Got a new 2019 planner or calendar? Here are 7 things to write in now

When my podcast co-host, Sarah Hart-Unger, visited over Christmas, she looked at my notebook and calendar on my desk, and issued a proclamation: I was a bullet journal keeper, I just didn’t know it.

Having read Bullet Journal creator Ryder Carroll’s work, I suppose I can see it (though I never would have thought to sell my system as a System — clearly a failure of imagination on my part!) I use my paper notebook (Mead notes, Cambridge edition; purchased at Target) to write down lists of weekly priorities, and then sublists of daily priorities. I create what Bullet Journalists call “collections” in various places: books read, Christmas presents, RSVPs for a party, voice mail messages, weekend plans.

(There are no illustrations or stickers. Not my thing.)

I use my paper calendar (At-A-Glance DayMinder weekly appointment book; 3 9/16 x 6 inches) for recording any time-specific obligations or desires.

I know people who use electronic calendars can just put in new dates whenever, but for those who use paper systems — or electronic folks who just haven’t sat down to think about the year! — January is a great time to fill in important things for the next 12 months. Here’s what I’m filling in; if your life is like mine (kids, job, etc.) you might take some time this week to write these in too.

1. When the kids are out of school. Many schools publish their calendars far in advance (2019-2020 should be available; our school board approved this calendar in April 2018). Individual schools may also have half days for conferences, teacher in-service and the like, but they probably announce these far ahead of time too. Put these on your calendar now. My district’s schools are closed for the major Jewish holidays, and since I’m not Jewish, I would not naturally be aware that September 30 and October 1 would be when we’re observing Rosh Hashanah in 2019, but I know it now! And it’s on my calendar so I know we could theoretically take a long weekend September 28-October 1. Knowing these dates far ahead of time allows you to either arrange for a parent to work differently, or to find childcare if you need it.

2. Major kid events. I have grown weary of reading work/life literature that features some parent, usually mom, experiencing a conflict between a work event and a kid event and consequently lamenting that she must dial down, scale back, opt out, and otherwise join the Greek chorus of the disillusioned chanting that no one can have it all. BUT I will say that it’s highly likely your kid’s choir director has already scheduled the spring concert. If you put it on your calendar now, you’re more likely to be able to schedule around it. Athletic tournaments are likely scheduled too, as leagues need to book space. This doesn’t prevent a work emergency from arising. But you might be able to push to leave a conference on an earlier flight to reduce the chances of a flight delay causing a conflict you then need to write an angsty essay about.

3. Your vacation landscape. If you have a certain number of vacation days, taking a pro-active look at your calendar allows you to deploy these to maximum effect. For instance, if you’re not worried about school schedules (e.g. you only have pre-schoolers), and your office is closed on the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week, you could put in to take November 25, 26, and 27 off, and thus be able to take a 9-day trip (Nov 23- Dec 1) for the price of 3 days of paid time off. You could pull off a similar trick around July 4 (which is on a Thursday this year, so a lot of offices will also be closed on July 5, allowing you June 29-July 7 for 3 days of PTO).

4. Things you might like to do. You’re not committing to things now. But if there’s a conference you’re thinking of going to, mark those dates as a maybe. That way, when someone asks you to do something on those dates, you know what the opportunity cost would be, rather than assuming they’re completely open.

5. Recurring dates. OK, this is a definite upside of an electronic calendar. If someone’s birthday was on December 5 last year, it will be on December 5 this year too! An electronic calendar can auto-populate. But if you’re using a paper system, go put these in now. If you’re planning to do something big related to a recurring date, make a note a few weeks before as well to remind you to think about it.

6. You-snooze-you-lose dates. Maybe this is the date your favorite band’s concert tickets go on sale. Staying in the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone during August 2018 required me to book those rooms on May 1, 2017. Likewise, I have a date marked for trying to get a reservation at a certain restaurant (when they open reservations for the season). Put it down, and if it requires you to be online at a very specific time, put a note whenever you do your planning (in my case, the Friday before the event).

7. Reminders. On October 9 (incidentally, Yom Kippur — we have the day off school) I plan to ask the kids about Halloween costumes. If there’s anything you recall saying “geez, I wish I’d remembered to think about that earlier…” now is the time to make sure you do think about it in 2019.

What’s on your calendar for the upcoming year?

20 thoughts on “Got a new 2019 planner or calendar? Here are 7 things to write in now

  1. Related to your #7 Reminders: I’ve been writing down “lessons learned” from the recent Thanks/Christmas breaks in my new 2019 calendar. Things like: don’t buy store brand leftover containers for Thanksgiving and ask Aunt if she found her mixer. It was so helpful this year to see last years hint (put extra leaf in table) well ahead of time!

    1. I didn’t order enough photo Christmas cards this year so I made a note on 15 November to remind me to order 60 cards. I wait until Black Friday to order so this works out perfectly.

    2. I do this too! It was so helpful this year to re-read my notes from last year about the exact number of Christmas cards to buy (more than I usually think!) and that a variety of homemade gifts was not worth the effort.

  2. Great list, Laura! And I do think you have a system!
    In addition to your suggestions. I would add:
    1) Making notes to research and book flights and hotels well (a year) in advance for trips or adventures that must happen – without spending a fortune!
    2) Professionally I like to carve and blocking time for clients’ busy and peak times!
    3) Blocking out personal and self-care time.
    4) And this year I’m going to block time for family projects and admin time; i.e. bigger projects than Halloween costumes.

    1. @Nancy- excellent ideas! Maybe I should come up with a catchy name for my system (LauVa?) and raise the price point by a zero or so over what I’m currently spending at Target.

      1. @Laura, I always think of all of your suggestions and systems as “168 hours” systems – that’s already catchy, it just needs a promotional campaign.

  3. I’m a planner, so I put dates on my calendar as soon as an appointment is made or an event has been scheduled. We have already bought tickets for four concerts this year with the last one happening in August. I enjoy planning ahead. It gives me a happiness boost knowing we will be attending fun and exciting events throughout the year. I even record upcoming movies I want to see in my calendar. It allows me to plan some time that month to see those particular movies with my son or husband. If we cannot coordinate our schedules to catch one of them that month, I then save it in my Netflix queue and we’ll watch it together at a more convenient time when it comes up.

  4. Standing ovation to #2. This year I was kind of bummed about Christmas (I didn’t start shopping early enough, then got really sick the week before, and we adopted a dog right before Christmas.) So I put a reminder to start the kids’ lists the day after Halloween and start shopping around Thanksgiving.

  5. I’m very good about putting in reminders for various doctor appointments, e.g. every May (link to Mother’s Day) I schedule the OB/GYN and every September (link to end of summer vacation) the dermatologist (so I’m not told to stay out of the sun in case something is found and needs to be removed). My “favorite” linked appointment reminder is when I schedule a full check-up with my general practitioner, which occurs every four years at the start of the Winter Olympics — but this is done on an electronic calendar.

    I also have reminders for household tasks like window cleaning and dryer vent filter cleaning that aren’t as frequent.

  6. two that I have had recurring annually in my electronic calendar are: plan/book kids birthday party dates, and order seeds/bulbs for planting. I added “buy plane tickets” for planned travel this year, too.

  7. I track a lot of career related things, conferences and major events for my professional organization so I can request the times and get the costs covered well ahead of time. I find if I remind my bosses over longer period of time about an event they get comfortable with the idea and are usually happy to cover the costs, but this rarely happens with last minute requests. I also track professional accreditation renewals so I can plan to take required continuing education and annual reviews for both of my jobs so I can prepare my list of accomplishments and goals and make it a worthwhile rather than frustrating process.

  8. I write everything in pencil…I schedule blocks of time for my workouts, art time, and adventure dates (me time)…otherwise the time gets booked with other things

  9. I have an electronic calendar and I love it. I’ve always thought and worked in “week view” e.g., the 168 hour view of life, as opposed to the 24. I just didn’t know it til I read your book!
    This really does cut down on the recurring updates for each year though I take time the last week of each year to brainstorm goals and put them in my calendar with reminder/checkpoints. Books I want to read are assigned by month, 2 meals planned to cook each week, potential babysitting overnight to ask for before my parents (snowbirds) head to the mountains for the summer 🙂 I agree with another commenter- ppl are much more likely to get on board with helping you out if you give them notice and time to buy into it.
    With three littles we rarely watch movies in theaters but I add those to week nights a few months later and then look forward to watching them with the hubs.
    I really enjoy my calendar. So many other ideas as well…..

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