Choosing a Word for the Year? Use Your Planner.

by Marybeth Whalen

December 2017

Change is possible, but focus is required.Mike Ashcraft

This year will mark the eighth year I have chosen a word for the year. It is a practice I love and learn from every time I do it. Some years I’ve started off strong, but long about May realized I totally forgot my word altogether. Whoops! But in the past two years, I’ve found the planner community and its (oh so many) products and realized that planning has helped me be more intentional about keeping my word in front of me all year long. So I thought I’d share some ways I’ve found to do that within my planner:

  • Add a journal insert or divider section that just has to do with your word. In that journal or section, you can write about ways that word is cropping up in your life. One thing I’ve learned after doing this for a while is the word you choose has a way of seeping into areas of your life you never thought it would come into play. Your word will be multiplied and amplified throughout the year—in conversations you have, things you experience, and the way you approach life. You’ll be amazed at the way you start seeing that word, or quotes about the word, in some of the most unexpected places. This insert or section is the place to document all of that.


  • If you like to decorate your planner with quotes and stickers, consider adding your word, or quotes or verses that have to do with your word, into your décor—you can slip a journaling card into one of those sticky pockets or attach it to some cardstock and make it into a dashboard. In this way it becomes not only pretty but also functional, since it’s serving as a reminder of your word.


  • If you have a “lists” section in your planner (as so many of us do!), create a list for your word. When something happens that has to do with your word, you can just jot it down quickly without it feeling like formal journaling.


  • Order a charm or paperclip to attach to your planner with your word on it. I can personally recommend Little Miss Alaska’s personalized silver charms or Simply October’s quilted heart paperclips (watch for when she offers them personalized). This keeps your word front and center, and serves as a nice reminder if your life—like mine—tends to get crazy and distracting. When I see my word I will often just say a prayer asking God to manifest and amplify that word in my life or I will use it as cue to approach my day with that word in mind. Also: if you’re ordering something from an Etsy shop that offers personalization, instead of your name or blog name, or what you might normally use, order the item with your word. I did that with a personalized divider from Marlene’s Plan To Create, and every time I saw that pocket in my Filofax this summer, I was reminded of my word.


The practice of choosing a word for the year is a wonderful way to begin to change your life. I can tell you stories about the year I chose the word JOY thinking I was going to have a year of mirth and laughter, but instead had to learn to find joy throughout a hard, hard year. Or about the year I chose the word SUCCESS (a word I was terrified to choose!) and my new novel hit #1 on Amazon Kindle. Coincidence? I don’t think so. One little word can change your life—but you have to find a way to interact with and focus on that word all through the year. Your planner is an excellent way to do just that!


Want to know more about choosing a word for the year? I recommend the book My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen.

Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt, the mom of six, and the author of seven novels. The newest one, When We Were Worthy, released on 9/12/17. She is also the cofounder of She Reads,, a site devoted to spotlighting the best in new women’s fiction. When she’s not chauffeuring children or at the grocery store (again), she can be found either reading or planning. You can find her on Instagram, where she shares about planning, books, and life as a mom of many @marybethwhalen.

3 thoughts on “Choosing a Word for the Year? Use Your Planner.

  • December 16, 2017 at 5:28 AM

    This will be my 7th year choosing a word of the year. You’re absolutely right that once chosen, the word has a way of appearing in all areas of your life. I love the idea of getting something personalized with your word! I’ve always just written it down but a dashboard or clip- front and center- would be more impactful. Thank you Mary Beth!

  • December 31, 2017 at 1:10 AM

    Oh, I love seeing you here, Marybeth- and I love the One Word adventure each year as well. Great tips and I think I have done just about all of them, and I can attest to the fact they all help! This is the first year, I am sort of unclear about my One Word…God has so led me in this area…so I will keep waiting and trusting His timing.

  • January 31, 2018 at 7:19 AM

    I need to use some of your ideas as the reminder part. 2017 was ORDER and 2018 is FOCUS….and the challenge is always me being more….orderly, and now focused!!! It is a wonderful practice to choose a word. My habit is to write across the top of my ‘daily’ page [happens to be a Hobonichi cousin] my word. The entry might or might not coincide, but the light shed does keep cropping up as you said. thanks for the article!! well said…..


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