Setting up a 2022 life/work planner

So it’s that time of the year again.

For 2022, I thought I should really try to customize a planner system that works for me. This year I mainly just relied on Google Calendar and post-it notes but I really struggled with motivating myself and being productive. Also this is as much a need for me to overcome some mental challenges and reduce the anxiety and stress I feel. I’ve always wanted to try a bullet journal but realistically I know I won’t actually use it well based on how it is normally used. So I figured it would be better to focus on something that is functional and combines both personal and work.

I thought about it and realized a few things about how I work:

  1. I don’t have a need for a monthly/ weekly/ daily diary style planner because all my appointments, meetings, etc go straight into my Google Calendar which gives me reminders and since a lot of meetings are virtual it’s much easier to click the link through my calendar. Moving meetings around is also easier. And I have both my work & personal calendars synced on my phone as well.
  2. Having said that, I decided I may need a monthly spread to have an overview of deadlines that are coming up. So that I am able to prioritize what needs to be done that week.
  3. I tend to use post-it notes to jot down a list of urgent tasks I need to complete because I need to have it visible otherwise I might forget about it. I stick it on my monitor so that I don’t lose track of what I need to do urgently.
  4. I also like to break down tasks into sub-tasks or a list of steps I need to take to complete it. That way I don’t feel too overwhelmed.
  5. I don’t have a proper system for personal tasks, I just note it down and only remember it at the last minute.
  6. I tend to struggle to get started on tasks unless it’s very urgent or the deadline is close (chronic procrastinator).

Also I decided that I want a system that is straightforward and easy without causing any unnecessary anxiety. The last thing I want is to feel a sense of dread when using my planner. I don’t want to be caught up with how perfect it should be or how aesthetic it looks even though I do love seeing other people’s beautiful bullet journals. All those can make me feel too overwhelmed and stressed out which then makes it pointless. So I set some guidelines for myself to follow:

  1. Uniformed layouts so I don’t feel stressed about being “creative” with layouts or tired from preparing them
  2. Decorating using stickers/ doodles/ etc kept to a bare minimum
  3. Function over aesthetics (don’t stress about themes unless inspired)
  4. Mistakes over perfection because No.3
  5. Customized to suit my style of organizing/ working (what works for others may not work for me)
  6. In a size that isn’t too small or too big, easy to bring with me
  7. Prioritize things that help me stay focused, productive, and motivated

I saw some YouTube videos of how others were setting up their 2022 planners / bullet journals and a lot of them were either using Archer & Olive or Hobonichi Weeks. For some weird reason horizontal weekly spreads just do not work for me. Just something about the horizontal layout that I just can’t get into. I watched someone use a vertical weekly planner to plan out every hour of their day (like a time blocking system) which will never work for me because I just can’t work that way – I need flexibility because not everything goes according to plan and I don’t want to feel stressed out just because plans change. Then I saw someone use the vertical weekly spread to note down day-to-day tasks instead of using it for scheduling and I think this would be the perfect system for me. I have my work and personal schedules in Google Calendar already, so a vertical weekly spread where I just jot down important tasks that I need to get done that day would solve the issue of having so many post-it notes stuck to my monitor.

So based on my style of working, I figured I need a planner that has:

  1. A monthly overview so I can see my deadlines and plan ahead
  2. Vertical weekly spread for tasks and to-dos of the day
  3. A section where I jot down my running list of things I need to get done as and when they are assigned to me (master list/ brain dump), of which I need to sub-section them into
    • General work
    • Research/ Grant
    • Lectures (Class management)
    • Programme coordinator tasks
  4. A section where I can break down projects or tasks into sub-tasks and steps needed to complete it
  5. Maybe a section with important things I need to quickly refer to for work (eg. grading system and course statistics, how to generate OBE results, etc.)
  6. Maybe a “Kanban” section to keep track of mid to long term projects

So the best way is to use a dot/grid notebook and prepare the sections bullet journal style. The only reason I’m not using a traveler’s notebook approach is because I already have one passport size for travel plans (currently shelved thanks to Covid) and another standard size which is solely used for personal health tracking. My TNs tend to get bulky so I prefer something simple for work. Normally I use a moleskin at work but I’ve never properly organized one since I use it more as a brain dump and to take notes during meetings.

My next issue was to figure out how to divide up the notebook into each section. How many pages do I allocate for each? This always gives me anxiety because of the uncertainty. Like what if I need more pages? What if I don’t use up the pages? I’m planning to overcome this by reminding myself that it doesn’t have to be PERFECT. If I need more pages, I can jump to another page behind or something. And if I don’t use it up, so what? I struggle with this but I’m working on it and hopefully I’ll see some improvements.

After searching all over Shopee for something suitable, I bought a Midori MD B6 Slim notebook with grids. I really wanted something in the size of a standard Traveler’s Notebook but after thinking about it the B6 slim would make for a better vertical weekly layout. The standard TN would make each day too narrow, with the B6 slim I can have Mon, Tues, Weds on one page, Thurs, Friday, Sat and Sun on the next page with Sat and Sun sharing one column since I have fewer tasks to do on those days. This gives me about 6 squares per column/ day.

And I’ve gotten it, started setting it up and started using it already. I can already tell it’s going to be a bit of a learning process to know what works or doesn’t.

Year at a glance

The year at a glance seems ok for now, I’m sure as I use the planner I will find things I want to change about it. Currently it’s only to note the public holidays and pay days, not sure how useful that would be.

Monthly spread

Initially I wanted to do a monthly overview at the start of each vertical weekly for that month but I realized it would be a bit difficult to figure it out the layout so I lumped all the monthlies together. Next time I would use a light color pen to draw out the lines (black is too harsh) and need to figure out how to do Thursdays without having it cut across the page fold.

Vertical Weekly Spread

The vertical weekly spread worked out the way I wanted. But as I tried it out I realized I prefer to use my color brush pens to draw out the checkboxes so it looks cleaner. I’ve settled on grey circles for personal to-dos, pink boxes for work tasks, and purple triangles for events/meetings/appointments. I’ll have to continue using it and see if it works for me. I like it so far, it helps me stay motivated and procrastinate less.

Master to-do list

I originally wanted to do a master list with sub-sections but realized I don’t know how many pages I need to set aside for each sub-section so I ended up with just WORK and PERSONAL sections. Will need to figure this one out as I go along. I also need to figure out how to add a notes section to breakdown tasks into subtasks. So for now this master list is for tasks that are mid to long term that I later on transfer to my weekly spread.


And I used the last page for swatches. 🙂 Overall the Midori MD B6 Slim notebook with grids feels great to write on and is the perfect size for me. Only issue could be possibly not enough pages for everything I wanted to do. I have to leave out the kanban board idea and reference section for now as they won’t fit in.

Here’s hoping for an amazing 2022!

✨Manifesting happiness and good vibes✨

Happy New Year everyone 🙂