Y ou may have heard the buzz in productivity circles about a concept called a “Bullet Journal“. It’s a great approach:  to shift from multiple apps, devices, planners, calendars, and slips of paper to track everything in one place. From the habits you desire to Tips for Using a Bullet Journal build to tracking appointments. From remembering to journal  to noting what you are grateful for to creating your list of To Dos.

Research has shown that writing by hand allows us to process our thoughts and connect with them better to our memories.

I’ve been playing with my own version of using a Bullet Journal since February.

It began with John telling me: the next time you’re at the auto-parts store, would you pick up some license plate bolts? Well, I’m never at an auto parts store, but I do pass one on occasion. But how the heck was I to remember?

About that time, I heard about the Bullet Journal concept and found myself intrigued. I know that writing things down helps me remember (because, of course, I never remembered those bolts).

When I cataloged the lessons I’ve learned in the last year, I couldn’t help but mention this Bullet Journal experiment:

A modified bullet journal process is keeping me sane. Daily recording all the things I desire to do and combining it with all the things I actually do has been eye-opening. It’s also been a loving way to reassure myself that I am never behind when I’m having a rough day.

Here are my tips for taking the Bullet Journal concept and customizing it to work for your life.

Watch the video so you’ll get the full picture of how the creator envisioned using the Bullet Journal.

Don’t get too wrapped up in making your Bullet Journal perfect. Perfection can be paralyzing. Be willing to write messy, cross things out, and write on the backs of pages.

Do splurge and use a notebook that you love. Yes, you can use any notebook, however, it’s less likely you’ll place importance on giving a Bullet Journal an opportunity to work for you if you. It’s important to invest in ourselves.

Do use a Table of Contents and number your pages. You can do this yourself or buy a notebook that has a printed table of contents and pre-numbered pages. (I use the Leuchtturm1917 Notebook in their A5 Size, which easily fits in my purse.)

Don’t let all the Bullet Journal blog posts and Instagram Images intimidate you. All those elaborate keys and special layouts may make you feel discouraged or overwhelmed. It does not have to be a work of art, unless you are naturally an artist.

Keep it simple. Use a simple organizational style.

Do use a pen you love to write with…but please don’t invest in a crazy collection of pens just so that you can color-code stuff in a way you’ll never remember.

Do embrace the concept of “collections”. A collection is a term used to describe notes and tasks related to a common theme. By keeping all your notes together for a particular theme, it’s easier to track your progress. Mine include: What to pick up the next time I’m out, a section for Modern Creative Life tasks, Writing Ideas, Tracking what I’m actually writing each week.

Did I mention to not obsess over perfection? It’s intimidating to see the bullet journals of artsy folks and give up before you get started.

Do consider the idea of the Future Log. This is a way to track long-term goals and mark milestones. Whether you are a long-term planner (or not), this allows you to take a few moments and look to the future.

Do create a goal list for the month. Writing your goals on paper will help you achieve them. You must also monitor them, so as you prepare for each week or day, you can migrate goals into your to do lists.

Do identify your top three priorities for each day in your Bullet Journal.

Now, for what’s kept me sane – my most important tip: catalog what you’ve actually DONE each and every day. 

That’s the magic my Bullet Journal is working in my life with that seemingly simple act, so let me explain.

Lists make us happy. Yet, we have a to-do list with dozens of unchecked items and we wonder why we never get anything DONE. My solution has been to remind myself that I often get stuff done; I’m just not giving myself credit for it.

Here are the details of how I use a Bullet Journal on a daily basis:

  • At the beginning of the week, I create a list of Things to Be Done. As new things come up, I add them to the master list.
  • Each day has its own list. I write down my most important tasks for each day. I denote appointments as well as approaching deadlines.
  • At the end of my work day, I check off completed items and shift incomplete items to the following day.
  • THEN, I take the time to write down everything I actually DID – the two loads of laundry, the weeding of the flower bed, the trip to Lowes for O-rings.

See, each one of us does dozens of things each day. Yet, the negative bias that we humans have looks at the gaps, what we are not doing, what we are missing, what we have failed to do. So we reach the end of a day and feel like we have accomplished nothing.

That gap. That’s what you need to learn to close.

That’s what using a Bullet Journal is doing for me – helping me shift my own Negativity Bias and close that gap.

So, if you’re game to experiment with your own Bullet Journal, don’t forget my most important tip. Each day, include all the things you do.

By daily adding to that list of what you’ve done all day – from the three loads of laundry to grocery shopping to shaving your legs – you remind yourself that YOU matter and all that you do counts.

Every task takes precious time. Everything you do for your family, your life, and your business matters.

Each day, write not only the things you desire to do, but track all the things you actually did as well. I’m talking the seeming minutia of managing a life including each load of laundry and each little errand. And, darling, this also means valuable time writing, reading, relaxing, and spending time with loved ones.

When you begin to close that gap, you begin to see yourself as successful and when times feel challenging, you’ll be less likely to go to the negative or believe that you “never get anything done”.

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By Debra Smouse: Writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra helps people fall in love with their life. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar. A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams.

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