Monday, January 23, 2017

Bullet Journals & The Art of Simple List Writing

Mastering the Art of Simple List Writing

I've always had a complicated relationship with to-do lists. On the one hand, I love them. I love writing out everything I want to get done - putting it down on paper. On the other hand, they usually stress me out and overwhelm me.

I can remember when I was in High School and University, I would take a piece of paper and write down absolutely everything I wanted to get done. I was someone who really tried to get good grades, so I always had high ambitions as far as studying went. I also have a personality that loves "productivity" and accomplishing things, and would put a lot of pressure on myself to be productive and achieve in the areas I wanted to succeed.

These long lists would backfire about 90% of the time. I would write everything down and feel great while I wrote it. I felt that if I wrote it down, it would get done, and I knew it would feel amazing to accomplish everything I was writing down. Then once I was finished I would sit back and stare at my very, very long list of things that I "needed" to do. I would then proceed to get completely overwhelmed. In my head, what was on the list needed to be completed. Except nobody but a robot could ever complete that many things in the time before more needed to be added to the list.

What a strange struggle to have! A problem where I would continually write out lists that would overwhelm me, then proceed to get absolutely nothing done because I was completely overwhelmed. It was so self-sabotaging and really just crazy :)

After coming to the realization that to-do lists were really stressing me out more than they would benefit me, I tried to find ways to go about it that didn't end up overwhelming me.

What it really comes down to is I just needed to keep it simple.

Putting effort into simplifying this area of my life has really made a huge difference for me. When I'm thinking about what I want to accomplish that day, I really try to write less things down than I'm inclined to (honestly this is always a battle for me. I always want to accomplish so much! It is so much better if I just work on accomplishing a few priorities though). I also try really hard to ask myself if I really need to do each thing I'm writing down, if it is really important.

Simplifying, and focusing on what matters. That's what I try to do with my lists, and it's also what I'm working on in other areas of my life. The encouraging part of these efforts is that I really notice the way simplifying improves my life, and that is great motivation. I don't ever make huge improvements, it's all slow going and often two steps forward, one step back, but it is something I enjoy working on because the pay-off is great.

I find bullet journals to be a useful way for me to keep my lists simple, de-clutter my brain, and keep life a little more organized and clear. So I'll end the saga of my list writing adventures, and explain how I bullet journal!

Bullet Journaling

My initial judgment of bullet journaling (I always seem to judge the things I later adopt, maybe I
should learn something about making first impression judgments) was that it seemed confusing and complicated. Of course, upon looking into it further, I decided to try it out and see if it could work for me, and liked (at least parts of) the system.

For those of you who don't know, a bullet journal, according to the website made by the creator of the system, is: "a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less."

The thing I like about bullet journaling is that there are a lot of people out there using this system, so there's a lot of inspiration for different ways to organize your life and write things down in a notebook, in an aesthetically pleasing way if that suits you (I'm all about things looking pretty). Whether the inspiration comes from the blog on the official bullet journal site, other inspiring bullet journalers such as Boho Berry, or Instagram (where I got most of my inspiration), it's fun to look at what other people do and try doing it as well to see if it helps you organize your life.

I've been using a bullet journal for 4 months now, and I've tried lots of different things but I find I prefer it all to be simple. Here is how I "bullet journal," or in other words this is how I organize my life in a notebook!

I went and bought a fancy bullet journal notebook from Chapters, one with a bunch of dots on a grid instead of lines. For me, this was worth my money because it allows me to keep the page very clear, organized, and aesthetically pleasing, which is something I really get joy out of. It's the little things haha... I also use a Sharpie pen because I think it looks so nice.

Daily Spreads

The main thing I use my bullet journal for is daily spreads, to use bullet journal lingo. Basically to-do lists for the day. This is what a typical daily spread looks like for me:

I put dots before everything I hope to get done that day, and replace the dot with an X once that task is completed. If I don't complete a task that day, I cross it out if it's not something I really need to do, or put an > if I want to transfer it to the next daily spread. I write any time specific events happening that day with a circle in front of it, and colour the circle in when the event is done.

I also draw a little place setting icon and next to it I write what we'll have for supper that day. This is something that really helps me because I have a tendency to let 5:00 creep up on me and then I don't know what to make so we just have frozen pizza for supper (I mean we still have last minute meals but this helps me to be on top of supper more often than I used to be). When I write down what I'm making I also make a mental note for when I need to start cooking depending on when Matt will be getting home that day.

I also put three hearts, and after each heart I write one thing I'm grateful for about Matt, and it can be as little or as big as I like. It's just whatever first comes to my head. I decided to do this because I think it is easy to see our own contributions and take our spouses contributions for granted. It's easy to feel that things aren't fair when our own contributions are so obvious (because they are staring us in the face day in and day out) and theirs are less so, so I thought it would be really good for me to write 3 things I'm grateful for about Matt each day in regards to who he is as well as what he does for Rose and me.

Monthly Spreads

On the official bullet journal website, they show you how to make a monthly spread with the days of the month on one side and things you want to get done that month on the other. I don't write out the days of the month because I put that all into the calendar on my phone and find that system works very well for me.

What I do do every month is look back at the last months spread and transfer any unfinished tasks to this months list, and cross out any that I don't actually think are important or are no longer relevant. I then add any other tasks I hope to accomplish this month. I don't really put much pressure on myself to get these things done, they're more like a handful of things that would be nice to get done (with the odd must-do thrown in there). I also sometimes write a little about my goals for that month in regards to faith, being frugal, and little things I want to do around the house.

Other Lists

In addition to daily to-do lists, I use my bullet journal for many other things. Grocery lists, meal ideas, things I need to remember, inspirations, grand ideas and plans, and everything else.

Why I Like It

I get a lot of joy and peace out of using a bullet journal. I start almost every weekday by sitting down with my coffee, breakfast for Rose and I, and my bullet journal. It helps me to start out my day without a frazzled brain and helps me know what's going on that day and what some things I could do around the house are if I'll be home. Things I should do as well as things I'd like to do (I aim to do them in that order but it rarely happens). As a person who is very scatterbrained, it helps me keep my mind more clear. It also helps me to prioritize and not be so overwhelmed (unless I fall into the trap of making a long to-do list).

I also like it because the book is pretty and I have fun making my handwriting and pages look nice.

I want to always try to remember that as a stay at home mom my main job isn't what's on my to-do list, it's enjoying and taking care of my baby. I hope as time goes on I'm able to remember this. I am so lucky to be home with little Rose so I better not waste it away focussing on random tasks that are way less important than just being her mom (seriously who needs clean dishes anyway.....).

No comments:

Post a Comment