I love watching YouTube videos that show planners and bullet journals being set up and filled in. I kept a long-hand journal from about age 10 to age 30, and I always expected to return to journaling someday. Since that time, I have kept an annual planner, in which I write upcoming meetings, appointments, and anything else that is scheduled. I buy one each year which I use for both work and home activities. I can flip back through them for a record of concerts and plays I’ve attended, family celebrations, and work achievements. I can also see meetings and events crossed out because they were cancelled or I didn’t attend.
For the past two years, I’ve left more and more blank pages in my planner. All my scheduled work activities are in Outlook where my availability can be viewed by my colleagues. I set reminders for personal appointments in my phone calendar or reminder app. I make lists in Evernote. I track budgeting in Quicken, exercise in Fitbit, books in Goodreads, and plant observations in iNaturalist. My paper planner was becoming redundant, but I missed being able to “flip through” my year in print.
Last year I designed my own journal pages. I created a two-page spread for every day, with designated spaces for work, home, exercise, books and movies, etc. I also left room for drawing/doodling and for recording my thoughts. I was very pleased with my template.
How long did I use it? Two weeks! There were days when I had nothing to report in a category. There were blank areas on those pages. And I found I had no interest whatsoever in writing about my thoughts and feelings!
2021 brings me to my “anti-planner.” I call it that because I do not use it for planning or scheduling! The purpose is not to check the planner and remind myself where I need to be or what need to do. If it’s important, that information is already in my phone or work email. Nor is it a bullet journal in its original sense (bullet journaling for productivity was created in 2013 by Ryder Carroll).
My Anti-Planner has a page a day for recording whatever I like, with one caveat: I record only things I have done. No planning allowed! No to-do lists! No reminders!
Things I have done uses positive language such as: started decluttering office, continued decluttering, or finished decluttering. If I had an unproductive day, theoretically I could fill in: fed the cats, ate breakfast, had a shower, watched 3 episodes of series, opened new box of chocolates 😊
My goal was to be able to flip through a month (and eventually a year) and see “at a glance” what happened or what I did each day. I did not want to see things that were crossed out, carried over, or unfinished. My prerogative!
I chose a page-a-day format because it allows me to summarize what I’m doing at work – multiple assignments, initiatives and projects. I could go a step further and summarize the pages into weekly or monthly spreads, but I decided not to. It would take more time to create the summaries. It’s purely a leisure project, and I have the leisure time to flip through the daily pages!
However, given my exacting ways, I developed a “system.”
- I made a list of the categories I wanted to include. They are: work, personal errands and appointments, personal activities, and special days. Family stuff that impacts me is “personal.” I don’t record Rom or Link’s appointments. They are adults!
- I listed the items within each category I thought I would be doing most often. As examples, in the work category, I have Zoom meetings and reports; in the errand category, I have car appointments and haircuts; in the activity category, I have meal planning and workouts; and in the special day category, I have everything from Pi Day to family birthdays to Winter Solstice.
- I assigned a colour to each category. I wanted to use lots of bright colours throughout.
- I suggested images for the various items (such as scissors to represent haircuts) and Link made me a set of circular stickers with colour borders. The errand category has a red border, so the car appointment and haircut stickers have a red border, and so on.
- I decided on a journal size and type. It had to be customizable, so no bound notebooks. I would need to add and remove pages. I had previously used 12.5 x 20 cm planners (5 x 8”, close to A5). I decided to go a little smaller and buy a ring-bound personal-size planner cover, which is 9.5 x 17 cm (3.75 x 6.75”). I am sure the iridescent puffy cover is not to everyone’s taste, but I find it amusing!
- Link then scaled and printed the stickers to 2 cm round (0.75”) so they would fit well on the pages.
- The cover came with some divider tabs and start-up paper. Rather than cut and punch additional paper sheets, I bought packages of inserts. One set had 12 monthly dividers along with 12 monthly and 60 weekly calendars. I wanted the month dividers (low cost), but I didn’t expect to use the calendars. I bought additional paper – a packet contained lined, grid, and dotted pages – but I later found daily pages with hourly markings, and I prefer them.
- I see that only 4-6 months’ worth of daily pages will fit in the binder, so I will have to take the used pages out at mid-year and store them somewhere – in a box or another binder. Do I really want to buy 2 or 3 binders every year? I don’t know.
- I made a 2021 year-at-a-glance calendar where I will note how I used my vacation time from work (4 hours this day, 10 days this month, etc.)
- I wanted to make a couple of trackers to hold myself accountable for tasks. But instead of putting them in my anti-planner, I made them big and stuck them on my fridge.
- Finally – I started recording my daily activities! I place the relevant stickers on the outside edge of the page, so I can literally flip through and see what my month or year looks like.
- There isn’t enough room on the page after I fill in work activities, so I started using the “weekly overview” pages to track fitness only. Next year: bigger binder and page size.
- As an additional conceit, I write with markers that match my category colours. Link chose the category colours to match the marker set 😊
- I keep the binder, extra pages, stickers and markers on my desk, and note my activities every evening.
- In the event I can travel again someday (it still seems a long way off), I added contact and emergency contact cards, and a little notebook for scribbles (shown in first photo).
I have completed daily pages for 6 weeks and I’m happy with everything except the page size. Since I invested in the binder, dividers and pages, I’ll use them for the rest of 2021.
Link started their own simplified anti-planner, with their own custom stickers. They use a week-at-a-glance layout, and they place stickers for the activities they did each day, for example, a cooking sticker with the name of the recipe. That’s it – no description!
The supplies are all from the Recollections line at Michael’s craft store. This range is very poorly represented online but always seems to be discounted in the stores. The cost was $8.97 for the binder, $5.97 for 12-month calendar set, $3.97 for paper inserts, and $3.97 for the hourly-marked page inserts (needed 3 sets for the year). The mini-notebook was $0.75, the round labels were $3.99, and I already had the markers. So, $41 for everything including tax. Not bad for kitting out a new hobby. I paid for everything myself – not a sponsored post.
I would love to hear about your paper planner, journal or system, if you have one.