Last year I floundered a lot when it came to planning and organization. I was inconsistent and often found myself doing things at the last minute or worse, not at all. This is not how I like to operate! In early December I decided it was time to nail down a planning system that worked for me and get myself organized. Here’s what I’ve done to help me stay at the top of my game in 2020…
ONE. Switch back to a Bullet Journal. In 2018 I experimented with using the Agendio customizable planner. Last year I abandoned all planners and just used a simple wire bound notebook. It just felt simpler to me as I mostly work in lists, keeping schedules on my Google calendar. BUT, I missed the pretty pages of a bullet journal and the fun of creating layouts. So here we are again with a vow to keep it simple and manageable.
TWO. Plan at Night/Review in the Morning. Every night, just after dinner, I take my bullet journal and a pen and set it on my nightstand. This helps me to remember to do a quick planning session for the next day, just before I go to bed. When I get up in the morning I take my bullet journal with me out to the kitchen and leave it open on the counter all day. I do a quick review of my plan for the day before I start getting breakfast ready. As a stay at home mom, I can glance at my task list all day long as I move around the house getting things done.
THREE. Implement the “Alistair Method”. Tanya posted about this earlier in the month and it was a huge light bulb moment for me. I immediately started using the weekly style of the Alistair Method and it’s been a game changer. For years now I’ve realized that a traditional planner with all it’s schedules and dates just doesn’t work for me. I mentioned above that I work better with rolling task lists. Everything on my list needs to get done during the week but not necessarily on a specific date. So I use the Alistair Method and then put a dot next to my action item on the day that I completed it.
FOUR. Use a Social Media Scheduler. I really want to be more consistent when it comes to posting to Instagram in particular. The book community over there is so much fun and last year we created a GXO instagram account that needs some more love! (Come follow us @awesomerxoxo). Over the summer I started to experiment with the Later app, scheduling some Instagram posts ahead of time. I loved it and it was so easy! But I was still inconsistent. So I’m adding “photograph and schedule IG post” to my weekly task list in my bullet journal and making a goal to schedule at least 2-3 IG posts per week.
FIVE. Have a Set Time each Day to Work on Goals/Hobbies. As a stay at home mom, I found it hard to do things like work on the blog, take photos for Instagram, and even read blogs during the day. None of these things are ‘required.’ These are hobbies for me and therefore, expendable. I sometimes feel guilty sending my kids downstairs to play so I can sit at my computer and write blog posts. BUT, these are things that I enjoy doing and they make me feel like a whole person. So I decided to put these straight into my daily schedule and not feel guilty about it. Now I get up an hour earlier and have also set aside the hour before dinner as my time to work on personal tasks. Now I’m not just trying to sneak it in whenever I can and feeling frustrated about it all the time.
What has helped you stay on top of all of your daily and weekly tasks?
// Comments //
Janet from FL
I haven’t had much luck with planners either. I have also gone to a simple weekly calendar. I found one that is long and narrow, so it fits on my desk above my keyboard. I can write in what tasks I want to get done that week, and schedule what I need to do on each day. It’s pretty simple and flexible, which I like. I also have a one page sheet for scheduling my book reviews. I write down when I got the book, when it will be published (if it’s not out yet), and schedule a week to review it on my blog (or at least which month I will review it). This keeps me from losing a book along the way, and lets me see which weeks I can add another book into my schedule. My blog is a fun hobby too, but I enjoy it more when it is somewhat planned.
Thanks for sharing your approach for the year. I`ll share my experiences as I’m big on organization and goals.
I find bullet journals too open-ended for me, and once I find a format that I like when I design it, it seems silly to redraw it every time I turn to a new page. Over the years, I`ve had about 6 or 7 different formats, and some merged work and play while others separated them. Each time it takes me several days or even weeks of tweaking to get a format that works well for me, I lock it in in Word or Excel and then print it out for the year.
Scheduling though is relatively absent from it, unless I have something to prepare for an event. I have a meeting scheduler at work, so duplicating it in paper is a waste of time for me — it would never be up to date. For personal events, my wife and I share a calendar, and if we need to add something big during work hours or that requires commute time, we “invite” our work accounts. Otherwise there is one for “work” that uses the work proprietary software and a Google one for home.
But I am anal about “to do” lists that combine the Harvard business case story with the “brain dump” version of a zero inbox. If that sounds complicated, it really isn`t.
The Harvard example was the story of the presentation on time management to students where the professor took a vase and filled it with large rocks and asked if it was “full”; students said “yes”. So he poured in smaller rocks; students then said yes again, it was full. So he added sand, water, etc. and students figured out there was more room. When asked what this taught them about time management, the students erroneously said, “no matter how full your schedule, there’s always room for more”, rather than the right answer that “the rocks go in first, or they don’t fit at all…so what are your rocks?”.
For the “mental version of zero inbox” it is the idea that you write it all down, ST, MT, Long-term, whatever and put it on the list. And then it isn`’t cluttering your mind. If it is simple and you can do it NOW, you do. Otherwise, you file it on the list and move on to clear the inbox, and then manage your list rather than having your mental inbox manage you.
I then group all my activities into a series of themes:
And then within that group, I triage the relative priority of the items. My ROCKS are the things that are either urgent (within a week or month, depending on the category) or important (extrinsically or intrinsically). In the past, I`ve had five levels of priorities — rocks, gravel, sand, water, air. Of late, I`ve just cut that to 3 categories. Rocks, sand, air. I regularly review the list and move things from 1 (rocks) to 2 (sands) if I’m not going to get to it anytime soon and I`m okay with it. Or I`ve completed some 1s, so I can move 2 up.
But, for me, that is just a master list. It can be overwhelming. So at the start of the week, my plan is to do a simple one page overview of the week with a column for the day of the week (Alastair method, although I didn`t know there was a name for what I did!), and I start putting in significant events from my personal calendar and then slotting in Level 1 / rocks from my master list into ones that I want to do this week. Once that is done, I`m “done”.
My master list goes away for another week — out of sight, literally out of mind. My focus is JUST on the goals for the week. I have a spot for notes of things to “add” as the week goes on or to carry forward to the master list. But I’m focused on this week’s rocks only. Some people do variations of this with an e-calendar which allows them to move things around easily, and way back when Palm Pilots were around, there was a GREAT to do list manager that fit this methodology perfectly. I`ve never been able to replicate it unfortunately, and I like the open paper version so I can see everything “at a glance”. My triaged master list varies between 3 and 5 pages. I don`t have a formal way to watch for things going “stale” but I do a cull each January. Things that I don’t think I’ll get to in a year are just noise.
I am a heavy blogger and I used a social media scheduler for awhile, but I found it unreliable when some of the APIs changed and things I wrote on my blog were not suddenly going live when they should nor being shared when they should. Frustrating. I promise I`ll be perfect about it when I retire. 🙂 But it`s always on my list to “try a new tool”. I prefer not to pay for it as it is just a hobby, but well, you get what you pay for.
I don’t know if that inspires anything… 🙂
I agree with you. Keeping up with blogging is more fun for me when I have a schedule in mind.
@Paul For me the bullet journal is less about planning and more about a creative outlet (since I’m not artistic much at all). I love the Harvard example and it’s so true. I handle my task list similarly in that I dump it all into the vase. Then I take a look at it and ask myself if there is anything that I can do really quickly, right now- then I go ahead and do it. I also ask myself if there’s anything I can ignore for now, having just written it down to free up space in my head. Anyway, I find time management and the way people handle it individually really interesting. I also find that I have to change up my methods regularly because my life is very much in a transitional phase.