I think most people start off a new year with some goals and a clean slate.
Even if they don’t set resolutions, it still feels like the time of year for cleaning and clearing out.
It’s time to set some intentions and form new habits. It’s a good time to realize that your bullet journal is not just a journal, it’s actually an entire planning system.
We just have to figure out the best way to use this planning system in our daily lives.
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Why You Need a Planning System (aka Bullet Journal)
Why is it so hard to take on a new habit?
I mean we know that we should plan, we should write things down, we should be organized.
We know these things, right?
But the actual execution of some of these ideas can be really hard!
Have you ever done this?
Bought a pretty calendar or a pretty notebook to make into a journal and then just looked up one day to realize you haven’t even written anything in it? Please tell me I’m not the only one!
For three years in a row I bought beautiful planners to fill in. I added in everyone’s birthdays, a few holiday’s and some appointments. Then I used them for one month and barely glanced at them again.
Instead, I continued to write down important notes on scrap pieces of paper, gum wrappers and junk mail. I used my important notes as bookmarks in random magazines and sometimes just closed them up in my laptop.
And then I got a bullet journal.
I really thought that would solve my problems – I mean I can set up a bullet journal anyway I want so it should work perfectly right?
Well, yes and no.
You might need to repeat that a few times.
The only system that works perfectly is the system that you’ll use.
What works for you is not what works for me.
What works today could change next month.
That’s the beauty of the using your bullet journal as a planning system.
Why Your Planning System isn’t Working for You
Here are a few common reasons that your planning system might not be working for you and how to overcome them.
No Time to Plan
We are busy people aren’t we?
The to do list, the appointments, the commitments. All of these in the name of keeping our lives running smoothly. These all add up to a lot of things to keep track of and it can be overwhelming at times.
Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a moment to sit and plan, like I’m riding a merry go round. If I look straight ahead it’s all fine, but if I turn my head left or right it’s just a blur racing by.
Then I remember that if I don’t take the time to plan, I am just running in a reactive mode.
This leads to even more loss of time.
The Solution (or at least some suggestions)
By spending a few minutes each day planning you can gain back valuable time!
Start small! Set a timer for 10 minutes and work on a list. Any list.
If ten minutes feels like too much make it five.
Try to set aside a small amount of time each day.
You can start with a to do list, or just creating one page in your calendar and making sure it has your day’s most important goals on it.
If you still have time on the clock keep going – what’s on your list for tomorrow and the rest of the week? Or just sit there for a minute and do some deep breathing.
I don’t have to tell you that there are all kinds of studies and evidence that writing things down makes them more achievable. That you’ll be a more productive person if you use a planner of any kind.
And I’m definitely not here to make you feel any kind of guilt!
I’m just here to hold your hand and help you find a way to improve.
Try spending 30 minutes on Sunday evening to map out your week.
Just start with the most important things you need to accomplish and move on from there. Whether it’s a big project due at the end of the month or it’s organizing the snacks for the soccer team.
Find one small place to focus on, conquer it and move on.
You Don’t Want to Mess Up Your Planning System
Yep. I’ve done it.
I bought a pretty pretty planner with the year in gold foil and all the pretty stickers included.
And then I wanted it to look perfect.
I was so paralyzed with fear that if I messed it up the whole thing would be ruined.
So instead of using it, I just wasted a bunch of money on a pretty notebook that was dated and never got used.
Cue my first bullet journal.
I bought all the supplies – the notebook, the pens, the washi tape and rulers.
I started on a beautiful layout and messed it up. Then I tore out all the pages that I didn’t like.
And started over.
And then I left it sitting on the counter for months without using it.
I’d glance at it and then look away guiltily.
Until the day I picked it back up and decided it didn’t have to be pretty or perfect.
It’s just a blank notebook so it was easy to restart.
The Solution (er, recommendations)
There are a couple of solutions to this problem.
The first one is to just start and correct as you go.
Don’t give up, just keep moving forward.
The second is to quit looking at all those other beautiful bullet journals!
There are so many wonderfully creative people in the world who can make a journal look like a piece of art. They have amazing skills and beautiful handwriting and never run out of beautiful ideas.
Well that’s definitely not me.
Start with those baby steps.
I didn’t start with a month in my bullet journal, I started with a day. And then the next day I used it again. and after a few days I decided it would be really helpful if I added the rest of the week, then I expanded to a month.
That’s the beauty of using this type of planning system.
It’s blank pages so I can make a calendar on one page and flip to the next page and add a to do list. As long as I add the info in my index it’s easy to come back and find it.
Now my bullet journal is set up in about 3 month increments, but if I reach the end of three months and I haven’t added the next three I don’t have a panic attack about it.
My bullet journal is very minimalist. The only doodles you’ll see are the scribbles that I’ve made while I’m on hold or watching a webinar.
Sometimes I add stickers – but really only if someone gives me a sticker and I need a place to put it.
And it contains a lot of checklists.
Like it’s mostly checklists.
Because that’s what works for me.
So you have to discover what works for you.
Again, in baby steps.
TAKE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND LEAVE OUT THE REST!
Your planner should be messy. It shouldn’t be perfect. It should include all the things that you need to make your life run more smoothly and sometimes that includes crossing things off the list and adding new ones.
Cancelled plans, changed plans and all those messy things that we deal with in real life.
Try using an erasable pen if that makes you feel better.
How to Get Started with a Planning System
First try using a Brain Dump and just getting everything out of your head.
You may find that you’ve got a lot of thoughts spinning around in your head that you just need to get out. They may not be important right this minute so getting them down on paper can free up some brain space and make you feel calmer.
Then you can go through everything on that list and figure out which things are priorities, which things you can pass on to someone else and which things you can put off until another time.
Second we are going to try one thing. Just one thing towards using a planner.
Can you spend 5 minutes a day or are you better at committing a block of time once a week? Are your mornings or your evenings calmer?
Make the commitment to using the planner. But only that. Just to use it.
Feeling like you’ve overcommitted will make it much harder to keep moving forward.
Habits take time to change and time to develop so make it easy on yourself.
Leave your planner on the kitchen counter where it’s open and you can see it. Use a page of it to keep your grocery list so that it’s easy to find.
You’ll find amazing and creative ways to use your planner and you’ll quickly figure out how to make it work for you.
And then you’ll find out how much more time you can get back in your day by having a planning system.
When I started mapping out my days instead of reacting to all the things going on I began to feel much calmer.
Of course this isn’t a cure all. There are stills days that are messy and out of control. Forgotten homework, illness or the car won’t start can sure put a wrench into the best laid plans.
I mean let’s be honest, it’s not just days, it’s more like a portion of each day.
But by having my planner working for me, I have found that it’s much easier to deal with the crazy days.
Well maybe I’m a reformed planner.
My planner looks more like a checklist than a calendar, but it’s working for me right now.
And that’s the most important thing. A system that works for you.
Be sure to check out more resources on using a bullet journal in your life: