Come along with me as I take you through a quick tour of using my Flexible Planner - how it worked during the last year, and how it adaptable it was to the changes and seasons and life. It truly illustrates how flexible it really is!
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I thought I'd take a moment from our busy holiday season and share with you how The Flexible Planner can help you through seasons like this and more. And what better way than to open the cover of my own planner to give you a real life example?
While I hope showing you my personal planner gives you ideas and inspiration on how to use your own Flexible Planner, I do have a couple of warnings for you:
- I never planned to photograph or video my planner, meaning, it is NOT those pretty Instagram photos or YouTube videos of amazing pages and artwork. Just saying.
- That said, the photos are purposefully taken at longer ranges so the writing is a bit blurry - I want to share how I'm using the pages, but not necessarily all the details of my life, lol.
- This is my real life. Some of the pages are filled out nicely and some aren't - the point is to show how this may be used by real people and not just pages filled in to look good.
- I've added things to it (homemade divider pages) and use things differently (the monthly spread) - but I'm sharing these to show and inspire how The Flexible Planner works for YOU (and me!) with pages you will really use and can adapt.
Okay, now that those caveats are out of the way and you know what to expect, let's get to the tour! First up is the video I recorded taking you through the planner from front to back, including the binder I'm using to house my planner. I did no editing - it's me talking, sharing, stumbling over words, and making one comment on post-its only to turn a page and find a bunch of post-it notes, lol. It's just real life, friends!
In addition to the video I'm sharing many of the pages here that I talked about in the video with some of the ways I use them. Look at them all and the video or just do one - either way, I hope you find this useful and inspiring - and a way to get excited about all the possibilities this year!
Supplies Seen Using My Flexible Planner:
- Filofax Domino A5 binder (and hole punch - not seen, but needed!)
- Fineliner colored pens
- Pentel RSVP Pen
- Planner stickers
- Thin Washi tape
Using My Flexible Planner
The Video Tour
The Pictorial Tour
Let's start at the beginning - the contents page. Okay, technically that's not the beginning - the cover page is (and you get THREE cover choices, and they're all pretty cool) and in the 2019 version I've added some goal-setting strategies and tips before the contents page that may help you plan. But the contents page is where the planning starts, so we'll start there.
To be honest, I tried to use the Bullet Journal's bullet symbols, but I've been using checkmarks and lines for so long that I would forget about dots and circles and go back to my own, so I just embrace that. I'm pretty sure that's what it's all about, right? I sometimes do boxes, sometimes dots and I don't really differentiate between a task and event - it's all just happenings in my world!
I do love the move it forward arrow - I usually go through the day's list and anything that didn't get done gets an arrow and moves to the next day. This is visually really helpful for me to see that each day's list has been taken care of in some way.
Goals/Plans & Action Steps (Apparently I have things to say about this.):
I LOVE filling these pages out at the beginning of a new year. I put on some soothing music, brew a cup of tea and take time to think about the previous year's goals and what I'd like to focus on in the new year. Looking at my 5-year goals (a couple of which are Brian and my goals together) helps me narrow on what steps I can take in the next year to move these along.
For example, "travel" is one of our big goals so I better have some specific travel goals in mind for the coming year that we can take action on. This is an area it's so helpful to have a plan if it's a goal - so many times in our past a year would go by and no travel happened because we weren't really thinking about it specifically.
Which brings up this (not in the video, I'm just thinking of this now...): I've read a lot about goals - don't bother; do bother, but call them something else; or just focus on other things and don't get hung up on them. I call them goals, but what they really are are priorities - and here's the thing:
Everyone has priorities in life - and they happen whether we think about them or not.
If you don't think about them, then your priorities are just the things that happen to you as you go through your day - getting your kids ready, going to work, getting food on the table, watching that Netflix show everyone is talking about. While none of this is bad (and we all have seasons of life where this could be all that we can do...), this is what I mean when I talk about simply letting life happen to you. Time marches on and each year seems to look like the last while we're just treading water.
Now, think about how great you'd feel about your year and what you accomplished if you looked back on the year after you did focus on priorities/goals like these:
- Spending quality time with your kids (action step: weekly or monthly "dates").
- Creating a new project at work that will increase your income or result in a promotion (action steps: tasks need to accomplish project).
- Focus on eating healthier, or eating at home 5 nights a week (action steps: gather easy recipes, make a meal plan, etc.).
- Expanding your knowledge of the world through books and shows YOU want to read/watch (action steps: read _ books in a year; watch one documentary a month).
They all still pertain to the things we have to (or get to) do in life when we don't think about priorities (parent, work, eat, entertain) - but they are much more specific and result in a much richer life.
These goals/plans do NOT have to rule you or cause guilt. If you look back through the goals I've shared on AOC since 2010, you'll see quite a few things that weren't accomplished. It doesn't matter - if it's still important, I put it on the next year's goal and if it's not, I just call it good. For example, I thought we would build our emergency fund up in a couple years, but it took more than five. I don't feel bad about it - it's a lot better than not having one and just thinking "one day" we'll get to it, right?
So use this page for inspiration and dreams. And the things you DO accomplish? Well, they'll make you feel amazing!
I use this spread to map out a loose annual strategy for AOC - any events happening and what I will (or hope to) focus on during the months.
It can also be for events, birthdays, kids activities, travel, or anything else in your life it would be helpful to see all at one time.
Most months I use this page to bring forward the goal action steps I want to work on and list any events and to-dos I need to accomplish the goal steps.
And some months I don't. It's all good and still working for ME by being there when I do need it. I also sometimes use the Monthly Title Page to record an inspiring quote or Bible verse - this was an idea from a Flexible Planner user and I loved it (thanks, Lena!).
The Monthly Calendar:
I use the monthly spread as a menu plan, recording our meals for each day as well as the activities our family has. This works for me and acts as a record of our past meals I can refer to if needed.
Of course this calendar can be used in a traditional way for your life's events and happenings. It can also be a monthly strategy or for planning out projects, homeschool, etc. Definitely think outside the box here and think about what will be most useful to you!
3 Ways I've Used the Weekly Calendar:
#1) 3 Main Tasks + AM & PM Blocks.
I used this layout for the first 3-4 months of 2018. The three main tasks helped me get over that "I have too many things to do and not enough time" mentality. All I needed to get done were the three things and the day was a success, productivity-wise.
The morning and afternoon blocks helped me visualize what I could get done in those 3-4 hour periods, again as a way to combat the too many things to do thing.
#2) Time-Blocking the Days.
I felt I needed to see and keep track of how much time it actually took me to do things, so time blocking through late spring and into summer was the answer. To make this work as a record, I actually used the Daily Planner Page (a Flexible Planner Bonus) to list what I needed to get done that day and then recorded how long the tasks took here.
Other days I'd know what I needed to do and I'd just start listing them using an arrow to show how long it took. I'd add appointments and work around those.
I find this layout really helps when I'm feeling frazzled - this helps me feel more in control.
#3) Simple Bullet Lists.
This is more of the bullet journaling method - list the things to do that day and record if they got done or need to be moved to the next day. I've used the weekly calendars like this for the last four months or so. Each day of the week seems to have the same rhythm now and I know pretty much what I need to accomplish during the day.
Note: in each of these 3 ways, I add the evening meal at the bottom of the day - I transfer it from the monthly menu so I can know at a glance what we're having (and if I need to defrost something, start it in the morning if it's a slow cooker meal, etc.).
The Lists Section:
The one thing I LOVE about using my Flexible Planner in a binder over a bullet journal in a regular notebook is that my Lists Section just stays there as I change out the other pages yearly (that's why this is a green page - one of the early version of the planner was in color, but then I realized it's more expensive to print and colored pens show up better on black and white pages). I do not have to transfer or lose them.
I have notes, meal ideas, my ideal day, blog ideas, and more here. It's where you can "put your brain" and just list all the things you want to remember or think about. Books and movie lists, food log, notes from meetings, cute things your kids say - the sky's the limit!
The Flexible Planner includes 12 blank dot-grid pages at the end to start you off on your lists section. You can print them or not - or print more. You can also buy dot-grid pages online. It's up to you.
In fact, the whole planner is created on dot-grid pages since it's my hybrid of a bullet journal and traditional planner. The dot-grid pages give you the flexibility to add color and artwork without lines in the way if you want or to just act as a guide for to-do lists.
Is The Flexible Planner right for you?
I created The Flexible Planner after many years of trying to make pre-made planners work for me and then getting tired of all the repeat pages I had to make in my bullet journal. After using my Flexible Planner for a few years I think it's just about a perfect combo, and it has helped me to get things done (big and small) without just letting life happen around me.
I hope it can do the same for you! CLICK HERE to get more information and purchase (since it's a downloadable file you print out at home or a print shop, it's very affordable!).
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