I’ve never been much of a trendsetter, so by the time I catch on to something, it’s old news. My latest late discovery is the concept of the bullet journal.
Actually, I’d heard about this years ago when it first became a thing, and I was intrigued by the idea because I love planners and attempting to be organized, but I couldn’t find a good explanation that wasn’t extremely intimidating. All the examples I found were Instagram-worthy, with watercolor artwork, calligraphy, stickers, and fancy designs. But a couple of months ago I saw an interview with the guy who came up with the concept, and the way he talked about it made so much sense to me — and it seems that it was other people who went nuts with the basic concept and turned it into a competition.
The very basic idea is just that you create your own journal/planner. You just need an index at the front to help you find things and you can create your own code for how to mark items in your journal (where the “bullet” comes from). Beyond that, it’s up to you.
So I got a composition book out of my stash (I buy tons every year for 50 cents each at the back-to-school sales because that’s what I use for brainstorming books) and got started. I will never be sharing pages from my journal because there’s no art or design or fanciness involved. It’s all just lists. I don’t even create a monthly calendar page, since I have plenty of calendars.
For the planner part, I have a page for the month, on which I have a list of goals (like “finish first draft”) and to-do items (like a list of bills that have to be paid and the payment date) and any appointments. I’ll also write down any events after they happen if I’ll need to remember when something happened. Just that alone helps a lot because I don’t have that “did I pay that bill?” panic when I have a list and mark it off every month. Then I have daily pages (usually half pages) on which I put that day’s to-do list and any appointments. I’ll also put menu plans and what time I need to start cooking to have dinner on time. I’m trying to do yoga every evening before dinner, so I factor in that start time with my cooking time. Every morning, I check with the monthly list and put any of those tasks on the day’s list. I have a code for the to-do list for items that must be done that day and the work priority of the day, as well as for items that are in progress (started but not finished) and items I’ve moved forward to the next day.
Aside from that, it’s a book of lists. I have a list of books I want to read, movies I want to watch, a master to-do list (items that aren’t yet on the monthly list but that I need to get around to doing eventually), story ideas, etc. I also have a quarterly plan. Basically, if I need to keep track of it, I write it down on a list. I think I’m going to start a “put it away in a safe place” list so that I can find those things later. It might help to write down what I thought the safe place was at the time I put it away.
It’s really worked wonders for helping me get stuff done. When I write out my daily tasks, I can take those big monthly tasks and break them into less daunting chunks, or I can create a “theme” day to deal with everything in a certain category.
There’s no artwork at all, just lists in a composition book and an index and page numbers. I thought I’d share how I’m using the concept in case anyone else was intimidated by all those pictures of planners people are posting with artwork and calligraphy and stickers and all that. Just having a place to keep track of all the stuff in my head helps me a lot, especially with the little admin tasks that pile up and overwhelm me. Since I started doing this, I finally tackled some things that had been lingering on my to-do list for nearly a year.
However, I failed to put “post blog” on my to-do list (although “draft Friday blog post” was on yesterday’s list, and I got it done), so I didn’t think about it until later in the day. I don’t know if this proves or disproves how well this system is working for me. As long as I write it down, I get it done, but if I don’t, I may totally forget it.