Planning for Success in 2017

What are you planning for 2017? Really, tell me everything. I think it’s more than you think.

I am finishing my undergraduate degree, including the completion of three research projects, completing graduate apps and entering a grad program, likely moving for that grad program, running my online business and hopefully expanding, running this blog consistently, and beginning wedding planning. On top of that, I want to restart a meditation routine and a workout schedule.

Most people my age seem to be doing just as much. We want to have it all, and we’ve spent a lot of energy believing we can shove it all into the day. Not only that, we need to do a hell of a lot of it to gain education, generate income, and pay loans.

How do you plan on keeping on top of it? You probably don’t. I know I plan on turning into a sobbing wreck and having multiple breakdowns from responsibility overload. But I sure do have a plan for getting it done. My method is via a planning method called bullet journaling.

What is a bullet journal?

If you have been on studyblr or in planning communities, you have probably heard of bullet journaling. The BuJo community has become a little cult of its own and I am absolutely a member because the fact is, it works for me.

Why?

Before I expect you to bear my continued ramblings on my setup for this year, I do plan on telling you why I think this system is great for the frazzled, over-achieving yet forgetful, scatterbrained perfectionist procrastinating overworked mess that I know half of us are.

The advantage of this planner is a running, constant list of everything you need to have done, all in one place. From the start of the month, you make a list of everything that you want to get done that month. Then each day, either the night before or in the morning, you can review and list everything you need to get done that day, and migrate tasks from the monthly page. Throughout the day you can write down anything you think of or find out about during the course of the day. As you migrate tasks day by day you will see the things you are ignoring every day, and be forced to reflect and either decide how you will get it done, or decide that it is not worth doing.

If you need to make a plan for any specific goal, you have a book of blank pages to plot out a plan on. You have empty pages for any list you need, specifically, like books to read, assignment due dates, thesis writing plans, application process tracker, or whatever specific project you need all in one place. Essentially, it is a planner with the room and emptiness to fill with whatever you need day by day, rather than plotting and erasing and replanning in a traditional dated planner.

Year at a Glance

Before I start showing pictures I just want to say that my BuJo isn’t perfect. My lines are wobbly and there are a ton of accidental mispellings, not leaving enough room, writing the wrong date, etc, etc, in this. The community at large (yes my friends, there’s a planner community!) seems to have an obsession with perfection and while I do admit to a certain level of dissatisfaction with my mistakes, getting hung up on not being completely perfect will complete destroy the entire point of this freeform planning system.

Now, on with the show!

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Here is my half-filled year. This page is for really important dates, like holidays or birthdays or graduation. One glance let’s you know how full any given month is. I can look at this and know I best get everything I need done before May hits. But where do you put your appointments? There’s not enough room for all my plans, Danny, my life is a constant stream of responsibility! Not to worry my friend, that is not what this page is for. We can mosey on forward to my next page….

Calendex

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What the hell is a calendex? Well, it’s explained here and here, but what it basically is an index of all your events. Those links include pictures of filled out calendexes to help you understand my blank one. My calendex will let me know where I wrote down event information, so that I can write it on any page when I hear about it, then record that page in the proper date here so that when later I have to check what I’m doing that month/week/day, I can see I have an event. Again, you may be seeing a trend; your information is not all written out anywhere yet. Don’t worry. I’ve got you.

Monthly Setup

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Ah, the month. This is the first page that you will finally have a list of all your events. At the start of your month, check your year at a glance and carry over any holidays. Then, check your calendex and use it to fill out other events. Here you have a master task list to dump all things you want to complete in the month, right beside your events to (hopefully) make you consider how much time you really have. I personally include a gratitude-a-day section to add some positivity to my hell, and a budget section to help with my horrible awareness of my own expenditures.

Weekly Setup

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Here, we find the real heart of the journal. Everything else is practicality, to allow this portion to work. Carry over any monthly to-dos to this week if you want to get them done. Everything else I have on this page is just fluff that makes me happy; the real value is that date header, Monday, January 2nd, 2017.

This is what a bullet journal makes you do. At night the day before, or right in the morning, you write down the date. Then you write in any events you need to be aware of. Then you make a to-do list. Carry items over from weekly (or leave them in weekly to get done any time in the week that you find time). Subdivide bigger tasks into a specific to-do for that day. This list is everything you need for TODAY and only TODAY.

If you are like me, it won’t all get done. But with the bullet journal, all of your events, your monthly tasks, your weekly tasks, and your unfinished todo list for today are in one place, they aren’t getting lost. Anything that still needs to get done gets moved forward to tomorrow’s today. You carry over any monthly or weeklies that you want. You cross out tasks that no longer need to get accomplished (or, once you’ve carried them over five times, you accept that you just aren’t going to do them). Your work schedule, class schedule, doctor’s appointments, parties, homework assignments, wedding tasks, workout routines, all sit here.

And that’s not even the best part of this.

The best part is that in the beginning, you set up a table of contents. So when this constant running to-do list is working great for you, but you really need a place to list those books you want to read, you turn to a fresh page, write them down, then record where you put that list. Every single thing your over-achieving yet procrastinating and forgetful self wants to get done is in one, easily referenced book.

It’s the most personal planner you’ll ever have, and we’re all living crazy lives with 20 different goals and 50 different responsibilities. None of it fits in a standard planner, none of it can be planned into an already dated planner, and none of it will get remembered on scattered lists or a frazzled brain. This method puts it together so you can get it done. And every time you make your list, every day, you sit and think about what is to come, what you got done, and what you can get done, making you actively aware of all of it, and refining your ability to recognize your priorities and assess your goals.