Why is it so satisfying to track our progress and cross things off a list?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a planner. And if you’re also like me, then you’ll always be on the hunt for ways that you can use your planner in a better way.
There are many options out there for how you can use your own - in a very minimal way where you track your goals for the month, to the most extreme where you include absolutely everything, from tracking your fitness to planning a wardrobe clear out. The possibilities are endless.
But when I’ve been doing research or looking on Pinterest, I’ve found it can get quite overwhelming. We’re sort of made to feel like we have to have all of these features in our planners, just because others do.
What I’ve found is that although these things might be great, they didn’t align with my personal priorities. For me, my planner is used to help me stay organised, be productive and prevents me from getting overwhelmed with #allthethings happening in my life, from blogging to freelancing and general day-to-day events.
I’d bet that you’re currently using your planner for your daily to-do list, right? How about a calendar, so you can see when you’re available? They’re both great and I track these things too. But there are actually so many other things you can keep track of that will really help to make a difference to your life too.
Now you don’t have to include all of these things in your planner - let’s face it, there are 33 of them 😉 But take a look through this list and pick out the ones that are going to help you feel less overwhelmed, be more productive and help you take a step closer to where you want to be.
#1 | Annual Goals
Goal setting is an essential part of living a productive life and moving forward in your journey. That’s why you’ll see quite a few posts on ABOH about setting goals. You can’t make a start on quarterly goals or even monthly goals unless you know what you to want to accomplish overall. That way, you can take a big goal and break it down into smaller chunks.
It’s so important to keep track of your annual goals in your everyday planner, because that way, you’re constantly putting them in the centre of your life.
#2 | Monthly Overview
You know how I said you can take one thing and break it up into more manageable pieces? That’s what a monthly overview is for. You can look at exactly what’s going on and exactly what you want to accomplish over a specific timeframe.
On a monthly basis, I write out any important dates like birthdays or anniversaries, any appointments or weekends I’ve got things planned for. It helps you keep track of where your time is being spent and also allows you to see at a glance when you can slot other tasks in.
#3 | Weekly Tasks
You can then go one step further and create a weekly overview, which is each week in your monthly log essentially planned out in more detail.
I find planning my week really useful when it comes to my blog and freelancing. A weekly overview lets me see how much time I’ve got available on certain days so I can then assign tasks based on time. If on a Tuesday, I see I’ve got the whole evening free, I can plan a bigger task for that slot. Whereas, if I look and see I’ve only got an hour free, I can assign a smaller task there. This really helps with your time management.
#4 | Daily Log
Because I’m such a planner nerd, I need a daily log to help me stay on track too. I wouldn’t get half as much done if I just focused on my weekly log. I’m a day-by-day kind of person, so by taking each day at a time I can be super productive.
The way I do this is simple - I just refer to my weekly log and then make a list of what I’ve got to get done that day. I also do it in terms of priority order so I stay on track. You get extra bonus points for that 😉
#5 | Weekly Meal Plan
Meal planning is seriously one of the best things I started including in my planner. If you’re not meal planning then there’s a good chance you’re not just wasting your time, but also wasting your money too.
It doesn’t have to be complicated - I just do it a week at a time. Make a list of what you’re going to eat on each day of the week. If you get stuck for ideas, you could always give each day a theme, like meat-free Monday, pasta on a Tuesday and so on, then just alter things round depending on your commitment. Plus, if you keep a running list of your favourite meals then you’ll never get bored!
#6 | Shopping List
You knew this was coming, right? A shopping list will go perfectly with the meal plan you’ve just created. Seeing your meals at a glance means you know exactly what ingredients you’ve got to get when you do your weekly shop. Just don’t forget to check your cupboards for things you might already have!
#7 | Gratitude List
I’m currently taking part in a ‘thankful list’ challenge on Instagram, and most people who are joining in have said it’s completely transforming their outlook.
It’s no secret - those who acknowledge what they’re grateful for are more appreciative, happier and less stressed. Whether you do it first thing in a morning to get your day off to a great start, or you prefer to do it last of all in a reflective way - it doesn’t matter as long as you’re doing it on a daily basis. I create my own page in my planner for this list, but I’m sure there are plenty of ideas on Pinterest too.
#8 | Master Log
This is something I talked about in an insight into my daily routine, and it’s my secret to accomplishing so much in limited amounts of time. Your master log is a list that you don’t need to feel overwhelmed by - you just keep adding task after task to it. It’s where you keep everything, and you can even use my technique of splitting it into sections.
Your master log is the core of your productivity. From this, you can create your annual goals, your monthly log, weekly overview and your daily to-do list. It’s like a roadmap and it’ll make such a difference to your productivity.
#9 | Accomplishments
With all the noise out there, it can be so easy for us to become focused on the things we’re not achieving. By looking at our lists and feeling disheartened by what we’ve not been able to tick off, it makes us feel like we aren’t making any progress. But I bet you have so many accomplishments on a weekly basis that you don’t even think about.
They don’t have to be huge. It’s the small victories that will mean more. I made a recipe from scratch and it went great. I went through my wardrobe and cut it in half. I got my first reader email. These are all things that can empower you to move forward, because you’re recognising the positivity in your life and giving yourself credit.
#10 | Happy List
This is something I started alongside my gratitude list in my bullet journal. You might think they’re the same thing but actually, they can be very different.
Your happy list is where you note down what has made you happy today, what has made you laugh and what has given you a smile. You might think you’ve not had a good day, but there’s always something good in every day.
#11 | Morning Routine
Remember the saying you were told at school, ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’? Well I hate to say it, but your teachers were right. Getting your day off to the best start with a morning routine is the most effective way to make sure you’re going to be productive.
Your morning routine is yours, so it’s up to you to track it to see whether you want to keep it consistent or make an adjustment. It’s all about reviewing it and making it work in the right way for you.
#12 | Evening Routine
The same goes for your evening routine. For me, this is probably more important than what I do in the morning, purely because I have more time when I get home from work.
My evening routine starts with a work out and I’ve found that’s the perfect way to transition from work time into home time. It helps me give my brain a rest and change my mindset and helps me go into my evening tasks with a positive and productive outlook.
#13 | Books to Read
I always had a running list of books I wanted to read, but I never thought of actually tracking these in my planner. I’m so glad I made the decision to give it a go. Not only is it an easy way to keep track of them, I can also see how much I’m reading too.
#14 | Health/Wellness
Your planner is a wonderful place to track everything related to your health and wellness. If you’re the type of person that has your planner with your throughout the day, it means you can keep track of your health without even really making too much of an effort. Some different things to try could be:
- Daily water intake
- Weight loss tracker
- Exercise Planner
- Body Measurements
- Medicine tracker
- Food diary
- Headache/Symptom Tracker
#15 | Money
I remember the first time my mum showed me a system for tracking my finances and it’s one of the best things I ever started doing. As I’ve grown older and gained more responsibilities, I’ve refined the way I track my money, but it still helps me keep on track of making sure my finances are steady. Here are some of the ways I track my finances:
- Paying off my student loan/other debt
- Tracking due dates for bills
#16 | Household Tasks
Some people prefer to keep a separate planner for household tasks, purely because there’s so much involved in running a house! For me though, it makes sense to have everything in one place. Here are some things you can include in your planner for this feature:
- Packing list
- Cleaning list
- Renovations/decorating checklist
- Gardening list
#17 | Inspirational Quotes
The features we’ve been through so far are great. But what you’ve got to remember is that this planner is yours. It’ll be completely different from everyone else’s because it’s unique and you’ve created it.
One of the best ways I love to make my planner more personal is by including an inspirational quote at the start of every week. So if I’m ever having a bad day or feel like I’m going off track, that quote is there for me to look at whenever I need to.
#18 | Bucket List
This is something I’m looking to do for my planner for 2017, because I absolutely love the idea.
You could do it for a lifetime, for each year, or season to season which is what I’m planning to do. It means you’re not wasting your time and you’re making sure that you’re living life to the full. It doesn’t always have to be all work and no play 😉
#19 | Blog Stats
If you want to keep everything related to your blog in your planner (or you’ve got a separate planner for your blog), then blog stats has got to be in there. It’ll allow you to see how things change month to month, and you’ll get to see how much progress you’re making too.
Make sure you track things like pageviews, number of followers etc, but don’t get things that aren’t related to the numbers. So your top referral channels, your top social channels, engagement metrics and so on.
#20 | Logins and Passwords
If you’ve got various sites to log on to with various passwords for each, keeping your passwords in your planner is a great way to make sure you can access everything easily. Just make sure to keep your planner in a safe place at all times!
#21 | Places to visit
Sometimes, the weekend will arrive and I’ll be absolutely stumped for ideas of what to do with Tom. That’s where this list comes in.
We love travelling round and exploring new places, so I’ve started keeping a log of everywhere we mention. That way, when we’re next stuck for ideas of what to do, we can always refer back to what we’ve listed here.
#22 | TV shows/films to watch
I don’t know about you, but there are SO many TV shows I want to watch. The only problem is I find it so hard to keep track of them all! So yep - there’s a list for this as well 😉
You can even go so far as to track where you’re up to with each TV show as well so you never miss an episode.
#23 | Assignment Tracker
For those of you who are at school or university, why not track this info in your planner too? An assignment tracker can work just like your blog post tracker. You can input your deadline date and then work backwards, so you’re giving yourself enough time to get everything done. You can then break each part of your assignment up into phases and input that into the time slots in your planner. Your classmates will be SO jealous!
#24 | Revision Plan
This can also work really well for revision too and let me tell you - I wish I’d known about bullet journals and planners when I was revising. Creating your own personalised scheduled will make you so much more productive.
#25 | Habit Tracker
If you’re a planner and you love using paper and pen, then it’s highly likely you’re a visual person. This means you’ll love the idea of a habit tracker. It’s a great, colourful, easy way of tracking how you spend your time and encourages you to do more of things you want to do, rather than other tasks you feel like you need to do.
First, you need to pick out the habits you actually want to track. So some of mine include ‘water’, ‘exercise’, ‘posting to Instagram’, ‘practising piano’ and so on. Then each time you do one of these things per day, you colour in the circle to track you’ve done that activity. At the end of the month you can easily see your progress and what you need to improve upon for next time.
#26 | Emotions
Whether you have a bad day, a great day, an anxious day or a confident day, track it. Keeping track of your mental health, no matter if it’s a big or small part of your life can help you understand how it fluctuates.
Do you always feel sad on a Sunday evening? Why do you think this is? What about the days when you’re happiest? Tracking your emotions means you can have a better insight into your life and make necessary changes if you need to.
#27 | Memories
Instead of just ending one month and starting directly into planning the next, why not break it up with a memories page? Evaluate your month, write down your highlights, glue in tickets, pictures and whatever else you’ve collected so you’ve got an overview of what you’ve loved over the past 30 days. Think how many memories you’ll have when you come to the end of your planner!
#28 | Recipes
Like we said when we were talking about meal plans, having a list of recipes goes hand in hand. No time will be wasted thinking of meals to cook and you won’t need to go hunting round your house to find that scrap of paper when you’ve got everything in one place.
#29 | Weather
When it comes to your planner it’s all about the little things. When it comes to looking back over the past week or month, noticing the weather is a little detail that will speak volumes about each day. It’ll also help with your memories and you’ll be able to visualise your past so much more.
#30 | Blog Post Ideas
I bet you’re sick of me going on about how important it is to have an editorial calendar as a blogger - but part of that working means having some kick-ass ideas too. This was something I stressed in a recent workshop I did to Journalism students.
A big fear of a blogger is running out of ideas. You don’t want to jot something down on a stick note and lose it. Keeping a list of your ideas in your planner means everything is in one place and you’ll never run out of future content pieces.
#31 | Wishlist
When I think of something I might want or need, I make a mental note of it. But when it comes to Christmas or my birthday and I’m always stumped for things to ask for. That’s why I’ve started making a wishlist so I can actually ask for useful and meaningful things. Plus, it’s the perfect way to treat yourself when payday comes along.
#32 | Future Projects
Just because you’re planning for right now and reviewing the past, doesn’t mean you can’t plan for the future. Leave the last page in your planner for anything related to the future, whether it’s a big event, an idea or maybe another feature you want to include from this list.
I just wanted to leave you with one last piece of advice. I know it might be tempting to go mad and include all 33 of these things in your planner, but do so with caution. Think about your priorities, think about why some of these things would be useful for you to keep track of and experiment. Each month will be different, each month will look different and that’s the beauty of it. Just remember why you started.
Now it's over to you! Do you use a planner? Which of these features do you think you'll start tracking? Is there anything else you'd add to this list?