I refined my weekly planner from scratch again, as I search for an organized approach to life, art, and not being garbage.
No need to write a whole paragraph on this once again but I think I got it this time, so here we go: I struggle with organization. In the last two years, I have bounced from planners, and bullet journaling, as well as checklists. I can’t overstate this enough: I only have successful weeks when I follow a system. Most of the time I use one weekly checklist for everything or schedule tasks on a planner based on areas of my life. Regardless of how I do it that week, I see clear success and more completed work on those specific weeks. The contrast between successful weeks and passive shit weeks is stark and depressing. Experiencing these differences week to week is such a wake-up call, and it led me to discover the most important day of the week for me is Sunday. If I can’t bring myself to spend two hours on Sunday evening to plan my week, I may as well turn the railroad switch of my productivity train straight to a hellmouth.
Last week went well. Wasn’t perfect, wasn’t crap. Just okay in terms of executing on desired goals. I was fortunate to have a four day weekend (thank you unions), which allowed me to take some time last night and try to crack what I need to be more effective. So I went to work:
- I am planning on paper. Regular old college ruled loose leaf paper. My phone doesn’t help me organize. I now accept that I need to see my life on paper, and my obsession with the physical act of writing, allows me to focus my short attention span on what’s in front of me, rather than the whole of the human experience online. Distraction feels good to me, so I have to minimize distraction when I am planning my week. It also makes me feel like crap to see everyone have their shit figured out except me (I dunno about you, but that is the impression social media gives me). The best way for me to do it is to put the phone away when I plot some of my life out.
- Begin with morning pages to clear the brain. Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages is synonymous with productivity and self-development. Brain Koppelman had an outstanding interview with Julia Cameron that finally sold me on trying the practice regularly this summer. From writing a few stream of consciousness pages at the beginning of the day, you foster a facility with your own creativity. This allows you to clear your mind and expel the things that are blocking not just your writing, but your state of mind as a whole. I’m hoping I can continue to write 3-5 pages if I can get up early (and weeping Jesus on the cross, that is the hardest part of this whole thing. I struggle greatly with that alarm clock).
- I know what’s important to me, so I have designed my own weekly planner. At this time, after trying an endless number of planner variations, I have reached the conclusion I need to make my own. And I did! I love planners and stationery. I have tried a variety of journal tools over the last few years, and so I’m borrowing pieces that I like to fashion my own templates. I find I am fond of a weekly spread, but I have made adjustments to include a weekly checklist alongside the days of the week, so that I can incorporate new things that come up, or tasks that haven’t yet been assigned to a day. One of my favorite things to include, are two boxes at the bottom to jot down what worked, and what needs improvement. This will prompt me to assess before moving on to the next week.
- Drafted a Custom Monthly Sheet. This sheet includes bills/expenses section to monitor regularly, a monthly creative project section, assessment section (what works/needs improvement), and notes to write down family goals for the month and family oriented goals. I also printed a monthly calendar as well so I can visualize the month from a bird’s eye view. This sounds like I’m going overboard, but I need this degree of prompting and cataloguing to remember where my proverbial trail is, so I don’t get turned around in the forest of my absentmindedness.
- Maintain a Future Log. I really love this aspect of bullet journaling and other forms of long term planning. It’s not something I knew about growing up. Coming from a working class family, I find that I have a tendency to live in the now, solve today’s problems, but keep a head down to disregard tomorrow. It’s tough for a lot of us to look forward, and start thinking about what kind of life we want. The only way to change today is to figure out where we want to go. So this will help me in the long-term aspect of things.
- 3 Ring Binder is the only way. For me, it makes sense to go back to using loose leaf paper. I grew up buying ruled paper in bulk and having the flexibility to take my notes with me without lugging around the binder is essential to me. So moving forward, my three ring binder is the archive, but the stuff I need for the month is in a more portable padfolio.
- Tagging each task with a custom system. I designed a few planners last year when I was tinkering with low-content publishing, and found that I needed a tagging system to keep track of the various parts of my life. And all of the tasks in my weekly spread will have this shorthand alongside it. Why? Because we need to remind ourselves of the why. If what you’re doing doesn’t align with your values or who you are, why would you want to keep doing that? I need help remembering that too. The pivotal areas of my life, in my thinking, are as follows:
- ▲ Build the Self. Personal Development/The Calling
- ♥ Care for Love. Family and Strengthening our Quality of Life.
- 🡅 Maintain a Home. The practical aspects of running a home and preparing the future (bills, chores, home maintenance, figuring out how to save for retirement).
- ▼ Work to Serve. To nourish our support systems of friends and extended family, and serving others through my job and my creative calling.
The various pieces listed in this rant have made a tremendous difference in my life at one point or another. Now that I have fashioned my own templates and made a FRANKENPLANNER™ (this product was in no way inspired by or named after Al Franken, though I can’t stop thinking about calling my planner AL FRANKENPLANNER™). I’m looking forward to this challenge of eliminating all excuses. I’ll check back in a month to let you know how this is going!