December 2020

December 30, 2020

The Heart Behind #makespacetothrive & How It Can Change Your Life

If you’ve been following us on Instagram long, you are familiar with our favorite hashtag: #makespacetothrive. In a world full of hashtags, this may seem like nothing more than a snippet of motivation, a pithy phrase, or something fun to add on on top of photos. But for us, #makespacetothrive is a reminder of a key practice that moves us from overwhelm, to intentional living.

The story behind the hashtag…

Back in 2016, Shelby was living in a non-stop, head-down, shoulder-to-the-grindstone hustle. She and her husband supported their tiny family with a home business and were always behind on deadlines. Every moment taken to just sit down and breathe—even just to eat dinner together without multitasking work—invited a crushing air of guilt into the atmosphere.

But there seemed no way to simply hustle more. After brain-dumping a giant todo list that took up seven sheets of paper, Shelby realized she was going to have to upgrade her productivity strategy, or she and her husband would never get ahead of the train.

In her typical style, Shelby turned to Google to help her figure it out. Her husband gave her a couple of books he thought were relevant. They scheduled a meeting with a business mentor. Something, anything had to give. But every tip and tool she found seemed to yield a mere 1% improvement to their current situation. It just wasn’t enough to move the needle.

But then she found it. The missing piece. While there are no magic bullets in life, Shelby will tell you this is the closest thing she’s ever found to one. This is the element that has proved over and over again to be THE #1 strategy to consistent achievement and success that so many people completely miss.

And what was this missing ingredient? MARGIN. 

SPACE to thrive.

Margin is planned white-space for your day, your week, your home, your brain—space to breathe in #allthethings.

How creating margin can change your life…

Planning in margin (i.e. “making space to thrive”) shows up as a lot of things in our lives:

  • daily space to sit down, breathe deep, drink a hot cup of coffee, and have a strategy meeting with ourselves using the prompts in our planner
  • leaving for an appointment (or church or event or party) 15 minutes earlier than needed so that when we hit traffic or forget something or have a driveway adventure with a toddler, we’re not freaking out
  • taking time to re-write your goals in your best handwriting, allowing you to fully emotionally process them and then display them so they stay top-of-mind
  • asking: “what can I say ‘no’ to, cull, or renegotiate about this week to make it easier and calmer?”
  • getting up before the children (whether in the morning, or before naptime is over) and doing essential things so they don’t get missed
  • taking time to exercise instead of putting off health goals until your workload lightens or the kids hit a magical age
  • keeping our homes clean, decluttered, and well-managed so that spontaneity feels fun instead of chaotic
  • saying “no” to a stretch goal in the business so we can make a nicer dinner than usual for our family just because we want to
  • turning off all of the notifications on our phones (except for calls from our husbands and mama, of course) and limiting social media so that new information isn’t constantly taking a toll on our emotions
  • using our time-blocker to add 15 minutes of padding to the transitions in the day (meals, commutes, meetings, etc.), so we don’t have to feel like insane people to get anything done on time

Margin transforms your schedule from a never-ending endurance race to a strategic agenda filled with life-giving rest periods. Margin helps you focus on what’s essential, and then protects your intention, so that you can truly show up in the things that matter most. Margin allows you time to process stuff instead of letting it build up and eat away at your mental bandwidth. With a lightened schedule, opportunities to be flexible, and a decluttered mind, margin exponentially reduces your stress—which in turn empowers you to be more creative, make more thoughtful decisions, and tackle complex problems with confidence and energy.

Figuring out how to build life-giving margin into her life changed everything for Shelby. She started to set deadlines that were actually reasonable—and then hit them. She started to be on time more often than not. She began thinking clearly enough to show up in relationships, make her home a place of serenity, and actually produce work she thought was good. It helped her to find the space in her life to start this dream business with McCauley. She figured out which things were actually going to be worth all the effort in the long-run, prioritization and boundaries became intuitive, and she discovered what it was like to breathe.

So now you know the story of why our motto is “make space to thrive”. It’s so much more than a hashtag to us. It’s become our mantra for crafting life-giving lifestyles.

Are you ready to make space to thrive in your life? We created our Planner System to fuel this exact purpose.

To celebrate the New Year, we are offering 40% off our genuine leather Covers to any new quarterly subscriber who also purchase the Annual. Simply add the Annual, Monthlies subscription box and Cover to your cart and use the code “Hello2021“. This coupon is good through January 8th, 2021. We can’t wait to see the life you will build after giving yourself the tools needed to thrive in the new year!

December 23, 2020

How to Lean Into a Cozy Christmas

Can you believe Christmas is the day after tomorrow? And goodness, it feels like there’s still so much to do!

How about you grab a quick cup of coffee and cozy up for some words of encouragement before you launch into action? Let’s take a deep breath, settle down, and get reoriented on what matters most.

Now, I could never outdo Isaiah 9:6-7 or Luke 1:46-55 in an attempt to explain how incredible the Incarnation has been to world history. It is fitting that a celebration of Christ’s birth is a day with so much focus every year. God with us. It’s a profound thought. A revolution. The Light entering the darkness of history and chasing away sin and death “far as the curse is found.” It’s phenomenal.

I know you want to stay focused on what matters most. But with a hundred things on the todo list, it’s kind of difficult to transpose the message of “peace on earth” to “peace within.” Here are some last minute tips to help you make that step out of your frazzled hurry and into stillness of spirit.​

Practical Tips to Cultivate Peace This Week

  • Declutter your brain. You cannot expect to have the space to relax if your brain has a hundred tabs open and trying to load all at once. Get every single task and detail that’s weighing on your mind down on paper. Clari has a great walk-through series on Instagram that shows you how she decluttered her mind and gained a ton of clarity and confidence for Christmas week.
  • Envision what you really want this Christmas. Be specific. It helps to journal this out in the flex space of your planner, incorporating and highlighting core value words in your description. Here are some ideas: reverent, calm, cozy, mindful, communion, delight, deep, warm, centered, focused, together, anticipation, hope.
  • Apply the 80/20 rule to the rest of your todo list. 20% of everything you’re planning to do this week will actually yield 80% of the results you’re looking for this Christmas. If your vision is a festive and delicious Christmas dinner—stressing yourself out to add variety to your cookie selection will minimally add to the warmth of togetherness. In fact, it could actually be counterproductive as you will struggle to have the presence of mind to relax and infuse peace into your family’s dinner with your own still spirit. The idea that the host has to be stressed out of her mind every Christmas as she slaves to make everything flawless is a LIE. Your family needs your joy more than they need a Pinterest-perfect wrapping job. Ruthlessly edit your todo list so that you can show up for what’s truly essential this week.
  • Take stillness moments. When you feel your stress levels rising, don’t just push through. Take a deep breath and remember Who this week is all about! Jesus welcomed Mary to sit at His feet, even while Martha was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. It’s so tempting to say, “I’ll find my center in Christ after _____.” That doesn’t have to be your story this Christmas season. Christ came for you to lay down your burdens, too. Jesus is only zealous about details regarding justice, ethics, and mercy. He’s not worried if you forgot to order your Advent calendar in time, or if your kids have their matching pajamas clean on Christmas morning. So every time you feel your Martha coming on, choose a Mary moment. Take a long drink of water, settle the kids, and then take a moment by yourself to just Abide. Don’t get on Instagram, but instead set a timer for 5 minutes. Put on a playlist that ministers to you. Breathe deeply, keep your eyes closed, and lean into a conversation with God until the timer goes off. It doesn’t take much to recenter on what matters—but it does take intention.

We wish you and your family the Merriest Christmas!

December 16, 2020

Every Evergreen Purchase Helps to Free Victims of Human Trafficking

Something we talk about a lot is getting to the root of your “why”. Without a substantial, sustaining, heart-pumping “why”, you will lack the motivation to follow through on the intentions you set, no matter how big or small. Well, here at Evergreen Planner, the team has been tapping into one of our core missions. And we’re finally ready to reveal a big part of our “why” for being in business.

As of September 2020, 10% of Evergreen Planner’s net income has been set aside to fight the evils of human trafficking. Last Friday morning, we made our first donation of hundreds of dollars to—and thanks to a matching gift, that donation was doubled!

We’re so excited about the strategies that Hope for Justice is implementing to make real change and deliver the oppressed from horrific forms of exploitation around the world. They operate in the United States, the UK, Norway, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and other countries via partner charities and specific projects. The organization is founded on the principles of the Christian faith and seeks to demonstrate the love of God in their efforts.

Their on-the-ground tactics are incredibly practical:

  • they work to prevent exploitation through self-help groups and community education
  • they rescue victims through building trust with them and then safely removing them from exploitation
  • they help get victims back on their feet with housing, financial, legal, and mental help support
  • they work to reform our society by training “frontline professionals” (such as first responders, health care workers, and charity staffs)
  • they work to change policies in order to protect and bring justice for victims

Financial support is crucial to their mission, and each of the dollars sent to them are put to work for maximum effectiveness. Here are some examples of the ways your money is being used to help change lives.

  • $25 donated by Evergreen Planner could provide meals for a week for a child in one of their safe houses
  • $50 donated by Evergreen Planner could provide emergency shelter and care for a vulnerable child for an entire month
  • $5,000 donated by Evergreen Planner could fund an entire investigative and rescue operation to deliver a child or adult from modern day slavery

10% of the net of every single purchase you make to Evergreen Planner will go straight to helping real women, children, and men who are trapped in a life of exploitation and oppression. What do we mean by net? When you make a purchase from Evergreen, the first thing we do is set aside the “cost of goods” for that particular product so that we have the means to replenish our inventory. Immediately after that, 10% is set aside to be donated—before overhead bills are paid, and before we draw our own paychecks. We’re talking about a substantial cashflow that will be going to help our most vulnerable neighbors around the globe.

​You can also donate directly to this organization by clicking here. (And this is an amazing time to do so—all donations are being DOUBLED until December 31st, 2020!)

Why We’re Doing This

All humans are called to Image God by cultivating abundance and communion in the world, and each and every Image Bearer has the God-given gift of dignity. Each person was originally designed by God to walk with God and others in love and security. In alignment with the Genesis Mandate, each human should have the liberty to peacefully steward their own space in God’s beautiful world through intrinsically motivated imagination, engineering, entrepreneurship, property rights, and free contribution to their communities. 

But during the days of our first parents, the Enemy of God’s Love came in and sowed seeds of contention, greed, lust, and hunger for godlike power. Instead of seeking to steward and develop the resources God has given us, humanity abandoned the life-source of God’s love and dove headlong into a program of manipulating, dominating, and exploiting other humans for short-term profits. Entire systems of oppression have sprung out of these corruptions of the human heart. The result has been a dangerous world that advances the schemes of hell for tens of millions of people via the crime of human trafficking.

Right now, while millions of our fellow Image-Bearers languish in the physical and/or psychological chains of modern day slavery and exploitation, most of us are cozying up to celebrate the Christmas season.

We’re warmly celebrating that quiet moment when Christ stepped into human flesh and changed the course of history forever.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” — Isaiah 9:5-7

And what radical change did His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension bring to the world? The change of hearts. Christ bore the sins of many and sent His Holy Spirit to transform the world with His Justice, Zeal, and Love—and for two thousand years, generations of changed people have been beating their swords into plowshares, and diligently seeking out ways to be His hands and feet to a desperate world. 

“Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and the needy.” — Proverbs 31:9

We have given our entire lives to this Christ-led movement. The “shelterhood of every believer” is a core motivation for us—and the reason why we have committed to use our business as a channel of aid for the oppressed. It is something we dreamed about from the very beginning of launching this business, and we were thrilled to be able to make that first donation last week.

Your Part

You know that the world is in desperate need of help. You think about it, pray about it, and wonder what more you can do. January is not only the month for New Years Resolutions, but it’s also National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. More conversations will be happening in public channels, raising awareness about this growing international crisis.

Meanwhile, you have been called to a specific sphere of influence. By being faithful in your own home, business, and community, you’re building into structures of stability and health. Every relationship you tend, every project you tackle, every solution you design, and every plan you brainstorm is a deeply valuable demonstration of personal responsibility and agency. You cannot underestimate the contribution that your daily acts of faithfulness are to the Kingdom that God is building.

But every time you sit down with your Evergreen Planner and a cup of coffee to cultivate abundance where you are, say a prayer for your oppressed neighbors around the world. Christ is zealous for justice and peace on earth. 

Hope for Justice is committed to rescuing and restoring every victim of modern day slavery and we’re building an organisation to make that possible. — HFJ FAQ page​

This is the mission that we’re getting behind together. Thank you for partnering with us, with your purchases, to pursue justice for the exploited.

December 9, 2020

Two sisters. One Planner.

It all began when a frazzled 23-year-old wife, mom, student, and freelance team leader slapped a well-worn spiral notebook onto a makeshift desk and quickly sketched out a worksheet. Shelby had ambition and grit, but she needed to get organized. Every planner she bought only seemed to add to the overwhelm. She just needed a way to get the cacophony of needs and responsibilities out of her head and onto paper so she could step back and sort through them with a clear mind. 

One of the original worksheets that Shelby created.

A few weeks later, she carried a folder stuffed with these homemade worksheets into her sister’s home. Her brain clutter was spilled out on each sheet, her objectives were clarified, and her goals for the future were finally mapped. Every stroke of the pen had lightened her mental load, and it reflected in her step.

“Here’s something I made and have been using lately.” Shelby handed the folder to her sister with more than a little sheepishness. McCauley had been journaling solidly and had prioritization skills of steel. She was also a young wife and mom, and was developing a business of her own from her living room floor. Shelby didn’t think her sister needed much help in the department of mental organization.

But to her surprise, McCauley drooled over the designs. “I want to try these. Can I keep a few pages?”

Over the next few weeks, McCauley used the planner sheets. Then she called a meeting. With babies in carriers and drafting supplies covering every inch of the kitchen table, Shelby and McCauley shuffled planner features like puzzle pieces, discussing the parts of the original designs that were magic for them both. They focused on creating the best planner in the world, tossing out any manufacturing conventions that limited the planner’s functionality and elegance. Weeks later, their sides were splitting with laughter as they jabbed ice-picks through the spines of handmade booklets, learned how to sew binding, and fantasized the perfect leather cover that would bind it all together into one beautiful unit. 

Soon, they’d each replaced their entire networks of calendars, sticky-notes, and journals with their newly designed planner prototype. They were most shocked to discover that  they’d developed a system that was structured enough to get them both organized, yet flexible enough to work for their polar opposite personalities. 

One of the original prototypes of the Evergreen Planner System.

“We’re going to turn this into a legit business, Shel.” McCauley’s eyes shined 

“I would’ve never believed we would both love the same planner. Can you imagine how many other women this could help?” Shelby asked. 

But it was only the beginning.

In those moments at McCauley’s kitchen table—with nights spent distilling top productivity principles down into a single spread, drafting husbands to help with typesetting and leatherwork, and testing various paper weights with calligraphy pens while nursing our babies—the Evergreen Planner System sparked to life.

McCauley working on one of the original Evergreen Planner prototypes.

As the sisters tested the final renditions of their new system, they were shocked by it’s quality. Not only was it comprehensively useful in basically every area of their lives, but it was becoming absolutely essential to their progress and personal growth. The novelty never wore off. It not only organized them powerfully as they tackled the daily responsibilities, it also propelled them forward in the long-term goals that beat inside each of their hearts. It kept them focused, helped them develop working memories around their most important objectives, and became a central hub for decluttering their minds. 

But it was only the beginning. Turning this planner system into a business was no longer a far-off fancy: getting this incredible tool into the hands of as many women as possible became a core mission.

Three-and-a-half years of field testing, half a dozen babies, hundreds of hours of productivity research, five major prototype models, and (approximately) 7,665 cups of coffee later…and the Evergreen Planner system finally came to life in December of 2019. 

It is the only planner on the market to feature the innovative dutch-door feature, which allows you to plan each day in the context of your weekly goals and agenda. Gorgeous, minimalistic, and ridiculously intuitive, the booklet planner system boasts an unprecedented balance of robust structure with fully customizable flexibility. The locally made, genuine-leather Cover has surpassed even the sisters’ wildest dreams. And the entire system is supported by a quarterly subscription box that keeps your planning habits fire, and a supportive online community.

Shelby and McCauley have been blown away by the immediate enthusiasm that the planner system generated. Clari joined the team early in Spring, turning the visionary duo into a powerhouse trio. Every “this is the planner of my dreams” and “this planner finally helped me follow through on my most important goals” message that the team has received has been like gasoline on fire. 

And as the first birthday of Evergreen Planner draws near, Shelby and McCauley remain confident about one thing. This is only the beginning.

Are you interested in trying a piece of the Evergreen Planner system for free? Check out this free printable day planner sheet! Like those original sheets Shelby created, you can use this printable to effectively plan your days until you’re ready to jump into the entire Evergreen Planner system