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How to Plan Your Week Effectively

In his celebrated book on organization, The
Bullet Journal Method, Ryder Carroll describes his personal organization and productivity
system: the bullet journal. Throughout his life, Carroll struggled with
keeping track of tasks, often forgetting important information, and feeling overwhelmed by tasks. However, through trial and error (and after
trying countless other organization systems), he finally hit upon a way to, as he puts it,
“track the past, order the present, and design the future.” Enter: the bullet journal, a pen and notebook
system that takes things back to basics.

Part to-do list and part journal, the bullet
journal revolutionized the way Carroll approached his life, his work, and how he got things
done. And it’s helped many others do the same. In his book, Carroll breaks down exactly how
to use the bullet journal system, but he also offers some insights on how to plan your days
more effectively. Many of these tips can actually apply to whatever
productivity system you use in your own life. Whether you use the bullet journal method
yourself or stick with a simple to-do list, or use an online system like Notion, Google
Calendar, or something else entirely, you can implement some of these principles to
make your life simpler and more productive. Here are five of Carroll’s tips for planning
your week effectively: 1. Take a mental inventory
Before you dive into color-coding all the hours of your day or assigning time to each
task you hope to accomplish, take a moment to create a mental inventory. It’s a great idea to do this the Friday
before your week starts, so when Monday comes you’re ready to hit the ground running.

To take a mental inventory, write down anything
and everything that you know you want to accomplish. Don’t hold back, just let it all out, either
on a piece of paper or in a digital list. You’ll probably discover you have a lot
more tasks you hope to complete than you thought you did. This is because we often suffer from decision
fatigue — a phenomenon that occurs when we have too many choices for how to spend
our time, leading to burnout.

Carroll writes that “The first step to recovering
from decision fatigue, to get out from under the pile of choices weighing on you, is to
get some distance from them.” And the best way to get distance? Write it all down! Once your brain isn’t taking up energy thinking
about all the tasks you need to accomplish, it will have the space to step back and evaluate
what’s really important. Now that all your tasks for the next week
are written down, consider each task individually. How important is this task? Is it vital? Is it necessary? Taking a mental inventory gives you the chance
to cross tasks off your list that actually aren’t that important, and would have kept
you from working on the things that really matter. 2. Time Blocking
If you find yourself particularly overwhelmed by a task, or are not sure when you’ll get
a chance to work on it, a good way to make sure you get around to it is by using time

Time blocking is a method where you set aside
a certain amount of time to work on a task. So for example, instead of your to-do list
saying: Write Essay
Work on Project Clean Room
You would set up your to-do list like this: 10 am – 11 am: Draft essay
11:30 am – 12 pm: Make final edits to project 1 pm – 2 pm: Clean room
This way, you only have a certain amount of time to work on the task, allowing you to
give it your full attention and adding pressure to get the task done in that time frame. As Carroll explains, “time boxing adds two
key motivational ingredients to a task you’ve been putting off: structure and urgency.” 3. Morning Reflection
While setting up your week the Friday before helps get your thoughts organized, it’s
also a good practice to include a morning reflection period. This reflection doesn’t have to be very
long: only about five to fifteen minutes. But it can set your day up for massive success. Take a few moments to sit down for a reflection
with your to-do list, Notion board, bullet journal, or whatever you use.

You can do this while you drink your morning
coffee, or just as you're sitting down at your desk. The morning reflection is a time to go over
the tasks you have prepared for the day and think about why you’re doing each of them. Another good tip is to imagine yourself completing
each task to give yourself an extra burst of motivation. 4. Evening Reflection
Where the morning reflection helps you kickstart your day with the right attitude, the evening
reflection helps you unwind and unburden your mind. During your evening reflection, consider each
task you completed during the day and ask yourself questions like:
why is this important? why am I doing this? why is this a priority? An evening reflection practice helps focus
and clarify your priorities so you can plan accordingly. Not only does it put a nice bookend on your
day, but you get the chance to mark any completed tasks as done and move uncompleted tasks to
another day. This is an important aspect of the evening
reflection because it helps you feel like the day is “complete,” instead of a never-ending
to-do list.

You should also take this moment to appreciate
your progress and put a close on the day. As Carroll writes: “Reflection helps identify
what nourishes you so you can make better decisions as you seed the next season of your
life.” 5. Celebrate! Our brains love dopamine. When we scroll for hours on TikTok, our brains
get tiny bursts of dopamine every time we laugh at a video or think something is interesting. That’s why we scroll for so long — our
brains are getting tons of what they love: dopamine.

That’s why it’s also so important to celebrate
every task that you accomplish. So each time you cross something off your
list, give yourself a high-five, a thumbs up, a big smile! Get up from your desk and do a dance! Do a fist pump! Say “you got this!” If it’s a big achievement, give yourself
an even bigger celebration! Call a friend or take the day off early. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you
properly celebrate. Carroll puts it this way: “Celebrating your
victories isn’t just about patting yourself on the back; it trains you to identify positive
moments, which allows you to discover—and enjoy—more of them.” Of course, the most important thing about
whatever tips or system you implement is that it works. Any system that becomes too complicated for
you to keep track of, or that bogs you down, or that keeps you from being able to work
on your tasks is not a good system.

So take what tips interest you, test them
out, see how they fit into your system and leave behind anything that causes more friction
and frustration in your life. Your productivity system should always help
you more than it hurts! No matter what productivity or organization
system you use in your life, whether it’s the bullet journal or something else, hopefully,
you can implement some of these tips to make your system even more effective and make your
life that much easier.

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