A year ago I watched a friend put together her layouts, and don't get me wrong, I loved watching her draw and paint -- and even thought "I can do that" a couple of times, I was still stuck on the time issue.
At the end of 2018 I realized my current notebook was coming to an end so I started poking around for something new. I have tried daily-weekly-monthly planners in the past and found them way too structured. Not enough time for some days, way too much time for other months. I thought I'd look at bullet journals and see what the fuss was all about.
My first piece of advice: GO TO THE BULLET JOURNAL WEBSITE AND WATCH THE VIDEO.
Did that? Ok. Wait, why did you come back? I mean, I'm glad you did and all, but really, Ryder Carroll is who you should be listening to at this point.
Me? You want to know about my experience? Awwwww.
Well, since you asked, here we go:
I've kept a notebook with me for years. It became a habit way back when we still started the date with 1-9 and not 2-0. I had started a new job. My predecessor loved sticky notes, and when I came in I found yellow and pink and blue notes on EVERYTHING. Many made sense, but some had gotten attached to the wrong folders, so it took a while to figure those out. The ones that broke my heart were the ones that said IMPORTANT! or URGENT! and were on the floor, or attached to the outside of another clearly unrelated folder or were crumpled up inside a stack of paper.
I decided there and then that I would not use sticky notes. That was when I started carrying a notebook all the time. I went through spiral notebooks, soft cover, hard cover, loose leaf, you name it. I realized I wanted something smaller than regular paper and loose leaf notebooks tended not to have good staying power. For a long time I carried an A5 notebook with a red leather cover until one day I was told that it was intimidating to see me writing things down in a red notebook. Oh. I switched to a brown cover, the notebook became fairly invisible.
Life changed again in 2006 and that A5 notebook was too big. I downsized again, this time to an A6.
|Paper Sizes for those of us raised on 8.5x11 type paper|
Fast forward to late 2018. I'm not sure why I took a closer look at bullet journals, but I ended up on Ryder Carroll's website and it was surprisingly plain. No fancy handwriting, no watercolor mood trackers, it actually looked a lot like my A6 notebooks. So what was all the raving about?
I figured I'd begin at the beginning and see what the fuss was all about: The Index. Ok, yes, I can see how this would be helpful, but I've had indexes before, I don't quite see the big deal.
|Future Log with numbered days|
Next: The Future Log. Again, I don't get it, but ok. On a single page I handwrote 6 months of calendars. The Bullet Journal site wasn't prescriptive, but on the Monthly log it did suggest writing out a column of each day of the month and putting items there. I ended up changing my future log to look more like Megan's at Page Flutter once I actually started using the future log.
The Monthly log was next. Meh, I did it, I don't get the big deal. Ok, whatevs.
Daily Log. I kinda put everything together on one page as a weekly log, and I gave it the structure of The Daily Debrief because I was familiar with it and I knew it worked for me.
Ryder Carroll suggests using some very specific notation and if you do a search you can come up with all kinds of other ways to track your day. It made sense to me, so I went ahead with it.
X Task Completed
> Task Migrated (Started as a • and gets morphed into a > to indicate it was moved to the future)
< Task Scheduled (Started as a • and gets morphed into a < to indicate it was put into the schedule somewhere)
° Event Bullet (can also use o)
- Note Bullet
👁️ Explore (I've never used this)
I also added one for myself - this was to indicate my focus or intention, answering why am I doing these things in particular?
🚩 Focus/Intention (I picked this icon because it sorta indicates wind direction)
So I did this for a week, and then the time came to migrate items from one week to the next. (btw, the official bullet journal says to do this at the end of the month, but there was so much on my list!)
I get it.
The magic is in the reflection
Let me back up some. I started out with a monthly log and a weekly log and they were PRETTY!
I was tracking the good stuff and the bad stuff and my intentions, and it felt good. I felt so much more in tune with myself.
About a week in I was on a phone call with our son. I'm not sure why I had my journal out, but I realized that our conversation was more in depth than it usually was, and I credit a lot of it to being able to refer to the good things that had happened in the previous week as well as to talk about why they were meaningful.
Pretty was nice and all, but I needed more SPACE. The next week was going to be simpler. I'd show you a pic, but I didn't take one at that step.
Later that weekend I was migrating stuff to the new week. I realized my intentions were getting mixed in with mundane to do stuff. I wrapped a rubber band around the spine and created a to-do list in the middle.
Ooh! That worked well. I made a note to make the center spine task list a permanent cutout - or dutch door - the following week.
And that's about when I felt the magic. When I noted my intentions each day I wasn't making an ordinary todo list, I was reaffirming my values and also my goals for the week and for my life. It was kind of funny how some days I interpreted my 🚩 notes in one way, but then a couple days later I would see my intention and realize there was something else I had to do. Yes, some of those got written down as ordinary todo's (Take the paper recycling to Laucala Beach), but they were in line with a larger intention: 🚩 Declutter the office, make it easier to focus in the office.
I'm only three weeks in, but this method is harnessing the habits I already had (carry a notebook, daily debrief) and organizing it into something new and better. Now to work on making the notebook a little prettier.
Good thing I have a bunch of ideas I've saved: https://www.pinterest.com/amerikag/write-it-down/
I think I'm going to need a bigger book.