My Easy Monthly Setup

I had actually planned this post for last week but had a bit of life happens and broke my weekly posting streak but now I’m caught up and back to my regularly scheduled program which is to show you a minimal monthly and weekly setup that has been serving me well for the past 7 months or so.

When I adopted a loosely “Bullet Journal” style I tried to find examples of other people’s layouts in order to get a feel for how it operated in the wild and as much as  I loved some options I found that the setup took too long and I didn’t end up filling it out. There were a lot of habit trackers that ultimately killed my interest in tracking those habits, I don’t have a lot of appointments I need to keep and although I sometimes have a to do list that goes beyond varnish new Grasslands Ghosts piece, swatch Kuretake palate or write 500 words for revised piece, it is rare that I need to record those goals in detail. This is largely because of how I work now.

I used to spend a lot of time on to do lists and when I work on them now they tend to make it into my stream of conscious journaling process because they are part of my active thoughts. I err a bit on the anxious side on a daily basis and as a result I’m always in the middle of completing a daily checklist that runs in my head. Putting it in a schedule makes me more anxious and as a result the sweet spot is to trust myself to complete tasks and just put down items that I’m concerned I’ll forget or that I want the satisfaction of checking off. It might not seem like it but this has shortened my weekly task list and increased my productivity because the list acts like a touchstone rather than a directive.

I track a total of 12 habits on a monthly basis. These are six of them.

  1. I narrowed my tracking goals down to twelve. These relate to work, health and wellbeing. I used to try to track up to twenty different habits but found that although I was learning a lot about how I spent my time I was also burning out on tracking because I felt like I was competing against myself to accomplish the absolute most every day. I picked my twelve habits from my list of priorities for 2019. The first four relate to making art (including practice, swatching, prepping and varnishing pieces), writing/editing, journaling and posting on my accounts on various social media sites. Basically these are my work trackers and because of the nature of my work I don’t keep a normal schedule so these just help keep track of my consistency and the general focus of my work in a given period of time. The next four relate to health habits: workouts, yoga (I loosely use it to track yoga, stretching and low key pilates work that aids in my physical recovery and maintenance), bath (specifically soaking for recovery) and dry brush (which I’ve found helps me recover from workouts, it is supposed to aid in circulation). And then the final four are the fun ones and I track them to ensure that I’m not fixating too intensely on productivity. As a result I track naps, reading, gaming and vaguely relaxing as a general catch all for not spending the whole day on work or chores.

    You may find twelve to be overwhelming but the point of the way I track these is to target behaviors I want to engage in and use tracking to encourage me and reward me by giving me a visible sign of my efforts especially on larger, ephemeral projects that can’t be done quickly. I also find it rewarding to track recovery and relaxation in order to reward myself not just for the directly productive work but for the additional behind the scenes work that allows me to be consistently productive.

    These two pages are my primary monthly trackers. I also have a single page with room to record workout dates, time, type and how I feel after but that’s literally all that is on the page until I workout.

  2.  My tracking used to take up an entire page but I found that these little mini calendars do the trick and allow me to highlight the days that I engage in these habits. It takes very little time and I don’t try to make the shapes perfect with a ruler but I used to use a pencil to make sure I had my sizing right. Now that I’ve been using this format for awhile I can just eyeball it and use ink. You definitely need a pen with a small nib to make this work but only if you have enough trackers that you need them to be fairly small. I include three lines for monthly goals, these vary from specific To Do activities like running an errand, finishing a project or making an appointment to more vague activities like participating in Camp NaNoWriMo–which for me is not about the word count but rather using the time to participate in a creative challenge. And then on the opposite page I have a monthly calendar that I’ll use to track sleep and water (when I remember to track) as well as important scheduling information. I use extra space in the calendar as a notes section.

    My weekly is sometimes biweekly but it depends on how the days in the month fall in a Sunday-Saturday schedule.

  3.  And this is my final section. I’ve been enjoying finding images to glue in and I leave a space for doodling. These are just elements that add extra reasons for me to engage with the weekly because they make me smile and I think that’s something you should remember when working with any planner system, you want to add in elements that bring joy into the habit. Here’s where I have a shorter term to-do list, a daily gratitude tracker which has helped my mood on a daily basis, check in tasks for self-care, art, social media and writing and then spaces to write in anything important for each day–these are usually notes from the day that don’t warrant a whole journal entry but that I want to keep track of.

And that’s it. It doesn’t take me more than an hour to set up the whole month in my planner and most of that additional time is for finding magazine clippings I like for the month or brainstorming if I want to add more flourish by adding a theme.

Do you have a favorite planner system? Any questions on setup? I hope this helps you get ideas on how to start simply!

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