Tired of resolutions that don’t stick? Make 2019 the year you accomplish all your goals and more, with a no-fuss planner set-up that actually guides you towards your goals!
So it’s 2019, and you’ve decided that this is the year you’re finally going to do it.
Finally write that book, get your grades up, hit the gym weekly and go vegetarian. You’ve got a vision board of inspirational quotes and a study schedule, you’ve bought some cute workout clothes and even made a Pinterest board of all your favourite veggie recipes – and now the only thing left to do is commit.
The trouble is: no matter how determined and passionate about your goals you are, sticking to them always feels kind of impossible.
Oh sure, you want to make a change, but time just kind of gets away from you. In the post-New Years haze, it’s easy to justify eating the leftover turkey out of the fridge, and staying in bed marathoning Friends for the fourth time in a year. When you finally stumble out of party mode and into the real world, you’ve already failed at sticking to the daily habits you promised you’d keep up with this time, and the resolutions you were so excited about slip quietly away, replaced with university deadlines, the school run, or the ever-present mountain of odd jobs and housework.
Okay, so maybe it’s not quite that bleak, but you do need a way to force the real you to act like the you that you imagined when you made your resolutions.
In short: You need a system.
This is where things get dangerous, at least if you’re anything like me. I mean, deciding you need to get organised is one thing, but deciding how to go about it is a rabbit hole all of its own. Bullet journal or happy planner? Grid pages or page a day? What about habit trackers? Mood trackers? Meal planning?
Before you know it, you’re scrolling endlessly through the #bujo tag on Tumblr, lamenting that you don’t have hours to spend on beautifully intricate spreads that seem more fluff than function, or spending an obscene amount of money on cutesy stickers, professional brush markers, and artisanal Etsy scrapbooking paper.
Now that’s all well and good, if you want planning to be a hobby as well as a goal. I’ll admit, after years experimenting with different degrees of aesthetic and minimalism, I’ve found that prettiness is an important part of things for me, and the ritual of washi tape and seasonal stickers is a component of my self-care. However, trying to create a system from scratch can be massively overwhelming, and it’s hard to know whether the system you end up will actively help you achieve your goals or not.
So here: take mine
I mean it. My system isn’t perfect by any means, but I’ve found it to be the most effective way to stick to my goals, and to make sure all the work I do is geared towards achieving them. Take it, remix it, add to it or condense it down, even completely abandon it if you don’t think it’s working for you. I am sharing here because planning can be hugely effective if done right, but the vast ocean of strategies and supplies can make it hard to know where to start.
Speaking of supplies: here’s what you’re going to need
A planner to hold inserts.
I use inserts because they do the annoying work for you, but are still customisable enough to tailor to your individual needs. Some people buy expensive brand name planners with flashy colours and slogans, but I got this one off Wish.
Again, there are literally thousands of these on the market, and they can get unbelievably expensive for pre-punched pieces of paper. You could print your own, but I got these ones from Wish, which have proved super good quality as well as cheap.
Washi tape, post-its, stencils and stickers are all things I use, but they’re not necessary to make this system work for you. Coloured pens, however, are. Do yourself a favour and test whatever pens you’re planning on using on your inserts to make sure they don’t bleed through before buying, and don’t bother buying anything too pricey.
Aaaaaaaaand that’s it! Now let’s get to my set-up, shall we?
The bigger picture
Now, I’m all for setting SMART goals (you know, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound) but in order to know what those goals should be, you need to know why you’re setting them. I didn’t want to create a bunch of arbitrary goalposts for 2019, and so I made sure the first thing I saw when I opened my planner was the bigger picture.
Both to act as a motivator and a reminder, I listed my Big Goals – the bucket list items that are either tied by necessity to the next few years, or that I just want to achieve within the near future. As you can see by the picture, these included:
– Being accepted on to a good MA course for Journalism
– Taking part in the Disney International Cultural Exchange
– Releasing a poetry collection
– Graduating from university with a 2.1 or above
These are by no means certain to happen, but I wanted this year to stand me in the best possible stead to achieve them. To do this, I colour-coded them – goals that furthered my journalism career went in red, goals related to poetry went in lilac, Disney went in pink, and my academic goal went in blue.
That was all to feed into…
Breaking It Down, Or, My 2019 Goals
Looking at the bigger picture, it was a pretty simple task to outline what I wanted to achieve this year, as it just meant working towards all of the bigger goals I had already set. So, looking at the list, I broke it down into chunks that could be achieved in 365 days, colour-coded in the same way. For example:
– Publish 25 articles to external sites
– Write 60 blog posts
– Get a performance-based retail job (Eg: Build-A-Bear/Disney Store)
– Take a jazz dance class
Purple (record an EP)
– Get through all three piano workbooks
– Take an online track recording course
I tried not to clog my list with redundant things, or things that were hard to quantify. For example, I didn’t need to include “write x amount of new poems”, although that is something I’d like to do, because I knew that in pitching to poetry anthologies, I’d have to write new material to fit the brief. Likewise, I didn’t need to include “studying” in my academic goal list, as it’s hard to know the specifics (how many hours/how many modules/how many strategies) given that I haven’t started my final year yet.
With that done, I also added some “green” goals, goals that would help my physical or mental fitness, thus giving me the brainpower and stamina to complete the above goals. These included:
– Develop a daily diary/morning pages habit
– Read at least 25 books
– Exercise 5 times a week, even if just walking
– Order/buy junk food less than 4 times a month
Sticking To It, Or, My Monthly Goals & Habit Trackers
The next steps were pretty obvious to me: break my 2019 goals into monthly goalposts, colour code them, and stick them at the start of my month where I can refer to them whenever I need to re-orient myself. Here are some of the ways my goals broke down into steps to take in January:
– Write, take photos for, publish and promo 5 blog posts
– Pitch 3 articles for external sites
– Focussed piano practise at least once a week
– Complete 1/3 of first piano workbook
These goals are specific, manageable, and both feed into my larger goals and can be broken down into smaller steps. I took a similar approach with my “green goals”, which manifested as habit trackers.
Habit trackers are best utilised in cases where you need to do something every day. For me, this included walking, keeping up a skincare routine, reading, writing in my diary, and sleeping before midnight.
To trick my brain into keeping up with these habits, I use the “Don’t Break The Chain!” method, which just means putting a cross in a box every time I achieve my goal, and a zero every time I don’t. Keeping the habit going for just one more day, and getting to make the chain just one cross longer, is actually a remarkable incentive for keeping up with your daily habits.
I also have a specific “Books Read” tracker in this section, so I can plug that info into GoodReads whenever I get a spare minute.
Logistics, Or, My Month-At-A-Glance
The pages I put at the start of the month, the ones that contain my monthly goals and habit trackers, are technically diary pages, which gives me one more side of paper for odds and ends.
For me, that meant an income tracker, since freelance work is half chasing invoices, and half blowing your paycheck since it’s sitting in Paypal rather than your bank account. This is also the year I move out, so I figured getting a tighter grip on my finances could only be a good thing.
I also included a deadline tracker, both for work and academics. I don’t start uni again until September, so right now it’s mostly being used for article deadlines and submission deadlines for poetry anthologies, but it will also be used for essays and exams.
As for my month at a glance, it’s pretty straightforward: write in deadlines, events, appointments, etc. I’m planning on using the notes section on the left for meal planning once I move out, but I’ll let you know further down the line if that ends up happening.
Of course, there’s also a symbol key for my upcoming daily spreads. Squares are work tasks, circles are academic ones, triangles pointed up are hobbies and down are chores. Some people make these even more complicated, but I’ve found this works for me.
We’re Almost There I Promise!, Or, My Weekly & Daily Spreads
My weekly pages include a section at the top for goals, and this is the last place where my colour-coding comes into play. My monthly goals, which in turn feed into yearly and bigger picture goals, are broken down into weekly chunks, which for the first week of January looked like this:
– Brainstorm article pitches
– Upload 1st blog post
– Practise piano at least once
– Get through a chapter of 1st workbook
There were also green tasks, which didn’t directly fit into my green goals for the year, but did feed into my overall mental and physical health. For the first week of 2019, these included:
– Organising my wardrobe, donating excess, doing laundry
– Organising skincare & make-up, throwing out empties, re-ordering essentials
My daily spreads aren’t colour-coded, as that would be a bit much, but they utilise the shapes laid out in my agenda, and allow me to tick off tasks that feed into my bigger goals, as well as note down anything from random ideas to songs I’ve heard on the radio.
And that’s it!