Productivity

Finding Stillness in the Bullet Journal

March 16, 2016

Mindfulness through bullet journaling

I’ve spent more time than is lady-like walking back and forth between rooms because I forgot what I was doing. I’ve worried so much about forgetting something that it was normal for me to lie awake in bed reminding myself of it on repeat, frantically typing it out in iPhone Notes, only to forget to look at my notes in the morning.

As a mother, entrepreneur, community activist and artist, the amount of random work and ideas I have to juggle can be detrimental to my projects, my loved ones, and my health. The stress levels get high when you have the short-term memory of a goldfish.

I’ve preached about it: the key to getting shit done is mindfulness. I can’t think of an instance where multitasking allowed quality, precise execution of a task or project. Yet, as all my fellow creatives know, it’s really difficult to remain in the moment and on-task when you I have a lot on the mind: ballet lessons, dirty sheets, crusty paint brushes, client contracts, etc.

My entire life I’ve had daily planners to help me organize my tasks; it helps to see obligations on paper. I’ve had routines, rhythms, and check-lists… but something has always been missing— my life spans further than dates and little to-do lists.

Enter the Bullet Journal– brain-child of Ryder Carroll. The Bullet Journal is quite simply any blank book, and you write your life in it. It not only encourages order and productivity, but it acts as a record. Many of us have likely used most of Ryder’s techniques in the past, but it’s unlikely that you’ve used them all in conjunction.

To get the basic gist of it check out Ryder’s Bullet Journal video:

If you are like me and don’t watch videos, here are the basics:

  • Have one notebook for everything: your schedule, lists and notes. Use your favorite kind of notebook so that you really enjoy using it and carrying it around.
  • Three main sections: (there are more, explained here):

    • Index: when you get a fresh new journal you reserve the first few pages for an index, then number each page thereafter. As you go along you add your different page topics to the index. Topics spanning several pages are indexed as such: “Topic Name: 7-12.” Your Index is an integral part because of the nature of the Bullet Journal: since you go page-by-page all your topics will be mixed up.
    • Monthly Log: the Monthly Log is made at the start of each month, and consists of one spread– a calendar on the left and a task dump on the right. The calendar can either offer up space to plan out events and tasks, or act as an actually diary of sorts by only jotting things down after they’ve already happened. The task page is comprised of things you want to get to that month, or were carried over from the previous month. I’ve shared a sample of the Monthly in the photo above.
    • Daily Log: the date is the name of your list, and your list will likely include tasks, events, and notes. Since you never know how much space you’ll need in a given day, don’t start the following day’s header (the date) until the previous day is complete.
    • Collections: collections are topics that you’ll likely revisit and add to periodically, like that “Movies to Watch” page. Other ideas might be a wish list, helpful websites, or a brain-dump of creative concepts.
  • Log quickly: put most of your thought into the title of the page (ie: Movies to Watch), and not a lot of thought into the short-sentence items in the list.
  • Use a few bullets: Ryder’s bullets are as follows… Tasks are “•”, notes are “–”, and events/appointments are “o”. If you complete a task you “x” it out. Now… I’d really recommend watching the video to find out more about other symbols and signifiers.

bullet journal monthlies

Click here for more details on the process, Ryder’s way.

The Bullet Journal changed my life because it brought me to center. Whenever my brain needs dumped I have a place to let it spill out, and when I need to refer to it I don’t have to go searching for that old envelope I scribbled on. Everything is in one place. My one journal houses my household task list, my design concepts, my art timelines, my garden plans, my packing lists, my recipes, my million-dollar ideas and and and. Because it’s a blank book, it’s constantly morphing into whatever I need it to be, depending on how my day, week, or month is panning out. Not only has my productivity taken a lift-off, but I’ve found that the space within any tasks feels bigger, with more room to move and more air to breathe.

Here’s my set-up:

bullet journal weekly

Weekly Spread

This is my main dashboard. It’s my game-plan for the week.

First off, I use boxes for tasks instead of dots because I feel better when I can fill them in.

At the top of my Weekly Spread I list four topics: Goals, Next Week, Dinners and Projects. These sections highlight my bigger ideas, so that in the sections below I can break them down into smaller tasks.

The four bottom columns include Work, PCSI (volunteer work), Home, and Other. These categories list tasks and appointments, although I mostly depend on my Apple Calendar to remind me of appointments and dates. I’ll put the first letter of the day of the week next to all appointments and task-items that have deadlines.

From here I will transfer items over to my daily pages as they come around, usually breaking the tasks down further into smaller items.

bullet journal dailies

Daily Pages

I draw out a timeline box and note the date down for my “dailies” either the night before or first thing in the morning, then dump my brain of all the things I should/want to do that day. Next I review my Weekly spread to see if I need to transfer anything over. As the day progresses I sometimes add notes about work, orders, communications I may have had, etc. with a dot as my “notes” bullet.

In the right-hand column I write down my meal plan(s) for the day, important reminders, and any notable things that happened that day.

After my mind is all cleared out I go back and assign a code to the left of the boxes if they correspond with a specific chunk of my day. For example, I’ll put a little “o” next to my Work & PCSI tasks, a “+” next to household tasks, and a triangle next to my errands. I then separate out my timeline at the top of my Daily entry into chunks of time using those icons.

I always create a timeline at the start of the day, even if I don’t really need one. It helps me either 1) stay productive, or 2) keep myself from working. Yep. I need help on the latter.

This timeline and coding system is one of the biggest things that has helped with encouraging mindful productivity in my life. It allows me to quickly see what items I should be focusing on without having to glance over any of the other notes.

Other Spreads

I thought I’d just share some of my most useful collections. If these spreads look like they took a shit-ton of time, well, then they probably did. I’m not going to lie. I can get pretty crazy about my journal at times.

Some people in the [massive] Bullet Journal world have multiple journals for different areas of their lives. However, I’ve found that having one book keeps me more present-minded. My one bound book is like my coffee and my baby monitor— I don’t have to think about keeping it with me at all times, wherever I go. It takes me one to two months to use up a whole notebook, and then if I need to reference anything (anything at all) I can just pull out the notebook from that period of time… and then I giggle and smile to myself because my Bullet Journal system is awesome and everyone wishes they had one.

bullet journal packing list & home docket bullet journal cleaning routine and gardening plans bullet journal recipe spread bullet journal habit tracker

Supplies

These are the supplies I use, or similar items (and I get a commission if you buy using these links):

Inspiration

Here are a few of my favorite Instagram accounts. I forced myself to only list 3 so that there was a limit and people wouldn’t feel sad:

  • Kim – TinyRayofSunshine
  • Dee – DecadeThirty
  • Trine – LogthatLife

For more outside inspiration click here for Kim’s super resourceful page.

Lastly, but apparently not least, I’m going to share with you the link to my planner Instagram account, and please, if you’re going to laugh because I post photos daily of my journal and not my children or animals or food, call me up so that we can laugh about it together: Honeyrozes

15 Comments

  • Reply Kim March 16, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I devoured this post. I love love love it and I think I reread it like 4 times just because I love the way you write! I admire your style and the way you go about your Bullet Journal. It is truly no-nonsense and the aesthetics are fantastic. I seriously love the uber minimalism and font style you incorporate. The way you described a Bullet Journal is perfect, “The Bullet Journal is quite simply any blank book, and you write your life in it.” Spot-on! When you add to your Bujo it’s deliberate and carefully thought out and the style you use is so peaceful and awesome. I always look forward to your posts because of the life and personality that shines from the pages. It’s like getting a special peek into your soul and values based on how you manage your Bujo and how your Bujo helps you manage your life. Thank you for sharing this magnificent article with us, it is truly a treat!

    I’m flattered and honored to be in your favorites list, you already know you are one of mine as well 🙂 Keep up the amazing work! I’m stoked the Bullet Journal has found a place in your life and we got to ‘meet’ because of it :D.

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson March 18, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it!! Of course, your own blog was one of the three main places I initially learned about the capabilities of the Bullet Journal, and my favorite of the two, since your journal resonated the most with my aesthetics and lifestyle. So it means a lot that you’ve personally been supportive of my exploration into the bujo world 🙂

  • Reply Emily March 16, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Oh, I loved this post! It was good to get an overview of your process and how it has helped you. I am really bad about the “ubiquitous capture” aspect (aka rapid logging). I have tendency to think of things…then forget to write them down! It causes me to not fully trust the system, but I’m working on it. It has highlighted some character issues that I need to work on. 🙂 I look forward to future posts (bujo related or not). I’m working on venturing into art WITH my kids (rather than them working on it while I do other chores, or making art without them); your earlier posts on this topic was pretty inspiring!

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson March 18, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      That’s so great to hear that you’re enjoying my other posts too Emily! I’d say that making art with kids is a much more rewarding process than bullet journaling in the long-run, especially if the bullet journal isn’t delivering on its promises to you 😉 I’ve made bullet journalling part of my daily habit, and ALWAYS look at it first thing in the morning; it helps remind me of the important things I need to work into my day. But sometimes I won’t look at it again until the next morning because I haven’t totally worked it into any other habits during my day… still, it usually serves its main purpose by recentering me everymorning and bashing my short & long-term goals into my head.

  • Reply Gabrielle March 18, 2016 at 8:46 am

    This is so helpful! Thank you for writing it. As a community activist of sorts myself, it is so refreshing to see bujo framework that can work for my lifestyle. I noticed your timeline box – would you be able to explain it, or direct me to a link that does? Thank you!

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson March 18, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      I’d love to share more about my timeline with you! I tried to explain it in this blog post, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough. What specifically would you like me to expand upon? Maybe I should do a whole post just on my timeline!!

  • Reply Leslie van Belle March 19, 2016 at 9:57 am

    this is exactly what i needed to see!! PERFECTION

  • Reply Laurie March 21, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Great post. Love your writing, and your bullet journal layouts are great. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson March 31, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Thank you Laurie!

  • Reply Kathryn March 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I really love this and I’m going to give this a try. Thank you so much. Have a beautiful day. Kathryn

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson March 31, 2016 at 8:12 am

      I’m so glad you liked it Kathryn!!

  • Reply Jessica April 3, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Love this post – and the line about giggling because your bullet journal is awesome – it IS!

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson April 4, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Haha! Thanks Jessica xoxo

  • Reply Laura Frey June 14, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve been searching for someone who is as busy as me (work, kids, house, volunteer, hobby) who uses bullet journal, and just ONE bullet journal – so glad I found you!

    • Ursala Hudson
      Reply Ursala Hudson June 27, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      Yes! Let me know who else you find — I’m constantly on the search as well!

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