September is the new January, it’s full of fresh starts and new beginnings. This year, our family went through more-than-normal changes. We experienced new schools, new jobs, and new activities. We all knew these changes were coming, and I tried to scale back where we could, to give our whole family some margin. In the midst of it all, I discovered something that has been life changing: I started a bullet journal.
You’ve probably seen bullet journals on Pinterest: gorgeous little works of art with coordinated colors and artistic doodles. Most of them look nicer than my attempts at scrap booking when my kids were babies. To me, bullet journals looked like a potential complication in my life, not a simplifier. They seemed like one more thing to add to my already long to-do list.
My bullet journal is a left over wide lined, spiral bound notebook from last school year. Usually I love the idea of being surrounded by beautiful every day objects to complete daily tasks. However, the day I decided I wanted to start a bullet journal, I wanted to start it NOW. (Or even better, yesterday). I didn’t want to take the time to research all the options out there (there are a lot). Neither did I want to take time to drive to a store, or even wait for one to come in the mail.
I’m not knocking all the beautiful, artistic bullet journals and paraphernalia that’s out there. I’m just pointing out that bullet journals can also be extremely simple while still being very useful.
Bullet journals are geared for people that are naturally list writers, and a list-crosser-offers. (This is me). Sometimes I worry that I’ll disappear in a huge pile of papers like that guy from A Beautiful Mind. Consolidating all my lists in one place has made so much sense, and has helped me stay more organized.
The best thing the bullet journal has done for me is to make my mind calmer. I keep a lot of plates spinning, and you probably do too. Having one place to write down EVERYTHING has helped so much. I don’t have to worry about forgetting things. Now I know where I can go and find all my notes and reminders.
My bullet journal like a glorified to-do list: I plan on recycling it when it’s full. I don’t write down things I want to remember in it. (Our family stories and quotes get recorded in a separate acid free lined blank book). My bullet journal is an organizational tool, not a book of memories.
Bullet journals are set up in a strange way, and those of us with Type A tendencies have to relax a little and accept the kooky set up. Here’s what’s working for me:
The first four pages I left blank (and unnumbered) for index pages. You will hand number all the pages, and record what’s on each page number on the index pages. Resist the urge to make pages/calendars months in advance. Just create one month at a time; the index will tell you where to find everything.
The Future log is the very first thing in my journal. I use the Future Log as a monthly overview–I jot down appointments and events as soon as I hear of them. It’s especially useful for making notes about events happening in a month I don’t have a daily calendar created for yet.
After the Future Log is my September Daily Calendar–I started on the 8th, a Thursday. (I’m the queen of waiting to start something on a Monday or the first of the month). On the very far left margin, I wrote the date and first letter or two of the day of the week. Then I filled in all the daily events for each day.
I changed up my October Daily Calendar just a bit, and made two lines for each day–one in black ink, and one in blue. The top line is still the daily activities for that day, in black. Below it is what I’m planning for dinner, in blue ink.
Seeing what activities we have scheduled helps me decide what to have for dinner. I usually just list dinners–breakfasts and weekday lunches are pretty standard (cereal, oatmeal or fruit for breakfast; leftovers for grown up lunches and a protein with lots of cut fruit and veggies for school lunches). On weekends I do list both lunches and dinners.
After the Monthly Calendar is my daily to do list. I often write this list at the end of the day, the night before, and add to it as the day goes on.
After the Daily Calendar is a monthly list of things to do. I write everything on this page–family things, work things, bills due on weird days, birthday parties that need to be planned, things I need to look for. Next to the task is an empty box. When the task is completed, I color the box in.
Next is a key. In my super simple bullet journal, I use squares for tasks, as described above. Appointments and places to go are triangles, which are also filled in when completed. Urgent things are starred. Things I need to remember, but don’t need to do anything about are marked with a dash.
After that is a monthly page to track my habits. Things I’m tracking right now on this page are all health and wellness items: taking 10,000 steps a day, drinking 64 oz or water, working out for 30 minutes, and meditating. This page especially would be nice to have a piece of graph paper for, but while drawing with a ruler is imperfect, it certainly gets the job done.
In three short weeks, my simple bullet journal has made a huge difference in my organization and the scheduling of our family’s activities. This in turn, has greatly reduced all of our stress levels. Visual learners will especially benefit from this style of planning. I’m sure that I’ll make changes as I continue to use my bullet journal–the best thing about it is that you can set yours up exactly how you want.