31 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Lose Weight

Dear Lissy,

Losing weight is always at the top of my mind/resolutions.  Some years it's "Yes!  I am stoked.  This is happening this year."  Other years my thinking is more along the lines of "Meh.  I know I should do something, but I am so tired of this merry-go-round."

21 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Get Organized!

Dear Lissy,

Personal and home organization is another top five resolution.  Living in a messy environment is incredibly stressful on a personal level as well as for relationships.  Once again, Supermom plans aren't going to solve the problem long term.  Let's look at our original parameters to make organization a regular part of our lives....
Montessori style shelf available here

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.


  • Don't put it down, put it away!
  • Don't go from one room to another with empty hands.  EVER.
  • Set aside 14 minutes a day to organize instead of promising yourself an afternoon.  Don't believe me?  Set a timer for 14 minutes and work on your inbox or a drawer in your kitchen.  You'll be surprised!
  • Commit to re-homing just 1 item a day from your home instead of going through once or twice a year.  Most towns have freecycle or "yard sale" pages on social media that allow you to advertise just an item or two, or start an E-bay store. Keep a box in the mudroom or hall closet for Goodwill donations.
  • Set aside a few minutes in the afternoon and/or evening to have a family "bangerang" pick-up through the whole house and return any items to their homes instead of waiting for the weekend.
  • Rotate your children's toys instead of letting them have access to every toy all the time. We limited toys to one toy/set for every year of age in the play area, and rotated toys every month or so.  Puzzles, games, art supplies, and videos were in closed cabinets outside the play area that required a parent's help to access. Children are happier and play better with fewer toys.
  • Gift items to your children in storage containers instead of the original box.  Keep the box size and type consistent so they'll stack.  Flip top storage containers tend to work better than those with separate tops.
  • If you purchase an item, another item of the same type has to leave your home
  • Keep your homeschooling, sewing, and arts and crafts supplies organized into project totes. I picked this tip up from a friend in quilt guild, and it changed the way I purchase and organize.  
    • The old way:  Purchase supplies, books, patterns, and tools on a deep discount, and store them until I decide I want or need them for a project or class.
    • The new way: Purchase/obtain only the tools, material, and book or pattern I need for my current project (and maybe one more in the planning stages) and store all of the necessary items in a single tote that I can pull out when I work. For classroom purposes, 1 storage tote contains all the books, videos, manipulatives, and tools or equipment for one subject in one grade level. Create toolboxes for frequently used items -- sewing baskets, pencil boxes, etc.  All scraps and leftovers in the tote when the class or project is done are processed intentionally and filed/sold/discarded.  I just deleted three paragraphs of bullet points on how to implement this system:  I'll write another letter after I finish this set on Resolution Resources and link it here.

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.


 For organizing purposes, you have two available metrics:  time or space.  Set small goals that have one of those two metrics.  "I will organize my sewing supplies for 14 minutes today," or "I will organize Eggbert's puzzles while he naps today."

Make organizing plans for today only, but set goals for 28 days.  When you write out your Daily Plan, you already know how much energy and time you have available that day.  You're not going to sort and re-organize 6 totes of books if you've been up all night with a sick child, or have three dentist appointments scheduled for the afternoon.
  • Big Goal:  During the month of January, I will organize all of my schoolroom books and supplies into totes by subject and level. 
  •  Little Step:  "Today I will sort and box all of our reading material by level."
  • "I'm going to get all of our school stuff organized this year." 
Can you see the difference?  If I set a goal of organizing all of our school material into totes by subject and grade this month, I know I need dozens of small boxes/totes on hand, and I can set a task that works toward that end goal each day.  The second resolution gives me no focus or motivation.  It only took a few seconds more to think about and write Big Goal/Little Step than it did to write the resolution.  I didn't spend an hour planning out each day, I just jumped in with a reasonable step toward my goal that I know I have the time and energy to accomplish today. (See my letter on our month of hard work.) Tomorrow I'll write another little step, and so on, until I get the job finished.  When I was first married and out on my own, I'd write down ALL the little steps at once, assuming I'd have the identical amount of time and energy for the project each day.  It took me a long time to learn to take things a day at a time.

Create or join a support and accountability group. 


This one definitely falls under "create," but I guarantee if you put out a 28 day challenge on any social media platform, you'll have half a dozen friends who want accountability and encouragement for organization projects.  I suggest taking before and after pictures each day and posting them as a means of accountability in this area.

Once again, by the yard it's hard, by the inch, it's a cinch! Build solid, small habits and watch your organization soar.



19 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Manage My Time

Dear Lissy,

Every resolution you make will require the expenditure of time, money, or both.  Learning to redeem the time is one of the most elusive and valuable skills you can possess.  As I prayed and thought about this letter, I decided to call my momma.  I admire my mom's time management skills and philosophy more than she will ever know.  She doesn't live out of a Filofax, but her home is always tidy and welcoming, she's dependable, and she's giving.  Above all, your grammy possesses a gentle and quiet spirit that ministers to everyone around her.  She gave up a few of her secrets that fit well with our three part plan for making reliable resolutions:

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.


  • Grammy's first piece of advice was to keep a running to-do list where you dump everything that is rattling around in your brain onto paper.  This is as much for your own peace of mind as it is to ensure that everything gets done. (She also has a basic wall calendar to record appointments and events)
  • Creating a daily to-do list with a handful of "have-to-do's" instead of a bushel of "hope-to-do's" is another key area we chatted about.  You can always pick a few items off the running to-do list if time permits, but having a realistic picture of what must be done helps you make better choices during the heat of the day. 
  • Finally, Grammy completes urgent tasks first.  As she put it, "If there's something that has to be done before I can go to bed, I do that first." Once your urgent tasks are out of the way, you'll have the patience and energy to deal with other items on the list or schedule busters from your husband and kids.

    Keep in mind that the Real Goal isn't a Pinterest worthy color-coded planner, but the hospitality, peace, and patience that your grandmother has demonstrated in her life for more than 40 years.  

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.


We love to measure our worth by how much we can get done, but the quality of our relationships and attitude far outstrip our productivity in eternal value.  

How do we measure input with time management?
  1. Create a Daily Plan.  Call it a to-do list, a Daily Docket, or nothing at all, but move all of your Routines, Appointments, Tasks, and Events (RATE) to one piece of paper you refer to throughout the day.  I choose to use a bullet journal format, but I've used everything from a Day-Timer to a sheet of notebook paper on a clipboard in the past.  If I create a daily plan either the night before or first thing in the morning, I count that day a success.  Just the act of putting my plans on paper creates a sense of peace and focus that is vitally important for me as I run our household.  I can instantly see where I can fit in a request for my time, or have the freedom to say "no, I can't fit that in today."  
  2. Meticulously maintain the feeder sources for the daily plan.  If my brain is hacking up forgotten tasks, appointments, and to-do's, I get off plan pretty quickly.  Ditto if I have an "emergency" from one of the guys.  I can only make an effective Daily Plan if my sources are reliable.
    • Do I have a single calendar where every appointment and activity is faithfully recorded?  
    • Do I have a running to do list so tasks that need to be completed are visibly in front of me while I make up my Daily Plan?
    • Is my tickler up to date?
    • Have I asked Daddy if he has any errands, double shifts, or tasks he needs done this week so I don't get blindsided with something that has to be done that day (or minute!)? 
    • Do I have the boy's club, school, and work schedules for the week?  If they need some weird item for a science experiment, or a pot of spaghetti for a late night at robots, I need to know in advance.
When I have a Daily Plan that I'm confident contains the routines, appointments, tasks, and events I need to accomplish for my day, I'm a different person.  And when Momma's happy and peaceful?  Well, you know what a difference that makes. When a schedule buster comes booming through the door, I can either send it packing, or rearrange my plan to accommodate it.  Either way, the day is a success eternally.

Create or join a support and accountability group.

Ever had a home in C.H.A.O.S? (That's shorthand for "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.")  God has set up a support and accountability structure for time management called "hospitality."  We are to be entertaining strangers and friends, and showing that same kindness and love to our own family.  We have the older women in our ministry we should be hosting in our homes regularly to help us navigate the difficult waters of managing a home and family well before God.  I don't care for entertaining Martha Stewart style at all, but I love having people in my home for encouragement, ministry, and consolation.  My schedule can become overloaded and our house can deteriorate into shambles inside of a week if I'm not intentional about hospitality.  Grammy has people in her home continually since before I was born, some of them for weeks at a stretch.  She manages her time and home so that even when Gugs brings someone home unexpectedly, she's not kerfluffled at the inconvenience.  I'm glad that I've had that example before me since I was itty-bitty.

Managing your time -- and your family's time --  is challenging.  I encourage you when you become discouraged to think back on the time you spent in Grammy's home, and seek to follow her example of loving hospitality and peace.

Love you for all of time,


18 December 2014

Resolution Resources: Daily Quiet Time

Dear Lissy,

A New Year's resolution to faithfulness in a daily quiet time with God is common.  Even if daily devotions are a habitual part of your routine, it can be helpful to review and renew your resolve to make quiet time a priority in your life.  Let's look at that resolution in light of our three guidelines...

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.


The stated resolution?  Make daily time in the Bible and prayer a priority.

 If you're adding a daily time with God, you may be excited enough to try to get up early and get into the Word and prayer.  That is a noble goal, and God wants to meet with you even more than you desire to meet with Him.  He will give you the grace and strength to make daily time with Him a reality.   

The real goal?  To grow your relationship with your Heavenly Father to the point where the constant power and presence of God in your life is a reality and a joy.   

We increase God's power and presence in our lives in two ways: private time spent in the Word and prayer and corporate worship and fellowship with those of like faith and practice.   

Let's brainstorm some small, sustainable ways you could implement these two growth factors...
  • Have a scripture portion sent to your mobile or e-mail each morning through YouVersion or a similar program.
  • Keep a daily devotional book in your powder room reading material.  A subscription like Days of Praise or a regular book like Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed have short readings that seek to grow your relationship with your Savior.
  • Make a commitment to serve on Sunday that will help motivate you in your faithfulness to your local church.
  • Keep your Bible open on your kitchen table.
  • Don't log onto your computer until you've read your Bible.
  • Do your Bible reading at night before you go to bed and write down 2 or 3 things to think about the next morning. 
  • Make up a Quiet Time basket that will give you a gentle visual reminder and extra motivation to set aside time with God.

Make exchanges whose input can be measured. 


God only measures outputWe can only control the input.  Everything God measures in our life is the result of His grace working in and through us.  With that said, we can measure our input in terms of faithfulness as long as we realize that God is not measuring the same thing. Many authors refer to time in the Word, prayer, and corporate worship as putting ourselves in the "paths of grace."  We are intentionally putting ourselves where we know the Spirit walks and works. 

The problem arises when we attempt to measure our spiritual walk by how well we maintain the spiritual disciplines.  You wouldn't expect an Olympian to spend every day sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watching T.V., but even the most dedicated athletes aren't guaranteed an Olympic medal simply because they worked hard every day.   Nor do they award medals for faithfulness and dedication:  that's expected of an athlete who wants to perform at the top of their game.  God measures our spiritual maturity by our love, our control over our tongue, and many other metrics detailed in the New Testament -- not by our spiritual discipline.  Without spiritual discipline, you'd turn into a fat, carnal Christian blown about by her feelings; but the discipline is only toward a higher goal, it isn't the end in itself.

Create or join a support and accountability group. 


God already knew how much we'd need support and accountability when he set up the local church.  If you made no other group commitment than faithful, active church attendance, you'd find your spiritual walk dramatically improved.
Because I believe personal time in the Word and prayer is so important, I tend to join groups of like minded women on private social media groups 3 or 4 times a year for a Bible study.  I don't participate year round, but having that accountability and fellowship every couple of months is encouraging and inspiring. 

Well, Sweets, I have to get school underway for the day.  I've written several letters detailing different quiet time methods -- just take a peek at the letters filed under the Devotions tab to find one that fits the season of life you're in right now.  Whether you're trying to re-establish the habit, or just looking to go "further up and further in," you'll find what you're looking for there.

Loving you greatly!



 Love, Momma

16 December 2014

Resolution Resources for the New Year

Dear Lissy,

We're about two weeks out from the New Year, and thinking of changes we'd like to make.  Most years I'll choose a word that I want to define my thinking and actions for the upcoming year, but this year resolutions seemed a better fit.   Whether you're rebooting your life in January, September, or some other time of year, here are a few basic tips and resources for success.

  • Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.
  • Make exchanges whose input can be measured.
  • Create or join a support and accountability group.

Make small daily exchanges, even for big goals.


This truth took me decades to learn. Big changes to my schedule, spending, eating, and activity level are extremely difficult to sustain long term.  I do far better when I start a snowball with a tiny habit that moves me toward my ultimate goal.  Here are the questions I work through now.
  • What is my stated resolution?
  • What is my real goal?
  • Are there ways to make small, sustainable exchanges rather than a major change and still achieve my real goal? 
Stated resolution:  Get myself and the kids an hour of activity a day. 

Real goal:  Increase our family's daily activity level.

Small changes we can make (brainstormed with the kids)
  • A Wii game or outdoor activity instead of watching a show or playing a board game after dinner.
  • Running upstairs to talk to another person instead of hollering.  Bringing items back to their location rather than leaving them for later (those stairs again!)
  • Choosing a family fun night activity that's active (sledding, bowling, swimming) instead of passive (renting a movie, etc.)
  • Blocking internet usage between school and supper so we are more active instead of crashing
  • Walking instead of driving within one mile of our house in fair weather.
  • Parking at the back of the lot instead of the front anywhere we go.
Notice:  Nothing has been added or subtracted from our normal schedule.

We have found that once we start towards a goal, we gain momentum.  These little, faltering steps soon become a daily snowshoe tromp or family bike rides.

Make exchanges whose input can be measured.


This technique has two parts:
  1. Measure input, not output
  2. Goals have to be measurable.
 We love to hop on a scale or use a tape measure to record our progress toward weight loss.  Trouble is, neither of those metrics can't be controlled -- they only occur as a byproduct of metrics we can control.  A far better way to measure is to record our daily input (water, food, sleep, exercise) and strive to remain consistent.

The second problem is setting goals without clear metrics.  "Eat Healthier" isn't a great goal.  Is healthier different foods?  Fewer calories, fat, or sugar? Fewer snacks?   

Set small, sustainable goals that are measurable
  •  "I will replace my chips at lunch with a serving of nuts."
  • "I will start dinner with either a cup of chicken broth or a cup of raw veg."
  • "I will drink one cup of hot water with lemon before I eat or drink anything else in the morning."
  • "I will get into bed no later than 10:30 each night."

Create or Join A Support and Accountability Group 


I belong to closed facebook groups for my No-S Diet/exercise, my devotions, and watercolor artists. I belong to e-mail groups for home management and home schooling.  I regularly join 28 day challenges in areas I want to grow.  I prefer electronic accountability because even though people move in and out of the group, the support and accountability is consistent.  

Some people prefer a real life person who will give you a phone call or check in with you at church.  I've never had a friend that was willing to keep me accountable long term, so the e-groups work much better for me.

Over the next two weeks I'll write you letters about the most common resolutions women in the 21 - 61 age group make, and practical ways to implement these three principles.

Love you more every day,

14 December 2014

We're excited to announce the opening of our new venture,

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 If you're looking for a last minute Christmas gift, we invite you to join us. Nearly every item is available with Amazon Prime's 2 day shipping guarantee. Click here to take a look, or simply look for the Shop Dear Lissy tab on the blog.

Merry Christmas,

I am an Amazon Affiliate and will recieve a small percentage of sales from the store.

13 December 2014

Accordion Treats

Dear Lissy,

Christmas has rolled around again, and it's time to dust off the Accordion Treats recipe.  These treats, an American twist on the French Madeleine, are light and buttery cakes (or maybe cookies?) with crisp ends and a soft center.  The moniker was given because of the unique pan the baker has to fashion out of foil in order to create the signature shape.  Accordion treats are simple to make, and a favorite of many of Senior Saints.

Accordion Treats
Makes 48

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Fold 1 yard of foil in half lengthwise and fold into 1" accordion pleats.  Place on cookie sheet.  Lightly spray with non-stick pan spray if desired. 
Cream until light and fluffy:
3/4 cup room temperature butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar

Beat in one at a time:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

Stir in:
1 cup (5 oz) flour

Drop by teaspoonfuls into the center of each pleat of the foil. Too much batter causes the treats to run out the ends of the foil.   Bake 18 - 26 minutes until the cookies are deep golden brown on the ends and have golden centers.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, pull the foil flat to release one side of the treat, and then carefully remove the treats to a wire rack to cool.   Use opposite side of foil and refold the accordion for the next batch.  

Melt together using 50% and 30 second bursts in the microwave:
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp shortening or coconut oil

Drizzle treats with dark chocolate using a fork.

Mom's Notes:
  • Try different flavorings:  lemon, orange, almond, and anise are all delicious.
  • Add 1/2 finely chopped nuts to the batter.
  • Dip the ends in chocolate and roll in crushed nuts or toasted coconut.
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar instead of using chocolate.
  • Serve plain cookies with a dip.

Love ya, Cookie!

05 December 2014

The No S Diet: 2 Month Review

Dear Lissy,

 Three of the five of us have been following the The No S Diet for the past couple of months.   I wanted to write you a letter for once you are out on your own to:
  1. Remind you of how simple and effective the No S diet is,
  2. Add in the few little tweaks that have made this a success for us, and
  3. Remind you that good health and good sense is nearly free.  Too many weight/health management programs are priced out of reach for the people most in need of it.

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated in any way with Everyday Systems or The No S Diet.  My opinions are my own.  As always, consult a health care professional before making changes to your diet or exercise. 
The No S Diet:  "No Snacks, No Sweets, No Seconds except on Special Days."  The special days include Saturday, Sunday, family birthdays or major events, holidays, and sick days. That's it.  It's a "good enough" approach that is easy to follow and effective for long term weight loss and maintenance.  Our N.P approved it whole-heartedly for all three of us, even though two of you are still in growth periods.

My favorite part of the No S Diet is the sense of quiet power. I was hyperfocused on food for most of my life.  No S broke that tumultuous affair, and moved food back to it's rightful place in my heart and life.  

  No S Diet Observations
  • Buy the book.  Yes, all the information is on the website for free.  You don't have to buy anything.   But the book is worth every penny -- just sayin'.
  • Listen to the podcasts -- they're fun and encouraging.  They go in reverse order, so you have to start at the bottom of the page.  Everyday Systems is only partially about weight management, so some of the podcasts are for systems besides No S.
  • Join the Facebook group or No S message boards for daily inspiration and a great place to troubleshoot.
  • Don't fear hunger.  Give your body a chance to re-calibrate. 
  • Be prepared for people to be uber concerned that you're not snacking. 
  • Don't add restrictions from other diets.  You are free to eat one plate of anything but sweets three times a day.  Everything is fair game on weekends.
  • Know yourself -- you're free to eat whatever makes you feel great within the parameters.  I eat a low carb lunch so I can function all afternoon.  That's a choice made based on my knowledge of my own body, not a rule that's hard and fast.  I'm also free to hit Subway if we're driving all afternoon, skip lunch when I'm researching for a new book, or join my folks at Ramuntos for a couple of slices of za when they come to town for an oil change  I'm free.
  • Be prepared for slow loss:  we've each lost about 2% of our current body weight per month.  If a friend is starting or on another program at the same time, she'll probably be losing that much per week, and it can feel discouraging.  No S is for the long haul, not short term loss.  I love seeing the testimonials of folks that have been on No S for 5 or 6 years with a steady loss every year.
 A few observations on mealtime.  
The following practices aren't a part of the official No S plan, but we find them helpful.
  • Make up your single plate of food, and sit down at the table to eat.  Other diners are ideal, but no smart phone, book, or other distraction.
  • Every meal is accompanied by a large glass of water.
  • Watch your bite size.  The amount of food on the end of your fork should be about as much as a large grape. 
  • Take 3 breaths or a sip of water between every bite.  Retraining yourself to breathe or sip between bites will slow you down so that your full-o-meter works properly.
  • Stop eating when you are pleasantly full, even if there's food still on the plate.  Your body will cue you by reducing the flavor in the food.  Once the food tastes bland, stop eating.
  • Thoroughly clean your mouth after every meal as a signal to your brain that you. are. done. 
  • Consider making the same breakfast and lunch every day.  Reducing choice reduces stress and failure.  Eating close to the same thing every day helps your body adjust more quickly, too.
What about between meals?
Zip.  Nada. Nothing. OK...water.   That's part of what makes this diet easy to follow. I also find that minted green tea (plain, no sweetener or artificial sweetener) cuts cravings and hunger.  We don't chew gum because the artificial sweetener wreaks havoc on our system.

Those awesome S Days.
S Days are like a pressure release valve, and a lot has been written about dieters' Mardi-gras-ish tendencies during the first few weeks.  Once you've passed that stage, here are a few thoughts...
  • Think powerful thoughts.  You are absolutely free to eat anything and everything, but you are also now free to say, "Nah, not right now."  That is phenomenal.  Many people don't have that freedom.  If they see and want food, they either gobble it up, mourn that they can't, or obsess about it until they finally cave and eat twice as much.  Enjoy your newly minted superpower.
  • Don't add restrictions for the first 90 days.  I promise that S days normalize eventually.
  • Focus on your favorite S and make it extra special, downplay the other two.  I love having a sweet treat after a meal, so I make or purchase special sweet treats for the weekend.  I don't care as much about snacks or seconds, so I downplay those freedoms.  I won't have a snack or seconds unless I'm genuinely hungry.
  • Stay active.  Go for a walk around town, or take a bike ride with the fam. S days provide a couple of relaxed dieting days, not an excuse to forgo exercise.
Oh, yeah...exercise.  Is this the catch?
No catch, I promise!  We don't have room in this letter to discuss exercise at length, so I'll give you the short version:  exercise is vital for your health, but not a significant contributor to weight loss.   
  • A brisk daily walk or bike ride will keep you strong mentally, emotionally, and physically and make it easier to maintain an eating plan. 
  • Strengthening and stretching muscles will prevent injuries as you age.  
End of story.  Anything more is a hobby, not holiness, despite what anyone says. 
Two exercise programs -- Urban Ranger and Shovelglove -- accompany the No S diet.  They aren't part of the diet, but more of a companion to it. 
  • The core principle with Urban Ranger is to walk more.  Errands.  Lunch breaks.  A trip to the library.  Urban Ranger is not about working the treadmill or a taking a power walk around the track in stretchy neon clothing.  
  • Shovelglove strives to incorporate muscle strengthening exercise for 14 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  We opted for isometrics over sledge hammers, but the overall principle is the same.
I plan to stay with No S for the rest of my life.  It's a quiet way to manage my weight without the ups and downs of dieting.  I hope you'll be successful with it now and keep it going as you head out on your own.  If you ever lose your way, know I love you to the moon and back, and pray every day you'll have the health and energy to bloom where you've been planted.  I hope this letter reminds you that you don't have to do something painful, expensive, awkward or dangerous to maintain your weight.  Lose that frantic feeling, and relax into a sensible plan that gives long term success.

Love ya,

04 December 2014

Bullet Journal: 6 month update

Dear Lissy,

Hello, Sweetie! I've been using a bullet journal since this summer, and I wanted to update you on how and what I'm doing.  Bullet journaling has been an productivity epiphany for me, allowing me to simplify (yay!), plan what I can actually accomplish in a day, and become much better at staying in the moment. I'm also consistently using the calendar app on my phone, something that's become more important now that four of us have work, club, and church schedules to coordinate.

  • I use my smartphone for all date specific items -- work schedules, appointments, due dates -- and for my address book.  These are tedious to recopy and can get lost in a bullet journal.
  • I use my bullet journal to plan, focus, and record my day as well as keep notes on topics or projects.
  • I use clip in master sheets to avoid re-writing routines.  I also use post-it tabs and washi to help me find pages instantly.


or, "Creating a do-able day using a bullet journal."

I've always had piles of lists.  Routine lists, to-do lists, project lists, Big Idea lists and lists of lists floating around in a variety of notebooks.  Few things in life are more discouraging than a sheaf of to-do lists with a handful of undone items on each one.  Bullet journaling put an end to that.  Everything is in one place and indexed.  Undone items simply forward.  More than once in the last couple of months I've not planned any new tasks for a day and used my whole day to catch up on old work or work on a project with a deadline.
Planning  my day is a 5-10 minute part of my evening routine now. This is my method, step-by-step.
  1. I write tomorrow's day and date after skipping 2 lines, as well as the weather and my dinner plans.  I consider this the same as a metadata tag on nature journal pages.
  2. I draw tiny circles and copy any appointments or other date-specific items from my calendar app. If the event requires money, it's preceded by a $.  Anything I need to bring is listed in a box beneath the event.
  3. I check my monthly calendar in the bullet journal and my tickler for any items I've tickled for tomorrow's date.  This section is mostly handled by my phone app now.  If I need to coordinate with another person, that becomes a task (i.e., "Ask Dad to pick up Nate from work")
  4. If any undone daily tasks remain from previous dates that aren't already visible on the two page spread, I recopy them with box bullets. Items that are still visible will have a forward arrow, blank box or partially colored box that catches my eye.  
  5. I check ongoing project pages -- "Camping Trip", "Start of School" -- to see if there are any items I need to follow up on the following day.
  6. I use boxes to denote any tasks for the upcoming day.  Every boxed item has to be something I can physically do.  This week, for example, I don't have "car inspection", I have "Call Dexter's to schedule inspection."
  7.  Projects have a heading and a boxed list of tasks beneath them.
  8. Items I need to buy or bills to pay are listed with a $.  I balance my checking account daily, so that's part of a routine sheet.
  9. Work I'm assigning to one of you kids is marked with your initial and a down arrow (for "delegated") in the task box.
  10. I clip my routine sheets onto the facing page.  After I've completed all the tasks, I'll move them back inside the back cover.
  11. I put in dots, and record anything I did today that wasn't on the page.  Picking up a friend at the doctor's office.  The emergency batch of cookies.  The cup of coffee with a friend who dropped by.   More about that under "Recording".


or, "How I eliminated ferret brain using a bullet journal."

Moving everything to one book (ok, one and a half -- I have my Quiet Time journal in a separate thin notebook inside the same cover); and placing my current day on one page has given me laser focus.

I've tried the one book thing many times before in ring binders with dividers, and failed.  Really, Filofax -- it's me, not you. I'm a helpless list maker.  I don't know the psychology behind why a simple bound book would allow me a freedom a ring binder system didn't, and I really don't care.  Everything goes in this book, and I'm on the same page most of the day.  Seriously, everythingI've even installed a card/cash pocket so I don't have to bring my purse into the store.

My bullet journal just hangs out with me like a newborn, wherever I go.  Maybe I should create a Bullet Bjorn.  Around 4 pm, I take a look at what's still left, and forward or delegate items I know won't get done today.  Deep sigh of relief.

A few examples...
  • If I'm washing dishes and have a sudden "Eureka!" moment on the curriculum I'm writing, I can stop and jot it on the page.  No running to the computer and pulling up the file, forgetting the dishes until they're cold and slimy, and getting sidetracked editing.  No stress having the idea circle through my consciousness until I'm done dishes, crash deep into the gray matter, and then resurface as soon as I'm in bed.
  • Idea for a watercolor illustration in my nature journal?  Sketch it right then on the page along with the tasks.
  • Fantastic cup of tea at Mom's house?  Jot down symphonyoftea.com and "Carmelized Pear" on the page.
  • That mouthwatering recipe in BHG?  Jot down the month, page #, and any non-pantry ingredients on the "Recipes to Try" page. Next time I bring Nate to work, I can pop in and get the ingredients.


or, "How I Mastered the Work Record."

I accomplish many, many items that aren't on my "to do" list every day.  Some of them are relational, some are emergency tasks.  A few of them are delegated from Dad or one of you.  It's not unusual for me to work like the Little Red Hen all day, and only check off one or two planned tasks.  I used to find that incredibly discouraging.  Now that I have my bullet journal out, I just jot down everything from "Mom and Dad stopped by for a visit!" to "Cleaned up after Eggpocalypse 2014."  I try to jot items down as they occur, but if not, I'll write them in while planning for tomorrow.
At the end of the day, my "Done" list encourages my heart when I have only blank boxes glaring at me from my "to-do" list.  This isn't a foreign concept.  My mom used to have to go through reams of work records for the billing for her law office.  Anyone who bills their time gets in the habit of recording their life in 10 or 15 minute increments.  I don't get money for my time, but I am a steward of the time God has given me.   I can look through the list at the end of the day and thank him for the health, strength, and grace to accomplish His to-do list, even when my own wasn't done.

What worked and what didn't (in no particular order)

  • The Midori traveler's notebook (Traveler's Notebook Refill #13 Lightweight Blank Paper 128 pages ) has replaced my blank Moleskine Cahier in 3.5 x 5.5.  I desperately needed the larger size. This also allows me to keep my Daily Quiet Time notebook grouped with my Bullet Journal effortlessly.  Midori has add-ins available to hold a wide variety of items from pencils to credit cards, and mylifeallinoneplace.com has dozens of fun printables and add-in projects for the Midori TN as well.  I'm still waffling on whether to buy a Midori cover or stick with my DIY (http://www.mylifeallinoneplace.com/2013/02/my-handmade-travelers-notebook.html), but the Midori lightweight notebook is spot-on for my needs at a fair price.
  • I don't have a gazillion special symbols.  I've only added the $ sign, the Tickled bullet, and "delegated" down arrow to the original set of symbols.  
  • My index starts on the first set of facing pages, not the first page of the book.  I don't remember where I picked up that tip, but it's a winner.
  • I use Post-It brand divider tabs to mark monthly calendars (top of page) and projects (bottom of page).  The Midori has a built in page marker for today's page.
  • I prefer the line-style monthly calendar over the grid style.
  • I made sturdy routine sheets for morning and evening routines, daily chores, and weekly household chores to avoid re-writing recurring tasks.  These store in the back of the notebook and can be clipped into the journal as needed.
  • I only use a pencil and an architect "font" for readability.
  • I keep a tray handy with washi, paper clips, binder clips, stickers, a glue dot runner, and other doo-dads that add a little color and interest.  I found that I enjoy adding the little bits of ephemera and sketches in my journals almost as much as I enjoy the actual lists.  It makes my book fun to look back through, too.
  • I finally mastered and use my phone's calendar app.  The calendar app and the bullet journal are a match made in heaven. 
  • I kept my tickler file because it  incorporated into the bullet journal seamlessly.
I find the bullet journal an irreplaceable tool for a stay-at-home mom with a smartphone.  I know many professionals have also latched onto the bullet journal because it has the power to focus and record the day.

Lovin' you!