This is probably one of the most requested blogposts to date. I get a ton of questions relating to how I plan, how I stay productive, and — basically — how I organize my life. There are many ways in, and many tools with which I do that. But today, I’m diving into that one tool that has stuck with me for over two years now: my Bullet Journal.
THE BULLET JOURNAL METHOD
Actually, I’ve written a blogpost about my Bullet Journal before. In that post, I explained what a Bullet Journal is and how Bullet Journaling works, so I’m not gonna repeat myself here. The most important thing to know, is that Bullet Journaling is a way of planning — that you can do with any type of notebook and in whatever format you’d like — that emphasizes priorities. In a yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily spreads, you’ll list all your deadlines and the accompanying tasks. Deadlines of large projects can in that way easily be divided into smaller monthly, weekly and daily tasks.
Whatever doesn’t get done on a certain day, is “migrated” to another day. And here comes the trick: instead of simply migrating it to the next day (which creates more and more endless to do lists), you’ll have to reassess your priorities. Does this task really need to be done tomorrow? If not, migrate it to next week or next month. For me, this method results in daily to do lists that only consist of tasks that have priority. That means shorter to do lists and a huge sense of accomplishment and productivity at the end of the day.
The other aspect of Bullet Journaling that makes me stick with it, is the versatility of its aesthetics. You can choose any notebook you’d like, in any size, lined, squared, dotted or blank. And you can design your spreads the way they work best for you. In fact, I find my preferences change continuously, which is why my spreads look different now than they did in my previous post.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MY LIFE
I’m a stay-at-home, self-employed girl boss. I’d like to say that, even though it’s not necessarily true, but if you really try to radiate girl boss-ness, I believe the universe will meet you halfway. 😉 Anyway, I work five days and have four-day weekends. I know, super luxurious. Actually, that isn’t my choice, because I love my work and would rather work a lot more. But I’ve adjusted my schedule to that of le boyfriend, who also loves his work, but would rather work a lot less regardless. ><
Besides running Chain Twenty, I’m a freelance text editor. This means that whenever a text editing order comes in, I’ll have to drop my Chain Twenty work and finish that text order first. That’s annoying sometimes, but text editing is my main source of income still, so I’m happy to be editing any time I can. Next to these two jobs, I’m largely responsible for the household. Whatever needs to be done on work days, household-wise, I’ll do. On the weekends, the BF and I do it together (if he feels like it, let’s be honest 😉 ).
This all means that my attention has to be divided over three types of work. Depending on whatever is going on, one of the other has priority. Like I said, if I receive a large text editing order, I’m behind my laptop most of the day. If I sold yarn kits, I’m behind the dye pots most of the day. If people come over for dinner, I’m cleaning most of the day. And if none of this is happening, I’ll have time to knit, design, and blog.
Now let’s talk about how I plan all of this in my Bullet Journal, shall we?
In Bullet Journal terms, this is called the “Future Log”. It’s where I list all the important dates of the entire year. In the beginning, these dates mostly consist of things you know well in advance (such birthdays and holidays). But as the year progresses, I’ll add other dates, both big and small (“family visit”, “file taxes”, or “give cats anti flee stuff”).
I’VE INITIALLY TRACKED CERTAIN TYPES OF DAYS / TRAVELS WITH COLORS. I DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE, BUT I STILL THINK IT’S A HELPFUL WAY TO REFLECT ON THE MONTHS OR THE YEAR AND WHAT’S BEEN HAPPENING
Lately, I’ve found it difficult to incorporate Chain Twenty deadlines in my yearly spread, mainly because these deadlines change or get postponed. To still have a place to schedule pattern releases, collaborations, giveaways, and the like, I’ve created a separate printable calendar that I may share in the future. Every week, I review the deadlines and plans on that calendar and, if needed, print out a new calendar to implement adjustments.
Called the “Monthly Log” in Bullet Journal land, this is the overview that I set up only as soon as a new month begins. I’ll transfer the important dates of the yearly spread (“Publish pattern”) and list actionable tasks related to them (“Go through testers’ feedback and finalize pattern”). The monthly overview serves more or less like an agenda. Since I’ve marked my work days and off days, and include all my appointments, I can easily refer to it when people want to make plans with me. It’s also a fun overview of the month to look back on and see what you’ve done!
I LIST ALL THE DAYS ON THE LEFT AND THE HOURS OF THE DAY ABOVE, SO I CAN JOT DOWN ALL MY APPOINTMENTS IN A SPECIFIC TIME FRAME. ON THE RIGHT IS ROOM FOR THE ACTIONABLE TASKS THAT RELATE TO THE APPOINTMENTS AND DEADLINES.
WEEKLY SPREAD & DAILY LOGS
All the “Daily Logs” are, in my case, included in a weekly spread. You don’t have to create a weekly overview. I just automatically think in weeks, even though I don’t have a normal Monday-to-Friday job. Therefore, it makes sense for me to do it this way. I’ve actually even been visually displaying the week in my Bullet Journal as it appears in my head: with Saturday and Sunday on top, and the week days below. Don’t ask me why I envisage a week to look like that.
I usually create only a couple of weekly spreads for the weeks ahead. And I — again — transfer the important dates, deadlines, and actionable tasks to the appropriate days. This is where a lot of practical planning comes in: work-related tasks (“write a blogpost about Bullet Journaling”) are listed on work days, other tasks (“Go to the hair salon”) on off days. Household tasks that need to be done regularly (“Vacuum clean”, “Change bed sheets”) go on whatever day they need to get done. Household tasks that don’t need to be done on a certain day (“Sort out wardrobe”) usually go on off days.
A list of tasks on a certain day is still just a list of tasks. And usually, the list is too long for me to actually finish completely. Therefore, I’m transferring my “Daily Logs” to Google Calendar. I’ll talk more about that in a separate blogpost, but Google Calendar basically allows me to designate a certain amount of time to every task. This often results in me realizing I am not, in a million years, going to have enough time to do all the tasks on my daily list.
That’s where the prioritizing comes in. I select the most important tasks and schedule them in Google Calendar. The rest of the tasks get “migrated” in my Bullet Journal to the first less busy day, week or month. In the latter case, I’ll just put it back in my yearly spread, in some future month. The same thing happens with daily tasks that did make it to my Google Calendar, but still — for some reason — didn’t get done. These usually need to be migrated to the next day, because I’ve identified them as priorities.
“Collections” is a part of Bullet Journaling I didn’t know what to do with for long time. In a collection, you are supposed to keep track of whatever it is that you need a list of. Now, I’ve subconsciously started using this feature to keep track of tasks that I wanna do a some point, when I have the time. They don’t necessarily need to happen now, or next week, or next month. I have a collection for household tasks (“Sort out toiletries”) and Chain Twenty tasks / ideas (“Start a worsted weight sweater design”). Both are included in my weekly spreads. That way, I can easily pick a task from those collections whenever a day isn’t “full” yet.
Another thing you may call a “collection” is my habit tracker. This is basically a list of tasks I wanna do daily, in order to turn them into habits that I do on auto pilot instead of having to remind myself of them (“Clean all surfaces”). One such a task that was once on my habit tracker and is now actually a habit is making my bed every morning. I just cannot not make my bed in the morning anymore. Win!
TO SAVE TIME, I ONLY ‘CROSS OFF’ MY DAILY HABITS, BUT YOU CAN DO THIS IN A REALLY COLORFUL WAY AS WELL BY COLORING IN THE SQUARES!
Finally, this is not the most important information, so I’ve saved it for last. But let’s talk a bit about gear. I’ve always used a dotted Moleskine or Leuchtturm for my Bullet Journals. And now I actually have the “real” black Bullet Journal (that says “Bullet Journal” on the cover). I’m just a notebook snob like that and I’ve always loved both Moleskine and Leuchtturm notebooks! Other than that, I use a black fineliner or ball point and a blue pen, and some pastel colored markers. That’s it.
THIS VERY APPROPRIATE MUG WAS A GIFT FROM GIRLS STUFF DESIGNS, SHE DOES GREAT MUGS AND PRINTABLES AND SUCH!
Since it can be quite a lot of work to “draw” my own spreads, I’m actually considering buying a Moleskine weekly agenda for 2019 and use the Bullet Journal method in there. That will take the aesthetics versatility away, but since I’m not using too many different spreads (anymore), it may work after all.
I hope you liked this extensive explanation of how I use my Bullet Journal. Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or requests regarding this topic!