Happy New Year! We are ready for a fresh start, as I'm sure many of you are.
2020 was certainly not the year anyone expected, throwing most plans wayward and turning lives upside down. Given that life is still unpredictable in many ways, it would be easy to believe there is no point in planning. But, on the contrary, we think it's more important than ever. Planning encourages you to focus on what you can control and to continue improving even in difficult times.
While our planners are wonderful guides for productivity and organization, we designed them to do much more. We hope they inspire you, encourage creativity, and promote thoughtfulness and purposefulness in your life. We hope they foster healthy life habits like gratitude, kindness, self-care, exercise, and self reflection: practices that are essential to growth and fulfillment. In short, we hope to move beyond productivity to create a life of meaning.
Here are some new ideas and good reminders to help you get the most out of your planner this year.
1. Use your planner daily - make it a habit. About 40-45% of what you do every day is habit-based, meaning much of your time is spent without conscious thought given to how you're spending it. We encourage you to capitalize on this by using the power of positive habits to incorporate planning into your daily routine. Start by setting aside specific times each day and week to plan. Make it something you look forward to and leave your planner in a place you'll see really frequently. This will prevent “out of sight, out of mind.”
2. Follow our process. In the Unbound planner, we purposefully walk you through a process to build a fulfilling life that reflects your deepest values. Each step builds on the previous one. As opposed to just listing goals you think you should have, we want you to create goals that mean something to you. Here are our steps:
- Self reflection
- Goal creation
- Goal organization
- Yearly planning
- Monthly planning
- Weekly and daily planning
3. Use the Goal Timeline page as your compass for the year. Goals can be overwhelming - plain and simple. And poorly organized goals can be even more overwhelming. There are daily habits you want to create, weekly and monthly goals, big dreams, trips you want to plan, and the list goes on. To help you organize all these varying ideas, we created our Goal Timeline page. On it, you write all your goals for the year so you can easily see everything in one place. For clarity, we have you divide your repeating goals (daily, weekly, monthly) on one side and your one-time goals on the other. We encourage you to revisit this page often to reevaluate your goals and make sure you’re making progress on the things that matter most to you. Keep in mind that like your life, goals are fluid. They should change as you change. This means goals you identify in the beginning of the year may lose their importance as the year moves on. This is not just okay, it’s normal. You want to make sure the goals you are spending your valuable time pursuing are still relevant and important to you. Long story short - don’t be afraid to outgrow a goal and move on.
4. Use your "Future Goals and Dreams" page to store all your hopes and dreams that aren't possible quite yet. There are many things you can still accomplish, work towards, and cherish in today's more-restrictive world. But it is true that COVID-19 has temporarily changed how the world works. Don't let go of these dreams - instead write them here and save them for when the world opens once again.
5. Use your 2021 Overview page to record your favorite memories from each month. I did this last year and loved being able to see all the highlights of my year in one place. Your highlights don't necessarily have to be the typically significant events like vacations - they can also be special meals, a favorite book, a challenge conquered or any memory you treasure and want to remember.
6. Ideas for your seasonal lists page. We think it's important to offer planning space for all the different intervals of the year - yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and seasonally. While it's less common than the others, seasonal planning certainly has its place. You could list seasonal household tasks to complete or create seasonal "bucket lists" of activities you want to do. Personally, I like to list all the little things I look forward to with each new season - it's a chance to practice both anticipation and gratitude for what each one brings.
7. Ideas for your project planning and goal pages. There are endless ways to use our three project and goal planning layouts. For inspiration and new ideas, check out our blog post dedicated to this topic.
8. Inspire yourself and get creative with your ideas section each month. This is one of my favorite parts of our planner - the "ideas this month" section. It is a wonderful way to think of new ideas in many different areas of your life. What do you want to learn? How can you be more connected? Have fun? Relax? Help others? It helps you see what you're doing well and what you need more of. Try to be creative and push yourself outside your normal routines.
9. Ideas for your weekly divided “things to do” list. We split your weekly to-do list into easy and big tasks to visually separate your quick to-do’s from your big to-do’s. This way, if you only have a few minutes to get something done, you can quickly glance at your list and see what you have time to tackle. If this separation doesn't make sense to you, there are many helpful other ways to use this divided list; for example: personal vs. work, urgent vs. less important, home vs. other, must-do vs. could-do. I often change mine up from week to week depending on what is going on.
10. Use your daily habit tracker to create real change in your life. Do not underestimate the impact seemingly small daily commitments/habits make over time. Change sometimes happens very quickly, but more often it happens slowly, and it is was what we do everyday that eventually builds us into who we are and the life we live. Use your daily habit tracker to create new positive habits that will eventually lead to big changes and growth. Seeing a check mark every day is a powerful way to encourage you to keep going.
11. Try dividing your weekly schedule page into sections. All our layouts are designed to be open and flexible, but our weekly column page is especially so. There are countless ways to use this spread. One of my favorites is to draw a line through the columns to create two halves - I use the top half to list my scheduled events and the bottom half to list my tasks. I’ve also used the top half for personal tasks and the bottom for work to-do’s. You could also draw three lines (or use washi tape) to divide the sections into morning, afternoon, and evening. There are endless possibilities - play around with different ideas to see what works best for you, which may vary week by week.
12. Add times to your weekly layout. If you need/prefer a daily hour-by-hour schedule, you can easily add times to your weekly schedule layout. To make this process both faster and more exact, use an index card to create a template. First, choose the beginning and ending hour of your day (in this photo I chose 6am-9pm) as well as the interval (e.g hourly or every 30 minutes). Next, write out your hourly schedule on the index card. Finally, hold the card up to each column and copy the hours over. With this method I can do a whole week in a few minutes.
13. Use the three dots in the top of your daily column to list your priorities. We all know how fast time goes and how it's often impossible to achieve everything on our to-do list everyday. That's where the power of priorities comes in. Each day think of the one to three things you really, truly hope to achieve. These should be the tasks that at the end of the day, if you've done them, you'll feel accomplished. Listing them at the top of your daily column keeps them clearly in sight and emphasizes their importance.
14. Use the weekly quote to inspire deeper reflection. Each week we have a new weekly quote with the hopes of inspiring you in some way. Depending on where you are in life and what you're going through, a quote may speak differently to you. Take the weekly quote, write in on a sticky note and place it somewhere you'd see often, like a bathroom mirror. Use it as a starting point for reflection in your own life. How does it inspire you? Cause you to think?
15. Be consistent with your gratitude, self care, and acts of kindness. Expressing gratitude, taking time for self care, and acts of kindness are all simple but very powerful ways to positively impact your mental health. This is why we make space for them every week and for gratitude, every day. Make an effort to be consistent with these habits and see the impact it has on how you feel.
16. Try using a key to better organize your to-do lists. To-do lists are always changing. Some tasks get moved to the future, some become irrelevant, some we delegate to someone else, some get partially completed, etc. One way to easily keep track of all these changes is with a key. Use your key to “code” each to-do bullet with a symbol or marking that indicates something specific. Check out the photo for ideas and to see the key that we use.
17. Use your meal-planning space for anything you want to track weekly. Planning meals in advance allows you to save money on groceries, eat healthier, and reduce the stress that comes from having to think up and prepare last-minute dinner ideas. But if meal-planning isn’t for you, no problem - this space also works well for anything you want to keep track of on a daily basis. Some great examples are: your workout routine, daily steps, daily mood, prayer and meditation practices etc.
18. Add sticky tabs to your planner for easy navigating. Each planner comes with two ribbon markers, but to easily flip to more than two pages (for example, every monthly calendar), consider adding sticky tabs. There are lots of awesome options out there but our favorites are tabs that are reusable and re-positionable. There are many great options online.
19. Use your planner to plan but also as a keepsake and memory keeper. Planners are incredible memory keepers. All year long you use it to write down important events, list your evolving goals and dreams, reflect on life - your successes/challenges, track habits, and so much more. In the end, what you have is the story of your year. Your story may not be written perfectly or completely, but it will include endless memories you’ll treasure looking back on, including many moments you may not capture anywhere else. Even better, our planners are beautiful bound books - perfect for collecting on your shelf year after year. So as you move through 2021, think not only about what you want to plan but what you want to remember.
We hope you find these tips useful and inspiring as you embark on your new year. Here’s to 2021!
Wishing you all the best,