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How to Use Your Passion Planner as a Book Journal

Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

Used with Permission from Passion Planner

Used with Permission from Passion Planner

Early this year, something called a Passion Planner changed my life. I’ve tried various systems over the years to get organised, but I’ve now returned to trusty pen and paper. I love this diary, which comes in various colours and formats, and even in an undated version so you can start it whenever. It’s also a great excuse to buy and use all kinds of stickers and coloured pens.

The Passion Planner kicks off the year with a mind map to encourage you to state your goals and work towards them, and throughout the planner there is plenty of space to schedule tasks. It encourages you to reflect on each month when it begins and then again when it ends. It’s a tool not just to be more organised but also to be more intentional about how you spend your time — and about how much of it you allocate to your passions, so that you don’t let the urgent crowd out the important.

I use my Passion Planner for everything, from my writing to my teaching jobs to my social calendar. But there’s also a pretty good case to be made for it as a reading journal. Walk with me through its many uses.

First, there’s the Passion Roadmap – the backbone of everything. The question that’s asked at the top of the page is “If I could be anything, do anything, or have anything, what would it be?”. You’re supposed to just write without censoring yourself — it’s a wish list rather than a goal list. (You’ll see that “get a novel published” is on my list, for example, but that’s a wish — a goal would be “keep writing novels and work to get better at them,” since I sadly can’t control the publishing industry. I can only control my part.) So someone’s bookish Passion Roadmap might look like this:


Each month starts with a couple of days on which to plan the big things that month. Maybe your book club meeting, the date for the Book Riot Read Harder group, your next library trip, the publication of a book you can’t wait to get your hands on.





There’s a place to lay out your main goals for the month, too.




There’s space for people to see, places to go, things not to do.

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Then, there’s the weekly spreads, which make up the bulk of the planner. Each day is divided into half-hourly slots from 6 am to 11 pm. (Maybe a little much if you’re not planning out your reading in half-hourly increments, but you can always get crafty and cover up the hours with washi tape!)




And there’s a place for a task list, more detailed than the one in the monthly spread, as well as a box to record happy events.


There’s also something called a “space of infinite possibility”:


Something else I love about the Passion Planner is that it has some blank pages at the back, some plain and some squared. I use them for mind mapping book projects. I also use them to list potential Book Riot posts and books I want to read that I hear about so far in advance that they’re not on Goodreads yet and might not even have an exact publication date.

Used with permission from Passion Planner.

Used with permission from Passion Planner.

At the end of each month, two pages help you think through how the past thirty days have been and how the next could be better. A lot of these can be adapted for bookish use.

  • The “most memorable part of this past month” could be a scene from a novel that has particularly stuck with you.
  • “What were the three biggest lessons you’ve learned this past month?” These could be life lessons you’ve learned about reading (“Don’t balance your coffee on your brand new paperback!”, “don’t forget to write library due dates into my planner!”, “start the book club book at least a week before you think you need to”) or they could be lessons you’ve learned from the books themselves — interesting from non-fiction or from characters’ lives in fiction.
  • “Are you happy with how you spent your time? If not, what steps can you take this next month to adjust them?” The answer to this for me is often reading-related anyway: turn the phone off at night and read! Or stop reading a book that is boring you and pick up the one you want to read itself. The possibilities are endless.
  • “On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel overall about this past month?” This is a great place to record how much you’ve enjoyed your reading –if you’re really into the booknerd maths, you could even give each book you’ve read a score and then average it out for monthly reading ratings.

    Used with permission from Passion Planner

So many ways to use the Passion Planner bookishly. Why not give it a go as your book journal in 2017? Then come and report back in the comments and let us know how you got on.