Planning for 2016 (Part 3) – Tracking Your LIfe

After getting into the Bullet Journal and daily journaling habit this year (and watching too many planner and journal-related Youtube videos), I now also feel a keen need to track my life and habits. Some find it pointless or useless, others might say use an app. I find it helpful to be able to look back and know how much you I spent on stationery, or how many times you I ate unhealthy fried chicken last month.

My Bullet Journal in a Moleskine

So now you know I have very bad bad habits, and I have a feeling that using trackers can be a way of ‘shocking‘ myself into stopping or at least curbing some of them.

Planning for 2016 (Part 3) - Tracking Your LIfe by Scribbles and Stationery

Another reason for using trackers is because daily tasks or habits can get repetitive, and in something like a BuJo where you do daily logging, it can even detract from some of the other points that you logged during the day. See the example below of my BuJo pages in May, where a day just boiled down to what I ate, and nothing else, and it gets a bit distracting when you look back into past entries trying to search for something.

My Bullet Journal in a Moleskine

So first off, obviously food. Ryder Carroll’s own example on the Bullet Journal website is great, where he reserves the next available page in the daily pages to track his weekly food log. I am inclined to add this to my October BuJo (coming soon!) to try it out. The idea seems feasible, and I can’t see how it will ‘break‘ my bullet journal, unless my handwriting is so huge (or I eat so much haha), a week’s food intake can’t fit on one page.

Planning for 2016 (Part 3) - Tracking Your LIfe by Scribbles and Stationery

Another way I was considering, is to set aside one particular journal specifically for tracking (instead of inserting everything into the bullet journal). So my notes below showed using the week-at-a-glance TN insert to track food. It seems feasible too. Food intake would be logged into the week, and I can still use the grid-side for notes to myself or to journal about the food.

I might consider using the Chuyu Culture planner which has the days laid out vertically on two pages. This is the one I was intending to log expenses in, and I think it might not be big enough to contain my handwriting. But since I eat out for 99% of my meals, food is very closely tied with expenses, so logging them both in the same planner does make some sense.

Review: 2016 dated and undated planners from Chuyu Culture

Next up is expenses and savings, which is a challenge, as I want to track expenses daily, monthly, quarterly and by category.

I want to implement expense tracking to put a check on my often out-of-control spending that has been happening for years. However with the changes in my family, I no longer have the freedom to spend freely, and have finally realised (a bit too late in life to make a difference, but better than never) that I really need some hefty savings.

Daily Expenses
With the bullet journal, I logged daily expenses, but had no immediate visibility on what kind of (heart-stopping) amounts I spend on unnecessary items whether in a week or in a month. Two months back, I started using Ray Blake’s monthly insert as my expense tracker. It isn’t my ideal setup, but since the insert was already printed, I didn’t want it to go to waste.

Looking back on September now, for example, I can see that I spent more than $100 taking cabs. This is my most expensive vice, and I have always known that I spend a horrendous amount on it, which I shouldn’t. But there’s a huge difference between knowing, and having that number shown literally in your face in glaring neon orange gel ink pen in a page that you will keep turning back to.

TN Month to view and Week to view inserts

Looking back on this trial of my expense tracker (which I will continue to use till the end of the year), I definitely want to continue using one, but not in this format.

One way I am considering the the Chuyu Culture planner, pictured above, with the vertical days. The empty column on the far left (below the month) can serve as a summary column, where I can tabulate amounts spent by category. The long vertical days are useful if I need more space for days where I spend more. I also like it that Saturdays and Sundays are full columns, because more spending might happen on weekends!

Monthly / Quarterly Expenses
Obviously, monthly and quarterly expenses are going to be tracked by category. It only makes sense to see the big picture (or the pie chart) of how much money goes where.

One of my ideas is to have all the months in one spread, as per the illustration below. Each month would contain the general categories I want to track (examples are movies or eating out or the big killer: stationery). At the end of each month, I would then tabulate the amounts from the daily tracker and record them here. This would be good to also serve as a year-at-a-glance record of expenses.

Planning for 2016 (Part 3) - Tracking Your LIfe by Scribbles and Stationery

The other idea I have takes up a few more pages, but is essentially the same idea as the daily expenses pages. With 3 months at a glance, also tracked by category, I can easily slot a fourth column on the far right for a tabulation of expenses at the end of the quarter. This gives me more space to play with (per month) if the categories I want to track ever get out of hand (and planning often does!).

Planning for 2016 (Part 3) - Tracking Your LIfe by Scribbles and Stationery

Savings will probably go into my 4-month spread, or in a separate list by itself. It’s not too complicated, as I am just looking to stay on track for the 52-week savings challenge.

Months at a glance planner layout by scribblesandstationery

Bohoberry has a very interesting savings goals tracker in her bullet journal, which I am still trying to figure out. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive one, you should really check that out.

Bills Tracking
While we are on the subject of tracking expenses, some of you might ask how about bills. As those are very much time-sensitive, private and long-term, I tend to rely more on electronic ways to keep track of them. I do record them in my Molskine Daily (using some unnecessary pages that I hacked), but obviously I can’t show them here.

Habits / Recurring Activities
Last but not least on my list is a monthly tracker for habits (good and bad) and / or recurring activities.

I am not too keen on tracking recurring activities such as going to Korean language class or cleaning my room.  Some of these can go into the bullet journal, while for others, I find tracking them a rather unnecessary task. In fact, simply doing the task by rote is easier than remembering to mark it down on my planner (ha)!

What I am keen on, is what I mentioned at the beginning of this post, to track my bad (or good) habits, and similarly with expenses, to finally ‘shock‘ myself into not doing them (or doing them more regularly) ever again.

Planning for 2016 (Part 3) - Tracking Your LIfe by Scribbles and Stationery

A grid insert or journal is fantastic for habit tracking, if you just need the basic one. I am trying my October habit tracking out in my TN insert, in pencil even, before fully committing to a layout that I like. By that I mean, whether my habits should be listed any way I like, or should they be in alphabetical order, or even split into two listsL good habits vs bad habits.

Planning for 2016 (Part 3) - Tracking Your LIfe by Scribbles and Stationery

I love the look of Bohoberry’s habit tracker (in the same link as above), especially as hers has all the colours going in it. But I am also inclined to just use two colours, black for the bad habits and a nice bright orange or pink for good habits, so at the end of the month, I’ll just need to see if the page is more black or more orange.

Another question I am still attempting to answer is should I have all the 12 months drawn out and listed right at the beginning of the year, or should I have each month’s habit tracker at the beginning of each month. What do you guys suggest?

Blog Planner / Tracker
I have also been trying out a few formats of planning and tracking blog posts. Even though I have been running this blog for a few years (under a few names), I never used to be a prolific poster. Because I did not plan ahead, occasionally when I thought about the blog, I would cast my eye around my desk, see a piece of stationery that caught my eye, or recall a recent stationery haul, and then blog about that.

Now that I am trying to plan out various posts, and schedule them, I can schedule in times to take photos (weekend mornings which is the only time I see sunshine at home) and write posts (weekends again!). That way, my posts are regular, and with photos that are properly taken and slightly more carefully edited (although the lighting and colouring are horrendous!). So a blog planner / tracker is very important for inclusion in next year’s planner.

At the moment, I’ve tried out Ray Blake’s weekly insert, but am not too keen on it, as it’s a weekly calendar and not a planner per se. I am in the midst of trying out another linear format (think bullet journal monthly spread) but it isn’t quite working for me either.

TN Month to view and Week to view inserts

So right now, I am still casting around and the blog planner / tracker is still a work-in-progress. If you’re interested to see how it develops in a few months time, drop me a comment below, and I’ll definitely put up a new post tracking my progress on this.

I know this post is a bit rambly, and more about myself and my habits, but I hope my tracker ideas was still helpful in some way. Show me your planner ideas for 2016 too! Leave a comment below, or tweet me @scribsnstat.


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