My diary, planner and calendar- almost one year on

Last year, I wrote post on another blog of mine about the diary, planner and calendar that I plan to use for this year. As we are now moving towards the end of the year, I thought I would like to write a follow up post on how I have been using my tools of choice.

Different people have different styles of planning and organizing that would suit them the best. Some people plan with just lists on a notepad, some via one or multiple planners, some using bullet journals. It takes time to identity a style that may suit you but once you have come across an effective system, you can literally turn your life around, meet your goals and do not feel overwhelmed.

Below are the diary, planner, calendar and notebooks that I used to organize my life for this past year:

My planning tools- notebooks, calendar, planner and diary

I’ve numbered the items so that it is clearer when I explain about how I use the items.

1. A5  size Diary (dated with daily pages)
I bought the diary from a local hardware store (Mr DIY) for only few bucks. The diary contained only daily spread with no weekly or monthly spreads.

Planning using a dated diary

What I use it for: Initially I use it to track to-do lists and itemize my daily expenses to help me track my expenses. After a while, I found a lazier way of tracking my expenses and stopped itemizing everything painstakingly. As the diary is dated, I would use it to jot down certain important events on that day itself…. examples:

  • places I went with my loved ones
  • some experiences and reflections
  • good lessons I have learnt
  • and even strange dreams that I’ve had.
  • sometimes I also plan the next day because there are a time slot on each daily spread.

I took over my mom’s role in managing the household as my mom has Alzheimer’s. For Chinese New Year, I had to manage a lot of things such as preparation, buying items, prayers, planning visits, etc. I wrote down my plan, items I needed to purchase (because some items can be bought early while perishable items such as food and flowers can only be brought closer to the date). The planning is done over a few day’s of daily spread but I use my A4 planner (item 4) to put down the bird’s eye monthly view of a to-do lists so that I know what I needed to do each day.

In the past, my mom used to write cooking recipes and items that she needed to buy in scraps of paper. Sometimes she would be scrambling to look for a recipe or she ended up forgetting to purchase something important because she could not find the previous year’s list.

The advantage is that the diary is my centralized planning tool hence I would know for planning the following year, I can refer back to what I did. Mistakes can also be listed down so that I can avoid making the same mistakes again in future. There would be variation from year to year hence the next year I would plan afresh but at least I know I can flip over the past year’s diary for reference.

The disadvantage is because the diary is dated, there may be blocks that are empty because you have nothing to write on them. It can be due to being too busy, laziness, not motivated, etc. Well, this does not necessary means that it would go to waste- basically you can use it like a journal. Examples:

  • blog post ideas
  • taking notes about good reads
  • doodling
  • cooking recipes that you have copied down but have not tried personally so you do not want to write down on a dedicated recipe book yet
  • …..and many more

To enable you to find the jottings that you need to look for, create an Index page (just like the bullet journal style) or a table of content. If there are no place for you to write your Index page, just take a few pieces of paper and paste them on the pages that you never refer to such as world currencies, unit conversions and international dialing codes that are always found on diaries (anyway if you ever need such information, you can easily Google them). Use the dates as page number. Example 18 Jan- Sharing from book X written by author ___.

2. Portable thin A5 notebook
I take this book out with me on my carry on bag to jot down information on the go. I do not take my daily diary with me as it is too bulky when I am going to the wet market or exploring new places on foot or going out with friends. As a blogger, sometimes I may be struck by inspiration when I am out and about…. which had happened a number of times. If I do not write these ideas down, I would forget them very quickly.

Sometimes I also use it to jot down useful information- for example when I am visiting a place and is speaking to the sales staff about the place such as operating hours, if I do not write it down immediately, I will totally forget about it. Once, I went to an eating outlet and I asked the waiter what is the store’s operating hours. He told me and I jot it down which fortunately I did because few days later when I sat down to write the post, I totally forgotten the operation hours that the waiter had told me.

Note: Yes, there are times I did not have the book with me. Only then, would I use the notes app on my phone to type it down. But personally, I prefer viewing the information visually written on the book.

3. Table calendar with writing spaces
I have been using the table calendar that I bought from Kaison for the second consecutive year. The calendar is useful for me to jot down appointments, important dates, birthdays and important to-dos. This calendar is placed in the common area of my living room.

I have gotten into the habit of writing down important reminders and appointments on my calendar so that I would not forget about them. I prefer to write down on the calendar. Usually I would use the Frixion pens from Pilot which are erasable. I have also set the number of blog posts that I need to write in a week and mark the posts with the pink III. In the end of the week, I will total up the posts I have done to see if I am meeting my goals.

At the same time, I am also tracking my expenses- how much I am using petty cash and the days that I took out money- it enables me to easily track my expenses:

Planning with my Kaison calendar

4. A4 sized planner
I did not mind that my diary does not have a monthly planner because I’ve always preferred to have a larger page to have more space for me to write. For this year, I bought a relatively inexpensive planner called “Follow Your Heart”. I like the pastel flower design themes on the planner.

I am quite a visual person hence if I have a big thing coming up which requires planning, I want to be able to look at how many days I have and then slot in the timing.

On certain monthly spread, I also use it to track my blog earnings- for example I would list down the days in published on my blogs, followed by the traffic. It is usually used temporary to see if there are any trends or to identify days with highest traffic when I want to explore to change the day that I wish to publish new blog post.

But overall, I observed that I do not actively use such A4 planner a lot because I would make use of my table calendar to write down. Perhaps, if I would consider buying the smaller A5 size so that I can take it out and about, as well as to be able to slip into any bag. It would enable me to write down important reminders immediately and plan when I have a little extra time (eg while waiting for a friend who is running late).

5. Notebooks and old diary- information, research and idea page
I also have an additional 2 books that I occasionally use to jot down ideas. Originally I was repurposing a previous year’s diary to jot down blog posts ideas or good sharing from books usually. However the diary can get a little bulky to carry around so I use another inexpensive notebook.

Reason why I did not jot using the thinner A4 book (item 2 in the picture above) is because sometimes there are lots of things I want to write down when I am doing research or reading an exceptionally good book.

Others: Pens that I use to write on my notebooks, diaries and calendars.

I tend to use Pilot Frixion pens a lot especially for planning in my diary or writing important things on my calendar. Reason because these pens are erasable and they are colorful.

The Frixion pens are more expensive than the normal pens but it enables me to easily erase mistakes.

My learnings- almost a year on

As we are approaching the end of the year, it is a good time for me to reevaluate what works and what doesn’t. I’ve watched a number of videos on planners and bullet journal methods. In fact, yesterday night I literally binged watched these videos to try to identify if there is any improvement I could make to my planning style.

The planner method does not work for me because I always prefer dated daily spreads. I could not see myself using a planner effectively.

Whereas the bullet journal method is too freestyle. I like the approach and flexibility but it is too free style for me. To me it is too much of a hassle for me to have to draw the calendar, daily and monthly spreads. It would make me too lazy to update things. And I would probably be turned off by my own handwriting to continue using it.

If I am managing a household, being a caregiver and blogger (in a way similar to a stay-at-home mom who is managing kids and having her own side hustle), I would continue to use the diary (item 1), notebook (item 2 and/or 5) and calendar (item 3). I also keep a separate book to document on my blogs- the experiments, plugins, themes, what work and what doesn’t via my blog progress journal.

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