Modern life can get overwhelming sometimes; tell me about it. The rising pace of everyday life demands the use of many tools like calendars, to-do lists, planners and other productivity apps to cope with our busy lives and stay on top of our crowded schedules. There has to be an easier way to think, do and reflect in our everyday lives…
As someone who loves staying organized, journaling and planning on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, even the act of getting organized becomes overwhelming and time-consuming, especially when my planning workflow involves managing 4 aspects (calendar, to-do list, journal, expense tracker) to stay organized (and sane!).
This is where Notion comes in; a life-saving all-in-one app I discovered in 2019 and have been using to manage my everyday life ever since. It’s basically a blank workspace that helps you create a digital version of your mind; acting like a ‘second brain’ to store whatever you keep forgetting and want to remember. I personally use Notion for a great deal of things, which include but are not limited to:
- Managing my to-do’s and calendar
- Planning my day, week, month and year
- Goal setting and creating action plans
- Journaling down my thoughts and emotions
- Tracking my finances and expenses
- Managing the startup I’m working at
- Managing this blog and my writing efforts
- Keeping summaries of the books I read
- Keeping notes and managing online courses I take
- Planning any short-term or long-term projects I’m part of
- Bookmarking anything interesting I want to access later
- Keeping checklists and routines for everyday life
- Documenting my ideas, milestones, decisions…etc
- Planning and documenting my travel adventures
- Auditing my lifestyle and tracking my personal growth
As you can see above, if it weren’t for Notion, I’d be using no less than 10 apps in order to get these things done and wasting my time switching between them instead of using my brainpower on the activities that matter. I think of Notion as my own personal knowledge management tool that helps organize my mind and life.
This didn’t happen overnight of course; my digital workspace as it is now has been two years in the making. But the most important aspect of planning I’d like to share here is how I plan my everyday life using Notion; this is what you can start using right away :).
👉🏼 Note: If you’re new to planning, this might be a lot to take in. That’s okay; take only what you need or are willing to use. If you’re already into planning, this might give you some inspiration and ideas to use in your own planning workflow…
My Planning Workflow
I plan my everyday life on a weekly basis (every weekend), using a Weekly Planner page I created inside my Notion workspace, shown below:
It consists mainly of 4 sections that help me stay organized:
to define my weekly goals + review milestones afterwards
- To-do list + Calendar:
to jot down my activities and deadlines throughout the week
to jot down my thoughts, ideas, emotions, decisions and anything I think is important or worth remembering
- Expense Tracker:
to document my weekly expenses
Bonus: I also have a spiritual journal to jot down spiritual reflections and a reading log to create summaries of the books I read.
Let’s take a look at the planning workflow step by step.
Step 1: Define your weekly goals + review them next weekend
When trying to make progress in everyday life, I’ve found it useful to clearly define and document three things each week:
- Goals: what you want to achieve
- Habits: activities you want to keep doing
- Milestones: small wins you want to remember
Before the week begins, the first thing to do when planning is to define your goals and the most important things that need to be done by the end of the week. They could be an important meeting, appointment or event you need to attend, a task you want to finish, a deadline you have to meet or a personal or professional goal that matters to you.
✍🏼 I write these goals down in the first section called Progress Log under the Goals column (see screen below).
After the week ends, it’s important to review how your week went. Did you manage to work on any of the goals? Are there any milestones you want to mention? Which habits were you able to maintain? What small wins happened that you’d like to remember?
✍🏼 I document the habits I managed to keep during the week under Habits and write down the progress I’ve made under Milestones (see screen below).
In defining your goals before you start, then documenting the habits and milestones afterwards each week, you’ll end up with a quick overview of the important things that happened. It should look something like this:
Step 2: Braindump to-do’s on your calendar + plan every day during the week
The next step after defining your most important goals is to see where they can fit into your schedule, as well as add less important or urgent to-do’s and activities throughout the week.
✍🏼 I braindump my to-do’s in what I call my Master Backlog, which is basically a to-do list that also looks like a calendar. Very useful if you ask me! (see screen below)
This should be your go-to section every morning, in which you plan your to-do’s on the calendar and check them off throughout the day. You can also drag and drop them around to reschedule them anytime during the week or month.
Step 3: Jot down your thoughts during the week
As someone who loves thinking and writing, my favorite thing to do throughout the week is to capture the thoughts, realizations, learnings and feelings that cross my mind which I think are worth remembering or holding on to. This is why I have a dedicated Journal section inside the weekly planner to encourage jotting them down at anytime.
Self-reflecting on what I’m doing or thinking via writing helps me actively learn and grow as a person much faster than going through life on auto-pilot without having an organized approach to think things through. If you don’t believe in the power of journaling, I highly recommend you give it a try for a while and see for yourself :)
What’s in the journal?
I tend to organize my thoughts into the following 10 categories:
💆🏻♀️ Check-in (Feelings)
🏳 Lessons Learned
✍🏼 At any given moment throughout the day, you might find yourself realizing something important you want to hold on to, practicing gratitude by verbalizing the blessings you experience, making a decision you want to remember, documenting your small wins of the day as progress, checking in with your feelings, jotting down your ideas or articulating any challenges you are facing, lessons learned or even questions you keep wondering about.
This simple but powerful act of braindumping and verbalizing your thoughts into written words isn’t only useful in remembering and processing things but also gradually improving the clarity of your thought with time.
And the beauty of digital journaling is that you’ll never run out of space, paper or notebooks; and they will be instantly accessible and searchable when you need to to return to them later.
👉🏼 Note: In your own journal, you can remove or add new categories according to what you want to remember and keep track of. Keep only the categories you need and know you’ll want to use.
In the Weekly Planner template, the Journal Log contains the categories of thought as columns (very easy to use), shown below:
In addition to the journal, I also document my noteworthy expenses throughout the week in the Expenses Log (shown above). This helps me track overall expenses on a monthly basis.
Bonus Step ✨
In addition to the weekly goals, to-do list + calendar, journal and expense tracker, I keep track of two other things that matter to me, shown above:
- Spiritual Log: to jot down spiritual reflections
- Reading Log: to summarize the books I read
✍🏼 Think about the things that matter to you which you want to incorporate into your week. What would they look like if they were sections in your weekly planner?
That was an overview of how I plan my week using Notion. Planning and viewing everything in one page every week has made things much easier and less time-consuming for me, rather than switching between different apps or even other pages inside Notion.
👉🏼 Note: If this was overwhelming, please know that it take times to ease into the idea of planning, but the reward of an organized mind and life is surely worth the effort. If you’re already a planner, perhaps you can consider any of the sections I mentioned above to improve your existing planning workflow.
On good days, I find myself planning everyday and jotting down reflections as I experience them. On bad days, I simply stick to my to-do list + calendar in order to get the urgent and important things done, then call it a day. In the end, it’s up to you to make the best out of your day to the best of your ability. That won’t always happen, but making a habit out of planning is the first step forward to organizing your mind and life.
Ready to give it a try? I created the Weekly Planner template on Notion in 2019 and have been using and improving it ever since. Now I’m sharing it below for free; it has worked wonders for me and I hope it does the same for you!
Get the Template ↓
Click below to access the template
or tweet me if you need help setting it up ↓↓
Time to Reflect
✦ What’s the key takeaway you can start using right now?
✦ Which thought categories will you add in your journal?
✦ How can you incorporate planning into everyday life?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments 👇🏼
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