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Make the best of 2021 with the help of Angelia Trinidad, founder of Passion Planner

Angelia Trinidad, San Diego native and founder of Passion Planner, holds one of her planners
(Courtesy photo)

Every January, articles about how to tackle the new year flood our newsfeeds. Buy a planner! Make resolutions! Set yourself up for success!

Well ... did you? Despite our best intentions, many of us put off buying that planner and making those resolutions. With a global pandemic added to the equation, it’s easy to forget, or simply lack the motivation, to create a game plan for the new year.

Though January has come and gone, it’s not too late to make the most of 2021 — and Angelia (“Angel”) Trinidad might be able to help.

Trinidad is a San Diego native who grew up in Paradise Hills and Otay Ranch. In 2008, she graduated from Otay Ranch High School and moved to Los Angeles, where she studied art and education at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Like many young adults, Trinidad experienced the age-old bout of anxiety after college graduation. Rather than let the fear hold her back from finding success, Trinidad became determined to create a tool to navigate the uncertainty, discover her passions and take control of her future.

Angelia Trinidad is a graduate of Otay Ranch High School
Angelia Trinidad is a graduate of Otay Ranch High School and studied art and education at the University of California, Los Angeles.
(Courtesy photo)

The result was Passion Planner — a paper planner that encourages users to organize their lives in a way that allows them to focus on their goals. Over the last eight years, her Kickstarter campaign blossomed into a successful National City-based business, consisting of 28 employees and more than a million users.

When COVID-19 hit last year, Trinidad was among the millions who had to work from home and adjust to a “new normal” in quarantine. To deal with the year’s challenges, Trinidad said she learned to manage expectations for herself, which included delegating tasks to others, practicing self-care, and accepting that operating at 110% might not be so realistic during a global pandemic.

Below, Trinidad opens up about what her planner looked like in 2020, shares tips for handling burnout in quarantine and offers advice on goal setting for 2021.

[Note: Some of the answers in this interview have been edited for length and clarity.]

PACIFIC: When you felt anxiety and uncertainty after graduating college in 2012, you decided to create a tool to help you through it: Passion Planner. How has that tool helped you handle the feelings of anxiety and uncertainty from the past year?

ANGELIA TRINIDAD: In all honesty, there was a period from August to November (2020) that I barely used my planner to plan. The stress of the pandemic, delayed supply chains, and social justice issues coming to the forefront really was weighing on me. For those months, I was in mental crisis.

Instead I used my planner as a journal, going back to the old pages to write love letters to myself to celebrate the small wins, vent about things that were causing me stress, keep my self-talk as loving as possible, and keep everything in context.

It really helped me stay focused on the bigger picture. I constantly reminded myself that I have managed to get through so many hard things already in 2020 and I would also get through this too. The monthly check-in’s (featured in Passion Planner) really helped me also reflect on what I learned throughout the crisis, as well as be explicit for what and who I was grateful for.

Overall it helped me constantly find my silver lining in a year that felt so gray. I love that I can use my planner without judgement from myself, others, or my planner; that unconditional acceptance of whatever I am feeling is so cathartic.

A closeup of the weekly layout featured in Passion Planner
The weekly layout featured in Passion Planner includes elements such as vertical time slots, separate personal and work to-do lists, a motivational quote, and a “space of infinite possibility” for writing, doodling or brainstorming.
(Courtesy photo)

PACIFIC: For those still working from home, maintaining a work-life balance has been an ongoing challenge. As a business owner, how have you been able to balance your personal life with your career? Did your approach change at all during 2020?

TRINIDAD: Although my friends call me one of the most intentional people they’ve ever met, when it comes to time, 2020 was hard. The factors of being home ALL the time, working virtually and constantly being worried, made work-life balance feel like we were playing on level expert. I think managing expectations for my team and myself really helped — I expected and allowed myself to get a 65% in everything in my life for 2020 as a passing “grade” and that really helped take the pressure off myself.

I treat work like being a professional athlete. There are short amounts of time where I must give my all, hustle and be on my A-game, and there are times to rest and recover. I believe I need both to perform at my best ... I also have designed my schedule to work with how my brain works. For example, I get my best heavy lifting work right when I wake up, so I actually take a nap everyday after lunch to wake up refreshed and ready to take on another session of mental heavy lifting.

PACIFIC: What is one way you practice self-care?

TRINIDAD: I get massages twice a week. It may seem excessive but when you are someone with ADHD, who is a CEO whose mind is buzzing all the time, it is so nice to relax and be taken care of and not have to worry about a thing, even if it’s only for an hour.

I have a post-it on my computer that says “What would my ideal partner want me to do?” and use this question often. Often, it is easier for me to think about what someone who loves me would want for me, because I have been trained to not spend money and do something “selfish” by society and my immigrant parents. I think my ideal partner would definitely co-sign on the concept of taking the time to take care of my body and relax my mind.

Angelia Trinidad grew up in Paradise Hills and Otay Ranch
Angelia Trinidad grew up in Paradise Hills and Otay Ranch. Passion Planner’s headquarters are currently based in National City.
(Courtesy photo)

PACIFIC: Do you have any tips for individuals that are currently experiencing burnout or a lack of motivation in quarantine?

TRINIDAD: I have totally been there; I was so burnt out I couldn’t sleep. Some things that helped me include:

  1. Do the joyful small things you can control and don’t judge yourself for them. One of the things that I did was game on my iMac for two to three hours while walking on my desk treadmill. Even though it wasn’t “productive,” it was something I looked forward to doing that engaged my mind and body, especially during a time of crisis and stress.
  2. Move your body. Whenever you get an inkling to go outside, do it! Even if it is only for five to 10 minutes, we are creatures designed to live amongst nature. Sometimes walking in my neighborhood, looking up at the sky through the trees, and noticing the quirky people and houses is the highlight of my day. Sometimes I put on a good song and walk (around) pretending I’m in a music video. It always makes me smile.
  3. Other than doing small things, I would recommend finding validation for your feelings from yourself or people who love you. Quarantine is lonely, so if you can find a way to be connected, whether digitally or distanced, I think this can be your saving grace. It definitely was mine. Also, for me, having a therapist to help me navigate all of the new situations that came up in 2020 helped me feel normal and it helped me have someone to consistently vent and talk to.
  4. Nourish your body as best as you can. What you eat definitely affects how you feel, so be conscious of how you consume.
  5. Lastly, one thing I like to tell myself when I am overwhelmed is, “One day at a time, one step at a time.” A lot of times we overestimate what we can do, and even more so what we can do in a pandemic, so really striving for my best day in and day out and knowing that that will look different everyday really helps me recover from burnout.
Passion Planner's Weekly 2021 Annual in the Pacific Blue color
(Courtesy photo)

PACIFIC: At a time when the future feels so up in the air, what advice would you give someone trying to make plans or set goals for 2021?

TRINIDAD: I think a lot of us need to rebuild our confidence from what we suffered from in 2020. My advice is to build confidence. Make small, simple goals and celebrate your wins, even the little ones.

It’s also okay to re-evaluate your goals if the things outside of your control change. Your goals are not set in stone and sometimes you grow out of them or need to adjust them. This is perfectly okay! Accept those things and make changes to your goals moving forward.

I also would recommend defining your 1-2 target emotions that you feel when you are at your best. These become tangible goals you can schedule time for everyday. One of mine is feeling “playful,” and everyday I try to do something playful, whether that is a fun conversation, learning something new in a non-serious way or playing a videogame. By doing that I am feeling like I am at my best, everyday.


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