Calendaring on Purpose

Recently, I took a deep dive into the world of analog calendaring—a new, artsy spin on the paper planners you had back in the day. Think FilioFax meets Pinterest.

Unbeknownst to me, it’s kind of a big thing. From Bullet Journals to Passion Planners, folks are ’gramming their beautiful pages of to-do lists and inspirational quotes. People buy these things in order to organize their lives, to make them feel more in control, and to be, well, happier.

And while these creative journals have many benefits, with all but a few exceptions, their fans seem to be trying to change the way they run their lives without figuring out why.

Here’s what calendaring offers users: It can be a wonderful vehicle for self-expression, creativity, and exploration. It can also be a haven for those who crave systems, who want more organization in their lives. Even purchasing the planner and accompanying pens (and perhaps fancy stamps, stickers and other gadgets) offers a boost of self-efficacy. And, thanks to social media, calendaring provides a community of fellow planners: The #bulletjournal (also see: #bujo, #bujolove etc.) and #passionplanner hashtags have hundreds of thousands of mentions on Instagram and Twitter. All this can make you feel less alone with your endless tasks.

But there’s one thing missing from nearly all these planners: Purpose.

Purpose is the overarching reason why an action matters. Goals are the stepping stones along the way to a life of purpose. But often we confuse these two concepts, and I worry that the calendaring-obsessed among us may be deep into the minutia of goals without understanding the bigger picture of why all these actions matter.

The Passion Planner gets close, offering prompts for gratitude, progress, and steps for improvement – but even this planner described “the big picture” as “getting a bird’s eye view of your year and months so you can plan ahead.” There’s a brief place to focus on what’s most important, yet in this planner “most important” seems to mean to-do’s that are exploding rather than the reason an action is worth doing.

My friend and colleague Elissa Ashwood is seeking to rectify this with a new venture called Calendaring Happiness, where visitors learn to embrace the four drivers of happiness—purpose, passion, peace, and pleasure—as they plan their to-do’s, organize their lives, and find motivation to achieve milestones on their paths to meaningful thriving.

In the meantime, with an eye toward purpose-based customization, a few nights ago I ordered a Bullet Journal. On the first available page, I’m going to write out my purpose statement. And I’m going to do a little experiment: Can I calendar purpose? Can I devise a system where I make sure my goals are both linked to my values and are using my strengths to impact the things I care about most in a positive way?

Interested in trying this yourself? Ask yourself three questions (based on an exercise from my new book, The Big Picture: A Guide to Finding Your Purpose in Life.)

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my values?
  • How can I use my strengths to live my values and impact others in a meaningful way?

Then, give each strength, value, and impact a single-letter (or two-letter) acronym. (So, for example, the value of “family” could be given the letter “f.”) Or color-code them. Look back through your previous lists and see where you are spending your energy. Are your lists and events reflective of your purpose?

And I’d love to hear from you: Are you calendaring “on purpose”?

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