Have you ever dreamt of designing a thoughtful, intentional work and life schedule, so you can go through your days feeling fulfilled and present?
In 2020, as lockdown forced so many to bring work into their home, finding a work/life balance has never seemed more difficult. “Women who work, whether that work is done at home raising a family, or in a corner office – sometimes both – will always be my greatest source of inspiration,” says Ponderlily Founder and Creative Director, Carina Lawson. “We need time to do things, but also time to be still, thoughtful, dream, imagine,” she tells me. “Pondering is a quiet luxury we don’t often give ourselves these days.”
Ponderlily Planners and Journals promote intentional living through beautifully-designed, eco-friendly planners and paper goods, designed for busy women seeking to find joy, purpose and empowerment in their daily to-do’s and decisions. “The word Ponderlily is a made-up word that uses my favourite flower – the waterlily – to signify that it is within pondering where we find space, strength, and motivation to rise,” Carina explains.
Growing up, my mum had a planner and every week we’d sit with her and she’d ask us what we wanted to do in the week ahead?
A business mentor and time management expert based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Carina is passionate about helping women to carve out more ease and space in their day-to-day lives. “Prior to setting up the brand,” she tells me, “I was coming across so many women who were caught in a never-ending cycle of being busy, successful, and exhausted – myself included – and often adjusting to everyone else’s priorities over theirs. The more I searched for a planner that fit my life, to fit work and family, the more I felt like my life was somehow unaccepted, invalid, or less valued.”
“Fuelled by my experience as a business analyst specialising in efficiency, and my lifelong love for stationery, I created the Ponderlily planner. A planner that allows a woman to keep her passions and priorities at the top of her agenda. And then there were my daughters, two of the greatest treasures in my life,” she tells me, “who I want to see their mother working hard and prioritising herself and her career alongside her family; to know they are deeply loved, cared for, and respected by a Mum who just wants them to one day live the life of their dreams.”
Carina credits her own Mother for developing her own passion for organisation and productivity. “My Mother always worked when I was growing up and I’ve always admired her ability to show us how much she loved her work and how much she enjoyed spending time with the family. When I think of my mum I think of someone who’s organised, professional, an amazing cook, a crazy crafter – she owns several glue guns! – and someone who deeply loves her family. She doesn’t hide any of these amazing traits, they’re all her.”
Organisation has always played a pivotal role in Carina’s life. “Growing up, my mum had a planner,” she says, “and every week we’d sit with her and she’d ask us what fun things we wanted to do in the week ahead? She’d tell us when some of her friends would come over for a party, we’d make lists, it was great. And when things don’t go according to plan, she always says, “Tomorrow is a new day.” She always makes me think about the day in the life of a woman; not the professional, the mum, or the wife. The person who needs to rest, laugh, or who just wants to learn how to knit as a hobby.”
“From watching my mum, I learned about the importance of making empowered decisions with my time and the impact it has on my health, well-being, and professional life. My passion for organisation and productivity grew when I learned that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; every person is unique, and how they plan their days needs to support their whole person, not just the roles that they play.” “It’s not a coincidence that I studied management and economics to become a business analyst that specialises in quality management and productivity improvement. I love helping people and organisations make plans or create processes that use their resources efficiently.”
When it comes to designing a new planner or organisational tool, Carina tells me that her customers’ input is crucial. “I always start by listening to what our customers want, and specifically ask for in our upcoming collections. I don’t really have a specific product development or design practice, but I develop products when I’m inspired. That can happen when I’m on holiday when there are no interruptions in my day – I designed 8 products last summer! – and sometimes it happens when I find there’s a need for a particular product. I also have very trusted partners, sometimes family members, who I coerce with a takeout dinner, to help me refine designs, so it’s a reflection of different lifestyles, not just my own.”
Ponderlily planners are made with high-quality and sustainable materials, allowing them to be tossed into a bag time and time again, without emerging dingy, dinged or disheveled. “We care about people, near and far, living today and tomorrow,” Carina tells me, “and we recognise the decisions we make have broad implications. By eliminating plastic, minimising packaging and even hand-delivering products to local customers, we hope to make a big impression about the importance of sustainability through a small environmental impact on the world.”
Carina’s heritage plays a big role in her approach to sustainability and desire for Ponderlily to be eco-conscious. “I’m Brazilian, and when I’d go home to visit family, I’d see fewer and fewer trees along the way,” she says. “Growing up in Brazil, we’re taught from a very young age about the importance of conservation and sustainability. We exercise what I’ve learned with every decision I make throughout my day, from what products to buy, to repurposing items around my house, to recycling what we use. When it came to choosing the best materials to use in our planners, exercising my sustainability practices led me to choose partners who could provide ethically sourced materials. We source products as close to home as possible, to reduce our carbon footprint. We use biodegradable packing chips, opting for keepsake boxes instead of single-use gift wrapping, and the majority of our product range comes ‘naked’, without protective packaging. Each product is crafted with recycled paper, vegetable-based ink and REACH compliant 100% rayon covers. We’re dedicated to making products that are good for people and the planet. Thoughtful design and ethically-sourced materials, we can’t do one without the other.”
The heart of our company is to support women make empowered decisions with their time from work to weekend and everything in between.
“Our Ponderlily planner and the Meeting Notebook are our most popular products, and they also happen to be my favourites,” she tells me. “These two products complement each other well. Our customers use the Ponderlily Planner at the (home) office, while the Meeting Notebook keeps all their (Zoom) meeting notes along with action items, all in one place. Our customers were also excited to see us make a product with a vegan leather cover; up until now we’ve always used fabric on our products.”
Carina launched the new Ponderlily AW collection in September and tells me it has been really well received, with a number of items already sold out. “We have more products launching in Spring 2021,” she says, “that are more geared towards mindfulness for women’s personal and professional lives. They’re not going to be dated, so our customers can enjoy them all year round. I can’t wait to share more!”
She tells me that she believes life shouldn’t just be about working your way through an ever growing to-do list or leaping from one milestone to the next without a moment to celebrate. “It’s about the people we meet, the places we visit, the experiences we have, and the ideas we bring to life. It’s about paying attention to the grey space that quietly nestles between the bigger moments, because sometimes the little things can be just as significant.”
She currently offers free workshops and a free printable library in support of her clients’ plans, and long-term hopes to expand her product range further to include more wellness tools, provide more opportunities for live events, and collaborate with more independent businesses. “Ponderlily was always meant to be more than a company that provides inspired productivity tools. The heart of our company is to support women make empowered decisions with their time from work to weekend and everything in between.”
All photography © Nancy Straughan, used with permission.