the young go-getter’s guide to staying organized and motivated for the new year / filed planner 2012 goals

The young go-getter’s guide: How to stay organized & motivated for the new year


Whoa, relax — let me disclaim for a second, guys. to be quite frank, I’m actually more motivated than I am organized. That’s like saying, my room is a jungle but at least it’s painted in really happy colors. (Fact.) But this I have to say: my motivations in life are very, very organized — see Tip #1 below. Which is like saying, my room is a jungle but at least it’s painted in four panels of really happy colors which I planned out in advance. (Fact.)

So. Does this give me the authority/credentials to start dishing out tips now? No. But whachagonnado: it’s my blog – so here we are.

This, I hope, will speak to all you young go-getters: the high school prodigies (lauded or otherwise), the can’t-wait-to-graduate-and-conquer-the-real-world college breakout stars, the free-flyin’ goal-conquerin’ fresh & not-so-fresh grads, and even the battling-with-midlife-crisis yuppies.

Most of all, this is for everyone who is determined to do something remarkable with their lives this coming year.

If you’re not one of those, then I’m pretty sure you won’t have the patience to read throughout this entire thing. And that’s perfectly okay. You can go back to trolling 9Gag. Sorry to have bothered you. Carry on!

TIP #1 // Write down your major goals for 2012. Decide on a theme for the year.

I said earlier that I didn’t have any credentials to write this guide, but… I lied. This, my friends, is the foundation of my goal-setting street cred: more than Christmas, even more than my birthday — my favorite holiday in the world is New Year.

The last two weeks of December would see me maniacally transfixed on a New-Year’s-resolutions-making extravaganza. I swear, ever since I was a kid. Now with that much practice, I’d like to think I’ve gotten a lot better at it. Case in point: (don’t freak out) since December 2009, I’ve been using Excel spreadsheets to map out, in detail, my personal goals for the coming year. (I posted a screencap here.)

My method is a slightly edited version of Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review, which is an extremely hardcore, detailed, and very highly recommended goal-setting method. For this post’s purpose though, I’ve tried to simplify it:

FILED 2012 planner / colored pens / goal-setting for go-getters

Blogging — Start a photo blog & stick to it: Update at least twice a week.
Photography — Curate my best work to build a high-quality portfolio and submit it to at least three companies/publications.
Travel — Travel to 3 new local provinces.
Finances — Save P 30,000 for my travel funds (at least P 2,500 a month).


A few things to remember:

  • Categories will be different for each person, depending on what you do, and your priorities — other sample categories include: Health/Fitness, Friends & Family, Finances, Design work, Spiritual, Learning, Charity work.
  • Make your goals as clear and concrete as you can — do better than just a vague ‘Be happy’, or ‘Lose weight.’ Drill it down. Put numbers if applicable.
  • These are just major goals you’re listing down. You can always break them down into more detailed, smaller sub-goals (see Chris’ website for this) — but for the purpose of clarity, focus, and picking a theme, it’s helpful to have a big-picture goal first.
  • Once you’re happy with your theme, write it down in big, bold letters where you can always see it. Make it a constant reminder of what you want to achieve this year.

I found that having a theme is very important, because it gives me a sense of focus: for example, when I get random ideas for projects, or offers for new collaborations — I always check if it’s in line with what I want to achieve this year. I’d rather commit to a few, key projects that create more impact, rather than get into a lot of them, causing me to spread myself too thinly and not accomplish much in the end. So, having that central theme prevents me from throwing myself wildly at every tempting new project that comes my way. Like a cougar.

The theme can be anything! For example, my theme for my 2011 was Focused Expansion — now, I know this sounds like something a Chinese tycoon would come up with, but there’s an explanation for that at the bottom of my personal 2011 annual review. Also, if you wanna check it out, I’ve posted my theme for 2012 here.

TIP #2 // Trim down your daily to-do’s.

Everybody loves lists. I am obsessed with them. There was a lengthy period in my life when I felt like the longer my to-do list was, the more I got validated as a Multitasking Stress-loving Badass or something. But as I kept that up, my to-do lists started to look more like wish lists.

As this article says, “If it won’t fit in a post-it, it won’t fit in your day” — and I agree.

There are two list-trimming methods that I recommend: the 3+2 rule, and One Big Task A Day.

One Big Task A Day

I personally prefer this method, because I work on several projects at any given time, and each of them is of an entirely different nature than the others. For example, a normal week for me would look like this: I need to (1) write a Senate speech, (2) layout + write a new feature article on the blog, (3) tweak HTML/CSS on my website.

Trying to accomplish a little of everything in a single day, tends to make me lose focus. That’s because whenever I have to switch hats (Senate hat, blogger hat) several times a day, it gets really confusing — so I end up not really accomplishing much. I’d rather assign a single, major task to a particular day, (ex. Today = Senate speech, Tomorrow = HTML/CSS coding), then just add bits of minor work that I can do in between breaks. This ‘minor work’ includes stuff like, searching for “Jake Gylenhaal late night interview,” or “Harry Potter behind the scenes,” or “How to teach my dog how to pray” on YouTube.

3+2 rule

However, I think that the 3+2 rule might be more suitable for students, or for people with a single, major project, or 2-3 projects that are related to each other. The rule basically says that you should only have 5 items in your list everyday: 3 + 2 = 3 major tasks, 2 minor tasks. You can read more about it here.

In the image below, I tried to illustrate the difference between the two methods. I hope it makes sense!

Young Go-Getters' Guide to Staying Organized & Motivated // FILED 2012 Planner // To-do list vs. Action Steps

Important tip: DON’T leave any meeting without deciding on the team’s action steps:

What’s next? Who’s in charge of what? What are each person’s deliverables, and by when? Who’s in charge of the food the next meeting? Can it be Yellow Cab’s Dear Darla? These are all very important matters.[/spoiler]

TIP #3 // Expand your horizons, and always be on the lookout for new ideas.

My attention span tends to plateau very easily. The minute I feel like I’m falling into a routine, my zest for life totally flat-lines and I become all Moaning-Myrtle-y and stuff. Thankfully, I’ve found that there are three things that can snap me out of my melodramatic reverie: Traveling, Meeting new people, and Doing Nothing.


If you’ve been reading this blog for a time now, you’d know that I like traveling alone, and immersing myself in that place and culture for at least more than a week. It’s a great way to pick up new ideas (and new clothes/accessories) — Seoul, most especially, is my favorite destination for creative recharging. The downside: I always come home feeling agitated, like I want to launch a thousand different projects all at once.

On a student’s budget? Parents won’t let you go far? Not qualified for an extended leave yet? Local travel is just as fulfilling. A deluxe bus to Baguio costs less than PHP 1000.00. Go Pinatubo hiking with your barkada. Explore Manila. Take a Celdran tour, if you haven’t yet. Check out the stores along Maginhawa St. Attend concerts/parties in Cubao X. Revisit Ayala Museum, or attend one of their Design Talks.

But if you’re extra nifty — be on the lookout for Cebu Pacific seat sales (my last Korea roundtrip airfare cost me less than 4,000 pesos!). I promise, travel is an incredible investment, and definitely worth saving up for.


Believe me, this is the ULTIMATE way to generate new ideas: PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE.

Attend events or sign up for lessons that pique your interest.  Jelly with us at co.lab. More importantly, gather up the guts to introduce yourself to new people. Now that’s the part I dread the most.

But after a year of coworking in co.lab, where the most interesting of people come and go all the time, I’ve learned that this is a crucial, crucial skill.

And you know what, in this day and age, it’s actually not as freaky anymore: “Hi, I read your blog/I follow you on Twitter. I’m ____,” is fast becoming a perfectly normal, not-so-stalkerish opening line to introduce yourself to somebody.

(And then after that you, oh, @ namedrop them casually on Twitter, hope for them to follow you back, and mope for two days straight if they don’t. Huhuhu. Yo. Get over it, honey. Twitter is not Friendster. You’re not required to add every single person you meet, then ask them for a testimonial.)

Also, try e-mailing somebody who inspires you, somebody you think would be interesting to talk to or brainstorm with. You’d be surprised that people actually reply to heartfelt, random e-mails. Pick their brains, ask for advice, and eventually, maybe set up a meeting over coffee. (Again, this does not guarantee a follow-back on Twitter. Don’t go angrily unfollowing them just because they didn’t follow you! It’s okay. It’s nothing personal. Here’s a hug.)


Some of my best, breakthrough ideas come whenever 1) I’m in the shower, or 2) I’m lying down on my bed, staring at the ceiling, absentmindedly scratching my tummy like an old man.

Sketchbook planner, doodles, colored pens // Filed 2012 planner // When inspiration strikes, write down your ideas

This is why I always keep a notebook with me, whether I’m traveling, meeting new people, or scratching my tummy. Capture the idea and write it down, no matter how vague or unformed it still might be. Conversely, it can be as detailed and complicated as you want, complete with diagrams and tables and stick figures or whatever.

Another good tip is to start it off with an “I will…” Don’t whitewash it with I hope’s or maybe’s.

Write it down as: “I will have a solo art exhibit,” or “I will record a marriage proposal video to Ryan Gosling and send it to Ellen de Generes and she will fly me out to be a surprise guest on her show when Ryan comes to promote his next movie.” YOU. NEVER. KNOW.[/spoiler]

TIP #4 // Start each day with a thank you.

FILED 2012 planner, daily mood indicator // sketchbook colored pens doodles // setting goals and staying motivated

One of the most important, basic things about staying motivated and happy: the moment you open your eyes in the morning, right before you glance at the clock and panic, right before you grab your phone to check your messages and/or tweet — say thank you.

Think of at least one thing you’re thankful for, or, simply say thank you in advance for what the day has in store for you. This is one of the best habits that I’ve developed over the years. I find that when you consciously commit to being positive for the day, the little, petty things don’t annoy you as much.

Like, I could easily tweet, “Oh God the lady in front of me smells DISGUSTING. My day is ruined!!! I hate her I hate this day UGHHH” Or, I could just think to myself, “Oh maybe she donated her month’s supply of soap, shampoo and toiletries to the needy. How kind and wonderful.”[/spoiler]

Let me now end with a caveat: You can make all the lists you want, written wherever or however you want — but the most crucial part is still in the EXECUTION.

Start something. Finish it. Do. Keep doing.

And remember: things won’t always go as planned. I didn’t start out 2011 saying: This year, I will push for a piece of national legislation. But then, Jowee-Amina-Brian-Dan-AJ-everybodyelse came crashing into my life, and suddenly, there it was, on the Senate floor and there was nothing I could do about it.

Plans, lists, and goals should just be starting points, NOT rigid structures that strictly dictate your life. Things won’t happen the way you imagine it will. But still — don’t let that stop you from making plans and setting goals. Because, you know what, it makes it feel extra special when you discover that at the end of the year, you’ve managed to exceed them :)

PS. YOU’RE STILL READING! YAY! You must be a relative.
If you made it up to here, the sincerest of thank-you’s from me :) AND, if you read the entire thing and did not just go here for the giveaway, I would love to hear your own thoughts about goal-setting and staying organized/motivated :) I worked hard on this post, so a comment would be super super appreciated, yay I love you guize. ^w^

I’m teaching a workshop on how to set better goals this Jan. 18, 2014!

Click on the photo for more details.

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  • Layla

    Thank you for this post! Helps me see the bigger picture in the little things I do–and pursuing my dream isn’t so daunting anymore. :)

  • Nadene

    Whooooo hoooo!! What a fab article! I’m in love. 2013 is nearly over and the advice listed here will really help me make 2014 a much more fun packed, defined year! I’m a 24 year old lass too so it’s great to see another young person grabbing life by the horns and just getting on with it so positively! Rock on!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • Camille

    Thank you ate Arriane for sharing these tips. As 2013 comes to an end, I’m glad to revisit this page again. I will make 2014 an awesome year. Will follow the steps you put here. Thanks a lot. You are my inspiration!! :)

  • peanutsparty

    Love it! Especially the part on being positive. :) I hope everyone does this though, because keeping the optimism amongst the grouchy, the troubled and the bitter these days is a real challenge. >.< BUT, it's just a matter of perspective. Fighting :)

  • Jacqui

    This article was super fun! (and yes I finished reading the entire thing and I am not your relative :)) I do agree with the “traveling” bit and the “setting yourself out there” bit. Because of that, I would like to attend your workshop, Hope to see you soon! A blessed day to you!