A secret about me: I am a planner addict.
What about you? How many different planners have your tried to organize your life? Personally, let me count the ways: Erin Condren, Passion Planner, Day Timer, Panda Planner, and Plum Planner among many unknowns from Target and Office Depot. My favorite of all these has been Plum Planner–by far. It is the most customizable, sturdy, and cute.
BUT…once I became a mom boss what I found was that while these planners worked before, they weren’t working now. Here are a few reasons why…
Why a Traditional Planner Didn’t Work for Me
- They were bulky and heavy. So, I wasn’t carrying them around. This means I wasn’t staying organized. I had things written on appointment cards, in my phone, in my planner, and things were getting lost.
- The structure (even in the most customizable planners) didn’t match what I needed.
- I wanted a place to keep ALL of the following: ideas, quarterly, monthly and weekly goals, daily to-do’s, appointments, track my workouts, log my food,track of my habits, and write down my daily gratitude and devotions. Most planners only have monthly/weekly spreads.
- I needed a system that would allow me to keep organized even if I forgot my planner at home (which happens often for me).
- I now had a business schedule, my personal schedule, and my kid’s schedule and all needed to be accounted for in the same place.
Enter…the Bullet Journal/Phone Calendar Combo
Using the Bullet Journal/Phone Calendar Combo I’ve been more consistent in planning, more productive (both personally and professionally), and less forgetful about what’s going on–largely because I don’t have to remember everything. By using this system, I know exactly where to go to find out what events are happening during the day and what things need to get done.
To Decorate or NOT to Decorate, That is the Question
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how I use my bullet journal on a daily basis I want to address the elephant in the room: Do bullet journals need to be pieces of art?
If you’ve heard about bullet journaling (like I had) you may be avoiding it because it appears that everyone who uses a bullet journal is an artist and is decorating their journal (check out these beauties below). Don’t let this sway you. I don’t decorate mine (unless I have some free time and feel like being creative), and it works perfectly. You DON’T have to decorate your journal for it to work. OK…now that that is taken care of, it’s time to show you how I use mine.
How I Use my Bullet Journal/Phone Calendar to Stay Organized
There are a million different ways you can use a bullet journal. That is the beauty of it. You can track anything in anyway you’d like. In this post I’m just going to show you how I use it daily to keep myself on track, focused, and productive.
Step 1: Use Your Phone
The main problem I had with a traditional planner is that it wasn’t always with me. Either it was too heavy or I just forgot it (which seemed to be happening more and more after I had a kid). So, I needed a system where I could still stay organized and remember things even if my planner was not right in front of me.
One thing I NEVER forget (and I bet you don’t either) is my phone. So, really, the most critical part of this system is finding a calendar for your phone that works and that you use. There are a ton of calendar apps. I simply use my phone calendar and sync my Google Calendars (yes I have 4!) to it. I can have multiple calendars synced and when I add events on my phone I can choose the calendar each event belongs to.
My phone is always with me. As long as I ONLY add appointments on my Google Calendars (AND I am consistent about checking my phone before committing to events/appointments) I never get things mixed up. Plus, now I don’t have fifteen appointment reminder cards floating around in my purse.
An added benefit here is that when you get appointment confirmations in your email inbox many will have a link to add to your Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar so all you have to do is click a button to add the event to your calendar (if you use Google or Outlook).
Paper vs. Electronic Calendars
I used to be a paper/pencil person with calendars. If you currently use a paper calendar and you’re worried about moving to an online calendar to keep events–stop worrying. You can still have the satisfaction of writing things down and crossing them off (that’s up in step 3) but you can schedule an event/appointment anywhere at any time with your phone.
Step 2: Set Up Your Daily Page and Add Appointments
I personally set up my daily pages the evening prior. For example, today is Sunday, so tonight I will be working on my daily page for Monday (tomorrow). This is a really simple process. First, I write the date at the top of my page. Second I add appointments by looking at my google calendar for the next day and separating my appointments into two columns (personal and business)
Two Column Format
I use two columns on my daily page. The left hand column is for work/business items and and appointments. The right hand column is for personal/family items and appointments (basically anything NOT related to my business).
I easily separate appointments in these columns from tasks by changing the code in front of each item. Appointments get a check box and tasks get a dot.
Check out this pic for a visual of Step 2:
Step 3: Add Daily Tasks
The next thing I do is add my tasks to each column. Below is the process I go through to add tasks to my daily page:
Process to Add Daily Tasks
- A) I look at any tasks that didn’t get taken care of today and add those to my list for tomorrow.
- B) I think about my weekly tasks, which, for me, are all associated with larger monthly goals. I have a page devoted to this in my journal so I don’t forget any weekly tasks.
- C) I consider all client projects that are happening and what needs to get done for each client and add appropriate tasks for each client.
- D) I look at upcoming events on my calendar for the week to see if there is anything I need to get done ahead of time and add any of those items.
- E) I add all personal items that need to get taken care of.
- F)I put a star next to the thing that I will be taking care of first that day. This is the ONE thing that has to get done or that will make the biggest impact in my business or life when it is done.
Step 4: Cross Things Off The List
The best thing about this system is that when I wake up in the morning, I already know what I’m going to be working on that day and all the events/appointments that are happening. I don’t have to think about it. As I go through my day I cross things off. As things get done I simply put an ‘X’ over the dot (if it is a task) or in the box (if it is an appointment). If I come across something that, for whatever reason, is not going to get done I put a little carrot next to that task so it would look like this:●> This tells me that that task should be moved to tomorrow. If something no longer needs to be done or an appointment gets cancelled I simply put a slash through it.
Below is a picture of all my codes. BUT, really you can make up whatever works best for you. Just make sure you’re consistent about it so you know what things mean. It will only take a few days for this to become habit.
Stick With It
Whatever planning system you use the most important thing is that you stick with your system. In order to evaluate whether a system is working for you or not you have to use it consistently. Once you are consistent with a system for a while it is easier to evaluate if it is working or not, and if not, where improvements can be made.
Resources to Help
Here are a few of my favorite Bullet Journaling Resources
- The Leuchtturm 1917 Dotted Notebook is the BEST for Bullet Journaling. It has numbered pages and index pages built in. It is a good size, has a sturdy binding, opens flat, and has a hard cover.
- Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller. This book helped me understand the concept of a Bullet Journal and has some great tips, resources, and ideas for using a Bullet Journal. It is easy to read and I reference it when I’m stuck or need a tip to improve my system.
- Pilot G-2 0.5mm Extra Fine Gel Pen. These are great pens. They write smooth, don’t bleed through pages, and are very reasonably priced. It’s the pen I use for journaling the most.
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Alrighty–Go get ‘em and have a productive week! Let me know if you try this system and how it works for you in the comments below. Already use a bullet journal? I’d love to hear your favorite page ideas and any tips you have about how to make my journal more awesome!