An orange cat, Eustace, lies on a desktop over a Bullet Journal spread.

My Planning Process

I wanted to talk a little bit about my monthly planning process and share a few tips that might help someone else.

I always try to do my monthly planning a couple of days before the month ends. I don’t predate my pages more than a day in advance, because I never know just how much space I’m going to need for any given day. It can be difficult to estimate how many pages I’ll need for the rest of the month unless I wait until the last couple of days.

I can make a rough guess based on an average month, but even that fluctuates between 20 and 30 pages. For instance, in my current notebook, December 2017 took 22 pages, January 2018 took 21, February took 24, and March took 27. April begins on Page 133, and this notebook has 240 available planning pages, minus the two-page Tombow spread I always create at the end of the journal. That means I have 105 pages from the beginning of April to the end of the journal, which hopefully means I’ll be able to fit May and June in this notebook.

Oops. Squirrels!

Monthly Planning Process

Back to the point, generally do my planning in the last couple days of the month. For April, I did my planning on Thursday, March 29. A lot of times I do my planning with my mom because it’s kind of fun to lay out the coming month with a planning partner.

Planning process: A table spread with washi tape, stickers, and a Bullet Journal

The first thing I do is try to make sure I have everything I’ll need: my Bullet Journal, my tickler file for the coming month, my washi tape, my pens and Tombow brush pens, my stickers. It’s no fun to have to go hunting for something you need in the middle of your planning session!

I start with the basic Monthly Log and Task List. My Monthly Log looks like the one Ryder Carrell designed, except that I color-code everything in my Bullet Journal, using four colors that indicate whether a task is personal, writing-related, main-job-related, or side-job-and-Etsy-related. (I could really use five colors, except my multi-pen will only hold four colors. The five-color pen doesn’t fit in my pen loop!)

One of the little tricks I’ve learned over the months is to fill out some of my habit tracker before sticking it in place.

Planning process: filling out the habit tracker

I put my empty habit tracker next to the current month’s tracker so it’s easy to remember what habits I’m tracking and which Tombow colors I use to track them (that’s what the number is next to each habit). I’m just a little…um…details oriented. 🙂

Obviously, sometimes I change what I’m tracking–you can see that in March I was tracking Lent, which is over on April 1. I was also taking care of mom’s cat Edmund for a while in March, so I needed an easy reminder to give him his meds; I put it in my tracker for the 10 days I had him, and just exed out the other days.

Quarterly Planning Process

Since April begins Quarter Two of 2018, it was time for me to sit down and evaluate my quarterly goals and progress as well. I didn’t do that during my monthly planning session. I needed time to go back and review what I’d intended to do during Quarter One, what I’d actually done during Quarter One, what needed to be migrated to Quarter Two, and what new tasks I had during Quarter Two.

Quarterly Planning Process: A list of deadlines and action steps

As part of that, I made a list of the deadlines I had coming up in Quarter Two. There are several in April, and I was starting to feel stressed about them. Putting them down on paper helped me capture them and get a realistic view of them.

Once I had my list of deadlines, then I broke each project down into action steps that needed to happen in Quarter Two. From that list, I added a few items to my April Task List. Some of those steps won’t take place until May, but that’s fine–they’re recorded on the quarterly list so they’ll be easy to migrate.

Sometimes I have help. Eustace decided I was definitely in need of help with the quarterly planning!

An orange cat, Eustace, lies on a desktop over a Bullet Journal spread.

What about you? What’s your planning process? Do you have any tips or tricks that make it easier for you? I’d love to hear them!

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