Planning Old Skool (or Ode to My Bullet Journal)

Nobody wants to start the New Year in a flurry of disorganisation, do they? So today I’m going to talk planning. … It’s so uncool, right? It makes me feel like that kid in class who not only bothered to write revision notes, but also highlighted them in multiple colours. But I’ve got to do it. I’ve got three children in school/daycare – with all the accompanying paraphernalia/activities/trips/strike days  that includes. I work and I still need to run my household. Plus, my OH is awesome, but he’s also a chef and sometimes works crazy hours (or more than crazy – like when he went to an island for 5 months last summer, working seven days a week until 1 or 2 am). Oh, and my memory is rubbish – I need backup.

So where to start? Trello, Google Calender, iCalendar … there are so many options, but it’s really a personal choice. I tried Trello, and it’s great, but it didn’t click with me because at heart I’m a pen-and-paper girl. I tried to move with the times, but honestly, I’m Old Skool (I listen to 80s rock, guys. … I still miss my MP3 player). I like to write stuff down with a pen and see it there on the page. There’s probably some psychological explanation for that, but I’m going to go with the idea that I just like it.

And that’s OK. Because there are other non-technological planners out there. In fact, there’s a whole community – The Bullet Journal-ers. Type ‘bullet journal’ into Pinterest and you will be amazed. You will think, “Wow – so pretty!” “How talented!” “What lovely colours!” You may also think – like I did – “Woah, these people have a lot of time on their hands.” … But I don’t mean that judgmentally. Everyone’s got to have a hobby (mine is writing a blog with a slightly vague theme!) and I’m sure there’s something therapeutic about practising those pretty fonts. … But I ain’t got time for that. Sometimes, I go four days without washing my hair FGS.

The point of a bullet journal is not its appearance, though, it’s its functionality. The bullet system itself is perfect in its simplicity – every task gets a bullet, and when the task is complete the bullet is crossed out. If the task is migrated to another day, it gets an arrow. And that’s really all there is to it. The rest is down to design.

That’s the true beauty of a bullet journal. It’s YOURS. Sure, you may have to take a few extra minutes to draw the lines yourself – but you can draw them anywhere you like. Page-a-day, seven days on a double spread, space for trackers, space for a quotation – whatever works for you. Finding the right layout is a process of trial-and-error. I originally started by trying to emulate those beautiful journals I saw on Pinterest, but I quickly realised that that wasn’t my style. I like something pretty, but simple and quick to fill in. Likewise, my previous (and first) bullet journal was the recommended ruled heavy-duty (and expensive) job – think Molskine and Leuchtturm. I liked the space it gave, but this year I’ve settled on something a bit more lightweight … and a bit more ‘me’.

I tried a bunch of designs before I settled on my current one. Last year I even had – and this is where it gets really sad – an integrated meal planner. It worked really well, actually – the only reason I don’t still use it is that Mr Chef has pretty much shouldered the responsibility of feeding the family now that he’s working a job with (almost) regular hours. (And might I add – yay!)

Personally, I don’t add a lot of extra info like trackers for diet and exercise – I’ve even seen people track the weather! For me, it’s a place to record the tasks I need to do and might forget (like picking up the kids’ injections, paying the taekwondo school) and appointments (doctors, coffee dates, English lessons) that might slip my mind on a busy day. Also, I write down tasks for the house which I’m not overly keen on – like ironing, for example. I mean, I know I have to do the ironing – the pile is sitting right there in my living room – but I can put it off for weeks. I am a master of procrastination. But if I write it down, I have the motivation to cross out that little bullet point. Yes, I am a complete loser, but at least the ironing gets done!

I do add extra pages, though. I had a double spread to track my daughter’s diet when she started eating solids, I’ve written to-do lists for parties and the baby’s baptism. I have regular pages every month for my blog plan and my goals. (I actually have my goals recorded in another notebook, but I migrate the ‘baby steps’ over to my bullet journal to keep me on track). Then I have a double spread per week, and one per month where I record birthdays and name days that I shouldn’t forget!

Yes, I have become the kid with the revision notes and the highlighter pens. But I’m OK with that. I’m so much more in control of everything – and so much less stressed. Mr Chef may get endless amusement from mocking me about my ‘lists’ (Oh, it is so much more than a list, baby.) but I’m sure he’s glad I’m not a hot mess … and that I don’t feed the kids frozen fishfingers every time he’s working late.

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