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last updated:
May 11, 2018


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Hey! Ashlyn here, OG copywriter for creatives—reporting for duty. 

Let's get you a message so tight you can bounce a quarter off of it. Around here, we serve up science-based storytelling strategies the creative set.  Even while raking in more than 1.26M in agency work since I've been at it, I firmly believe working from a place of rest (not hustle) IS possible—and I want the same for you. Words matter. Best be sure they work (and oui, with math) ... and know how to party while they're at it. 

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Reading time: 8 min.

I think I have some of the most amazing mentors on the planet and they don’t know I exist” I heard Rachel Hollis say on Amy Porterfield’s podcast recently.


TECHNICALLY, these ladies know I exist, but today, I’m going to show you how I sync up 2 tools that I use in life AND business from two ladies that serve as mentors from afar for me: Powersheets from Lara Casey and The Simplified Planner from Emily Ley.

Before we get started quick disclaimer that I talk about these two things a LOT. I’m not going to dig too much into what each one is, because I already have videos, blogs, and playlists on those—I’ll link those below.

There are lots of good planners and goal setting tools out there, but these are the ones I’ve found that make me happy and as a bonus, come with women and communities that pretty much serve as mentors for me.

Let’s go!

How I use my powersheets and simplified planner

A Quick Background on How I Got Into Powersheets (+ What They Are)

I’ve said it before, and daresay will say it again: It was goal-setting Powersheets that talked me into quitting my job and becoming a creative entrepreneur … kinda love ’em.

In the past, I’d set “resolutions,” but they stayed on the Excel sheet print-out, taped to the back of my bedroom door, making me feel like a failure each time I looked at them. But with Powersheets, there it was, spelled out Sharpie on white paper next to our new puppy’s paw last Christmas: my heart desperately wanted OUT of my suffocating corporate job. Desperately wanted to write, create, and make money doing something I loved.

Powersheets review

There was no way around it. Here’s a shot of what I wrote in December 2015 in my Powersheets before I left my job or started a business to prove that writing and calligraphy were top of the heap.

I knew enough to be dangerous as a sharp budgeter that I could match my income.

So I jotted little progress in to-do’s on the pages of my Simplified Planner, looking at my Powersheets to reference the intentional goals I’d written. Goals no longer just sat on a piece of paper as I-should-do’s.

No. These goals were my deepest longings.

How I set goals as a creative entrepreneur with the Emily Ley Simplified Planner and Lara Casey's PowersheetsTwo years later, here we are—I started a business of my own—and I have it all journaled in my beat-up 2016 and 2017 Simplified Planners to prove it!

Traditional goal-setting? It just didn’t work for me. I needed more than a shame-inducing piece of paper of New Year’s resolutions! They’re the ultimate intentional goal-planner. Lara dreamed up a tool because traditional goal-setting didn’t work for her either.


How I Got Into Simplified Planners (& What They Are)

If you’re a fan of Emily Ley, you know about Lara Casey, and vice versa. They’re products work so well in tandem: Emily’s planner and Lara’s Powersheets. I love so many more aspects of their product lines, businesses, and sweet personalities, but I REALLY nerd out over these two things.

Emily Ley’s company message likewise gives me a rally-cry of to pursue what matters with my time: “I’ll uphold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection,” she says.

How my perfectionist-monger soul craves that.

Please be true, it says.

Emily created The Simplified Planner from the heart of busy-bee mama, wanting space to plan meals, jot to-do’s, and see things spelled out. Bound and thick and crisp and clean, it’s my desk-constant and offline diary. Arguably the best, prettiest planner I’ve ever used:

Emily Ley Simplified Planner review from Ashlyn Writes

Classic millennial, I’m most at home with my hands on a keyboard and maintain my Christmas card list in Google Sheets. And yes — I use my Google Calendar for work, but I need paper. I need pen. I need to jot to-do’s for the day, to scribble birthdays.

But my heart of heart needs analog.

So my Emily Ley Simplified planner is our little tiny home’s HQ-in-a-nutshell, keeping track of every vacation, b’day-card-to-buy, bill to pay, meal, and vet appointment.

The How-To Video

Watch this first! Here’s the exact method I use to achieve goals now, using a workaround method to sync up my Powersheets and Simplified Planner. I go through it below, too.

Step 1: Annual Prep of my Simplified Planner + Powersheets

Carve out a good 2 solo-nights at home to dig into your Powersheets. I’ve used them since 2015, so this is an annual$55 winter red wine date invitation from me to me each December. But anytime of the year works to set up your Powersheets! Lara usually does a great 2ish week free series on this at the end of the year, but I’ve knocked it out before in 2 sessions at home.

Mama, student, creative, entrepreneur — the first section (you don’t fill out all 170 pages at once!!) of the workbook walks WHOMEVER you are through the past year: What worked? What didn’t work? Who do you want to be when you’re 80 — exactly what will that life look like? WHO are you at your core, and how can you weave that into the daily-grind between laundry loads and emails?

Then, the workbook asks you to drill-down: What are all your big goals for working towards that this next year?

Drill down again: pick about 10. Will these actually help you be who you want to be when you’re 80?

Drill down more: Whittle, shape, and craft those goals into tangible, feasible tasks you could do to get there.

Then around the same time, I’d suggest going through your Simplified Planner and setting that up. Obviously, plug in birthdays, anniversaries, and big trips. I use both the monthly spreads and the daily pages—so yes, I write them twice.

Syncing at the Annual Level

But before we move on to monthly prep, let’s talk about syncing at the annual level.

One thing I do is jot quotes on the pages of your calendar that remind you of what you’ve learned as I use my Powersheets! What matters?

I also set up the sidebar on the monthly spread more as a bucket or seasonal list. I used to put goals here, and that was too much, so I’ve moved to starting to put fun seasonal activities here that I don’t feel bad if they go unchecked.

Step 2: Monthly Prep of my Simplified Planner + Powersheets

Block out a couple of hours the last week of each month to revisit your goals. I do this on a Duty Day, which I have right at the end or right at the beginning of each month.

You may be interested in: How to Set Up a Monthly Duty Day 

The first thing I do is a past month after-action review. This isn’t in Powersheets, this is just something I started and learned from Michael Hyatt. I write down how I saw the month going, disappointments I experienced, 2-3 big themes of the month, and my biggest life lesson learned that month.

Then I move on to that month’s tab. I fill out the 4ish pages, and on the Brain Stream page, I—and again, I’m anal, but I warned you—write all my deferred tasks. I just move them. This is basically the big list of to-do’s I have in my brain at any given time. This is my deferred task list, so I know some of these things don’t need to be done this month, they’re just occupying brain space.

I also write the quarter’s (or, 90 Day Year) business goals on this page, too, so I don’t forget.

Then, I fill in my Tending List page. Just praying and working through it. I flip back at my big goal list, my business’s 90 day year goals, and look at my deferred goals.

Syncing at the Monthly Level

Time to sync with my Simplified Planner! If I had a weekly goal, I’ll coordinate by adding it to the planner. For example, I’ve started planning my weekends on Wednesday so I make a little note to do that.

I also make sure at this point that any days I’ll be out of the office are marked in my Acuity planner at this point.

I plug an afternoon into my Google Cal, so a client can’t hop into my docket, and also put it as a to-do in my Simplified Planner.

If there’s any goal that I need Wes for — maybe a date night I need to grab him for, or a dinner I wanted to invite some couples over for — I snag him then.

Emily Ley Simplified Planner review from Ashlyn Writes

Step 3 : Weekly Prep of my Simplified Planner + Powersheets

You’ve done the hard work at this point, and it’s smooth sailing now!

Like Emily recommends in a lot of videos, I do this Sundays. My reset day. I spend about an hour each Sunday:

  1. Write out any appointments that made it to your online/work/Google Calendar but not Simplified Planner for the upcoming week.
  2. Meal plan for the week in the spots on my Simplified Planner.
  3. Pick out the week’s Big 3—the things that, when looking at my Powersheets, I HAVE to do that week in order for it to be a success. I write those on a sticky note and move it day to day that week.
  4. Record a happy memory from the past week in the space in the planner!

I do something too that isn’t in Powersheets, but I started doing this on my own on the wildcard/blank pages. A week review. I write down how I did on my big 3, the lessons I learned, and how I’ll adjust. That’s helped a lot.

Then, I also flip back to my Powersheets and write in 3 weekly wins in the goals that are growing well section. I started doing this because I’d make it to the end of the month and completely forget what I did that month.

Two quick notes on daily planning and syncing—I add to-do’s by day top to bottom/bottom to top. If I don’t finish something, I draw an arrow through it and move it to the next day.

How to Get Started with Powersheets & the Simplified Planner

Each month, I pass seasons by spending an afternoon away from the office, having a mini-retreat for an hour or two by myself, rethinking all of this. Pondering with a fresh mind. Filling up the next month’s Powersheets and Simplified Planner with goals.

And I know this system may not work for you. I do.

BUT … I needed a system that married my entrepreneurial hat with my wife-dog-mom-homemaker-daughter-friend hat.

If the Google Calendar and Trello were in charge, white space wouldn’t exist.

I need analog. Powersheets to remind me I can ACTUALLY make progress on my dreams, and the Simplified Planner to give me the roadmap and daily space to track that direction.

Maybe one’s a fit for your life, maybe the other is a better fit!

But together, I think they’re a match made in heaven.

Want to give it a go? Shop below to scoop ‘em up!

Reading Time: 8 Minutes

If you’re a fan of Emily Ley, you know about Lara Casey, and vice versa. They’re buds, launched businesses nearly side-by-side, and are known for their products: Emily for her planner and Lara for her Powersheets.

Traditional goal-setting? It just didn’t work for me. I needed more than a shame-inducing piece of paper of New Year’s resolutions!

Here’s the exact method I use to achieve goals now, using a workaround method to sync up my Powersheets and Simplified Planner!


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comments +

  1. Skylar Albritton says:

    Ashlyn, this just got me so pumped to goal plan. I’ve got the powersheets + simplified planner on my christmas wishlist, but I might have to get started this afternoon because this makes me feel on fire to set some goals with space and grace. One question, you have a checkbox for a check-in at 11 + 3 in the snapshot of your simplified planner, is that a personal check in on how you’re doing or a check in for like emails, etc.?

    • Ashlyn Carter says:

      Hey, my girl Skylar! So, great question. That’s for a spiritual check-in. I guess I realized I was getting to the end of the work day realizing I didn’t come up for air. I have two little devotionals (one is a Proverbs31 ministries book, the other is Wife School, a really good Christ-centered email study) that I try to read for about 15 minutes in the middle of the day to get out of my head. I tend to get SUPER work obsessed!

      But yes, I do only check my email 3x a day. 🙂 That took a LOT of effort to finally adopt, but it’s the only way I get it done! p.s. Powersheets go on sale tomorrow, and tend to sell out quickly! Alsooo … I’m doing an Emily Ley planner giveaway in the next week, so stay tuned. 🙂

  2. Kaylee Hobbs says:

    Eek! I came across your post through Pinterest and love it! Thanks for sharing, Ashlyn!


  3. […] out but you can spend time with all of the other people who love Powersheets like Amber Housley, Ashlyn Carter, and Kirsten […]

  4. I absolutely LOVE both Emily’s Planner and Lara’s Cultivate What Matters, but my huge problem is with appointments. When you are at the salon or the vet, and you need to make another appointment, how do you know when you’re free. Do you duplicate appointments in both your planner and phone?

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