I’m very much a list person. Lists strike that perfect balance between organizing my thoughts into a logical flow and having the freedom to get those thoughts out of my head with minimal effort. A list doesn’t have to have perfect grammar or structure, yet it’s still structured enough to give me clarity on whatever topic I’m working with.
I think lists were also one of the first things that drew me to bullet journaling. I was already making checklists in whichever notebook or on whatever scrap of paper happened to be at hand, so it made sense to designate a place to keep them all.
As tedious as it might sound, there are certain lists I find myself making over and over in my journal. Just writing the items down is calming, and having them in a place where I can easily find and reference them is invaluable.
So here are a few of the lists that I repeatedly make (and use). Most of them are related to how I organize and plan my life and work. I honestly believe I would not have made so much progress in developing personal habits and systems if I hadn’t started making these lists — and especially if I hadn’t found the right planning system to keep track of them in.
Many people like to make their to-do list the night before, so they can get right to work first thing in the morning. Personally, I find it works better for me to make the list first thing in the morning. This gives me time to reflect and start off slow, instead of having to jump straight into action. It also means I get to start every day on a literal blank page, which I find very refreshing.
Obviously, I make most of these lists in my bullet journal, but I have also recently started using Trello as a supplementary tool.
I like Trello for repeated checklists that I go through on a daily or weekly basis. It’s easy to just create a new card using a template and not have to write (or even type) every item on the checklist over and over again.
Goals & Projects
One bullet journal typically lasts me six months, so at the beginning of each journal, I take some time to write out my top goals for the next half of the year. I find it works best to choose three main goals, and break each of those down into smaller steps.
From there, I’ll choose a few of those steps to complete each month, and further break them down (when possible) into even smaller steps.
Having that master list of main goals and major steps for each goal makes it easy to see and track my overall progress. Choosing smaller actions to take each month — and each week — helps me avoid getting stuck not knowing what to do next. Of course, there are still times when plans get changed or events outside of my control get in the way, and these lists also make it easier to evaluate how I can go about getting back on track in those instances as well.
Reviews & Resets
I’ve written before about my process for resetting every day, week, and month. While I regularly change up the lists I use for my resets, there are a few that remain consistent:
Wins & To Improve: Every month, I like to look back and see what I accomplished and what I still need to work on. I usually place the two lists side-by-side, and the “Wins” list is almost always much longer than the “Improve” list.
Another favorite list I make in my monthly review is my list of Keywords. These are little phrases or words that are representative of the month as a whole. I include things like songs I was listening to on repeat, TV shows I was watching or books I was reading, major events, and themes I kept thinking about.
Weekly Review: It never feels like a complete week until I’ve done my weekly reset. I have a whole Trello checklist of things I like to get myself caught up on or plan out for the next week, but the core of this reset is the list of (currently) four questions I ask myself. Again, these questions change periodically, but the main point is to evaluate what has gone well, how I’m feeling, and what I need to work on improving.
Printable Planner Pages
I’ve created printable planner pages for my goal-setting, monthly review, and weekly review lists. If you’d like to download and use these pages, simply sign up for my email list using the form below. That will give you access to not only the free download, but also the rest of my planning and organizing resources.
Routines and Schedules
Self-Care Routines: Sometimes this is simply a list of activities that I enjoy doing to relax. (I wrote about several of these here!) Other times I’ve made a loose schedule to follow for a quiet, responsibility-free day/night to myself that I tried to make time for on a regular basis.
Weekly Schedule: When I was teaching in China, I always looked forward to the beginning of the semester, so I could get my class schedule and draw out a complete weekly schedule for myself. That’s a little harder to do now as a freelancer, since my schedule isn’t fixed, but I still like to set goals for myself to accomplish certain tasks on certain days. It frees up my mind a little when I set a routine like this, even though I don’t have to, because it eliminates a few choices I would otherwise have to make every morning.
Morning & Evening Routines: I haven’t written these out as recently, because I’ve settled into them pretty solidly for now. But whenever my schedule changes significantly, I like to take some time to plan out routines that will help me be my most productive. Again, this helps eliminate extra decisions, saving time and mental energy.
One page I always make at the front of every bullet journal is my mantras or quotes page. This one is actually less of a list, and more of a collection. I choose little quotes or phrases that I want to remember to live by or that especially help me when I’m feeling discouraged, and I like to have fun with different fonts and colors
Of course, it would be a lot easier to print this out and paste it in, rather than writing it out again every six months, but I find that the act of writing each quote out helps me remember them better, and is relaxing. I also tend to change up which quotes I use from journal to journal, and to add one or two more as the months go by.
What are your favorite lists or routines to make? How do you keep track of them? I’d love to hear from you.
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