Sunday, June 19, 2016

Biting The Bullet Journal - Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid To Ask

As you know from a previous blog post, I was completely underwhelmed by the choice and design of diaries for the September 2016 - September 2017 year. As our New Year is in September the summer is New Diary Time whether you like it or not. I like it but I'm fussy. So having read blog posts and watched a million videos on You Tube about Bullet Journals, I decided to have a go at making my own.

First to explain what exactly a Bullet Journal is. It's basically an appointment diary plus. The plus bit is spaces for lists, forward planning, intentions, goals, menu plans, shopping lists, birthdays, progress trackers, etc...

It's easy to be intimidated by the Bullet Journals women share (yes it's only women) on You Tube videos. There are two types. There are the artistic types who draw amazing drawings and designs so that every page is a work of art. Some women even water colour the pages as background. I enjoy doing a bit of doodling and colouring but I'm not that good at it and anyway, who has the time?

The other way to go is the sticker route. OMG! Grown women agonizing over whether to use the green washi tape or the blue. (You have to have washi tape.) Dithering over which is cuter, the floral design or the kittens? They don't use words much in their BJs but they have a sticker symbol for everything. I don't judge as it's a business (either You Tubing or Etsy shops for the stationery and stickers) so they have to do the sales pitch.

So the first thing to do is relax and do as much or as little decorating as you like. I've done minimal so far but I could see myself sitting down to do some more instead of raiding the fridge. Whatever it takes. Make sure your book is lined. You may go for squared or dotted but plain paper will drive you nuts when you want to draw grids and boxes.

Then decide what you want to include. I wanted the year at a glance so that I can count weeks and days when, for e.g., I need to know how much time I have to finish a project or how many lessons in the semester.

For each month I have a calendar page and a monthly planner with the days listed.

I started my BJ with two weeks of blitz organizing before the summer holidays begin for DD and while I have already started mine on some days (though still working on others). I can do this because it's my creation so it starts when I'm ready. I then planned out 14 months until September 2017.

After the two month-planner pages there are four or five pages of weekly views for that month. I'd got to the end of 2016 with the weeks looking like this...

...when I realized that it might be better to have them like this...

As the columns are narrower it just means you write smaller and get far more space to write things in everyday. As I said, I'd already drawn and labelled the weeks until the end of December so I'll have to wait until January to try the vertical columns instead of the boxes.

I left an extra page before the January charts, for New Years' resolutions, intentions, thoughts, whatever. As you do. All the drawing is in pencil so it can be changed easily until I'm satisfied to go over it with pen. Or not.

What else? Well, professional BJers have tracking pages and collections.

Tracking pages are where you keep track of your progress or frequency. It can be a graph or boxes to tick off throughout the month. Women use it for all sorts of things - exercise, housework, not eating sugar/dairy/meat/gluten, no spending days, savings plans, getting to bed before 11pm, meditating, blogging/vlogging, drinking 8 glasses of water a day.... It can get out of control. Some women have a list of things they're tracking that would rival business analysts reviewing an international corporation. And as one wise vlogger said, "it's only useful to have all that data if you're going to do something with it." Personally, I think you can end up feeling like science project instead of a human being.

Collections are just lists. Here are some examples: Books I want to read (irrelevant to expats because we read whatever we're given whenever we can get our hands on it, unless you have become gerkindled in which case just keep the list on the kindle). Food log (I'm keeping a rough food log in the actual diary bit). Films I want to see or tv programs to watch (ok if that's your thing. I've never been at a loss to find something when I have the time to watch). Money I spend (I have an old Filofax in which I've been tracking my spending for the last 10 years). Birthdays (I put these on my calendar page). Daily gratitude log (believe me, I'm grateful). Blogs/vlogs I want to create (see below).

I do have some collections I would like to include but having filled in my 14 months (and 2 weeks) I only have 3 pages left. This is fine because I've left space on every page for notes so I'll add blog ideas and other lists in the weeks they occur to me.

My precious 3 pages will be for 1. A wish list - it's always good to define what you really want when you have the money. Every time I've written a wish list I've managed to achieve all of it over the space of a year or so. Obviously I'm not talking about a villa in the South of France, but mid-price items like new shower doors, a new computer, etc...

2. A universal shopping list. When I've figured out what we actually eat and balance that with what I'd like us to actually eat, it would be good to have a basic list of all the food and household items we need on a regular basis. Of course you don't buy the whole list every time you go shopping but at least you know what to consider whilst compiling your weekly list.

3. Simple menu plans of food that DD will eat and that do not involve ice-cream or jelly beans as a main course.


Here is where you find out a bit of BJ magic. There are symbols that many BJers use. The key is as follows:
o A circle for an event.
$ Something to buy (I made this one up).
@ Someone to contact (I made this one up too).
. A bullet point for a task to be done.
X You make your bullet into an x when it's completed.
> You make the bullet into an arrowhead when the task is not completed and you want to migrate it to a more convenient time.

See where I'm going with this? Whenever you don't do something you'd planned to do, you just migrate it to the next day or the next week or the next month..... ad infinitum. :~)
And finally, I have a secret weapon. When the new academic year starts in September I will most likely get one of these:

It's the teachers' diary from the TU. It comes in a fancy plastic cover with pockets inside. It has all the school holidays included, pages for grades, class lists, and timetables. As it minimizes the weekends there is a wide column for each day in which you can outline your basic lesson plans. I will also have all my work contact information in this book. I hope it's a nice colour next year, although I could always recycle this one (I do like green) as the actual diary slides out. And maybe I could suggest they include some stickers and washi tape. ;~)


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