Sunday, December 11, 2016

Preparing for 2017: Organization & Goal Planning

An alternative to the bullet journal...

I find December passes more quickly than any other month. I do not like to begin holiday preparations prior to Thanksgiving, but then December somehow rushes by and January dawns the same as any other month. This year, I am trying to get some tools in place to help me begin the new year with a fresh perspective and, most importantly, motivation for change.

Last year, I tried my hand at keeping a bullet journal. I was less than successful at this and the sight of my bullet journal left me with feelings of inadequacy. There are beautiful bullet journal examples in countless posts and Instagram feeds. (My Pinterest saves are HERE.) It can be a real art. I recently stumbled across the Minimalist Bullet Journal which is similar to what my bullet journal looks like, although mine is a little more colorful.

Things I liked about using a bullet journal:

The monthly tracker system was key to my organization, unfortunately what I was lacking was motivation. However, I liked having one spread for a whole month on which I could track things I wanted or needed to get done. My categories were Writing, Reading, Exercise, and Chores. I also used a weight graph (pre-pregnancy) in my original monthly spread. I ended my week on a Sunday, using the dashed lines to keep easier track of the day of the week.

The weekly tracker system was great for tracking "To Do's." It allows you to simply transfer any uncompleted items to the next week. This is a very sparse Weekly Spread of mine. We were heading out of town on Thursday for Mother's Day weekend. My "To Do's" are in the upper left corner and then I had a box for each day. I liked this format the best because Saturday and Sunday got equal space and I tended to plan a lot for the weekends.

Focus pages allow you to brainstorm for a specific project or plan for a specific event. Below is a recent example, "Thanksgiving Company Prep Work" where I mapped out the last 2.5 weeks prior to our company arriving. (I had stopped my weekly spreads by this point.)

You can also see on the left that by November I had reduced my monthly tracker to a single page instead of a spread, adding in a Pregnancy category to track my gestation week and my weight. My exercise category was reduced to a single item - biking - and my "passion" items - writing and reading - did not even make the tracker.

Colorful pens were perhaps my favorite part of creating a bullet journal. I purchased the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 20 Pen Set (used in my images above) and it is fabulous. The 20 pen set provided a nice range of colors and these pens have perfect fine tips for writing. Instead of the Leuchtturm Notebook which is highly recommended in most posts about bullet journaling, I opted for the shorter Northbooks Notebook which I liked, they are a slim size and the ink did not bleed through the pages.

Goal Planning...

When I started my bullet journal system, I had focus pages at the beginning of my journal for goals. I listed out around ten goals and then had a ton of space for action items or to note progress. These pages are still mostly blank.

A big part of successful goal planning is finding a format which works for you. I prefer to work toward specific deadlines with specific tasks outlined so I'm going to start 2017 with SMART goals.

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely

Instead of writing a goal statement: "Finish a Novel," a SMART goal could be, "Write five pages per day for the next 90 days."  Or instead of: "Be Healthier," a SMART goal could be, "Exercise five days a week for 30 minutes."

I have the bad habit of not writing SMART goals. I fall back on the traditional "Be more fit" or "Eat healthier." Or my new favorite, "Be a good mom." How can you quantify being a good mom? There's the health of the child (measurable) and the happiness of the child (not as measurable). For me though, I think being a good mom is most measurable in patience and acts of kindness.

My goal for December: Write at least 5 SMART goals for January, each with a 31 day timeline for completion.

Another form of goal planning which has gained popularity among bullet journal users is the Level 10 Life. Here is a wonderful post introducing the concept - Level 10 Life - 100 Goals in 10 Areas of Focus. Even though you will assign goals, Level 10 Life is also somewhat a personal assessment. If you are more of an abstract thinker and you want to create a beautiful visual image to inspire you, Level 10 Life might be the program for you!

2017 Plan...

With my primary interest being goal planning, but also wanting a spot to track chores, I finally settled on the 2017 Volt Planner. Originally titled the Spark planner, this was a Kickstarter Project from 2014 created by a technology executive who wanted to "combine the function of a life planner into the sleek design of a basic, modern notebook..." I wasn't happy about paying for shipping, but after a thorough search, I purchased this planner directly from the company.

My Volt Planner arrived within 3 days and is a beautiful book! The thing I like best about the planner is that it is completely dated for 2017. Although I sometimes enjoyed the ritual of making my grids and graphs in my bullet journal (it can be very soothing to draw them out), if I made a mistake I was always annoyed with myself. Here the work is already done. Yet, the layouts are not so rigid as to prevent any creativity!

Here is what the planner includes:

Yearly Theme/Achievements Spread:

This may remain blank for me at the beginning of the year. Since it is only a single page for the whole year, I'm feeling some pressure about my Theme and my Top Goals for the year.

Monthly Overview:

I have so many ideas for this spread and may even change it up every month! It's a good replacement for my tracker page - where I could note my weight, exercise, and chores to see my monthly trend. I also like the idea of doing daily gratitude boxes - writing down something good each day.

Monthly Goals and a 31-Day Challenge:

This is the spread I am most excited about! Plenty of space for monthly goals - SMART goals with a fixed timeline - and also the space to assign and track one specific monthly challenge with action items.

Weekly Goals and a Blank Page:

Love the blank page! I'll likely use it as a Focus page for each week. I'll use the goals section as more of a "To Do" list. There is also space for reflection and a review of yearly and monthly goals and progress.

Weekly Detail:

This will likely be my least used spread of the book. But I like the idea of planning out better to achieve my weekly objectives, such as assigning myself specific times to work on specific blog posts and times to get my chores done.

If you are looking for inspiration as the New Year approaches, this is a great little book!

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