New Year, New Plan

It’s here once again – that time of year when we reflect on what we’ve done this past year and think about what we want to do the following. Some people write down New Years Resolutions. Others clean and simplify. And yet others plan. This year I’m doing a combination of all three.

Although our time in Chile is not yet at a close, we are getting close to our return date for the U.S. As such, we are once more sorting through our belongings and downsizing. The last time we did this was just over a year ago – mid-2016 – as we prepared for our international move. Having now downsized two years in a row, I think it is a habit I’ll want to continue even when we someday settle down again.

Here’s why I like downsizing and simplifying.

  • It helps me keep it lean. Without so much extra stuff around, I can focus on what’s important.
  • It helps me keep it clean. Less surface wiping, dusting, and organizing overall.
  • It helps me stay thrifty. Knowing a downsizing awaits at the end of the year ensures that I spend less during the year.
  • It helps me shrink my waste. (I so wish I meant waist also.) With less buying, comes less packaging.

In addition to cleaning and sorting, I’m also participating in some planning. This is a constant with me. I’m one of those people that enjoy lists and check-boxes and goal-setting. Usually shopping for weekly planners is one of the activities that consumes some of my end-of-year time.

Last year (2016) I used a crowd-funded planner, The Top-Down Planner, which I found to be revolutionary in how I plan and accomplish my goals. I highly recommend this planner for people who want to manage work and personal tasks while at the same time pursuing creative goals.

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Pretty cover – but I will say that most of the designs offered each year are overly feminine.
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One of the unique features of this planner is a set of comprehensive goal-planning worksheets.
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Goal planning in carried over to a strategy page at the beginning of each month…
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…as well as into each weekly page spread to keep you on top of your goals.
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There is also the traditional monthly page spread which I used to keep creative each day.

This past year (2017), because I was located in Chile (and snail mail being extremely unreliable), I opted to try out creating my own bullet journal. I did this for a couple of reasons: 1) planners sold in Chile aren’t all that creative and there certainly isn’t a lot of variety to choose from, and 2) I’ve always liked the way bullet journals looked and I wanted to see if I could make one work for me.

So, I went online, to Pinterest, and began browsing bullet journal (or “bujo”) pages and lists. I saved my favorites to a special board entitled Beautiful Planners. After browsing, I had a better idea of how I wanted to approach my first bullet planner. I opted for a simple, clean plan for my first go. Also, I kept in mind my purpose for wanting a customized planner: to find a good way to track a variety of freelance projects that I was managing at the time.

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For my first “bujo,” I went with a simple black paperback grid journal. I added washi tape on the spine to personalize it and make the binding a little stronger.
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Left-hand Page – Monthly Spread: This was used to track progress towards completion of various projects.
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Right-hand page – Monthly page spread: This was used to track time spent working on freelance projects for various clients.
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Left-hand page – Weekly page Spread: Rows represented each day of the week, and columns represented individual task areas (Appts/Events, Freelance, Gourmet Family…)
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Right-hand page – Weekly page Spread: Task tracking per day of the week (…Homeschool, Writing, and Msc.)

While this wasn’t a bad try at bullet-journaling (although admittedly a bit messy), I discovered something about myself that made me change up my approach for 2018. Namely, I discovered that I don’t like juggling multiple little freelance projects. Not only did it feel hectic and rushed, but I learned that I can’t just switch gears as required by high out-put freelancers. And, plus, I wasn’t into writing someone else’s content as a blog ghost-writer. It provided me with great experience, but it just wasn’t the right type of work for me.

And so, onto 2018’s planner…

This year, I knew that we would be wrapping up our travels in Chile and returning to the U.S. This year would involve focusing on our platform like never before, alongside finding an agent, dozens and dozens of recipe testing and photo shoots, and at least three books to completely write, including The Chilean Family Table cookbook (currently about 30% finished).

Another consideration was managing my daughter’s homeschooling. In September, we began first grade and things needed to get more serious. To my thinking, her South American experience have provided her with a vast wealth of knowledge about the world, people, culture, and language. However, per Colorado state law, I needed to make sure we covered all the basic subjects (reading, math, and so forth), keeping a schedule and keeping notes of all material covered. And so, I made a separate journal to track her learning.

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Using a moleskin journal, I keep a tally of hours spent pursuing studies in each of the required areas (and a few extras).
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And I also keep a detailed daily diary listing the work we are performing.

And as for my projects and work, I made a separate bullet journal. Because I liked the goal-setting focus of the Top-Down Planner, I decided to mimic it’s approach to monthly and weekly planning.

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Here I crafted a simple “blueprint” to the following areas in my life: Health & Body, Relationships, Career, Finances, and Fun.
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Quarterly overview page for listing important dates and deadlines.
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Monthly goal-planning page
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Weekly Spread. On the left, I can track appointments and crucial tasks. On the right, I can keep an ongoing to-do list.
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Here’s what my first week looks like in action (technically, it’s the last week of 2017)

I’m not really one for the more whimsical designs I’ve seen in BuJo circles. I usually prefer geometric and clean appearances, but I decided to give some of the more playful layouts a try.

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Left: daily stuff I want to do – learn a new Spanish word a day. Right – habit tracker (including exercise, reading Spanish, writing, professional reading, etc)
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Chore management chart
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Left: Books I’ve read. Right: Professional Development I’ve done.
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Left: Television & Films that made an impact. Right: Places visited.

So, there you have it, how I’m tackling my year-end/New-year planning and organization. How do you close-out a year and prepare the next?

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