This time of year is often reflective. People thinking about the past year, how to improve their health or themselves overall the coming year, and New Year resolutions. Along with becoming more productive, scheduling and passing my Qualifying Exam, and putting more focus on my Ph.D. degree, I wanted to improve my health. I identified some basic things to incorporate in my life, such as drinking more water, exercising, stretching, etc. How best to track your progress and habits, than using a planner!
At first, I made a list of habits/things I wanted to do everyday with a square or circle to color or check when I accomplished it, much like many BuJo and planner people are doing (examples of them are below, from an Etsy listing and blog post, respectively):
These didn’t work well for me. I found them too tedious and boring to even look at after a couple days. It was not motivating me at all. Lots of sticker creators have beautiful water tracking stickers, but I wanted to track a lot more than just my water intake. I also knew that my habits I want to track can and will change over time. Eventually, it dawned on me: why not make my own stickers, in which I can have images that represent things I want to do every day?! It will be easy and fun! And I can customize them, as needed.
Here, I share with you the steps to make your own, fun, color-in habit trackers! This method can easily be customized to track chores or other tasks, as well.
- Find and buy appropriately-sized labels
- Find an appropriate or corresponding document/template to customize and print labels
- Find black and white icons/images representing habits/chores you want to track
- Design your custom stickers
- Print, apply, and enjoy!
Detailed descriptions below, using my own stickers as examples.
I recently printed quite a few free planner sticker kits, and am decorating my planner with them. As I was cutting the stickers (I don’t own a Sillouhette or similar machine) and decorating my planner, I had to constantly remind myself of 3 things:
- Leave white space
- Decorate while planning
- Don’t be confined to layout/lines
I’ll share why these points are important for me, in the hope it might be helpful to people who might want to decorate their planners cost effectively, as I am doing.
I downloaded and saved a huge amount of free planner stickers during the beginning of this year, hoping to print and use them all at some point! As a reward for finishing a paper I was not sure I would be able to, I printed about 30 pages of them to use in my planner for the end of the year, and possibly the beginning of the next year. To fit the coming seasons, I printed Autumn, Winter, Christmas, and Spring stickers. All of the stickers I printed this time are from the following sites:
Below are snippets from many of the sticker kits I’ve printed! I can’t wait to begin using them! The only problem is that I need to cut them all…
I have used quite a few planners through college and graduate school, but none of the systems I used previously were effective for the mid- to end stages of my PhD degree. The types of tasks and deadlines I needed to track are very different from those I had while working on my Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and early PhD program. While before I had small and defined tasks, and specific deadlines, now I have research and paper ideas, various conferences to consider (I apply to conferences only if my research topic matches the theme of the conference, and if I have something I can write a paper on in time for the deadlines), and teacher assistant tasks. Some of these tasks can be broken down into smaller, list-able tasks. But sometimes, I don’t have enough information or direction to break down a large task/project into smaller tasks – mostly the case for research and paper ideas.
In March 2017, I found and bought The Happy Planner 24 Month Creative Planner Kit for a discounted price (about $30). The deal was too good to turn away from. Only $30 for the following items:
- 2 Sticker packs, totaling of 12 Sticker Sheets
- Three Colorful Pens (black, blue, pink)
- Five Rolls of Washi Tape
- Two List Pads
- Elastic Band with Pen Loop
- Two Pocket Folders
- 20 Sheets of Note Paper
- 20 Sheets of Grid Paper
- 24 months of Monthly and Weekly Planning Pages
Different planners were helpful to me at different phases of college and graduate school, depending on the types of tasks and assignments I had. Here, I’ll share the various types of planner systems I used since college. Unfortunately, I did not keep all my planners, nor did I take pictures of them all, but will include the pictures I have.
To keep track of my schedule which was filled with classes, meetings, and extracurricular activities, I bought a weekly appointment planner. Each class and type of meetings or activity was color-coded with colored pencils. I used separate binders per class to store syllabi, assignments, and notes. Every morning, I would review my class binders for what is due when, then prioritize and write my daily to-do’s on either separate pieces of paper or my portable whiteboard.
Sophomore and Junior Years
For the next 2 years in college, I used the planners provided by my university. The monthly views stored assignment due dates, exams, class schedule, meetings, and extracurricular activities. I used the blank lines in the weekly views to write assignments and other to-do’s for each day. Like Freshman year, I prioritized and wrote my daily to-do’s on either separate pieces of paper or my portable whiteboard every morning.