My 2020 Analog (and Digital) Planner Setup

An analog-planner-inclined friend of mine asked about my 2020 planner “lessons learned” and thoughts for 2021 planning. After writing an extremely long email in response, I thought I’d flesh it out into a post in case it’s useful for anyone else.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, last year I did two things that helped my planner setup immensely.

  1. I read “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport. You might not need the lessons in this volume, but I definitely did. In January I did a digital detox which involved removing all social media apps from my phone for the month and considering how I spent my time online. Reading this book helped me understand how precious my time is, and how important it is to spend it how I want.
  2. I took Shawn Blanc’s “All the Things” course in which he details his hybrid productivity method. He uses both a digital task manager to store to-dos and reminders, and a notebook to plan his days. Since I have never successfully done all-digital or all-analog, this primed me to accept a planning model that wasn’t all one or the other.

But I was still deeply committed to analog planning because I think better on paper than I do on the screen. After years with Bullet Journals, I started 2020 with a dated Passion Planner Weekly. I have finally accepted that I think and plan in weekly increments, and while I admire the creativity and skill it takes to create elaborate “weekly spreads” in Bullet Journals, I don’t enjoy doing that anymore. I like the Small (A5 or 5.8” x 8.3”) size for portability, although the planners also come in Medium (6.9” x 9.8”) and Large (A4 or 8.3” x 11.7”).

There is a lot to love about Passion Planners. The company was founded by Angelia Trinidad, a Filipinx artist and entrepreneur, and they have a deep commitment to giving back through their “Get One, Give One” program. Passion Planners are made from high-quality materials, like long-wearing faux leather covers and sustainably-sourced 120 GSM paper that stands up to any my fountain pen inks. But most compelling to me is how this planner encourages me to break down my big goals in smaller, achievable steps, and reflect monthly on my progress.

In January, I filled out my Passion Roadmap for the year, feeling very organized, inspired, and ready to achieve my goals.

And then the second week of March happened. Everything at work changed almost overnight, and kept changing. Suddenly I needed much more note-taking space than my Passion Planner had — or so I thought, because I was hoarding the 20 blank pages and 20 dot-grid pages in the back.

So I switched to a dot-grid notebook for the note-taking space, and went back to a Bullet Journal setup. This gave me plenty of space for notes, but lacked an efficient way of tracking projects, due dates, and agenda items, and all of these were only increasing in intensity.

Two months into my new remote-working situation, it was clear that my system was about to fail, and fail hard. I transcribed all of my items into my digital task manager, Todoist … which resulted in lots of lists that were overwhelming to view and challenging to manage.

Here is where the hybrid productivity method I learned about earlier really came in handy: I now use Todoist as a place to collect tasks and track due dates, and use my Passion Planner as the space to plan out when I will work on them.

By June, when we started to work onsite again, I had ditched the Bullet Journal for the Passion Planner again, with a slight modification of the back pages I was hoarding: I used the blank pages as post-it parking so that I could utilize the pages without using them up.

In retrospect, I should have just used the blank pages for notes. All of this was such over-engineering! Now I manage all of those agenda-type notes in Todoist, one list per meeting.

The big missing piece of my puzzle was what everyone kept telling me to do: the weekly review. Weekly reviews were frustrating for me this year because everything changes so quickly; I grew disappointed in spending all that time on a Sunday evening planning everything out only to have it all lost by Tuesday afternoon.

Now I do a 10-minute review each night before I get ready for bed. I look at one of the filters I’ve set up in Todoist and use it to time-block the next day in my Passion Planner.

I used to think it was a waste of time to copy my appointments from my calendar app to an analog calendar, but now I view the practice as a way for me to keep my days in balance. With only a digital view into my days before, I could accidentally overload a day with meetings. These days I have a clearer picture of what needs to get done so I can block off enough time to do it.

I learned three big lessons from planning this year:

  1. I don’t collect to-do items in my email inbox. That’s a fast track to chaos for me. Email gets read and deleted or moved out to my task list. I try to only “touch” each email once so it doesn’t accumulate.
  2. I don’t write to-do items in my Passion Planner, only the focus and objectives for the week. Each week I set one work-related focus and one personal, and two to three objectives. (Objectives are bigger than routine tasks but smaller than projects.) This has evolved from previous systems in which I planned to accomplish three objectives every day. I scoff at the naïveté of my pre-pandemic self. I’m not going back, either.
  3. I only use time-blocking for workdays. That’s intentional because I need unstructured downtime to bolster my mental health, especially right now.

All of this is, in the grand scheme of things, not that important. It’s important to me because the structure I’ve described allows me to keep functioning. People rely on me to keep functioning, so I’m very focused on it right now. And also I am aware that I am privileged to even be writing this when others are losing their jobs, their homes, their loved ones, their lives. But like I said at the start, maybe some small part of this will be useful to someone else. That’s my hope, anyway.

If you are looking for an organization to support on Giving Tuesday, please consider brightening the holiday season for one of the families staying at Good Neighbor Center by purchasing a gift from their wish list.

Don't go anywhere and don't click on anything

While I am a bit laid up with accidental gluten ingestion, feeling sorry for myself but also irritated by feeling sorry for myself, I thought I’d take a moment to write to you and justify the existence of this website.

So here we are, the weekend before Thanksgiving in the US, and no one is going anywhere. In this household, at least. The New York Times has produced yet another steaming pile of self-righteousness in the form of this op-ed.

To save you time and brain cells I’ll summarize: “Dear reader, I’ve traced my COVID-19 bubble and it’s enormous! Here’s my anecdata to show you how much my actions impact others’ lives in the midst of a deadly pandemic. And yet, I’ve got to go with my gut, so I’m traveling to see my parents this year.”

Considering the carnival of callousness that 2020 has been, I did not think it was possible to be further disappointed by the New York Times, by writers who flaunt their cognitive biases in dangerous op-eds, or by people in general. But hey, I clicked the link. (What am I doing still clicking links?)

FunkyPlaid and I have exercised an overabundance of caution since mid-March. Overall, I would not call it a fun year (although I have fun with him anywhere, including “stuck indoors for months at a time”). We have given up things we really wanted to do and people we really wanted to see. Also, because of my job, I’ve been plugged into public health reports since March. In April and May, I was still so hopeful for the summer months. I had this dream of being “back to normal” (ha!) by September.

I don’t want to go back to normal. Normal was horrible and unacceptable for so many people. Let’s go forward to better. And by April 2021, please? Earlier this week at the Portland Book Festival, Margaret Atwood said we would enter the ending penumbra (or some similarly brilliant wording) by April 2021.

Readying myself for that ending penumbra, I’ll share a few lessons I have learned this year:

  1. I am allowed to rage at the US government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. My aunt died from COVID-19. You’ve likely lost someone too, or you know someone who has Long Covid. And many, many more will suffer and die because the people who were elected to keep us safe didn’t. This outcome was not inevitable; this outcome is inexcusable.
  2. People are willing to prioritize their own convenience over others’ lives. (I had already learned this lesson, but this year kept reminding me with such panache.) We can break ourselves of this terrible habit by asking, “Who benefits from this? What is the cost to everyone else?”
  3. Everyone defines “friendship” differently. Find people whose definition matches up with yours, and love them so much.
  4. When you are given the opportunity to improve someone’s life, even in the smallest of ways, take that opportunity. It may seem like nothing to you at the time, but your nothing could be someone else’s everything.

Happy Thanksgiving. Don’t go anywhere and don’t click on anything.

Hey, Micronauts: Is there a way to embed an RSS feed in a site?

What's going on in Portland?

I’m getting this question a lot. The answer is that it depends on where you look. So look in the right places.

You may be in the habit of relying on national news agencies to learn what’s going on. I get it. But if we want to know what’s really happening, we must look to the local reporters and organizers who are really here and who are really doing the work.

Edited to add: I used to have a PDX News list on Twitter until I understood that compiling this information publicly could potentially put folks in danger. But here’s a list of freelance journalists in Portland and their CashApp/Venmo/PayPal handles. Pay them for their work if you can afford to do so.

And if you are resisting this information, ask yourself why.

Franchesca Ramsey’s video “5 Tips for Being an Ally” was linked to from Rachel Cargle’s #DoTheWork 30-day challenge. Today I realize that I am very anxious about the future mistakes I will make in learning how to do this work, but that anxiety will not stop me.

Some days are just plain demoralizing. So tonight I’m writing letters to voters in Texas, asking them to vote in November. Want to join me? Sign up with Vote Forward.

Criminy shows you his new favorite chair.

You know me: can’t go too long without ink tests. 🖋 Here are some of my current faves on Tomoe River paper.

Today I learned about the violent and racist origins of American policing from this episode of Throughline. If you are at all interested in history, give the Throughline podcast a listen. I’m consistently impressed with their level of research.

📚 Read: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book should be required reading for all white Americans trying to educate ourselves about systemic racism. It is not an easy read, nor should it be.

Today two patrons thanked us for flying the Pride flag. 🏳️‍🌈 I hope our LGBTQIA+ patrons and staff feel welcome at our library. And I know that I have more work to do to ensure that everyone truly IS welcome.

There is so much we must do to dismantle white supremacy. But there are so many ways to help! If you’re thinking, “I need to educate myself first,” then have I got a resource for you! Your library card is one tool in this fight. Ask me how to use it!

Posted @withregram • @ijeomaoluo Repost from @dopequeenpheebs • Today #BreonnaTaylor would have turned 27 years old. She would have been celebrating with friends and loved ones and just being carefree and joyful like every black person has the right to be. Instead, on March 13th, she was shot EIGHT times and killed in her home in the wee hours of the morning all because of an illegal “no knock” search warrant. Anything remotely resembling justice has yet to be served. We cannot and should not forget her. So, in honor of Breonna’s birthday, please join me by calling the numbers in this infographic and demand that Officers John Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove be charged with murder. Administrative leave is not enough. Them being fired would not be enough. Elected officials placating us that the evidence will be reviewed will never be enough. It is June. We cannot wait any longer for the adults to do their jobs. #JusticeForBreonna #BlackLivesMatter Click the link in the profile if you want to donate to Breonna’s GoFundMe. Graphic: @ju.niyah

Today I will go into the library to do my work for the first time in months. This is a concrete step in the planning we are all doing to reimagine how we serve our community. I am excited! And a little nervous. I did not sleep well last night.

📚 Currently Reading: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

Yesterday, as I obsessively watched the news, my hold on this library ebook was finally ready. It is a challenging and necessary read. I am learning so much.

📚 Read: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This is a well-constructed fiction from the #MeToo movement, and it reads like one. It didn’t land enough emotionally to disturb, and didn’t take enough risks to inform.

My rating: ★★☆☆☆

I looked up from my laptop and this was happening. (So stealthy, that Criminy!)

Doodling with Colorverse Gravity Wave. It’s a deep teal with red sheen, not visible on this paper, but I’ll do a real ink test soon.

Special delivery of a tiny bottle of Colorverse ink! Not pictured: the awesome friend who dropped it off.

Criminy is not sure how he feels about this.

Less than a week away now. #oregonvotes #vote

I inked up my vintage Esterbrook Dollar Pen today. My pens = my moods. When I ink up my 💵🖊, I mean business.

D got a birthday-gram from @theunipiper tonight! Our neighbors enjoyed it almost as much as we did. What a perfect Portland memory. 🥰

Yes, I did just use “embiggen” in a Zoom meeting. 🧐 How is your brain doing today?

An IndieWeb Webring 🕸💍

I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.