncertain times are a lifeline to those who keep them. so in march i’ll be looking forward to taking a walk every day or so while checking in on my perennials friends to see who survived the winter and leaving treats for the neighborhood cats. and maybe finishing my forever surprise jacket so i can wear it? i only have the cuffs and the binding left and that is only 2 small bites!