How Passion Planner helped me get my shit together

I fucking love planners.

I know it’s nerdy, but there, I said it. Ever since elementary school, I’ve used planners to remember when homework is due, plan ahead for tests (or rather, cram for a few hours the night before), and work on projects (slap some construction paper on a poster board and bring it in the next day). I’m a hopeless procrastinator, but knowing how much time I have until I absolutely have to get things done still helps.

I used planners for school and events all the way until my senior year of college. That year, I decided not to think about what direction I was going to take next because my anxiety about it was crippling. I allowed myself a few months to travel with family, relax, start watching The Walking Dead, and not worry too much.

But by the end of 2015 (six months after I graduated) I still had no solid plans for my future. I knew generally I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know how to get a job. I also wanted to finally write my ebook about long distance relationships, but the idea of creating a whole work of my own was too overwhelming (and I’m still working on it to this day).

Enter: Passion Planner.

I heard about the Passion Planner from a college friend who shared a video about Angelia Trinidad, a Filipina millennial (like me and the friend who shared it) who started her own business making planners.

The concept seemed cool: you write out a wish list of things you want to accomplish in life, then you break those goals down into action items. After my cousin Sam got a Passion Planner for herself and showed me how much use she got out of it, I had to get one for myself!

Sorry the photos look so tiny with this blog layout, but just click on them to see the full details!

Truly, I don’t know if I would be where I am today if it weren’t for Passion Planner.

I’d like to think I’m motivated and would have found a way to achieve my goals, but having this method of tangibly creating steps to get to my vision was life-changing for me.

The Passion Planner has just enough structure to help me feel organized, but also leaves plenty of space for creativity. After almost a year of using PP, my mom and stepmom introduced me to bullet journaling (or bujo, as many planner nerds call it. I personally hate that nickname but it’s easier to write so I’ll use it, but I’m gonna cringe while typing).

With bullet journaling, basically you get to build your own planner out of a notebook. It can be as intricate and fancy as you want — many people online buy expensive, high-quality, pretty notebooks for their bujos (I’m trying not to throw up with this shortened name).

You set one page in the beginning as an index or table of contents, so you know where all the other lists and planner pages are. You can change formats of the planner, with monthly/weekly/daily pages, depending on how you want to organize your time and tasks. You can create lists on other pages with tasks to finish further in the future (bujo fans call it the “future log”). It’s really whatever you want to make it!

I got super excited about it, after obsessively looking at photos of other people’s bujos on Instagram and Pinterest — you’d be amazed how many people are even more obsessed with planners than I am! I ordered a beautiful sea blue Moleskine notebook and my moms got me washi tape (an essential for any planner nerd), sticker tabs, and a variety of Post-Its.

I started my bujo with the best intentions, but gave up after a few weeks — as most people do after jumping into a new hobby too quickly. It took too much effort to draw out my planner every week, and write out all the interesting things that happened to me every day. That sounds lazy, but it was much too meticulous of a system for me and required more work than it was worth.

Experimenting with a new kind of planner was fun, but within a couple weeks I went back to what really worked for me: the Passion Planner. I bought a new one for 2017 and used it almost the entire year (a bit less on weeks when I went on vacation).

Here’s how the Passion Planner system works:

In the first few pages, you’ll see detailed instructions on how to use your magical planner.

At the beginning is your Passion Roadmap, a step by step guide to map out your goals.

First, you set a timer for five minutes and imagine the paper is magical: whatever you write on it will come true within the set timeframe. You ask yourself: “If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?”

The roadmap is divided into three months, one year, three years, and lifetime. Under each section, you write whatever you want in your life to come true — no matter how unrealistic or seemingly out of reach. Some of my lifetime wishes include becoming a relationship guru blogger; becoming a published author; earning a PhD; visiting Egypt, Central America, South America, and Australia); getting married, having kids, and eventually having grandkids.

Next, you circle one goal from each section that would have the most positive impact on your life. You take one goal at a time, then write down every step you need to take to achieve that goal, then assign due dates for each task.

You take these tasks and put them in your monthly calendar/plan, then every week you follow through with your steps to get to your larger goal. On the daily sections, you schedule out all the activities and chunks of your day. It sounds a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll get used to it quickly after a few weeks!

At the end of each month, you have a space to reflect on how you’ve grown since the last month, who you’re grateful for, what you’ve learned, what you can do to improve next month.

It’s crazy how simple this process is: you basically just write down a goal then figure out the steps to get there, then you DO IT. That’s it! How have we not already figured out to do this before??

Looking through my 2016 planner, I’ve made some of my Passion Roadmap dreams come true: have a job in writing/social media that’s fun, be financially independent, manage my anxiety better, do yoga regularly, and have good friends I see often. It’s kind of embarrassing how low my bar was set at the time, but I pretty much just wanted to get out of a stagnant phase and be happy.

From my January 2017 Passion Roadmap, I achieved some goals too: went on my first solo trip, built my savings account to a comfortable amount, traveled to more new places, finished one year at my news job (I’m at 15+ months!), have artistic outlets to express myself.

While I’m happy with where I am now, and proud of how far I’ve come, there are still a lot of ways I’d like to improve my life.

In my 2018 Passion Roadmap, my main goals by March 2018 are to publish five posts on my blog, eat healthy, work out regularly, and have my ebook ready to sell.

By 2020, I’d like to be an avid reader (like I was as a kid, but lost over the years), have developed skills (in writing, photography, maybe coding?), have less anxiety, work at a job with good pay that I’m passionate about. I’d also like to be married and be a vegan by that point, but we’ll see what happens. The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be using the methods I’ve learned from my Passion Planner!

If you plan on buying one too, please use my email address under the “refer three, get one free” program during checkout so I can get one free next time too (ya girl’s trying to save money):

Other fun ways I use my Passion Planner:

  • On the back inside cover of the planner, there’s a pouch where you can store whatever you want. Throughout the year, I left movie ticket stubs and other little mementos I wanted to hold onto. At the end of the year, I put the mementos into the blank pages in the back of the planner like a scrapbook, and taped movie ticket stubs/other memories in the weekly planner pages. When I want to look back on my year someday, I’ll have a scrapbook filled with my daily life memories!
  • Doodles
  • Map out my goals for the month

Other posts you might enjoy:

2018 Goals

Rituals of Self-Care in My Post-Grad Life

2018 goals

At the beginning of 2017, my goal was to say yes to new things.

I traveled to Bali alone (my first solo foreign trip), where I had a romantic honeymoon all to myself. I took a trip to Thailand with a group of my childhood friends, where we played with elephants, got matching tattoos, and threw up on the side of the road in Chiang Mai (wait, that last part was just me). I spontaneously tried surfing with two friends I don’t often hang out with. Instead of staying in every night (which I used to be known for in college), I went out with my friends every weekend. I created connections with so many amazing people, grew closer to my family and old friends, and spent lots of time with my group of talented reporter coworkers.

I also went through a lot of heartbreak, being away from my parents and siblings the entire year. I struggled with a complicated relationship with my partner while we were broken up, and then again while we figured out a way to finally live together. I spent many nights crying alone to myself, or sitting outside on my grandma’s patio looking up at the moon. I also had many moments of pure happiness, where I’d cry too because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have this life (I know I cry a lot, okay).

2017 brought a lot of turbulence, but it was a welcome change from how stagnant I felt in 2016. I spent so much time saying yes to new adventures though, so by November 2017 I was drained. I put too much effort into always being part of everything, too much time going to events just to please other people — and not enough time caring for myself. I gained a considerable amount of weight from going out drinking (then the late night meals after drinking) and always eating unhealthy at restaurants with family and friends. I didn’t make time to Passion Plan, blog, or work on my ebook project. I literally only read one book in its entirety this year.

In December, I decided I needed to spend more time working on myself. I started reading for fun again, I took up sketching again too, and began watercolor painting (after receiving a very thoughtful gift of watercolor paints from my aunt). I went back to yoga classes, tried to get back into weight lifting and home workouts, and went jogging in my neighborhood. I revamped my blog design to make it a pretty space for my writing. I worked on my ebook again for months until I finished a full second draft.

There are so many things I want to do to grow. I feel this sense of urgency flowing through me all day, like I want to be doing the most with the time I have because I know I have so much potential for growth. I’m learning I need to be more careful with my time, and sometimes that means saying no to social events or extended family obligations because I have my own work to do.

It’s overwhelming thinking about all the ways I want to better myself in the future. I bought a film camera so I could play with photography and explore a new medium. I want to learn how to blend watercolor hues and paint beautifully. I want to be an avid reader like my parents. I want to someday be at peace with myself and not suffer from anxiety.

But most of all, I want to develop a healthy relationship with my body and with food. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for years, and it’s gotten worse this year since I started gaining some weight. Eating is a constant battle for me — whether I’m trying to feed myself to my fill, binge snacking uncontrollably, or pretending I’m not hungry just so I can shed fat.

I’m at a point now where I don’t completely hate my body (or at least I know I shouldn’t). It comes in waves. I know I don’t really need to lose weight or mass, but I want to be able to nourish myself and not have these strong feelings of shame or pleasure associated with food. I want to get to a point where I see food as a way to care for myself, rather than punishing or rewarding myself for how or when I consume it.

All these ways I want to change aren’t going to happen in a day. I doubt I’ll even achieve them in 2018, or 2020. But the best thing I can do for myself is start small.

My only goals in 2018:

  • Care for my body (nourish it with nutritious food, do regular exercise that feels good, strengthen my connection to it with yoga)
  • Create art
  • Be more grateful
  • Heal

This blog post sounds really serious (and I’m not usually so serious in real life or online), but I’m also trying to become more confident — plus I just finished reading Hunger by Roxane Gay and I’ve probably absorbed her blunt, honest writing style for now.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, I hope you have a wonderful start to your new year! Let’s grow together!