Why Bullet Journaling Is Becoming My New Best Friend

illustration of journal with clock aboveI’m typically not a hop-on-the-trend-train person. I’m far more likely to hang back and wait to see how things go for a bit before trying something new.

But I ran across something called bullet journaling lately, and it’s fast becoming the best habit I’ve adopted in a long time. Right up there with regular mammograms and drinking more water.

What’s a bullet journal?

Well, the inventor of the concept has a whole website with explanations about the goals of a bullet journal, how to use it, and tips for customizing it to your life. But I couldn’t find a straightforward definition there, nor really anywhere else. So I’m making up my own. A bullet journal is an analog planner, journal, and idea holder all in one.

Using any journal, notebook, or spiral, you create monthly, weekly, and/or daily planners that work best for you. You keep track of activities, goals, to-dos, and whatever else you wish with bullets, which you can vary to mean different things. You can decorate your journal with stickers, doodles, or any other visuals that help you generate ideas or stay motivated. Each bullet journal can be as unique as the individual who uses it.

And that’s what I’m loving it.

I’ve tried day planners, apps, to-do lists, wall calendars, and all manner of This Will Get You Organized suggestions. The only thing that has consistently worked for me is lined post-it notes where I write down my to-dos for the day. But that never helped me see the overall picture. Now I can keep track of my calendar obligations, my weekly goals (separated into home and work tracks), and have a place to take notes on ideas and research. And I still use my post-it notes; I just tack them into the journal.

One of the best additions is a Serendipity page for each week, where I jot down anything I learned that week about my focus, my work process, or future goals. This wonderful idea came from author Jaye Wells, who talked about how she uses a bullet journal:

The beauty of a bullet journal is:

  • You can use any size or style notebook you want — as cheap or fancy as you desire.
  • You create your own calendars, using whatever format, time periods, or scheduling blocks mesh with the way you work.
  • You can keep track of your calendar, to-dos, and notes all in one place.
  • You can easily see what you’ve done (and celebrate that) and see what you have left to do.
  • You don’t feel penalized for not having accomplished something, because you just move it to the next day’s or week’s list. (Because good intentions gone awry are often not personal failure, but simply Life.)

I’m still exploring how to use my bullet journal, but it’s the first organizational plan that seems to be working for me. It’s taken a bit of time to adapt to this new approach, but I really do think I’m getting more done.

If you want to know more, here’s a video from the designer of bullet journaling:


Monday Musings: Where Is My Stuff?

I love an opening scene from the sitcom The King of Queens where wife Carrie is berating husband Doug for not having any idea whatsoever where things are in their own home.  Boy, can I relate!

By default, I have become the calendar keeper, the stuff finder, the task reminder, and the overall dumpsite of trivial knowledge required to make our family function.  It certainly wasn’t going to be my husband, whom I affectionately call The Absent-Minded Professor.  If he had his own personal Lost & Found, it would be piled as high as my ceiling, or make that St. Peter’s Cathedral ceiling.  That pile would hold leather jackets, umbrellas, books, two wedding rings, and much more.

And my kids are . . . well, kids.  “Where’s my       ?” is a common question in our house, as I’m sure it is in many households.  The response of “It’s where you left it!” doesn’t seem to absolve me of the duty to crawl around on the floor looking under furniture, books, and loose laundry for whatever my children desperately need in the next five minutes.  In fact, my son commented the other day, “I think you’re the only one who knows where everything goes.”

But I’m a clutter hound myself.  I spend way too much time searching for the right pair of glasses (distance, reading, sunglasses – take your pick), my Walkman MP3 player or headphones, and various forms that I was supposed to complete  for my kids’ school as if I’m the  one who has homework instead of them!  I try to sort and organize, but there is simply too much stuff!

My brain is a clutter collector as well.  It’s full of ideas constantly!  A sliver of an idea for a next novel, a blog topic that I would like to cover, plans to research something that has flummoxed me in my current Work in Progress, and a list of household, parenting, and writing to-do’s as long as a stretch of West Texas highway.

by Mike R. Baker

How do I keep track, find what I need to find, and make sense of the clutter in my life and my head?  I’m learning as I go.

Where I have routines in my life (clean clothes immediately go on dressers, scissors in junk drawer every time), I can find stuff.  Where I use consistent organizers, like file folders and calendars, I can find stuff.  Where I rely on my brain to juggle items and activities like a circus entertainer, I will inevitably throw three apples in the air and then catch the machete with its sharp end.  Ouch!

How do you sort and organize your life?  What tools or routines have you found helpful?  Can you consistently find things, get places on time, finish works in progress?  Tell me how you do it!