I’ve been sitting here for a while trying to figure out how I would explain 2017 in one word. The best word I can come up with to describe the past year, for me, is ‘interesting’. I think the reason that word comes to mind is that I am very conflicted and confused about whether this year was a good year or a bad year. But good year or bad, I have definitely learnt a lot about myself, which is why it has been so interesting.
Upon further reflection, I admitted to myself that since moving interstate I have really just been going through the motions with life but not really stopping to think about what exactly it is that I want to be doing with my life, and I most certainly haven’t devoted any time to figuring out the how – that is the action plan for achieving those goals.
So I needed a plan, I sat down and worked out how I’m going to live the life I actually want in 2018.
I have a full time job where it is my responsibility to write business plans. In my day to day work life, I set goals and objectives, create strategies to achieve those goals and objectives, plan the execution of those strategies and then I roll out the plan, more or less to schedule. Once the project is finished, I then analyse the results and reflect on what could have been done better. Notes are recorded on what would be done better next time and kept on file for integration into the next strategy. This system works really well and brings about tangible results.
So why aren't I applying this approach to my own personal goal setting? Wouldn't it make sense to debrief on the past year, reflect on what needs improvement and put steps in place to make those improvements? Maybe I would benefit from a more structured approach.
I decided to sit down and work out the things that I could have done better in 2017 in order to save time or money. I wrote four pages of notes! I also wrote down the things that I did that didn’t necessarily bring me happiness this year. I wrote a list of the things I would rather not have wasted time on and things I was totally happy to have achieved.
Reflections on 2017
Sitting down to reflect on the past year and remember the things that happened, the fun stuff you did, the exciting activities you experienced, is all part of the future planning and goal setting process. Once you’ve thought about the past year and what you enjoyed / didn’t enjoy, now think about the year ahead and what you would like to achieve from your year. What would you like more of in 2018? What would you like to devote your spare time to in 2018? Obviously you need to be realistic about the types of things you want to do. Make sure you set time frames as well, to make the goals more measurable.
When I completed this exercise I came up with:
- In 2018 I want to read more books
- I want to lose 10kgs by the end of June 2018
- I want to save enough money to pay for a 5 week European adventure in September 2018
- I want to write one blog post per week in 2018 (that's 52 blog posts)
- I want to make $1,000 from my blog by end of June 2018.
- I want to get my farmers' market stall going again
If you really think about it, all of these goals require two things:
1. more time; and
2. a better system of being organised.
The next step is to write a road map. Create a plan of how you are going to get there. Look back at your goals and then for each one, think about how you might go about achieving them. You could create a mind map for this as a quick, visual way of getting your ideas on paper.
For example for my goal ‘I want to lose 10kgs by the end of June’ I might decide the way I will achieve this is to continue my Weight Watchers membership, create meal plans in advance of the week, exercise 6 days per week, drink more water and complete meal preparation once a week, in order to stay on track with my meal plan.
As you can already see, achieving my own personal goals this year means I need to be more organised. I am a very busy person and I rarely sit still for 5 minutes all together. This means that I not only have a full social calendar, but I also have a lot going on inside my head at all hours of the day. With this in mind, I need a way of putting pen to paper, recording blog ideas, action items for my personal to-do lists, noting down grocery items – you name it, I need a list (or multiple!).
Here’s my strategic plan for how I will make the year ahead more productive, organised and ultimately, successful.
My 2018 success plan
- Use a planner to record important events, to-do's and appointments
- Use a bullet journal to jot down ideas, draw out mind maps, plan creatively
- Adopt a better filing system for important documents
- Keep a budget, plan in advance for expenses and track unexpected expenses as they occur
- Meal planning and preparation ahead of time
- Keep better records to stay on track with all of my goals
- Drop bad habits that inhibit the above activities
How will I make all of this work to achieve my goals?
A lot of the items listed on my plan above will be covered just by my adoption of a really awesome planning system.
Yearly Planner (Diary)
I'm so serious about getting 2018 right, I started researching year planners back in November. I watched countless YouTube videos of my fellow bloggers who share their favourite planners, discuss the pros and cons and explain how they use their planner and make it work for them.
After hours of video watching, I decided to buy a Passion Planner. I have actually used Passion Planners before - this will be my second - but I've previously had the classic A4 style. This time I have opted for the compact A5 size planner as I need something a bit more portable than my last planner. Passion Planner was a successfully crowd-funded project a few years ago and their planner is so freaking awesome. It's simple but it's also everything you need in a planner. They have thought of everything you need to organise your week and what I like about their planners is that they are fairly plain and simple, and practical. I didn't want anything too colourful or cutesy, it needed to look professional enough for work meetings but still allow me space and creativity to customise pages if I so wish.
Another cool thing about Passion Planner is that once you buy your planner you have access to heaps of downloadable printable PDF's that you can cut out and paste into your planner. They have heaps of templates available but my favourite is the habit tracker, I will be using this to track my exercise in 2018.
Planners allow you to plan your week ahead of time (d'uh) but they are so much more than that. Some of the things I will be using my planner for in 2018 include:
- Before the year begins, I'm going to write out my 'ideal week' and stick it at the front of my planner so I can bring a bit more structure and organisation to my weeks.
- I'm going to note down the good things that happened as they occur.
- I'll write down the things that I learnt that week/month.
EPICBLOG One-Year Editorial Planner
I've been following an infopreneur (yes, that's a thing) named Regina Anaejionu for some time now and completed some of her blogging courses online. This very accomplished lady (author, teacher, publisher, blogger, ninja) has such a cool way of teaching; she is very vibrant, fun and engaging! She created a one year editorial planner for blogs and it's called EPICBLOG. I'd been thinking about buying the planner for so long and finally I bit the bullet and invested in it. Don't ask why I waited so long, it's not like it was expensive (about $40 AUD from Amazon)!
What makes this planner so great is that it is simple and easy to use. It guides you through the process of planning blog content and has heaps of space for you to jot down your ideas and structure how you're going to publish your blog content. There are also pages where you can track blog expenditure as well as your goals, expenses, actual web stats and income for the month. I always have lots of ideas for my blog but they end up written on scraps of paper or in my phone notes or on Google Docs. It's just nice to have one place to record and track everything so nothing gets misplaced or forgotten.
How Regina uses the Epic One-Year Editorial Planner
There are heaps of YouTube tutorials on how to use the EPICBLOG planner and I've watched a ton of them so I am excited about getting stuck into using my planner as 2018 rolls on. Stay tuned for my review of how the EPICBLOG planner is working for me, a little later on.
Bullet journals are kinda like planners - bloggers seem to be obsessed with them! A quick search on YouTube or Pinterest will show you the lengths that some people go to, to make their bullet journals beautiful. After seeing these pics, it can make you feel a bit intimidated, but if you spend a bit of time learning how to use a bullet journal, they can be a great tool. Basically they are a free form planner / diary / journal / to do list / rolled in to one. Instead of having simple lined pages, they have grid pages which means you can use the pages for more purposes.
You can use a bullet journal for anything and everything; you just log everything in them. I'm planning on using my bullet journal as a creative tool for jotting down blogging ideas, mind maps, journalling, doodling, tracking my savings, creating collages and vision boards, shopping lists, recipes; pretty much all the tidbits that don't go in my planner will be written in my bullet journal. I'll show you what I mean once the year gets underway and I start using my bullet journal properly.
Learn how to bullet journal
Adopt a proper filing system
This is actually really simple. I've already got a system but I haven't been sticking to it as well as I'd like, because I moved interstate and somewhere along the line I became lazy. This is what I do and it works really well.
- Buy a ring binder folder, a packet of plastic sleeves, a couple of packets of folder dividers and a hole punch
- Decide on the sections for your file depending on the types of documents you'll be filing. Some of mine include: House, Car, Mortgage, Insurance, Work/Income, Tax, Instruction Manuals, Warranty documents, and Coffee Trailer. Label the dividers accordingly.
- As bills are paid or important documents arrive in the mail, hole punch them and file away. Anything that can't be hole punched (eg receipts, manuals, warranty documents), goes in a plastic sleeve instead.
You can actually buy folders like this that are already set up and some come with stickers for labelling as well. I bought one recently from the stationery section at kmart for about $5, so if you can find one of these, make the investment as it will save you time and money.
You can of course go completely digital and scan any hard copy bills to USB or the cloud, but if you prefer the old school paper method like me, this system works a treat. You could also invest in a filing cabinet, step file and folders or a good old fashioned expandafile.
Keep a budget
Ok so this is a big one. Writing a realistic budget and sticking to it is important. Equally as important is reviewing your budget. I review my budget at least quarterly. You need to actually check whether what you had originally planned is actually working, otherwise there is no point in having a budget - if it's not practical then it's just a fantasy budget and it's never going to help you achieve your goals. This is such a big thing for me that I am going to write a separate blog post all about how I budget - keep an eye out for that in coming weeks.
Meal planning and preparation
If you've read my blog before you'll know that I am a big fan of meal preparation ahead of time. I'm good at planning dinners but sometimes I forget to prep for lunches and snacks. This year I will make a better effort to plan out my meals for the week in advance and I will prepare as much as I can on the weekends so that my weeks run much smoother. You can read all about how to meal prep like a boss, and download my free menu planner here.
Keeping better records
Here's where my planners, bullet journal, meal plan and filing system all start working for me. I'll be keeping track and recording the following lists in 2018:
- Christmas and Birthday gift ideas
- Books to read
- Habit tracker
- Big bills schedule (read about this in my budgeting post)
- Exercise tracker
- Savings tracker
Dropping bad habits
Improving on bad habits can save you so much time. I know this, but still continue with my lazy habits that end up creating more work by the time I get around to doing simple jobs around the house. This year I'm adopting this motto: If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.
- Put away clothes as soon as they are taken off the line / ironed.
- Take out the trash every morning when you leave for work, so you aren’t left with a heavy, overflowing rubbish bin at the end of the week.
- Make better use of spare time. For example, un-stack the dishwasher while you wait for the kettle to boil for your morning coffee.
- Prep your lunch for the next day while you’re cooking dinner. This saves time AND power.
- Free up at least an hour per day by giving up mindless time wasting habits, like trawling social media mindlessly.
I don't know about you but my mind feels clearer already and I am now sitting here on December 31 feeling organised and ready to face 2018 head on! I hope that these simple tips might inspire you as they have me.
If you've got any tips on how you organise your life I'd love to hear about them - drop me a line in the comments below!
Let's make 2018 the best year yet!
PS. Please note that this post is not paid, nor does it contain any affiliate links, I just genuinely do love these planning tools.