Goal-Setting in my Bullet Journal

In addition to running an Etsy shop, I have two part-time jobs and am also a published novelist. I have a lot of tasks and projects to keep track of, and there’s no way I can keep track of them all if I’m just relying on my own brain.

Brain dumps ftw

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with everything life is throwing at you? Stuff is coming at you from every direction and you can’t spin around fast enough to catch everything. I occasionally feel like life is a cosmic game of dodgeball!

When it gets overwhelming like that, I sit down, switch on the Focus mode of Brain.fm, and do a total brain dump. Just write down all the crap that floats through my head, all the things that are taking up space in my mental RAM, and quantify them.

I generally use a separate notebook to do my brain dumps because they can take up a lot of space! But as soon as I’ve finished, I start categorizing everything I wrote down (highlighters are good for this), and that’s where my Bullet Journal comes in.

Once I’ve quantified everything I need to do, I can start figuring out what the next concrete step is to take on every outstanding project.

Sometimes I go through the brain dump in the order I wrote things down and sometimes I skip around. Sometimes I realize that several items in the brain dump belong in a collection in my Bullet Journal. Sometimes an item just needs to go on my monthly or daily task list.

As soon as I’ve recorded a brain dump item somewhere in my Bullet Journal, I mark it out on the braindump list.

Not only does that help me see where I am in the planning process, but it also has an immediate psychological effect. I’ve written it down, I’ve put it where it needs to go, so I can release it from my immediate attention. (If you’re sensing echoes of GTD in this, you’re right!)

So What About Project Planning?

Projects with a lot of steps are different beasts from a simple to-do, that’s for sure. But they’re not really the gargantuan, out-of-control monsters they can feel like.

My rule of thumb is to write down every big step. Sometimes I realize the list I’ve been working with doesn’t have all the steps, so I add them in–even if I add them after completing the step.

I confess I don’t always write down every single tiny step because that would take a lot of paper! But if a project is starting to feel overwhelming, I sit down and do it, even if I have to set up a separate collection just for that project.

I currently have two major projects listed on my Quarter 1 Action Steps page in my Bullet Journal, and I have the components broken down on that page, as you see in the picture, though there are actually lots of little steps to each component.

For example, under “2018 Exhibit” the component “Title banner” actually involves several steps:

  1. Coming up with a title (in collaboration with other museum staff)
  2. Choosing banner images
  3. Choosing a font
  4. Choosing a color
  5. Choosing a vendor to print the banner (or consider printing in-house)
  6. Creating the graphic
  7. Proof-reading title banner
  8. Uploading the graphic to printer/printing graphic

I don’t have it broken down into all those steps because this is the sixth exhibit I’ve helped design, so a lot of those steps are internalized for me. On the other hand, I often end up breaking those components down on my Monthly Task List.

If you need to break down the components into every step on your project page, do it! The best thing about Bullet Journal is how you can customize it to work best with your style of work.

Tracking

I tend to use two different methods for tracking my goal and project progress–I’ll call them passive tracking and active tracking.

For active tracking, I’ll actually design a tracker to fit that project. For instance, another project I’m working on for work involves going page-by-page through a book we’re publishing. It’s a huge task, so I drew a special tracker for it–just a set of boxes that are numbered with the chapters of each book. As I finish each chapter, I fill in the box and I’m able to see that I am actually making progress, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Passive tracking, on the other hand, is basically just me paying attention to what tasks I’m migrating from day to day, week to week, or month to month.

One of my favorite things about Bullet Journal is the migration process. Ryder Carroll points out that migration is “a cornerstone of Bullet Journaling.” I know a lot of people dislike the migration component, either because they think it’s redundant and/or pointless or because they don’t like taking the time to do it. For me, the redundancy and time-consuming nature of migration is exactly the point.

Repetition and redundancy actually make me aware of what tasks I’m not getting done and force me to be mindful of those tasks. I have to consider:

  • Why am I putting off this task?
  • Do I need help from someone else?
  • Am I waiting for something?
  • Is there a step I actually need to do first?
  • How long do I need to complete this?
  • Will it really take me longer to do this task than it will to migrate it to yet another page?

A lot of times, after considering these questions, I either buckle down and do the task or strike it off my to-do list entirely.

Whew! This is a longer blog post than I set out to write! I hope it’s helpful for you to see how I do goal planning and task/project management in my Bullet Journal. If you have any tips, let me know!

And if you’re looking for a sticker set to help you record your goals for 2018, check out my Goal-Setting and New Year’s Stickers set on Etsy! Until March 31, 2018, you can get 18% off your $5 order by using coupon code NY2018.

New Year for a New You – Days 5 & 6

DAY 5

1. What are your main priorities in life (i.e., family, profession, marriage, personal wellbeing, etc.)? List them in order of importance.

  • God
  • Family, cats, & friends
  • Writing
  • Redhead Paper
  • Day jobs
  • Fitness

2. Use the graph to chart how you invest your time during a typical 24-hour period.

3. Does your time chart (where you’re spending your hours) reflect the priorities you listed in question 1, and in the correct order?

No. For one thing, I’m spending so much time at my day job I don’t have time to focus on my writing and Redhead Paper. I do pretty well at spending time with family, though I have a couple of friendships I really want to revive this year.

4. How might you rearrange your schedule for better results?

Make myself go to bed earlier so I can get up an hour earlier to work out. I know I feel better when I’m working out regularly. Working out in the morning isn’t my favorite thing (I hate mornings in general) but I know it would help me feel more energetic throughout the day and help me stay more focused and productive.

I would also like to eventually transition out of needing two day jobs so I can focus more on my writing and Redhead Paper.

DAY 6

1. Create a specific goal for each of the five pillars of life:

These goals are tied back directly to my objectives for the year, which I posted in Day 3. So I worked from those objectives and listed action steps I could take to achieve them.

FInancial: Create a debt snowball plan and stick to it. Eat out no more than twice a month. Post daily on Instagram to increase Redhead Paper’s visibility. Set up preorders for my book releases two months in advance.

Spiritual: Set aside time every evening to read one chapter of the New Testament a day.

Mental: Read one novel a week from the list of Books to Read in my Bullet Journal. Create a plan for the non-fiction books, including the number of pages I need to read every day when I’m working on them.

Physical: Hike once a week. Do a 30-day beginner yoga challenge in January/February. Have Shakeology for breakfast.

Relational: I want to spend more time encouraging my dad. I want to help my mom declutter her house, which I know is driving her crazy. And I would like to spend more face-time with my best friend, as well as deepening another friendship.

So this is how I want my 2018 to go. What about you? Are you working on goals for the new year? What are they?

New Year for a New You – Days 3 & 4

I’m continuing my answers to Lisa Jacobs’ A New Year for a New You blog series. Some of these are taken directly from my responses as I work through Your Best Year 2018, Lisa’s excellent business planning book. (She has a Life Planning version, but I’ve never used that one, so I can’t say what it’s like. I’m seriously considering buying it for my mom next year, though.)

Day Three

Financial

  • Pay down debts (personal and business).
  • Launch a novel with 100 preorders.
  • Have a $1000 Etsy month in Quarter 1 and $5000 in Etsy profits for the year.
  • Make $2000 from book sales this year.

Spiritual

Mental

  • Read at least 50 books.
  • Of those 50, make 25 of them #OwnVoices books.
  • Of those 50, make 10 of them nonfiction books.
  • Of those 50, let 1 be a complete read-through of the Harland book on sailing.

Relational

  • Encourage Dad.
  • Help Mom declutter and decompress.
  • Deepen friendships with two particular people.
  • Play with the kitties more often
  • Write 1 notecard a week to one of my friends.

Physical

  • Drop 30 pounds.
  • Build muscle.
  • Hike once a week.
  • Do yoga on a weekly basis.

1. What do I really want? (vision)

The ability to schedule automatic bill payments out of my checking account.

I know, this seems a little mundane and boring for a 2018 vision. But I have the feeling there are a lot of Gen-X and Millennial folks who will understand!

2. What is important about it? (values)

Being able to schedule all my bill payments means that I’m not living paycheck-to-paycheck anymore. It means that I’ve made some responsible choices in how I spend my money. It also means my side hustles are doing well enough that I have some extra cushion in my monthly income.

In addition, it’s important because I can focus on what’s truly important instead of feeling like I’m running from fire to fire, trying to put out the flames.

3. How will I get it? (methods)

For one thing, I’m going to continue adding to the products I offer for sale at Redhead Paper on Etsy. For another, I have two novels scheduled to publish in 2018. I also want to concentrate on selling more short fiction in the coming year.

4. What is preventing me from having it? (obstacles)

I have trouble scheduling my writing and Etsy creation times around my 2 day jobs. I sometimes resent the fact that I have a lot less downtime than a lot of people I know. Especially since, for Christmas, I got a 60-day pass to World of Warcraft! I’m going to have to schedule my time much more strictly for the next few months if I really want to meet my business goals.

5. How will I know I am successful? (measurements)

This is a easy one! I’ll know I’m successful when I can schedule all my bill payments on the first day of the month.

To achieve this I need to establish a set payday from Cathartes Press/Redhead Paper to Stephanie, and I need to stick with that date and amount. I have to make sure I leave enough in my business checking account to pay all the bills as well as making payroll.

I started writing myself paychecks in 2017, but I’ve been playing sort of fast and loose with the amount and the day of the month that I write the check. That’s no way to run a business, so I need to correct that in 2018.

Day Four

What would you do in 2018 if you knew you could not fail?

I think I answered this wrong. I said publish The Loyalty Factor, but the thing is–it’s still not ready to be published, and I know it. So if I knew it would be perfect and I couldn’t fail, sure. But I’m not sure that’s where this question was going.

If I knew I could not fail, I would cut back on my work hours to give myself more time to write and create Redhead Paper designs.

What are some things you could be doing that you’ve been too afraid to try? How can you stretch your comfort zone?

I think for me it’s less about being too afraid to try something. I tend to be impulsive by nature, so my comfort zone is leaping before I look. I think if I were going to stretch my comfort zone, it would be to act with patience and consideration and to take daily steps towards achievement instead of jumping in full speed ahead.

What have you been struggling with for entirely too long?

Getting into a routine of consistent work. I’ve always had the habit of throwing myself entirely into a single project and going whole-hog on that project to the exclusion of others. In addition, I tend to work hard and fast instead of slow and steady. I’d like to meet a weekly quota in my writing production and in my Redhead Paper design.

What could you outsource, delegate, automate, and/or stop doing in 2018?

I’ve been unable to think of anything for this question. I already have help filling Etsy orders and with house-cleaning. I suppose I might be able to outsource cover creation for Circle City Magic books. I already hire the art for my epic fantasy, but for the urban fantasy books I did the cover creation myself, and that’s time-consuming–not to mention there are people out there who can do a much better job than I do.

In what ways and which areas will you “upgrade” your life?

I’m going to repaint my office and set it up with a standing workspace.

New Year for a New You – Days 1 & 2

Every year Lisa Jacobs does a blog series at the end of the year, helping her people reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. I’m answering some of the questions here on my blog.

So here goes:

Day One

1. What was time very well spent this year?
Writing time was always well spent. Also time developing new products for my Etsy shop. I never regret the time I spend on those two tasks.

Research time was also well spent. Sailing on the Friends Good Will to learn how to steer a tall ship was a great experience. Learning about early modern warfare tactics and how gunpowder changed warfare had a profound impact on the plot of The Weather War.

Education money was well spent. I paid for a three-day Short Story Intensive workshop by Mary Robinette Kowal, and for the first time I feel confident in the short stories I write. I’ve never had a handle on writing short the way I do now. I also paid for her No-Prep NaNo workshop, which again refined my writing craft.

2. What was money very well spent this year?
Buying a new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet as my work machine. I love that machine, and it makes it easy for me to take my business anywhere I need to.

In August I ran an international Bookbub deal on my Storms in Amethir Omnibus 1, and that was definitely money well spent. That paid off not only the two or three days after the Bookbub ran, but also has translated into a lot of long-tail sales.

3. What are your favorite memories of 2017?
Sailing the Friends Good Will. Watching the heron aerie at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Hiking at Prophetstown. The moment I realized Redhead Paper was going to be a hit. The Weather War release. Equus release. Getting an email from an editor I’ve worked with in the past and being asked to contribute to an anthology for her.

4. What did you accomplish or complete this year?
I launched Redhead Paper, making and selling stickers for Bullet Journals and paper planners. I published The Weather War. I wrote several short stories. My story “To Ride a Steel Horse” was published in Equus. I had another story accepted for publication. I participated in Giftmas 2017 and helped raise money for a food bank.

5. Did you make any progress on long-term goals?
I got one book closer to finishing the Storms in Amethir series. I just have one book to go. I wish I could say I got another book published in the Circle City Magic series, but that hasn’t happened yet.

6. What felt successful about the year, as a whole?
I went all in and started my own business, as well as becoming a hybrid author, with both self-published and traditionally published works. This seems to be the year my writing career is finally beginning to take off–four years in!

7. Did you overcome any obstacles or mental blocks this year?
I can’t think of any right now…

8. What did you learn about yourself after all that happened in 2017?
I need to schedule downtime for myself. I need it after finishing a book, and I always feel guilty about taking it, but I need to just plan around that need, instead of feeling guilty as I take it. The month after I finish writing a book, I need to recharge, and I need to anticipate that and schedule it.

9. Who nurtured or supported you most this year?
Several close friends were incredibly supportive. I couldn’t have made RHP happen without the help of a few key people. “My” editor was also amazingly supportive.

10. Who did you enjoy nurturing and supporting?
People in my writing group. My best friend as she launched her own creative endeavor. A friend who’s had a tough year.

Day Two

1. What was time wasted this year?
Any time I spent being envious of other people’s success. I also think the time I spent making a big deal of The Weather War launch might have been time wasted. I did a huge giveaway and ran promotions. While I’m happy with sales of the book, I’ve been disappointed in the lack of reviews–only three so far, when it launched in September.

I also feel that time spent reading Facebook feeds and engaging in political debate was time wasted. This year I need to investigate something like the F.B. Purity extension so I can continue seeing personal posts from people without seeing so much of the toxic political stuff.

2. What was money wasted this year?
I found a mistake in one of my Etsy products and had to correct it and ship new product to everyone who had purchased it in a sort of voluntary recall situation. I could have saved myself a lot of time, money, and expense, if I’d remembered to take the time to have another pair of eyes proofread it, instead of relying on my own judgment.

3. What was the biggest challenge you faced this year?
Trying to write a novel that lived up to my expectations of it.

4. If anything, what would you change about how you handled that challenge?
I think I would have soldiered through sooner, instead of tinkering with the plot as much as I did. Then again, I feel that tinkering made it work much better than it might have otherwise. It’s hard to say.

5. Are you ending the year with any unfinished business?
Yes. I intended to publish Circle City Psychic this year, and that didn’t happen. In fact, I’m still only about halfway finished with the novel. I’m disappointed in myself for that, but on the other hand, it gives me goals to work on for 2018.

6. Are there any outstanding goals you’d like to let go of?
My Patreon, maybe? I’m not sure. I’ve never gotten it off the ground the way I would like to. On the other hand, I had big plans for it for this year, and they got pushed back because I didn’t finish Circle City Psychic. I’ve rescheduled them for 2018, so perhaps I’m not ready to let go of this yet.

7. What was your worst setback in 2017?
I got behind on my personal finances in 2017 and really need to stop treading water and start swimming for shore.

8. Which bad habits or unhealthy patterns did you engage in that you’d like to give up once and for all?
While I know there’s science behind alcohol unlocking creativity, I indulged too much in it. I need to stop drinking at home, except on special occasions–and no, starting the next chapter in the book I’m writing is NOT a special occasion!

9. What or whom held you back this year? Did anything make you shrink into yourself or feel defensive about your dreams?
See #10

10. How did you hold yourself back this year? Which beliefs | ideas | excuses stopped you from pushing forward?
I allowed myself to be held back by my resentment against needing a day job. I need to embrace that day job as something that’s (mostly) paying the bills right now so I can pursue the things I’m truly passionate about. I need to stop believing that I deserve to be paid to create. (Yes, this is something I also need to keep believing. I realize this is crazy. But still.)

I need to embrace the fact that having a busier schedule actually enables me to structure my time better, so I should be grateful for the day jobs.

 

So there are my unfiltered answers to the first two days of the challenge! Let’s see where Day Three takes us tomorrow!

My Word for 2018–Ignite!

My mom recently asked me to design her a sticker using her word for 2018, and that got me thinking about what my word for 2018 should be. I haven’t actually done a word for the year before, though I know other people have found it to be a great method of focusing on what was important.

So I went to One Word 365, a website where you can get inspiration for words, connect with other people who have that word, and more. It generated a list of words for me, and the moment I saw ignite I knew it was my word!

Merriam-Webster defines ignite like this:

transitive verb: to subject to fire or intense heat; especially : to render luminous by heat; a : to set afire; also kindle; b : to cause (a fuel) to burn; a : to heat up : excite; b : to set in motion : spark

intransitive verb: to catch fire; to begin to glow

I love the “to render luminous by heat” — isn’t that a great image? When we’re feeling the heat, we’re under pressure, right? We’re stressed. Wouldn’t it be great to be the kind of person who is rendered luminous when under stress?

And “to set in motion”? I have so many things I’d like to set in motion in 2018. I want to start blogging here regularly in 2018. I want to spend more time being intentional about my business. I want to set in motion a plan to pay off my credit cards and start saving for the life I really want.

What about setting things afire? Not literally, of course. But I’d love to set my imagination afire. Set my creativity afire in my Etsy shop and my novels. Set other people’s productivity afire with the stickers I make and the blogs I post. Set people’s hopes afire that they can have the organized life they’ve always wanted.

So this year, I’m going to IGNITE.

Do you have a word for 2018? What is it?

Download: #TheDarkIsReading Bookmarks

One of my favorite book series is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence. About an eleven-year-old British boy who learns he has magical powers (but written some 30 years before Harry Potter), the title book is atmospheric and full of vivid imagery and characters that have become real people to me over the years.

A hardcover copy of The Dark Is Rising Sequence,. The book has bent corners and several bookmarks in it.

My well-loved copy of the SFBC omnibus of The Dark Is Rising Sequence

I first read the series in middle school, which was a rough time for me. Seventh grade, man. Seventh grade was awful. But I had Will Stanton and his friends to keep me company, and that meant a lot.

So this year there’s a huge Twitter book club all reading The Dark Is Rising (which is technically the second book in the sequence) over the period of time covered by the book. It starts on Midwinter’s Day (or the First Day of Winter here in the US), which is Will’s eleventh birthday. I try to reread the book every year, but some years, I confess, I get caught up in holiday busy-ness and don’t finish.

This year, along with #TheDarkIsReading book club, I’m going to make sure I complete the rereading. There are all kinds of people participating–authors, artists, musicians–and a lot of people are contributing their own creations.

To learn more about the book club, check out #TheDarkisReading: A Midwinter Reading Group. Some other great blog posts about The Dark Is Rising and #TheDarkisReading are The Eeriest Novel I KnowThis Night Will Be Bad and Tomorrow Will Be Beyond Imagining, and this great project: The Dark Is Rising Soundtrack. I can’t wait to hear all of the soundtrack as the book unfolds!

I found a beautiful winter image pack while I was looking for graphics to use for my Christmas cards this year (I make my own). They didn’t end up working for my Christmas cards (though they’d be perfect for someone who celebrates Solstice instead) but they did have some gorgeous imagery that relates to The Dark Is Rising.

So I made bookmarks! If you download the PDF and print it double-sided, the images match up and will give you four bookmarks with a quote from the book and some lovely raven images. The Winter Ravens artwork is by Mikibith.net.

Download #TheDarkIsReading Bookmarks
Time-blocking printable worksheet by redhead paper

Free Weekly Time-Blocking Printable!

One thing that isn’t easy to do in the Bullet Journal system is time-blocking. Sometimes, when I have a large project I want to get done, the only way for me to “find” time to work on it is to make time. But in a Bullet Journal, I don’t keep a daily or weekly schedule the way you would in a paper planner.

So when I need to block out my schedule and make time for my project, I print out a blank weekly time-blocking sheet and start marking what I have to do each day of the week.

I start by writing in church, my work week, and commute time, because those are unchanging. I also put my television shows on there, because I don’t want to miss them (right now it’s just The 100, but iZombie is back next week!)

Time-blocking printable worksheet by redhead paper

Then I add any meetings or appointments I might have, which can vary from week to week. Then I look at the time that’s left over and figure out how to spend that time, and how much of it I can give to my project.

In this case, it’s my writing. I’m way past overdue on my latest novel, and it needs a serious commitment from me now that I’m recovered from the nasty case of bronchitis I had for a good part of this month.

Looking at this, I have a lot of blank spaces on the calendar to get things done like laundry, meals, and playing with the cats or reading. But I also manage to get a solid 17 hours of writing in this week.

Do you have a project you need to commit to? I can help! Click the button below to download a PDF of the blank time-blocking worksheet. No email required!

Download

Let me know how it works for you!

A set of acrylic drawers with Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Papermate Flair Bullet Journal supplies

My Favorite Bullet Journal Resources

One of my favorite things about the Bullet Journal system is how adaptable it is. You don’t really need any special equipment–any notebook and pen will do. I belong to a few BuJo communities on Facebook, and it’s surprising how often people ask, “Can I–?” on those groups. Yes, you can! You can do anything you want with your Bullet Journal!

That said, I do have some things I love using for my Bullet Journal. In this post, I’m going to share some of my favorite BuJo supplies and resources.

Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links. In plain language, that means I get a tiny amount of money from those items any time you buy–at no extra cost to you.

Notebooks

My favorite notebooks to use for Bullet Journaling are Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks. They have fountain-pen-friendly paper, the pages are pre-numbered, and there’s an index in the front. Leuchtturm 1917 is the notebook BuJo-creator Ryder Carroll chose to make the official Bullet Journal notebooks. At first available only in black, the official notebooks are now available in emerald green.

If you can’t afford a Leuchtturm 1917, though, there are plenty of other good options. I’ve used Moleskine VolantsMoleskine Cahiers, Picadilly notebooks, and even a cute spiral-bound notebook.

Bottom line, if you have a favorite notebook, use that for your Bullet Journal, because Bullet Journal is all about what works for you.

Pens

My favorite every-day-carry pen is a Pilot Hi Tec C Coleto Lumio Multipen. I use .5 refills in orange, turquoise, brown, and apple green because I color-code my tasks and events for context. Orange is one job, turquoise is another job, brown is writing, and apple green is home & personal.

A set of acrylic drawers with Tombow Dual Brush Pens and Papermate Flair Bullet Journal suppliesI also have a Pentel EnerGel black ink pen that I carry every day. The multi-pen and the black ink pen are the basic essentials of my daily Bullet Journal use. I also have a 10-color set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners I use daily. They live on my desk, in a new five-drawer acrylic set I just got at the Container Store. I like seeing all the colorful pens!

I’ve recently branched out a little more. I bought a set of Papermate Flairs, because so many people seem to love them for Bullet Journaling. I’ve been using them a little, but I can’t pretend they’re my favorites. Still, they’re a good alternative.

My recent treat to myself (thank you, tax refund time) is a couple of sets of Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I got the Secondary set and the Landscape” set, because I decided my Staedtler and Flair sets already had the primary colors covered.

Now I just need to learn how to do brush lettering! I’ve been watching videos on YouTube. Does anyone have a favorite tutorial?

Stickers & Washi Tape

Here’s a caveat: I make stickers and sell them at my Redhead Paper Etsy shop, so of course I love my own stickers!

But there are plenty of other sticker-makers out there I love, including Boho Berry Paperie and Mila Printshop. I also love finding stickers at Michael’s.

I love washi tape, but lately I haven’t been using it as often in my layouts. I couldn’t resist the roll I found at Michael’s on Monday, though: it has sayings on it like, “Dream,” “The time is now,” and “This is your life–seize it and make it amazing.”

 


So those are my favorites. What are yours?

 

Why Bullet Journal?

Sometimes when I’m in a meeting, people look at my bullet journal and ask why that system is better than others. So today I wanted to talk about my BuJo Journey.

I’ve loved organization since I read Julie Morganstern’s book Organizing from the Inside Out about 15 years ago. First I started organizing all the stuff I had, and then I started realizing I had too much. And then Julie Morganstern wrote Time Management from the Inside Out, and I realized I had even more organizing to do. I struggled for years to figure out how to balance everything I like doing–hiking, reading, writing, scrapbooking, online gaming…

I tried everything. Paper planners. Online calendars. Scheduling and task management apps like Trello. Nothing really worked for me until 2010, when I tried David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. That made sense to me, having project lists and next action lists and context lists. But after a year or two and a job change, I realized the GTD system wasn’t really working for me anymore.

Photo of my tickler fileI kept my tickler file, which both Julie Morganstern and David Allen recommend, and I rely on it. I love it when someone can say, “Hey, do you have that file I gave you two months ago?” And I can say, “Yep, I filed it for this week when we were going to need it again.”

So the tickler file was working, but my planning system wasn’t.

Fast-forward to March 2014, when I discovered Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system.

I honestly didn’t expect it to take, but I thought, “Hey, I’ve seen this mentioned several times lately, so why not try it?” (I think Lifehacker was the first place I saw it, but I’m not sure.) So I set up a spiral-bound notebook I already had. I’d only used it for about two weeks before I realized that hey, this system really clicks with me!

I started out buying Moleskine Cahier notebooks. I could fit about two months in each notebook, and pretty soon my boss started saying, “Hey, did you write down in your little book when we…?” It felt awesome to be able to say yes every time.

Photo of my stack of Bullet Journal notebooksI experimented with notebooks for a while–Moleskine Cahiers, then a Picadilly (which sadly fell apart and had to be repaired), more Moleskines, and then the BulletJournal Kickstarter happened! I was a backer, and I’ve been in love with the Leuchtterm 1917 BulletJournal notebooks since then. I did use a lined Leuchtterm 1917 for part of 2016, but for Christmas my family got me two of the new Emerald Official BuJo notebooks, so I should be set for 2017!

Now I’m branching out into different pens. I color-code my tasks, because I have two part-time jobs and I also write fiction, so I use color to track the context of my tasks and projects (still implementing some of the GTD methods I loved). I use a Coleto Hi-Tec-C multipen to write down tasks, but for things like habit trackers and coloring pages, I’ve been using Tombow Dual Brush Pens for a few weeks now.

So that’s my Bullet Journal journey.

I love so much about Bullet Journal, but the main thing I love about this system is its flexibility. Some of my spreads are super-decorated and pretty and fun, and some of them are simple lists. Sometimes I doodle in my spread, and sometimes I don’t take the time to do a spread for the week. I can experiment with different signifiers to see what clicks. I can see how long it’s been since I did a financial review because of my habit trackers. I can make this planner what I need it to be.

I think that’s why it’s stuck so long–Bullet Journal is a system that adapts to my needs.