Aaaaahh, my beautiful bullet journal. With its pink, butter soft cover and its reassuring weight, I’ve grown rather attached to this little beauty! Who knew, when I started this journey, that I would be so dependent on this little notebook to keep my life running smoothly. I will be quite sad when I have to move on in the next couple of months; though I have an emerald green Leuchtturm 1917 waiting in the wings, so hopefully the transition won’t be too painful!
Back in October when I was looking on Pinterest and Google images for a new way to keep track of my life and help me to stay organised, I never thought I would come across a system that’s so adaptable and easy to maintain. I’d been creating my own printables to keep in my Filofax, but they were never quite right and I was wasting paper, printing out too many weeks worth before trialling them properly. Just before going back to school after the October half term, I set about setting up my first Bullet Journal – you can see where I started here.
When I discovered Bullet Journals and Instagram, I found a new addiction. I’d never been particularly keen on the highly decorated planners. While they were works of art, I was concerned that they would detract from the purpose of planning and tracking tasks. But bullet journals are what you make them. They are adaptable to your needs and talents, which is what I love about them.
Immediately I set up monthly spreads for the entire academic year. These have formed the backbone of my system. The boxes are just big enough to record any events or appointments that I have each day and I keep a list of tasks on the left that I can add to as soon as I become aware that I will need to do something. This allows me to forward plan for both events and tasks.
The next step was to create a legend of the symbols I would use for each item recorded in my journal. I looked at lots of examples of these and this was the result.
I then started creating collections. These are the lists, notes, tables, projects, goals… anything really that you want to create and refer to. During the first month I created a large number of collections and, by the end of November, I’d filled over 50 pages of my journal with my monthly calendars, weekly layouts and my collections. I was a bit worried that my journal would only last for a couple of months, but I slowed down on the creation of collections, so it’s going to last me well into the new year.
My weekly planning was the main place that I experimented with layouts. These ranged in effectiveness from good… to bad… to downright ugly. There were even some that I couldn’t bring myself to use once I’d drawn them out! You can read about that particular interlude here!
One of the ideas discovered on the #planwithmechallenge on Instagram that has had the biggest impact in my life is the monthly habit tracker and goal setting. I decided to put these on the same page in my journal so that I would refer to the goals list on a daily basis as I completed my habit tracker. It’s really worked. In November I had them on separate pages and barely completed any of my goals. In January, I’ve almost completed everything because I’m constantly reminded of them! I’ve already done a similar layout ready for February.
For a long time I wrestled with the idea of daily task lists. I tried them out in late November, but they were a disaster. I now realise that this was because I had a brand new page for every day so I ended up migrating tasks all the time, which just served to annoy me. I’d also tried it out on what turned out to be the most hideously disrupted week of the year – my teaching job-share got shingles and then my youngest got chicken pox, so the whole week was manic! At the beginning of January, I decided to try again and, because I’m being more fluid in the layout and making better use of my monthly page for forward planning, the days run into one another and I don’t have to migrate until I turn the page. In the picture below you can also see my repeating task flags. These have been a massive timesaver, you can read about how I decided which tasks to allocate flags to here.
My bullet journal is constantly evolving. I’ve now got three journals on the go, I will share the other two with you over the coming month. At the moment I don’t think I’ll ever go back to an academic year diary as I’d been using for the last 20 odd years. This method suits me and my lifestyle and has given me new focus and determination to get things done.
Using a bullet journal has had a huge impact on my work-life balance. I can clearly see what needs doing and when, and I can plan accordingly. I don’t spend time doing unnecessary tasks as I have done in the past and I’m determined to fill in all of my task boxes before I leave the building on a Friday.
The next area I need to develop is sharing what’s in my bullet journal with my nearest and dearest. I end up doing a lot of the household tasks because they’re written down in my journal. I don’t think I’ll ever get him into the habit of using a bullet journal, but perhaps I need to transfer some of these tasks into a place where he can actually see them – in the hope that he does some of them!
Do you bullet journal? Are you tempted?