I remember getting my first Franklin Planner 30 years ago. I loved order and lists and paper calendar pages – and the possibility of achievement that they promised.
But when I got my first smart phone in 2007, I discovered the beauty of syncing my calendar between MacBook and iPhone – and I thought I would never need a paper planner again.
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Fast-forward a few years.
In July, my oldest daughter showed me her Bullet Journal. She’s a medical student with lots of pieces of life to track: study time, rotations at different hospitals, travel for residency interviews, victories and firsts with patients. She thought I’d find a Bullet Journal helpful and rewarding.
“Go online and learn about them,” she said.
And I just about gave up on Bullet Journals before I ever started.
Here’s the thing: I lived through two decades of scrapbooking. I journaled and captioned and pasted photos into albums – because if you were a “good mom” in the nineties, you did that. But I have zero interest in “scrapbooking” my life now – so those Pinterest pages of Bullet Journals with fancy handwriting and colorful borders did not interest me one little bit.
And just when I’d decided I wouldn’t do it, my friend Beth told me she had started a Bullet Journal – and she thought I’d love it. Okay. So maybe I’d take one more look.
It turns out I did need a way to transform piles of scrap paper to-do lists and random meeting notes into some kind of cohesive package. But I also didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with my calendar – because iCal works beautifully in my life.
I work for a hunger relief ministry based in another time zone. I have a husband and three adult children and elderly parents. iCal lets me turn on and turn off calendars for my personal life and my work life, as well as calendars I share with each family member.
What weekend does my husband work?
What time will my daughter be walking home from class?
I can click their calendars and find out. But I don’t have to see all of that detail in front of my face all day long.
Because iCal does all of my actual calendaring so well, I don’t do some of the calendar details of traditional bullet journaling. I don’t painstakingly create a whole year at the front of my notebook. I also don’t set up a monthly calendar in my Bullet Journal.
Here are my Bullet Journal basics:
- I keep two running Tasks Lists. One is for personal tasks, the other for work tasks. I work from an office in my home, so all day long I find myself switching between personal and works tasks – so those two Task Lists need to be side-by-side on facing pages in my journal.
- Each week, I create a new Weekly Spread. I use the left half of each page for scheduled items and the right half for To-Do items. At the start of the week, I look at iCal and I write appointments and meetings in my journal.
Each morning, I look at my running Task Lists. I decide which major tasks need to be completed that day – and I add them to that day on my Weekly Spread. When I finish a task, I get a well-deserved check mark in the box. And, yes, I have been known to write down a task just so I could check it off. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
- Super temporary items go on sticky notes in the journal.
This week, I have a list of things to bring when we visit our son in Tennessee: the title to his car; a Christmas gift that wouldn’t fit in his carry-on luggage; homemade cookies, maybe?
- Habit Tracker grid.
I keep my habit tracker within my weekly spread. Current habits I’m tracking: having a kale smoothie as a meal, walking, yoga, and writing thank you notes to donors.
- Various lists.
Some lists that used to be strewn about my desk or taped to the refrigerator are now contained in the Bullet Journal. For example,- Home Projects
– Organizing Tasks
– Thank You Notes
I’ve figured out that not every list belongs in my Bullet Journal.
I still keep my Grocery List taped inside a pantry door. I’m in the kitchen when I realize I’m out of olive oil! And my husband can add to the list, too.
Here are a few things I’ve learned after six months of trial and error:
- I still track all my appointments and meetings on iCal.
- There’s no right way to do a bullet journal.
- You have to be willing to try it – and then change it a few times to make it work.
- I will never have an artsy journal – but I do enjoy using a few colorful pens and some washi tape.
- I’m more productive when I plan well – and my bullet journal is helping me do that.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. So anything that might draw me into a list of “should’s” is a big no. And anything I have to do perfectly is also a no. But I’ve found that
I can do a bullet journal my way – and it can work for me.
Lynda works for a small nonprofit that connects donors and volunteers with hands-on hunger relief. She does finance, communication, donor care, and event management at Heaven Sent Ministries.
Lynda and her husband Mike have moved 17 times in 30 years. Yes, 17. She is mom to three twenty-something children – a medical student, a development director, and a university student. She is a recovering perfectionist who loves to read, hike, kayak, search for beach glass, and get coffee with friends. Lynda lives near the Indiana Dunes, just far enough from Lake Michigan that she can get some work done.