COVID19 Planners

Day 120: MONDAY / Current Life Journal System

July 13, 2020

First of all, a note: my bullet journal is not really a bullet journal. Not in the Ryder Carroll sense, anyway. Maybe I should call it a “Life Journal” or something else, so as not to be misleading.

I don’t use the official symbols (including bullets!). I don’t log everything as it happens. I prefer a more compartmentalized style rather than putting everything for the day in one list, and my #bujo is filled with checkboxes and colored Mildliner accents for no reason other than that it’s pretty.

However, whatever it’s called, I am loving it. I am currently using an Archer & Olive dot grid journal as my main planning notebook right now, with a calendar sidekick of the Live Rich Planner. Right now, this combo feels creative, flexible, and fun.

WHY have I temporarily ditched my previously beloved Hobonichi system twice this year? I think it’s because my planning needs are different right now. I’m focused much more on the present day/week than I am on future planning. I also feel the need for additional pages for journaling, goals, etc. I like the flexibility of being able to use a page of my journal to take notes at an important meeting or track monthly habits (Ben Franklin style, of course).

I have a page that I use to track COVID-19 cases. Do I need it? No. Is it an oddly satisfying ritual to check off daily? YES.

Things I currently have in my Life Journal:

A table of contents

Daily pages. Sometimes I will dedicate an entire page to a given day, with a time tracking section. Other days I just use half the page. I track habits, to do items, meals, music/podcasts, reading, etc.

Weekly pages. I am debating whether to shift to using my Live Rich planner for this (there is plenty of room for weekly goals), but I don’t necessarily bring the LRP up to my ‘office’ (home or real) b/c it’s huge. So for now, I have been creating a page for each week in the LJ.

this week
can you tell my brush pens came? Now I need to learn how to use them . . .

COVID-19 tracker

Summer Reading List (books read also tracked here)

Monthly page, including goals & habit tracker

“Future log” page for month (important dates/events in list form)

Notes pages for various meetings (created on as-needed basis)


Thank you guys for so many valuable thoughts/ideas on yesterday’s little aside about work distractions! Generally, the distractions that get to me are not clinical though every once in a while that sneaks through. It’s usually a resident or faculty member: our APD, program administrator, primary care director, hospitalist director, chief resident OR a resident.

I tend to answer every time I get pinged by one of these people because a) it feels like I “should”; esp right now, it could be something urgent like resident with COVID diagnosis or something else dire and b) I fear that if I put things off I will then have a backlog of things to do at 5pm and my childcare is generally only until 5:30 (though honestly I don’t think our nanny minds working extra hours on occasion).

(I know some people — my husband included — often work a “second shift” in the evenings. To me this sounds like a form of torture and not how I want to live.)

I am going to try using the DND-Drive feature as suggested (with an away message stating I will check messages at X:XX time). I may even do this while I am seeing my telemedicine patients today – getting interrupted while you are seeing a patient on the phone is very annoying. Let’s see if this helps . . .


  • Reply FK July 13, 2020 at 7:38 am

    I love your journal pages and wish I could be so goal-oriented and write things down (never mind in a way that are a joy to look at). How much time do you spend each day doing this?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 13, 2020 at 8:02 am

      maybe 15 min/day? it’s hard to tell b/c i build the skeletal page quickly and then fill things in throughout the day 🙂

  • Reply gwinne July 13, 2020 at 8:17 am

    Your journal is gorgeous. I might switch to something like this for now, at least through the summer.. Mostly I have a weekly list and write down any scheduled calls, etc, but minimal daily.

  • Reply Irene July 13, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Did you ever get your Covid results? It boggles my mind the delays that some people are reporting.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 13, 2020 at 9:54 am

      Nope! Tested on Friday. No results.

  • Reply Caitlyn July 13, 2020 at 10:01 am

    Re: second shift – I too thought it sounds like hell, but then I had to do it for something and found that I really liked it.

    Just wanted to share – I however do not get up early in the AM (which sounds like hell to me)!

  • Reply BethC July 13, 2020 at 10:10 am

    I didn’t get to comment on yesterday’s post. Is there anyone you can delegate to during your “deep work” time? Like put on an out of office that says “For urgent requests, please contact so and so.” Then talk with that person about things they can handle vs things they should contact you for. In my experience, turning off my phone doesn’t necessarily help if I feel like things will go undone. But if I know it will be handled I can relax and focus on what I’m doing.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 13, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Your bullet journal (or whatever you want to call it!) is so pretty. I use a bullet journal but, like you, it’s not a true ‘bujo.’ It’s mostly a collection of lists. I have some calendar pages where I put all future events which is handy. It’s really my only calendar/planner besides my outlook one at work. I like being able to take it with me to doctor appointments to take notes and I’ve been trying to use it to track how I feel during the pregnancy, although I have not done that for a good month+! I used to have way more spreads and my daily pages were more involved. Now i basically have a weekly spread that is mostly for meal planning/to do lists. I want to get back to using it more like you do but that needs to wait until the 2nd baby has arrived and life calms down a bit? We are really in the ‘thick’ of the parenting since we have a toddler and I feel like life will be like this until the youngest is 3? Which is totally fine because we wanted kids and recognized it would shift priorities. But I look forward to having more time to add things back to my life, like real workout plans!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 13, 2020 at 10:39 am

      Ha – workouts do seem to be doable (for me) in this season . . . if I do them early!

      Things are better now that G is 2.5. But I suspect 3.5 will be better . . . 4.5 better still . . and 5.5+ the promised land!

  • Reply Sam @ Eye to Wonder July 13, 2020 at 10:46 am

    I’m so enjoying your planner spreads lately–thank you for sharing. I am currently way overthinking my Teacher Planner for the fall. I think since so much is up in the air with what school will look like this year, the idea of a beautiful planner feels so tempting!

  • Reply Katie July 13, 2020 at 11:14 am

    There may be a reason why you can’t, but why not have your notification checking time at 4.30 instead of 5 so you know you have enough time? Presumably you’re not looking to get 8 hours of deep work done in a day anyway, so you could experiment with deep work for 90 minutes at a time or something initially?

    You say if a resident got Covid, that would require your immediate attention, but it sounds like a pretty solid known unknown, so is there any chance you could prepare a specific action plan so that whoever is trying to notify you of it can do something specific which moves that process along without you having to do it yourself?

    Also, I’m wondering, since you have an APD if there’s something more they can to to assist you? I know it’s not Assistant TO the PD, but could you talk to them about trading off deep work time with them, so you set your voicemail to tell people to contact them with emergencies whilst your phone is DND? And then having them as your one person who is the DND exception so they can call you if they can’t handle it without you?

    One last thing (I don’t know why I’m writing an essay to you sorry) – if you do decide to keep your phone on to any extent, you might have to get the hang of the boundary setting thing again. In the same way that you’d tell someone “sorry I’m with a patient right now” if they interupted you during a consult, you can also say “sorry I’m working on a project right now,” and insist the other person respect that boundary and like, literally hang up the phone on them (unless they’re senior to you of course)

  • Reply Marthe July 13, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Totally agree on the second shift being torture 🙂

  • Reply Coco July 13, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    i love your journal. so pretty. i want to try it too.
    what’s the right column on your habit tracker? also, you group your habits to track right?
    what’s your journal schedule? can you share? I find so hard to find time/mental space during the day to do this.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 9:09 pm

      The column on the right Is minutes of screen time on my phone (i subtract minutes spent on various work apps!)

  • Reply protectedtruth July 13, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Beautiful and inspiring bullet journal-esque photos! Such a peaceful feeling looking at each page, and allows for habit tracking and what you need/want to get accomplished in all aspects of your life each day! Hate seeing you frustrated by days where you get zero time to do “deep work”. I truly think, if you could over a period of time, create systems in place to handle the most common interruptions in your day when you have time-blocked deep work, that the efficiency you gain from up to 90 min of deep work would make such a profound time saver in the long run. Resident non-patient care questions seem tailor made for some sort of process/system that doesn’t entail interrupting you immediately during one time blocked deep work period a day.

  • Reply protectedtruth July 13, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    Oh, and as Cal suggests, what about tracking hours of deep work you have been able to do each day along with your other habits? If its zero for a whole week, it’s not to make you feel like you are a failure, but just data that suggests if you really need/want time for deep work, something must change.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 14, 2020 at 9:11 pm

      I like that idea. I find certain parts of CN’s podcast pushing pain points but I also find it fascinating. Going to write more about it in a future post. I definitely think it is worth listening to.

  • Reply Lori C July 14, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    This post and corresponding pictures just brought my mood from mediocre to inspired. I love the layouts, the penmanship, and of course I’m coming up with ideas of how I can improve my system. Planning has felt like drudgery the past month or so, and it’s depressing to look at my summer lists and realize the things we likely won’t do. I can understand why you’ve enjoyed switching your medium and maybe I should break out the bujo I purchased but haven’t touched. If nothing, you’ve pushed me to use one of my PTO days this week to finally clear out my physical and gmail inboxes, and take a fresh look at my quarterly/monthly/weekly lists. Thanks for just being you 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 15, 2020 at 5:27 am

      Aww thank you so much!!

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