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!

1 comment:

  1. The "Creating a do-able day using a bullet journal" is really useful; so many of bullet journal blogs focus on the "what" and not the "how".