As a professional organizer, I help all sorts of people take control of the physical items that are overwhelming them in their homes and offices so they can find the joy in their surroundings. Equally important for a well-rounded, organized life is managing your time. We all know time management doesn’t just happen automatically, and most systems focus on efficient use of your time while ignoring whether your career and life is meeting your needs for connection and satisfaction. Focusing solely on productivity and efficiency overlooks the larger picture of organizing your life for meaning in exchange for divvying up your busy day-to-day lives.
To achieve satisfaction and even joy in your life – both personally and professionally – requires a deliberate and intentional effort. Establishing a written roadmap for your year, your months, and your weeks is vital to realizing your ultimate vision for your life. What is the point of being more organized and having more time in your life if you don’t use that time to bring more joy into your life? I’ve developed an annual planning system that helps me get the most out of my life so I can look back on each year with a sense of accomplishment and look forward to the next year of adventures of all kinds. It’s based on the concept of a “bullet journal,” but skips the rules, symbols, and artistic flair throughout that make it feel like just more work. My planner is flexible and useful in more ways than I can count.
The basic concept is that your days, weeks, months and years can fly by at the speed of light and if you have taken time to thoughtfully map out that time, it will be well spent and full of memories. My planner is called My Intentional Year: Organizing My Life for Joy and MeaningSM and it depends first on writing down your intentions, commitments, appointments and other events, either electronically or manually in a journal of some sort. For maximum fun and historic value, I use a journal (Leuchtturm brand 1917 or a Moleskin brand 5” x 8.25” with at least 200 pages, available in local bookstores and on Amazon.com) because I do like to draw and use decorative lettering in my book to keep it interesting and to focus my attention. You should use it in whatever way works best for you. I have four areas of focus, five if you count the creative and inspiring bonus material.
1.Your Intention and Vision. As you start each year, you should do so with intention. Establish a theme for your year to keep you inspired month after month. Write your theme on your opening pages to keep it top of mind. For example, in 2022 I adopted the theme “Celebrate more!” At the end of each month, I identified my “wins” and celebrated them. Like a metaphorical pan on the back. Then, at the end of the year, I list them all and demonstrate to myself just how much I have accomplished. That really helps to stave off the end-of-year burnout when I wonder just what I got done in the last 12 months. The beginning of the year is also the perfect place to write down your vision for what you intend to accomplish in your life, on a professional and personal level for the calendar year, including specific goals. Then, be sure to check in with it throughout the year to see how you’re doing at achieving your vision for this year.
2.Future Log. Next, I take a broad look at big events I anticipate throughout the year. I create what’s called a “future log” by bullet journal aficionados. It’s a space to write down each month of the upcoming year (February – January) and identify any special things going on during each month. I use mine to record birthdays and anniversaries, annual events and holidays, and I leave space for future appointments that extend beyond the months laid out in my journal.
3.Monthly Calendar. Next, for those who are into stress relief through drawing, I have a cover page for the month which I often use to establish my decorative theme for the month. Then, I reproduce the calendar for the month as the next page(s) – I usually use a 2-page spread. I like to write on the calendar the recurring activities and one-offs that are on the docket for the month. I also embellish this page to echo the theme for the month (optional). I find it makes my life a little less pedestrian to have my own designs reflecting back at me as I check my calendar while booking new appointments.
4.Weekly layouts. Finally, the meat of My Intentional Year is the weekly spreads. What works best for me is to organize them Monday through Sunday, with the weekend days sharing a space to make for 6 even areas to record my daily commitments and activities. It takes a little getting used to but for me, it mirrors the way I plan my life: my work week first and then my weekends are separate.
My weekly spreads are where I intersperse inspiration quotes and drawings. If I know it’s going to be a tough month motivationally speaking, I will find inspirational quotes to hand letter and use cheery colors to decorate them with colored pencils. Then onto where the “bullet” part of the bullet journal got its name. Next to each entry on individual days, there are coded boxes to represent tasks that are started, completed, canceled, moot or rescheduled, along with symbols for appointments and meetings, events, urgent items, email, call, to buy, and just plain notes. These are all items that are fair game for your daily entries, but all those symbols took up more RAM than I had available in my brain. Some days it’s all I have to just jot down a few scribbles.
5.Bonus Material. The real secret sauce for My Intentional Year is in the separate lists that I make to keep track of specific things in my life. In my first journal, I even made a List of Lists! Over the course of a month or a year, there are so many things that you could keep track of such as client numbers, depositions taken, trials conducted, CLEs attended, books you’ve read, movies you’ve watched, exercise log, gratitude pages – the list goes on and on. One I find particularly useful is “The Last Time I ...” where I can record the last time the bar dues were paid, the certificate of compliance was filed, the mandatory training was completed, employee reviews were conducted, or things like when furnace filter was changed, the windows were washed, the car had an oil change ... you get the idea. I even leave room for journaling at the end of each month just in case I want to record some specific thoughts about that month’s happenings.
The steps I have summarized might seem like a lot of work. Why not just use a regular planner? Because it won’t prompt you to reach back and look at your goals and your vision. It won’t give you time to pause and think about what brings meaning to your career and your life, and give you more control over what you do instead of letting things just happen to you. Your personal and professional satisfaction is key to making your life at home and at work enjoyable every day. With such high rates of depression and uncertainty these days, we must be proactive, deliberate, and intentional if we’re going to make this next year count! Organize your year for joy and meaning with the “My Intentional Year” approach to planning.
P.S. I am creating a focus group to follow the 2023 Intentional YearSM process, complete with printouts for the entire year and occasional Zoom classes to discuss the process, your successes, and your suggestions. If you’d like to be part of this focus group, email or call me before December 15, 2023. Please use the phrase “Focus Group” in your email subject line.
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The Reluctant Enthusiast LLC, doing business as Designed 2 Stick, is owned and operated by Mrg Simon, Glen Rose, TX. All images and content are copyrighted, and the property of Mrg Simon and The Reluctant Enthusiast LLC, unless otherwise stated. All header/banner photos are courtesy of Unsplash. The Reluctant Enthusiast claims no right in the registered marks of third parties, including KMI Media and Marie Kondo.. Mrg Simon and The Reluctant Enthusiast LLC are not acting or speaking on behalf of Marie Kondo, KonMari Media Inc., nor are they authorized to do so.
*Designed 2 Stick and Mrg Simon do not offer legal services. Mrs. Simon does not accept legal clients or provide legal advice.