On Making a Plan, Keeping a Memory

I have about 362* started and never finished (or acquired and never started) planners, journals, scrapbooks, sketchbooks, and photo albums on my bookshelves. It’s slightly embarrassing, actually. Every time I make yet another purchase at my local stationery shop, I feel like I need to apologize for buying a planner or sketchbook, because I’m obviously not using these beautiful specimens the way they were intended to be used (i.e. carried everywhere, lovingly dog-eared and coffee stained). I know that the frequency with which I buy these is a tip-off that I’m obviously filling out a page or two and abandoning them deep in my closet. What is wrong with me?

Wanting to capture my life via plans and/or memories is a longtime compulsion. I started my first padlocked diary when I was about eight years old. As a grownup, I watch “plan with me” YouTube videos regularly. I start a new paper planner system at work every few months or so (hoping my staff doesn’t notice). I check my instagram feed for the hashtag #bujo all day long. The compulsion wouldn’t be so bad if following through with it consistently weren’t merely a pipe dream. I know I’m not alone here. The theme of finding “planner peace” abounds on the interwebs.

But, the end of 2017 is coming quick, and that, for me means a chance to turn over a new leaf. An opportunity to (let’s be honest here) go shopping for some new pens and highlighters and breaking the spine on some new analog life-hacking supplies.

My approach in 2018 will be simplicity. Using analog and digital where each makes more sense. Doing what works for me and not for anyone else. Embracing imperfection and a not giving up when I fail to plan a day or two.

Want to see what I’m planning to use in 2018? (Yes, I’m planning on how to plan … ugh … I can’t stop).

Bullet Journal:

If you need a primer on this, check out the website by Ryder Carroll that started it all. The minimalism and simplicity of his invention is really my jam. If you search bullet journal (or BuJo as it’s sometimes referred to) on the web, you’ll find thousands of devotees, many of whose BuJo’s are works of art. But don’t let that scare you away if, like me, you like neat handwriting and organized list-making, but could do without the wedding-invitation-worthy calligraphy, Zentangles, and colour-coding that some people incorporate into their journals. At its core, it’s minimalism at its best.

I’m going to use my bullet journal to collect and track my goals (short-term and long-term), daily to-do’s, random lists, gratitudes, photos/stickers/cards that I accumulate, and other life ephemera that comes my way next year. If I’m successful, it will serve as a productivity tool, and a scrapbook of sorts.

Here are a couple of the pages I’ve set up so far. I’ll do another in-depth post about the content sometime in the future (after a few weeks of solid use).


I stole this idea from Austin Kleon (who is the author of Steal Like An Artist, so I don’t feel too bad for stealing from him) and renamed what he calls a logbook a “sketchlog” to suit my purpose. I even stole the medium from Austin (Moleskine softcover daily planner). While I love the freedom of the open concept of a bullet journal, for my sketchlog log, I like the structure of a dated book to keep me on track with a simple goal for 2018: a drawing a day.

The concept: a simple line drawing (and maybe a line or two of text, depending on my mood) every day. The purpose: being creative everyday and keep a “micro-diary”.

I thought about sketching in my bullet journal, but I know myself well enough to know that my BuJo will be a little bit precious. I want my sketch log to be intentionally messy. No correction tape will be present in this book. And the dated pages will allow me to quickly see if I draw every single day, as I hope to. The pocket-sized Moleskine means less daunting white space to fill. Plus line drawings look better when they are small. Maybe this is the place where I’ll Zentangle. Probably not. If I keep up this habit, I might start to add a little colour.

The virgin Moleskine looks like this. The fact that it’s lined with time slots adds to the feeling of intentionally messy artistic freedom, in my opinion.


Digital Tools:

Like I said earlier, I can’t live by analog alone. My memory is too gerbil-like to do that. And there are many times I just won’t have the ability to refer to my bullet journal. Here are the digital tools in my arsenal.

Google Calendars. Yes, that’s calendars with an S. I’m up to three that I maintain. The first is the calendar I share with Chris. We keep mutual appointments in there, along with appointments that the other needs to know about (i.e. for coordination of dog-duties). The second is my personal calendar, also for appointments, but this one is for appointments that I don’t need to clutter up Chris’s calendar with, nor bother him with alerts and reminders. The third Google calendar is my most recent invention. It’s what I call my “Daily Routine” and I use it to map out what a good day/week should look like: including sleep enough, not working too much, and fitting in everything I want and need to do. I overlay the “real” calendars over it and then I can see what I need to juggle to not forget about the big rocks.

I don’t have the Daily Routine calendar linked to my phone (so my phone calendar isn’t overwhelming and I don’t get reminders), and I can easily hide and unhide the green overlay on my computer.

Looks like this:

Screenshot 2017-12-26 13.03.17

iOS Tasks. Again, Chris and I take advantage of sharing certain task lists and not sharing others. We have shared task lists so that we can divide and conquer all the home maintenance duties that we’d otherwise never remember (or muster up the willpower) to do. I have a miscellaneous unshared task list for things that are strictly my to-do’s. I mainly use this task list with Siri on my phone, so that if something pops into my head while I’m driving or walking, I don’t need to worry about forgetting it by the time I’m able to write it in my bullet journal. I usually set a time reminder on these tasks and I either do the task when I’m reminded, or write it down in my BuJo for future action if it’s not urgent.

Strides App. I’ve been using this app for about a year and I love it. For me, it’s a habit tracker, but it can be used for other purposes. I know that habit tracking layouts are very popular in the BuJo community, and I’ve dabbled with them in the past, but failed miserably. I need digital reminders and the ability to mark habits as complete in less than a second to be successful. I also loathe the idea of drawing out a tracker month after month or writing out these tasks everyday in my BuJo daily list (simplicity, remember?). So for me, it’s an app. I use it for tracking the little things I want to do every day, including the habits I’m developing as part of the Precision Nutrition Coaching Program (watch out for a future post on this topic).


iOS Notes. Last but not least, is the notes app in my iPhone. I used to use this app as kind of a digital bullet journal (at least the future log and other lists). Nowadays I use it for lists that I don’t want to lose if I ever (gasp) lose my analog journal, or notes on the go when I’m comfortable pulling out my phone and taking a quick note, but not so comfortable pulling out my journal.


That’s it! I’ll do some future posts about these tools in more detail once I get on a roll in the new year.

And, please – wish me luck. Hopefully I’ll have followed through with this in about 365 days from now.

*Rough, but directionally correct estimate