Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Jake Talks About Lists Again

Obsessive Compulsive Meets Organisation

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a deep and unhealthy passion for lists. List are life. Lists are love. People also know I am painfully organised. My house is tidy, my days are ordered. And as a result, I am very productive.

This blog post is going to be an insight into how I organise my life and, there are no surprises, its mostly lists. Lists make me happy. They make me content. And I find crossing things off lists to be very enjoyable indeed.

This post is not a suggestion for how you should organise your life. Rather, its just an entertaining insight into me and my system. In fact, I suspect my system wouldn’t suit anyone else, and if it was forced onto someone, they would probably go crazy.

Still, maybe something here will inspire you, or solve a problem you have been grappling with. At the very least, it will give you an entertaining peep into my brain.


My journal is for my thoughts, my memories and my feelings. It is an exercise in mental health. I put down the good and the bad here, both so I can let it go, and so I can process and analyse what is happening in my life. It helps me make plans, analyse my problems and explore my feelings. I have had dozens of epiphanies writing in my journal. I would say putting myself on paper has changed the course of my life for the better.

I go through a lot of these. On average, one hardback, lined journal every two months. That's about six a year. I do a lot of thinking. And a lot of talking to myself! Some days, I can write 10-15 pages, though the average is closer to 3 pages. That's not to say I journal every single day, but I do make the time a few days a week.

If you are stressed, feeling lost, feeling frustrated, unhappy with your life, or just trying to step your life up to the next level, I strongly recommend journaling. Getting all your thoughts down on paper makes a huge difference. I don't see any point in imposing any rules on yourself. I will say, my favourite time to write is early on rainy mornings, either out on my back deck or in bed—depending on how windy it is.

Either way, even when I am stressed, journaling is a relief, if not a joy. It’s a way of letting go and taking time to get to know myself. It’s the one time I can be 100% honest, knowing I can't be judged. And that is a rare pleasure indeed.

Day Planner

This is for my practical, every day 'to do' list. It keeps my house running, and makes sure I get to appointments and pay bills on time. It is a tool and the workhorse of my productivity. There is nothing poetic or creative about it.

Everything else on this list makes me feel good, or makes me more productive, or cares for my mental health. However, my day planner is vital. Without it, my life would be in complete shambles. Because when I am very ill, I can't remember anything, and because my day planner tracks my medication and if my pets have been fed, my day planner may actually actively keep me and my pets alive.

I actually don't know how people function without a day planner. I can't even imagine it.

What is really important to me, is that my day planner has a full page for every day. Its very frustrating for me when Saturday and Sunday are sharing a page, since my weekends aren't less busy than my week days. When choosing a day planner, think about how your week is structured and spend the time hunting for a planner than suits you. You might even find a digital planner suits you better, but I will stick to my physical book and pens.


My bujo is part goals, part inspiration, part monthly plan. I don’t bujo exactly the same as other people—though anyone who insists on bujo 'rules' is just a killjoy. My Bujo is a gorgeous Paperblank hardcover notebook with blank pages. I keep it yearly, so each bujo covers a whole year of my life. It is used to track my yearly goals and projects, which are then further broken down into monthly sections. I include a lot of lists and checklists. Including, but not limited to, places to visit, saving and finance, books I have read, books I want to write, blog post planning, weight and fitness tracking, birthdays of friends and family, wish lists, planting and harvesting guides for my garden, career goals and milestones, & personal goals and milestones.

My bujo is also decorated with stickers, washi tape and hand drawn art. Its not just about tracking, its about inspiring, so its important to me that it looks good. Working on it is a great joy for me, an artistic process and something I do when I want to relax and do something creative.

Bujo is a fantastic hobby for people who love lists and art. Just keep in mind it should be enjoyable. Too many people I see put pressure on themselves to make it 'perfect', or they put such high expectations on themselves that they fall behind in bujo maintenance then are too despondent to catch up again.

I started working on my 2019 bujo in August, planning out the pages I wanted and then the order I wanted them in. I pencilled in the title and page numbers very lightly and over October/November/December I will do the penning and taping for many of the pages—since I am going to be very busy with a baby early in the year, I am hoping to get at least six months prepared in advance.

Often, I will set up pages at the start of the year, then only decorate them as the year progresses. Even if I have finished with them. That's okay too. Bujos are about function and enjoyment. Its not an art competition.

Prayer Book

Every day, instead of praying out loud, I write in my prayer book. These prayers are usually in the form of giving thanks, asking for guidance and asking for God to act on behalf of the people around me who may be struggling.

If you aren't religious, the equivalent would be a gratitude journal, with letters to loved ones.

Personally, my prayer book has a hugely positive impact on my mental health. It teaches me to stop trying to control everything in my life and not obsess quite so much. Its also nice to look back through the pages and see how many of my prayers were answered, and how many things I was worried about that turned out okay.

Obviously, for me, as a Christian, it is a deeply personal connection with my faith. Its not really something I would recommend for others, unless the idea brings you joy and excitement. Its not going to make you more organised, either way!

Business and Writing Plan

This is my only digital file. I keep it in scrivener and it is broken into several parts.

Social Media & Promotion
Novel Length Projects
Shorts and Novella Length Projects
Vision Writers
Non-Career Items

These are straight up lists of things I need to do, broken down into manageable/practical steps that can be added, one at a time, to my day planner.

In the Writing Plan, a novel might look something like this:

TITLE – First Draft
TITLE – Second Draft
TITLE – Feedback and Beta Readers
TITLE – Third Draft
TITLE – Synopsis and Query
TITLE – Submit to Agents

In my day planner, I might put 'Title – First Draft' down a my primary goal for several months, while I write it. But once it is done, it gets crossed off in the Writing Plan and the next day, the primary item in my day planner is 'Title – Second Draft'. And plodding along in that manner keeps me productive and on track.

In each section, Website, Vision, Novels, etc, everything is listed in the order I want to complete them. So, I always know that, in each section, I work from top to bottom to achieve my goals. There is, however, a LOT of things in this file. Probably enough work for at least the next five years, if not the next ten. And that's okay. Its fantastic to have a clear idea of where I am going.

None of it is set in stone, I can review and change it whenever I like. Things get moved around a lot—just not in mid project. Once I start, I commit to finishing.


There you go! Insight into the way I track and organise my life. Inspiring? Terrifying? You tell me. The important thing is, I have a system that works with my life. Whatever you do, you need the same.

And stay tuned, the newsletter, synopsis series and new website is coming! I promise.

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