My Bullet Journal Planning Routine
There are two questions that I get asked about the most, relating to my bullet journal. They are:
- how do I seem to get so much done?
- how do I use the different planning pages in my bullet journal?
My life is always pretty hectic as I am balancing my time between being a Mum, running my own HR consultancy business and growing my creative work through Journal With Purpose.
A few years ago I decided that I needed to make some big changes. I'd always been good at meeting commitments and external demands. If I say I'm going to do something, unless something completely unexpected happens, you can be sure that I will do it.
The thing was, I was rubbish at doing anything for myself. Things that were important to me never reached anywhere near the top of my to-do list. I failed to give my own hopes and ambitions anything like the same priority that I gave to everyone else. Each year would pass with plenty of deadlines met, but next to no progress was made on any of my personal goals.
That's when I decided to add my personal goals right in there with all of my work tasks and personal commitments, straight into my bullet journal. I previously used to jot down my dreams in a separate, secret notebook and forget all about them until the following year. Sound familiar?
When I started putting them in the same physical space as my other tasks, my mindset shifted almost instantly. These suddenly became things to get done, not just things to think about when I would miracously find myself with some free time on my hands.
My planning routine is vital to me and it's all detailed down below.
At least once a year, I create a vision board inside my bullet journal. I usually update it every time I start a new journal too. There is something so powerful about having images inside your journal, that immediately show you how you want your life to look and feel.
I created these pages at the end of December 2018 and I'm just about to add some updated ones in my new journal. When I create these I don't worry about the "hows" at all. It's my place to dream about and feel my future. No dream is too big for my vision board and I find that I get bolder each time I create them. I also don't give any thought to timescales at this point. You absolutely don't need to wait for a new year to start planning out your dream life. Right now is the perfect time.
It's also worth noting that these aren't set in stone. They are simply my motivation to keep moving in the right direction. We are nearly six months through the year and my next vision board will already look dramatically different to this one, due to some amazing opportunities that have come my way. (More about that in future blog posts!) I always stay flexible as to where my dreams might lead me and how my goals might be achieved.
If you are looking for some pointers in figuring out what you want from life, I have a workbook in my shop that you can find here.
Once my vision board is in place, I write out my goals for the year. I choose to break mine down into four categories:
These categories help me to maintain balance across the different areas of my life and are tied into the images on my vision board. I still leave them quite loose at this stage, but some broad goals help to sharpen my focus.
Next, I starting thinking about the next quarter. Thngs start to feel more real when you are only looking three months down the road.
I keep the same four categories and plan out what I would like to achieve each month. At the end of the quarter I complete a quick review, to think about what has gone well and what needs further work.
When things don't go to plan, I try really hard not to give myself a hard time about it. I ask myself a series of questions:
- why didn't this work out?
- is my "why" big enough?
- does this still feel relevant and important to me?
- what can I change to enable this to happen?
- who do I know that is successful at this, that maybe I can turn to for inspiration?
For me, it's all part of my journey. I know there are certain things I resist doing, and this review gives me the perfect opportunity to learn more about myself. For example, if something scares me I become the master of procrastination! I have learned that teeny tiny steps is the best way to trick myself into action.
When I set out my plans for the new month, I always refer back to the goals that I had set out in my quarterly plans.
I carry across anything that didn't get done in the previous month and add those to my new plans. I write these in my monthly tasks, before even starting to look at the things I need to do for everyone else. Again, it reinforces that message to my brain, that my goals and aspirations are just as important as everyone else's. I write key tasks in my calendar, to ensure that I treat them just like an appointment with somebody else.
"If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs." - Tony Gaskins
Once these are written in my plans for the month, then I add my appointments, project deadlines and other commitments.
A game-changer for me in my never-ending fight againt distraction is my Master Task List.
You know those days when you wake up fully committed to working on your dreams ... and then life takes over?! Yep, me too. Distractions come in all forms. Phone-calls, emails, social media notifications, family requirements, a letter in the post, the list goes on.
Unless something is absolutely urgent, that new task or commitment goes nowhere near my plans for that day. Nowhere near it. It gets added straight into my Master Task List. I know it won't be forgotten as it's written down. But unless it is more important than the tasks I had committed to working on that day, I don't even want to think about it at that point.
That doesn't mean that I never get swamped by other tasks and my days never get totally disrupted, but it does significantly minimise it. My "day job" is HR consultancy, so plenty of urgent tasks can come up at any time, meaning that my entire plans for the day need to change. But I no longer allow that to be every day. I make a quick judgement and only deal with it at that point if I absolutely have to.
I've found that if I respond to new tasks immediately, people always expect an immediate response. You're setting yourself up to fail. I always try to deal with my clients promptly, but not with urgency, unless the circumstances dictate it. Besides, if I deal with enquiries at a time that suits me, I am far more likely to give it more thought and actually deliver a much better service.
I try and time block each day, so that I allow myself a certain period of time to deal with new, unplanned tasks.
Every Sunday, I take some time to set out my plans for the following week. It helps to put my mind at ease, knowing that my goals, tasks and commitments are already scheduled in for the week ahead.
I start by adding in my key tasks that relate to goals I am working towards. I then look at any tasks that I need to migrate from the previous week. I always make a quick check as to whether these are still relevant, before moving them to the new week. I then check my master task list for anything else that I feel is realistic to tackle during the next seven days.
I end my work day by quickly setting up for the next one. I keep these pages really simple as I need to know I always have time to jot down my tasks for the next day, without worring about fancy layouts. If there is time at the end of the week, I might add a few decorative touches.
I carry forwards the uncompleted tasks and then check my weekly plan for any tasks that I can add to the next day.
Whatever else you do, please be proud of yourself. At least you're trying! It's so easy to become demotivated when things don't go to plan. I still fall into this trap sometimes, but one spread that really helps me is this one:
Part of my nightly journaling routine is being kind to myself and recognising my own achievements. Even if I didn't get the things done that I had planned, at the very least, I can still recognise the things I did work on. On a particularly bad day, where I didn't do anything productive, I can still acknowledge the fact that I got outside and walked the dog, cooked a family meal, recognised the need to recharge my batteries, or even that I am kind to others.
This helps to calm me in the evening and reset my mind before starting afresh the next day. It serves me much better that allowing myself to fret over unfinished tasks. It also helps me to enjoy the journey, rather than just focusing on the results.
I really hope this has helped to give you some ideas for your own planning routine. Having a system that works well for you can be so beneficial, especially when you're working towards some big, exciting goals.
What one thing are you going to make sure that you to do for yourself this week? I would love to know.
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