bullet journal

UFM 17: Plan Ahead (aka A Planner’s Autobiography)

I am a planner. 100% Type A personality, the type to have a five-year-plan in 6th grade. The tips and tricks I learned then still serve me well.

It all started back when I was playing the double bass, and getting pretty good, despite the idea that I had “no time” to practice. I made the mistake of mentioning this to my private teacher, Ms. Crisman, one day, and she suggested I try tracking my time. She gave me a handout from her side-hustle, Mary Kay Cosmetics, which was basically a spreadsheet (this one, in fact!) of the week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. “Just see what happens,” she said.

Immediately, I noticed where all my time was going. Television and playing The Sims, and just the knowledge that this was how I was spending my time (and that my idol Ms. Crisman was going to see it) was enough to get me to practice more, and probably to read more, clean my room, and do all the other things that I thought I didn’t have time for.

It wasn’t always so effective. Often, I’d start the week great right after my lesson, and by the end of the week, I was playing a lot of computer games again. But just the accountability of the chart helped.

From there, I moved into planners, and fell in love with them. The new planner was my favorite part of the new school year, and I liked looking back through them at the end to remember everything that I’d done and the things that had mattered to me at the time.

Sometime in college, or maybe a bit before, I started writing out full daily schedules, either in my planner or on slips of paper, which may have been where my planning and attention to detail really spun out of control. I liked the satisfaction of crossing items off the list as the hours ticked by, and I was overly influenced by a brief passage in Jane Eyre, when she was visiting the cousins who were horrible to her as a child, and one had become self-indulgent and the other puritanical. The puritanical one, Eliza, advised the other, “Take one day; share it into sections; to each section apportion its task; leave no stray unemployed quarter of an hour, ten minutes, five minutes–include all; do each piece of business in its turn with method, with rigid regularity.”

Eliza was not meant to be a model, but I made her one, and tried to contort my days into that kind of clockwork. It was not a great system, though I was extremely productive. It finally ended with me showing my week’s schedule to my therapist and her pointing out that I had not scheduled a break for in five days. This was apparently unhealthy and she made me change it, which made me less efficient, but ultimately got me out of therapy, so win.

Nowadays I use a bullet journal and I’m pretty pleased with the system. It has the shapejuly 17 of a planner with more flexibility, the space to schedule every hour of my day (including breaks) if I want to, and the ability to see what I actually do if I remember to write it down. It’s the system that works for me now. It helps me see where my day has gone, to note anything I want to be aware of like what I ate or how I felt, and to make longer, more elaborate plans whenever I feel like it.

This morning that meant planning out the first part of August with packing and cleaning the apartment. I also added a few things to my monthly to-do list which helps me see where my likely spending will happen. For instance, I need to change the oil in my car and I have a number of things to take to the dry-cleaners july(normally I would just take my chances and throw my clothes in the wash, but these are actually nice interview-y type outfits and my wedding dress so it’s probably not worth it). This helps me remember, even more than my budget, that I actually will spend money on my optometrist appointment and the cat’s vet appointment, etc. and that keeps me from giving in to the temptation to spend on a meal or a drink out. Though I may have actually scheduled one of those with a coworker today as well. At least I’m planning ahead?