I have been a journaller–off and on–for much of my adult life. When I was in college, I bought a leather journal cover at the Renaissance Faire that holds a plain sketch book. Mostly it’s been my prayer journal, though there have been times I’ve tried to carry it around and use it more widely. Some of my journals would have pages set apart at the back for “other” things.
I have tried to use calendars and to-do lists and failed again and again. I tried to go electronic with calendars and to-do lists and continue to fail. (My only moderate success is having our shopping list hooked up to the Echo and my phone. Now I at least have the list when I go to the store.)
For most of my life, I have been able to keep my schedule pretty well in my head and remember things I want to write down later. That has changed. I’m older. I have 2 part-time jobs, 2 kids, and a spouse. I’m trying to keep track of too much and I keep missing things.
In January this year, I discovered the beginning-to-be-trendy bullet journal. It has become my new best friend. What I like best about it is having everything in one place. I’m not messing with journals and calendars and random pieces of paper. My life is varied enough that it helps to have it all together. I also like the idea that I can go through the book from start to finish. I don’t have to try to block off 1/3 for church, 1/3 for school, 1/3 for life. I just go to the next blank page spread, write the page numbers in, and add them to the index.
As Ryder Carroll says in his description of the bullet journal, the key is the index. Write page numbers on every page and index it so you can find it again. Every time I start a new spread for an ongoing topic, I add it to the original index entry (until I run out of space). I star my “Daily Log” entry in the index so I can always find it quickly.
Let me note right here, that I have looked at examples of bullet journals online and they seem to be neat and pretty with flourishes and color coded and, well, neat. Mine is not! So this is the post that says one can keep a bullet journal even when it is fast and furious and messy. I aspire to be neat and color code and have beautiful doodles on my pages. Never. Gonna. Happen. It’s not me. My handwriting has always been barely passable, and that hasn’t changed. So. Messy journaling.
Things I have done well with the bullet journal: Having a place to keep lists and take notes, especially for things like worship series, class syllabi, each months’ newsletter. It’s been great as a place to take notes in meetings, or lecture notes when I was taking on-line classes, or using it as actual journal space. When I had an uncomfortable meeting with a student last semester, I went back to my car and wrote it out in my journal so I had a record of my version of what happened, and it was right there, and I could find it as necessary. When I need to write something, I take notes or start drafts in the journal. I have been keeping my lesson plans in the journal this term, writing lecture notes and class ideas, and then just having it open in front of me during class where I can add comments as needed.
Things I keep working at: The daily log. This is the to-do list part, and I use it more or less well depending on the week. The monthly calendar, I at least create every month (I might have missed one in the last year), but I don’t probably keep it up as well as I should as appointments come up. I’m also at a loss for whether and where to put the weekly things like carpool and piano lessons. As I looked through the journal for this blog post, I noticed one particularly busy week where I made a spread for the week to keep track of everything. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.
What I haven’t done well: I lost track of the “running log” which is a place to keep ideas, notes, etc. as they come up. It would be useful. I am not good at getting up every day and setting up my to-do list as well as maybe have a gratitude page or a nightly examen page. So consistency is not my forte. Same with keeping track of hours for timesheet in my church job and just to know in my teaching job. It would be useful, and I haven’t done it yet. I’ve tried a prayer page but didn’t keep it up, and also meal planning. Those are things I’d like to do more of. I’m sure there are other things people are doing that I am not. I’m not great at using the symbols, and I don’t know if they would be particularly useful for me or not.
I want to re-watch the tutorial as I set up a new journal (I filled the first one), and remember what those basic ideas were.
It’s a tool, and at this moment in my life, with so many moving parts, it’s one that is helpful to me as I find ways to make it work for me. Index it!
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