Best Laid Plans

BLP Ep #23: Year End Q&A

December 28, 2020

It’s an all Q&A episode! Notes on the questions answered are shared below. Keep the questions coming!! Email me (here), leave a comment, or reach out on Insta.

1- From Jennie: Insert Book

I want to know how you decide what goes into an insert book to be moved between bujos and what goes into the Bujo. For example, quarterly, monthly, and weekly pages clearly go into the bujo, but what about annual plans? Does something have to be fully time independent to make it to the insert book? (For reference I use three bujos per year).

Would love to know how you decide because I find things that happen infrequently like vacations or holiday plans are a grey area! 

A: You use 3 BUJOs/year, so I think that’s a key piece of information!

If you want something referenced longer than that AND don’t feel it would benefit from pruning every few months —> accessory notebook 

For me, some of the things I used to keep in my accessory notebook I’ve gone digital.  It’s just easier to keep things that I want in perpetuity that way 🙂

As for vacations & holiday plans, if the vac isn’t within the time frame of the bujo – then definitely digital or accessory! Some might enjoy doing it digitally THEN copying into a physical layout closer to the vac

2- From K and W: Goals

You mentioned in a blog post this weekend that you are struggling a little with your goals for 2021…and I can relate to that! I often write monthly/yearly goals that feel quite small (monthly goals – books I want to read/admin that has to be done/presents I need to buy for upcoming family birthdays).  It’s stuff that needs done, but I don’t seem to have the vision of what I want to aim for that I need to set goals that would get me further. Any advice about how to identify goals?

I have a question for one of your Q&A issues.  How do you choose and set goals?  I feel like I must be missing a gene, because when I ask “what do I want to achieve?” my mind is blank.  Sure, I’d like to be debt free, and lose 20/30 lbs but who wouldn’t?    I’d like to catch up with my reading list but it’s so long, I can’t possibly set myself a goal. I did this year, start having “read 10 articles” and “read 10 pages” on my daily list, which I guess is goal setting, but it doesn’t feel like what everyone else is doing to me.  


  • maybe focus more on process goals
  • think about where you would like to be in X amount of time
    • talk about it with someone!
  • think about what is needed to get there
  • things that can seem small can add up (ie, savings)
  • consider 1-2 “dream goals” or reach goals – might be more fun and spark more interest in the process
  • also perfectly okay to take a break from goal-setting during stressful times!

3- From K: Tracking Medical Data

I was diagnosed in the summer with a minor medical condition which doesn’t affect me daily but flares up from time to time. It would really help if I could identify triggers or patterns in these flare ups. I tried to keep note of food/medication/symptoms for a while but didn’t keep it up once I returned to work after changes to COVID restrictions allowed it to reopen. Do you have any advice about how I could use my planner to create a habit which will help me?  What should I record and how? I use a bullet journal and think I could incorporate what I need to record but need some help to figure out how to do it effectively in a way that I can sustain.


  • The annual layout in the Hobonichi or Wonderland would be great for this – something that shows every day and has a space for notes
  • You could use some kind of color code for symptoms – ie august 4th green dot = headache 
  • Keep perhaps a few pages set aside to identify anything different going on when you have flares

4- From Lee: Dealing with Changes and Cancellations

This seems like a silly question, and maybe you’ve already addressed it in a podcast I missed, but here’s my dilemma: How do you fathom using PEN in your pretty planners? What if something gets cancelled? Doesn’t it look messy if you have lots of cross-outs? I can only stand to use pencil in mine for this reason, but then I feel like I’m missing out a little on using the “smooth” gel pens and all the fun of colors… what’s your secret to dealing, mentally, with edits making a mess on your page? 

I use arrows and lines to adjust things. I change things in my planner all the time! Practice has helped the overall look stay fairly neat, but nothing is set in stone.

If something is particularly prone to being cancelled (like . . 2021 travel) you might want to consider using a sticky note to mark the event rather than pen, but that’s up to you!

True planner disasters can also be covered up with stickers!

5- From A. Large Goals

Tips on handling VERY LARGE goals?

I feel like there are two types of large goals — those that are one big goal that is just chugging away at some thing repetitively (ie: preparing for a tough exam), or a big multi-step goal like publish a book.

If it’s the latter – best to identify those steps specifically!

You could create a page (or pages) just dedicated to strategy around them with an optimal timeline.

Some goals really more easily done and tracked digitally.  Just a reality, even though I love paper.  (Word doc, trello, notes app, whatever).

Do suggest that every week you look at progress you have made.  Consider making it part of your weekly review!

May want to consider Kanban type of methodology with projects that have multiple moving parts – can “see” where each segment is.

Finally — I personally really need deadlines.  Like to have ideal deadline for whole project but honesty benefit from deadline for each piece. 

6- Kid-related:

So I was wondering- maybe for an upcoming podcast Q&A- what would 11-year-old Sarah have wanted to use for a planner, if she could choose one? Or, in the alternative, what planners are you looking at for Annabel, if you are possibly going to get her one? My daughter will have school work, and she has used school issued planners in the past, but this year may be different because she is hopefully going to have more free time, or at least more say in how she structures her school days. We are doing virtual learning until at least January.

She is using a Hobonichi next year! It may not be the most practical choice, but she wanted it (more on that in ep #10). Plum Paper also has great (customizable!) options for kids, some of which look great for tracking online school.


  • Reply Alyce December 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    K – Just want to add that it sounds like you also need to create a habit for when you do the tracking – a set time of day or when you’re in a certain place, which would help you to track more consistently.

    Lee – Honestly, if you want to use colorful pens, I recommend you tell yourself that the goal isn’t perfect planner pages because perfection just doesn’t matter here. How often do you ever go back and look at any of the old pages of your planner? I’m willing to bet you turn the page and forget about what the previous page looked like. The people with the beautiful planner spreads online are artists who use their planners at least in part as creative outlets. Even though I appreciate the beauty in the spreads I see online, I know that making art isn’t my reason/goal for using my planner (and I assume it isn’t yours either, if you’ve just been using pencil this whole time). I use a planner to stay organized and to get shit done. My planner isn’t precious, and it doesn’t need to be “pretty”. It’s a practical workhorse, and it doesn’t matter if I cross out things, use mismatching inks, smudge ink before it dries (so long as it’s still legible) or whatever other “mistake” I routinely make while using my planner. I wish I could show you what my planner looks like – it wouldn’t actually be interesting, but it would be a nice counterbalance to all the beautiful planner spreads people share online. All that said, I will use white out tape on my weekly spread so that I can reuse that block if something gets scheduled in place of the cancelled event. White out tape works great on Hobonichi paper, so I imagine it works great on everything else too. If you’re really worried about your planner looking bad if you make a mistake while using pen, just white it out.

    • Reply Lee December 28, 2020 at 12:48 pm

      You know, I hadn’t thought about it, but you’re right, I do think the Instagram effect plays a role in my discomfort with the mess! I’ll have to keep that in mind and maybe give a few pens a try in 2021. 😉

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 28, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you Alyce! Such great advice!

  • Reply Marjorie December 30, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    Sarah, I finally caught up on your last two episodes — loved listening to them both!

    You mentioned in the last episode that you’re looking for sponsors. I can’t remember if you’d already mentioned this before, but have you also considered setting up a Patreon? I for one would be more than happy to be a paying subscriber, considering all the value you provide to your readers and listeners.

    Anyway, just a thought!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 30, 2020 at 7:41 pm

      I have, but I feel very awkward/conflicted about the idea of asking people / listeners for $! (Somehow I feel much less concern for companies who would be paying for ads!)

      • Reply Marjorie R. Asturias December 31, 2020 at 11:15 am

        I’m just going to be blunt and say: “Own it, girl!” 😉 You provide so much value to thousands of people. (I think in today’s post you mentioned that you have 1700 subscribers to your newsletter? Plus those who follow you on BLP, on sites like Feedly (like me), and on BOBW.

        You got me started on Hobonichi a couple years ago and I’ve never looked back. I know I’m not the only one you’ve inspired over the years.

        Maybe it’s because I worked in fundraising for a long time, including at the Dallas NPR/PBS station. Don’t think of it as begging for money because it’s not. It’s you knowing the incredible value you provide the world with your content (that you’ve invested so much of your time and talent in!) and allowing people to invest in it with you to ensure its longevity and sustainability. I’d be bereft if BLP went away, and I want to be part of its success.

        If it still makes you uncomfortable, automate it and make it simple and short. Put a call to action at the end of every newsletter that you can copy/paste per issue so that you don’t have to overthink it. Something like:

        “Like this content? Consider supporting it by becoming a Patreon subscriber at just $X a month. [Insert link.]”

        Do the same for your podcast at the beginning and end. Maybe create a recording and use that instead. Think of yourself as an advertiser on your own podcast. 😄

        Put a widget on the sidebar of your site with some brief copy and a link to Patreon.

        Set it and forget it. You made a huge leap of faith and started a podcast this year that has developed a devoted following. This is way simpler. You can do this! 🙌

  • Reply Federica S. December 31, 2020 at 8:19 am

    I am a long time listener of BOBW and now of BLP too, I would love to leave a review, but can’t find a way to do it 😐 I listen via Spotify

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