How a Notebook Saved My Sanity

Growing up, my mom had a Day Timer.  Does anyone remember those?  It was like a Trapper Keeper for adults–it held all of her appointments, notes, and zipped closed around the edges to protect all of that important data.  As a Millennial (don’t hold it against me), I had to chuckle a little at the Day Timer.  “How old-fashioned!” I thought to myself.  “Why would I carry a huge book around when I have a magical little device that can hold all of that data and SO MUCH MORE?!”  Well, now that I’m a mom and business owner, I am CONSTANTLY in multi-tasking mode.  (Dear friend, if you’re reading this, I already know you are, too.)  All of the those tasks piled up in email, calendar appointments, reminders, a zillion apps, Facebook messenger, kids’ backpacks, sticky notes, and whiteboards.  And you know what?  It overwhelmed me.  There was information everywhere, and I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it.  I seemed to always be putting out the biggest fire in front of me, rather than organizing my time thoughtfully or regularly accomplishing little 15-minute tasks that were important on a daily basis. 

I began searching for a better way to organize my tasks and manage my time.  I downloaded even more apps (Todoist), subscribed to services, and looked at approximately 14,312,877,039 planners and journals online (trust me, my best friend was very tired of Amazon links at a certain point in this process).  I purchased a Panda Planner and tried to use that for a while, but it still didn’t really fit my needs.  Really, I just needed a way to remember big projects and organize all the little daily tasks.  I didn’t need my days broken down by the half hour, or a grocery shopping list on every page, or a daily gratitude section I probably wouldn’t remember.  So, back to slogging through emails and sticky notes and reminders I went.

Ultimately, I stumbled across the concept of bullet journaling.  The concept really appealed to me, but I felt a little intimated by all the possibilities.  I love a good artsy project, but the point here was to help me take control of my time–not turn it into another Pinterest project I don’t have time for.  I kept researching here and there, though, because I just knew there had to be a system out there that would work for me.  I stumbled across an article with a title that I found relatable, so I clicked it.  That article really explains it well, so I won’t waste your time here trying to recreate the wheel.  I’m just going to tell you what I did and how it’s helped me.

Feeling cautiously optimistic that maybe bullet journaling was something that would work for me, I got an Erin Condren journal in the dot-grid style.  There are a million different dot grid journals out there, but the adult-Lisa-Frank quality of Erin Condren just really appeals to me. (Almost like an adult Trapper Keeper. But I digress…).

When it came in, I tried not to overthink it or become paralyzed with coming up with the “right” system, so I just got moving.  I made a variety of different pages (some of which I never used again), so I’ll just tell you about the ones I’m definitely planning to incorporate again into my next journal:

  • “Key” (to remember what the heck my symbols mean);
  • “Business Goals/Projects” (but you could use it for any area of your life–the dots give so much flexibility for charts!);
  • “Home Projects” (to remember those random little things that need done or bigger things that take more planning);

and, last but definitely the most important . . .

  • Daily pages:

Over time, my daily pages have evolved.  Each weekday gets its own page, broken into three basic categories: day job, side hustle, and home (grocery shopping, field trip permission forms, doctor appointments, etc.).  At the top of the page, I write down the “inflexible” parts of my day (doctor appointments, classes I’m teaching, client appointments, etc.).  Everything else I need to get done (no matter how small) gets slotted into a category.  At the end of the day, I move anything that was not completed onto a more appropriate day to try to accomplish it (or, let’s be honest, panic and get it done last-minute if needed).   Saturday and Sunday usually share a page, because weekends are just a blur, anyway.

That little notebook has totally changed my world.  Everything is in one place, I don’t worry about forgetting things that need done, and I can safely “put something off” if it’s not pressing enough to demand my time without worrying that I’ll forget if I don’t do it now and, therefore, waste time that could be used for something truly pressing that day. 

It’s not rocket science, folks, and it probably isn’t for everyone–but it’s great for me.  

How do you stay organized?


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