How I'm planning my next year

Why I like to plan things by hand, the planner I’ve chosen for 2022, and my “theme word” for the year ahead.

I've been blogging for more than 6 years now, and I’ve posted weekly for the last couple of years. Up until this point, I've written all of my posts by hand before then typing them up. Whilst that will likely be changing in 2022 (I'll be using iA Writer, in case you're wondering), one thing for sure is that I will always keep my reflective writing to pen and paper.

That includes my reflective journalling, my daily to-do list, and my broader annual, quarterly and monthly planning.

In this piece, as the end of the year draws closers and 2022 is coming into view over the horizon, I'm going to explain why, and how, I'll be planning my next year – and hopefully give you some food for thought for your own process.

Even if you’re not much of a planner, I’d really encourage you to set yourself some intentions, or even a simple word or phrase to help guide you over the next year.

Let me explain…

Goals, intentions, and my 'theme' for 2022

I’ve never been a rigid goal-setter. For better or for worse, it’s just not for me.

This is why in the last couple of years I've set myself intentions, rather than goals. You can read my intentions for the last couple of years: here (2020) and here (2019).

I've also found that tuning into how I’d like to feel allows me to better uncover what I need, rather than jumping into goals and “doing”-mode.

That being said, I've realised that it's still important for me to have some structure in order to get things done, stay sane(!), grow, and become who I want to be.

What I like to do is choose a theme for the year ahead. This can be a word or a phrase, and it basically communicates the one big thing that I would like to underpin my year. Something to keep in the back of my mind, and guide the attitude I take and the decisions I make on a day-to-day basis.

My theme for 2022 is FOCUS.

This theme ties into how I want to feel and what I want to do every day* next year:

- each day in 2022, I want to feel calm and grounded  - each day in 2022, I want to do focused creative work

*or, at least, most days. I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t do creative work every single day, or if I don’t feel zen-like 100% of the time, but focus will serve as a useful compass to guide me when I wake up each morning. 🧭

Btw, my book of the year is undoubtedly Deep Work by Cal Newport, which has helped me come to my choice of theme. I’d recommend it highly.

📝 Starting with how you'd like to feel and what you'd like to do each day – or most days – next year, can you think of a theme word or phrase you'd like to guide you in 2022? Take a moment to give it some thought and scribble down whatever comes to mind.

My planning process to date

Beyond that, in recent years my planning process has looked like the following:

This loose approach has (just about) served me so far. But, as my workload has gradually increased, and as I am now 'getting more serious' about my creator business, my trusty daily to-do-list + loose monthly/quarterly planning is no longer working for me. And so...

This year, for the first time since my school days over a decade ago, I've decided to go back to a planner.

Choosing a planner

As I was soon to discover, there are SO.many.planners out there. However, I had quite a clear idea of what I was looking for.

I wanted my planner to have:

- an 'at a glance' month view - plus some kind of daily space for my to-do list

In other words, I wanted a calendar view for me to “see” the month ahead, and then still be able to have my daily to-do list with my '3 most important things' + other bits.

After some research, I went for The Simplified Planner. This was actually made for (and is marketed towards) women, but it looked perfect for me.

I went for the daily planner, rather than the weekly one, as I realised I liked having ample space for my day's to-do list, and I also liked the idea of having a daily calendar available to use as a written daily diary vs Google Calendar, especially as I won't be using a smartphone in 2022 (more on this in a future post, perhaps).

All that was left for me to do was choose a specific Simplified Planner from the handful of pretty-looking designs available. I went for the 'Carolina Gingham' version, in case you’re wondering.

I loved the story behind the planner, too, designed by solopreneur Emily Ley, a busy mum-of-three who wants “to inspire women with the tools they need to simplify their lives”. And I loved Emily’s motto of “Grace, not perfection”, too.

So I waited in anticipation for my Simplified Planner to arrive in the post from the US, and I was amazed at the package that was delivered.

Inside, it was exactly what I was hoping for, and I cannot wait for January 1st to arrive so I can begin using it (yes, me, a not-such-a-goal-setter kinda guy).

So, why a written planner?

As I mentioned before, I've not had a planner since my time at school where I'd use my planner to keep track of the homework set each day, and to know which lessons I had each day (my timetable was stuck onto the inside page). Does anyone else remember those?!

Having tried various 'productivity tools' alongside (or instead of) my little to-do list book, I've realised that I much prefer pen-to-paper writing and physically crossing things off.

With pen-to-paper writing, I feel like I set myself more centred tasks and goals, and the accomplishment truly registers when you physically cross out things on paper – compared to 'crossing out', adding a tickemoji, or deleting an item you've completed on a computer screen, using something like Notion or even a more simple app.

This is why my little to-do list has been serving me so well in recent years.

But as I step more into my writing and creator business, and I'll have more “stuff” to do, and more things on my plate to balance next year, I have outgrown my trusty little black book. 📓

And for the reasons I've explained, I knew I wanted a physical solution rather than a digital one.

To me, writing (task-setting) and crossing things out by hand (task-finishing) is a whole different, more centred and joyful experience done by hand rather than typed out on a screen.

I cannot wait to dive into and starting using my planner in 2022. I'm honestly feeling kinda excited.

I hope I've inspired you to think about how you'll do your planning for next year, whether it's simply what your theme might be, or going further and choosing your own written planner – one that’s not too rigid, not too flexible, but just right for you.



I’m Jas 😊 I’m a writer, self-published author and introvert. You can read my story over here. I’m not on social media, but I’d love to send you my little weekly newsletter.