Photo of a planner
Photo of Rebecca’s 2021 Planner. It is a black hardcover XL Moleskine. 2021 Planner is written across the top with a turquoise paint marker. In the center is a large sticker in black, turquoise and yellow, depicting an anatomical drawing of a heart with the word justice in the design.

I’ve been obsessed with organizational systems and workflow questions for as long as I can remember. I have tried tons of planners, methods, notebooks, task apps, the works. And I now have a system that works for me that has solidified over the last few years. Take what might be useful, and leave the rest.

I use a weekly paper planner, and the one I choose is a Moleskine XL format. It has the days of the week listed down the left page of the spread, and the right page is lined. I found I enjoyed a lot of things about Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal approach, but I found it daunting as someone with particularly limited energy.  So I looked at how I was laying out those journals in practice, and discovered that a planner like this would replicate a lot of what was my natural layout approach, I just wouldn’t have to draw things out.  I also realized that I need to maximize what I can do with brain fog, and part of that is the ability to look ahead and write something down when I think of it – even if it’s for 6 weeks from now. So this pre0drawn year-long weekly calendar, with plenty of room for planning and writing is what works for me.

At the beginning of the week, on Sunday or Monday, I usually sit down and start a plan for the week.

Daily Planning, left page:

Any appointments I have, as well as my personal assistant schedule and any changes to my dog walker schedule are all recorded on the left on the spread, in the days of the week. I mentally see the day as divided into three columns.

On the left, I write my appointments. I use my Google calendar as my calendar of record, so part of my process is checking Google Calendar and copying over appointments. Since I use more than one tool to plan my life, it’s *really* important that I know which tool I use for my master calendar, and consistently, always, use it. Anything else can lead to confusion. I use Google Calendar, because I always, always have my phone, because I can schedule as far in advance as I need to, and I have it set to give me reminders.

In the center, my task list for the day, and any other useful reminders, like when I get my monthly SSDI payment, or that it’s a special day for someone I care about.

On the right, things that are crucial to my support system, like who my pet care volunteers are for the day, or something I need to remember for my assistant. I do this especially for long-term planning, like looking ahead and jotting down the next time my dog needs her flea and tick meds. I use a separate dedicated notebook for the bulk of my planning with my assistant, which we use together.

Photo of planner, pens, dog
Photo of a bedscape: An open planner, an open roll of pens and markers, and a 50 pound Great Pyrenees mix dog on orange sheets.

Weekly brainstorming and planning, right page:

The right side of the spread I use to plan categories of tasks.

My categories are things I made up based on what is important to me, and they are color coded, because that’s an easy organizational system for me, and a method I’ve used for a long time.

My categories are:

  • Body/health care (purple): This is anything from ordering supplements, to setting appointments, to preparing for appointments, sending emails, etc.
  • Work (blue): I work a few hours a month for a friend. This keeps my next tasks with her front and center, so I can remember them when I have some extra energy.
  • General life task (green)s: This is a catch all for things like schedule the car inspection, fill gaps in the pet care schedule, mail my absentee ballot, call the vet.
  • Things I love (red): This is my biggest list! And I highly recommend it. It includes books to read, mail to send, art or crochet to make, online coffee dates with folks I love, cards I need to order.  I keep track of some of these things in my daily log, too. They are what gives me joy, connection, contentment, feed my brain.
  • Social justice (pink): This might be donating to causes, researching issues, participating in mutual aid.
  • Social media (orange): I admin 5 Facebook groups, and run multiple Facebook and Instagram pages. I do much of this on crip time, and may or may not di it that particular week, depending how I feel I try to schedule FB posts in advance when I can, and do make sure that a couple of weekly posts that I host get done.

Realistically, I don’t look at my planner all the time throughout the week. If I really need to remember to do something, or do it at a particular time, I put a reminder on my phone. And for that, I use Google Calendar.

Using it:

As a general rule, I list tasks with empty squares in front of them, as check box bullets. I list appointments as empty circles.  When tasks or appointments are completed, I fill in the box or circle. If they get cancelled or I didn’t do it on that day, I put an X through the circle or square. If I made progress on the task, I fill the box in halfway. This makes it easy to see what’s done and what isn’t.

I try to take a look at my planner at least once a day. I don’t do this on days I feel particularly exhausted. Then, I just rest. It will be there tomorrow. Or the day after. The goal isn’t to put demands on myself. The goal is to have a good tool for remembering and planning.

I add things as I think of them, even if I don’t realistically think I’ll get to them this week. That’s OK! It’s a might do list. I can always just carry them over.

I do not get all these things done! Nor do I expect to. That’s OK! IN fact, I find it to be a critically Years ago I switched to making lists of things I *might* do. Then I asterisk ones that are particularly critical. Don’t feel overwhelmed by what I do.

And, Repeat:

Using Ryder Carroll’s process of reviewing, when I move on to the next week, I simply look at what didn’t get done on the list from the week before, and decide what to copy over onto this week’s list, and what I can let go of.  I draw my new category boxes, carry things forward, or dream fresh.