Planning Productive Days, Weeks, and Months (Beginner Series Part 3)

Planning Productive Days, Weeks, and Months (Beginner Series Part 3)

If you haven’t read the rest of this series yet, head over to Part 1 and Part 2.

Get step-by-step commentary from real Ink+Volt Planner user, photographer, and creative consultant Amelia Bartlett on getting acquainted with your planner and how she gets things done all year long.

We’ve discussed this in the previous post — how do you eat nearly anything? One bite at a time.

You’ve made it this far — and now we’re about to push the limits of how micro we can get in our planners. For me, this is where it gets tough.

As you’ve learned from my previous posts, I get the big plans and the big ideas. It’s the development of each step that makes those plans possible that trips me up even on my best days. But, like you, I’m committed to what I say I’m going to create, and I’m going to create an epic life.

In this post, we’re going to break our monthly goals down week-by-week, taking one bite at a time without feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, or resentful of our ambitious and creative ways.

Why we make more goals for our goals

Tell me that doesn’t make your head spin. I have tried endlessly to shortcut goal-setting. Why do my goals need goals? Why do I need to spend all this time breaking down all the steps?

Measure twice, cut once.

With 5 – 10 monthly goals, on top of everything else that’s going on in life (like eating, sleeping, friends, Netflix), you’re on a high-speed train to overwhelm. We all are. We’re all tired of hearing how busy everyone else is, because we are so busy ourselves.

The creators of the Ink+Volt Planner seem to have had this in mind when they created the three tiers of goals from yearly to monthly to weekly lists. This is the antidote to busy. We’re going to create a roadmap of smaller goals that are going to be the leisurely road trip to success, as opposed to the harried rush to the big-picture-goal destination.

Two-step monthly goal accomplishment program

For this exercise, choose a monthly goal that can be completed by the end of the month. Know that this process can be replicated for goals of any size and time duration in the future.

Step 1:

Take stock of the monthly goal you’re aiming to accomplish and map out the steps in order.

Successful goals are built on three cornerstones: time, resources, and capacity. How much time do you have to devote to this goal right now? What resources do you have access to that can help you? What is your capacity to make progress on this goal?

When these factors are clear, you can create a goal that you can actually achieve.

Some steps will require resources that I don’t have yet, or be dependent on activities I haven’t yet completed, so I can’t make precise plans on those yet. For others, I have everything I need and just need to map out my steps to get there.

Since these many moving parts can be hard to keep track of, I like to use a storyboard format to get a clear visual of what I’m working with.

Planning Productive Days, Weeks, and Months (Beginner Series Part 3)

You can download a blank storyboard online, or you can draw your own using one of the Weekly Inspiration pages in your Ink+Volt Planner!

Fill out as many storyboards as you like for each goal. You may find, as I do, that multiple activities can be completed in a single sitting, or that one major piece of the project puzzle will set everything else in motion. Make sure that for each box, you note:

  • How much time this step will take?
  • What resources do I need to complete this step?
  • Am I capable / do I have the capacity to complete this step? (And if not, who can I ask for help?)
Step 2:

Flip back to your month spread and get a clear picture of what else is on your plate already. Now fit your weekly goals into that picture.

You may start to notice that with this system, goal-setting is relatively straightforward whether you’re working with a week, a month, or your whole life. You’re consistently clarifying what it is that needs to be done, taking stock of what’s already on your plate, and creating space for these additional ambitions to make sure you stay on track.

This next step is usually an easy one.

Take a look at your storyboard(s), your monthly calendar, and begin to flip forward through the month’s weekly goal spreads and “plug in” the steps from your storyboard each week. Now, before you ask, there is no formula for how many steps per week or how to know if you’re doing it right.

I so wish there was. It’s time likes these where your planner, no matter how smartly you use it, can’t do everything for you. This is where you become the examiner in your own life. What can you realistically accomplish in a week? Which steps make sense to start with?

It’s okay if you mess up and overbook yourself at first. This happens to everyone! We tend to think we can cram much more into one day than we can. Don’t beat yourself up; simply learn from experience and try to plan tasks in amounts you can consistently achieve.

Reflect + Celebrate

By implementing a trail of goals that leads all the way back to your greater purpose, you’re staking an enormous claim on your life. You’re putting your money where you mouth is by saying, “I want this. I know what it takes. I’m ready to put in the work and this is the day that I’m going to get it done.”

There will be times when this works swimmingly, you’ll check the boxes on that Weekly Goals page and you’ll sit back with whatever reward you provide yourself and write in that box, “I SLAYED THIS WEEK. TAKE THAT OCTOBER 2.”

There are other weeks when you’ll check one, or maybe zero, goals off that list and think to yourself (okay, myself, because this happens to me) that you’re an embarrassment to yourself and how could you have ever set your sights so high.

I’ll let you in on a secret: we want these moments to happen. These times are a gift.

It’s in these moments that we reflect on our week consciously, on Saturday or Sunday right after it’s just happened, and we see what we were up to. We acknowledge what came up, where we indulged, what barriers and challenges met us and how we faced them. In these moments, we learn about ourselves so that we can make adjustments in real-time, building further momentum toward the goals we are committed to.

Take a look at that last seven days. Even if your planner isn’t ready or if it’s the middle of the week. Let’s practice reflecting and celebrating.

  1. What did you do most?
  2. What did you miss?
  3. What was the highlight of your week?
  4. What was the most unexpected surprise or challenge this week?
  5. Who did you see, speak to, enjoy the company of?
  6. What did you accomplish?
  7. What did not not accomplish – and what prevented you from doing so?
  8. What are you celebrating, or what could you celebrate this week?

These questions are just a small sampling of prompts – I implore you to think about what matters most to you and what you’re committed to creating when it comes to reflection. The same way a company might review metrics in a spreadsheet before making a decision, you can take stock of your day-to-day lives to stay present to what you’re doing to ensure it’s the direction you want to be traveling.

Consciously crafting life day-by-day

Have you ever thought about what it means to “craft” your life? Life is your canvas and yours to create. The things you choose to do day-to-day are where that happens.

In part one of this series, I let you in on my perspective: I tend to think and work at the micro, day-to-day level, which leaves me wondering if and how I’ll make progress on my bigger, macro life goals.

Using the first few pages in the Ink+Volt Planner, we’ve created an organized pathway for our goals, leading all the way back to our macro view of our life’s greater purpose. It seems huge, and in some ways, it is.

But really, all of these big goals are as small as one moment in one day. All the planning for where you want to ultimately end up has prepared you now for what really matters: the decisions you make on a daily basis.

Decisions and choices come at a price: your time. I don’t need to tell you that it’s the greatest commodity. It’s a nonrenewable resource, you can’t buy any more of it, and you can only do so much to prevent it being stolen or wasted without your consent.

The reason for all this planning, for having a paper planner and a calendar, for doing everything in our power to fight ‘being busy’ is simple:

Time is the most precious commodity and your planner is your budget.

If someone gave you a million dollars, would you blow it? We all like to think we wouldn’t, but just like that $5 latte I drink every time I go out and that $8 artisanal chocolate bar I can’t live without, we’re budgeting our commodities based on whatever information we have at the time. We are not always logical with how we spend our money. Sometimes we think about long-term investments, and sometimes we give in to quick satisfaction..

Our time is subject to the same influences when it comes to spending it.

As you plot out your goals and tasks every week, try to craft each of your days to be in accordance with what you’re truly committed to in life.

(Not sure what that is? Try checking in with your Yearly Theme for inspiration!)

You have all of the information. You know what needs to be done to accomplish each of your goals at each stage; you know how much time they will take and what resources you will need; most importantly, you know that you are capable.

Taking it day-by-day: using your Weekly Outlook pages

There’s more to life than just goals As we start to fill out the Weekly Outlook, start by taking stock of what exists in your day-to-day schedule that is solid, important, and unchangeable. We’re building on our amount of  protected time. Things like:

  • School schedule
  • Work shifts
  • Taking the kids to school
  • Appointments (doctor, mechanic, etc.)
  • Events
  • Volunteering
  • Date night
  • Deadlines to be aware of

Open your Weekly Outlook and plug these tasks in first.

You may have noticed that the days are not scheduled by the hour. This is the only macro feature that my brain had trouble wrapping itself around. But, I schedule myself down to the 15 minute increments! I have meetings, time-bound goals, etc!  

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: If I time block my life down to 15 minute increments, am I going to enjoy my life? Answer that for yourself.

Planning Productive Days, Weeks, and Months (Beginner Series Part 3)

Here is how I have been tackling the Weekly Outlook so far:

I enjoy color. So I picked colors and assigned them to different “subjects” in my calendar. It was intimidating at first, but now I find it comforting. When I see a certain color, I know exactly what that means, and it rarely requires more explanation beyond what exact times that colored portion may be bound by.

Try to limit your color scheme to 4 – 8 colors. Beyond that, you may need to develop a “key” to keep it all organized.

Now that you have your Protected Time, Weekly Goals, and color scheme (if you’re using one) ready to implement, start to fill in your Weekly Outlook to reflect the life you want to craft.

For a “workday”, I typically keep it all one color, the “work” color, and then add the goals or steps I’ll be taking within that day, noting next to each one if they have a specific time to be completed.

Some of you may be far more artistic than I. You can see that I’ve attempted to draw pictures, write messily, and have since opted for color-blocking with lists that are supported by my Ink+Volt Task Pad.

This is an opportunity for you to experiment and unlock your creative planning potential beyond what you’ve ever accomplished before.

How does it feel to look through your planner and see a life, handcrafted by you, leading you along the path to your greater purpose?

Thank you for joining me so far in beginner series to get you acquainted with the major sections of your Ink+Volt Planner. Whether you’ve yet to purchase a planner of your own, have been staring at a blank planner for who knows how long, or wanted to get some inspiration from another’s way of thinking, I hope I provided some actionable and valuable suggestions for your future planning.

Hey, wait! What about the 31-Day Challenge and all those blank spaces for brainstorming? Glad you asked! Stay tuned for the final two parts to this beginner series, one to help you maximize your 31-day challenges, and one inspire you to take on the deep, generous art of brainstorming.

Amelia Bartlett is a photographer and creative consultant living and working in Tennessee, where she is converting a retired school bus into her home.

She is a new Ink+Volt Planner user, and has created a 5-part series sharing her journey of goal-setting and learning to use her planner. Follow along for inspiration, whether you’re a beginner or seasoned planner user! You can learn more about her work at

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