If school supply shopping was exciting to you as a kid, chances are you still find yourself making any excuse to buy supplies for your office or think it’s perfectly normal to carry around a pencil case in your bag (it kinda is, isn’t it?). I only know this because I’m one of those nerds who keeps finding reasons to buy planners, journals, notebooks, sketch books and pretty pencils and pens. Apparently I forgot I wasn’t in school anymore so having separate notebooks for the different “subjects” of my life was becoming inefficient…
The grown-woman-me needs to be efficient.
The start of the new year brings out the back-to-school mentality so last week I started getting the itch for a planner and began researching any versions that had space for free writing. I had just finished my last page in the Moleskine that manifested this blog :). Since I love me some Pinterest, I started my search there and immediately found the solution.
Bullet journaling. It’s a thing.
“The analog system for the digital age” was developed by Ryder Carroll. The reason it’s so appealing to me is that it’s a process that allows you to keep ONE journal for EVERYTHING and keeps everything you write down organized so that you can reference back to your notes, free writing and lists easily.
Last year I had a monthly planner where I would write down the top 3 things I wanted to get done in a day and a separate journal for free writing and notes. I tended to forget about the planner for long stretches at a time and sometimes found myself writing my to do lists in the middle of my journal. This year, I’ll have everything in one beautiful Moleskine.
If you want to try it out there are so many resources out in the world wide web. Here are my two cents on bullet journaling/how I’m using it:
Buy a pretty notebook you’ll love to use all year
I went with a neutral grey Moleskine with the dotted grid pages. The dotted grid offers flexibility: guides for writing and drawing on straight lines and the freedom to ignore the dots and doodle freely. I read some people prefer notebooks that come with numbered pages but I don’t mind numbering a few pages at a time. #moleskinefolife
Think about your writing tendencies and be honest
There is a whole community on Pinterest and IG that have beautiful headers, color coding, habit trackers, etc. Although I love that shit, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I’m not going to keep that up all year. And since the point of this is for me is to be organized and efficient while chasing my dreams, I had to think about my writing tendencies in order to set up my bullet journal.
I know I tend to write down to do lists, quotes, aha moments, podcast notes, ideas and I also like to free write. For anything more scheduling and future planning related I use the Calendar app on my phone. This assessment helped me cut out the Future and Monthly Log.
Set up your Key Page
The first page is where you write down what certain symbols mean. The basics you need to know are:
The second set of keys are used in addition to the ones above. They are signifiers that can be used to call attention to a task or to keep track of things you want to research or expand on later.
The reason the bullet point is the best option for tasks is because once they convert into completed, migrated or scheduled tasks, it’s easy to turn the bullet into an “ x”, “>” or “<“ without it looking messy. Other than that, feel free to switch up the rest based on your needs.
I created a third set of keys for the activities I make sure I’m including daily and/or weekly. I can scan the week to assess how I’ve done in each category and use that to adjust accordingly.
Set up the Index Page
This is my favorite part. It’s pretty much the way you’ll be able to refer back to any notes, quotes, aha moments or lists you’ve made. The index page(s) are usually on the second through third page and are left blank for now. As you start writing down things you know you’ll want to refer back to, flip to your index and write down the topic and page number. This works well with Collection pages where you start a topic such as “Books I Need to Read” and keep adding more ideas as they come.
Start bullet journaling
I started out with writing down my January tasks. This basically was just a way to write down everything that has been floating through my head. It took a whole page and I know I won’t get it all done this month but it actually felt really good to have it all on paper rather than in my head.
After that I started with my daily to do list. The night before I’ll write down what I have to do the next day. I require myself to do a minimum of 3 things, one of them being something that’s working toward my goals. Because I’m trying to make my morning ritual a habit, I write that down. Eventually when it’s a habit I won’t have to.
If something doesn’t get done, you can migrate it to another day’s to do list. If something gets moved to my Calendar app, then I mark it as scheduled. And the best suggestion from Ryan is that you can always cross things off your list if you feel that it is no longer needed.
Today I had a powerful meditation when working with my hematite stones. I had flashes of insight so I started free writing on the next blank page. I indexed the page and now I can always refer back to it if I get more clarity or if I want to blog about it later.
I also love the idea of keeping one of these for each year. When I get older, looking back at to do lists and quotes I liked in 2016 can be just as insightful as reading a journal entry. Plus, I’m currently craving simplicity and this hits the spot.
Life as we think about it is broken up into different categories but life as we experience it is holistic. One thing affects the other so pretending like my life has separate containers is something I’m actively unlearning. It's no accident that I found a holistic way to keep track of life and I’m so excited about it that I wanted to share it with you in hopes that it might help you feel more organized and balanced this year so that we can focus on embodying Loving Presence.