I’m a fairly busy person. I’m currently a full time student with a part time job and additional professional commitments, performances, and events, not to mention a social life! Some days it’s hard to find a good balance between what I have to do, want to do, and need to do. There are days when even the smallest tasks on my list seem just as heavy as the term paper due next Wednesday. So how do I manage all of this? A year ago when I took time off from being a full time student, I started journaling. Writing everything down really helps me stay efficient, focused, and committed.
One of the things I always carry with me is my Bullet Journal.* This system, which I have modified to fit my personal needs, has really helped me stay organized since I started journaling in March 2016. I use it to help keep track of my life, school assignments, commitments, goals, and personal care.
*Disclaimer: The term Bullet Journal and the original content layout belong to Ryder Carroll. While I use his system, I do not make any claim to own or have invented or created the Bullet Journal system of journaling. I am receiving no payment for this endorsement.
Journaling: Getting Organized
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
What’s the best way to stay organized? One step at a time.
I like to organize my entire journal in increments: Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, Daily, and Hourly. This helps me get the best sense of what I need to do and when. When I am creating layouts, I only like to stay about a week and a half ahead, but when I set up the entire journal I made it possible to keep track of the entire year from at a glance. Let me show you what I mean.
(By no means does your journal have to be as colorful or thorough as mine! The entire brilliance of the Bullet Journaling system is that it’s entirely customizable. I am a very visual person and having so many colors helps me stay organized.)
Increment 1: Yearly
I started a brand new journal for 2017. I saw it as an opportunity to get a fresh start on the year ahead and stay organized in an upcoming busy semester. At the very front I put my mantra for 2017: “A New Leaf” and on the next page, some goals I had for the upcoming year.
On the next pages I set a framework for the entire year. I only like to stay about a week and a half ahead when doing weekly and daily spreads, but I also have to have a place to keep future important dates and tentative dates (appointments, etc).
On the Left side of each page there is a calendar, as well as dates that will not change for the year. Color coordinated: Blue is holidays, purple is school, and pink is holidays. The right side is for tentative dates / things I will not have to write for awhile such as appointments, reminders, etc. I often write these on sticky notes.
Increment 2: Monthly
The next section, as I work towards smaller segments of time while still staying ahead of the game, is to insert a calendar for the whole upcoming month, followed by a day-at-a-glance for the whole month. (Again, this is color coded for my reference).
Increments 3, 4 & 5: Weekly, Daily & Hourly
Next I organize my time by week. I have an at-a-glance for every day of the week and a preview of the next week. The following pages break down where I will be each day (hourly). This all helps me see where I will need to prioritize my work time vs. free time, when I am available to meet with professors, and so on.
(Due to my school schedule, I “start” my weeks on Monday.)
Having such a detailed grip on my life helps keep me focused and ready for what I have to face next. It’s also helpful for looking backwards at what I have already accomplished.
Journaling for School
Since I am a full-time student, I have integrated several school-oriented elements into my journaling. This helps me keep track of everything I have to do on a weekly basis as well as keeping track of big tests and projects due in the future.
I started with a spread of my basic weekly schedule as well as information on meeting times, professor contact, and a place to keep track of absences so that I do not lose count.
I also add a section in my weekly spread for due dates, projects, and other important notes from school.
Keeping track of everything in advance helps me stay balanced and reduces the stress caused by such a busy semester.
Journaling for Self-Care
Another important part of journaling for me is keeping track of my personal care and mood. It is so easy to get caught up in how busy and stressful things are that you forget to take care of yourself! It’s very easy to integrate self-care into journaling. Here are some examples* of ways I document my self-care in my journal.
*In this section I will be featuring examples other journal-keepers have shared publicly – since this is such a personal subject, I do not wish to share my own journal here. These examples are just like the ones I use. I do not claim the examples in the content below. Sources given for each example. I am not receiving any payment or promotion for these endorsements.
Increment 1: Yearly
In the front of my journal I have a year-long daily mood tracker called a #YearInPixels. Each day I fill in my mood and day quality with a different color so that at the end of the year I can reflect on how each day was. This long-term mood tracking is hard to keep up with, but it can prove to be very effective for observing patterns and reflecting on past experiences.
Another yearly (in small doses) activity I have been attempting to do is a video of 2 seconds every day. While this is not necessarily a journaling activity, recording this daily task over the course of a year really helps me to think of small things that I did or saw every day that were positive. At the end of a year I will be able to look back on the video and see how much I have done, seen, and grown within a year.
Here is a video made by my friend Christine of her life in 2016 shown using 2 seconds of video from each day. She inspired me to start making a similar video of my life in 2017.
Having something small to track your mood and reflect on the highlights of each day over a year is a great way to integrate self-care into your journaling.
Increments 2, 3, & 4: Monthly, Weekly & Daily
For each month, I set goals as to my desired accomplishments within the month. This helps keep me grounded and focused on what I need to get done within each month.
I also include a month-long daily habit tracking section at the beginning of each month. Habit trackers are used to track how often a task is completed. Each day once a task is completed, you fill in a box. Over time, you can look back and see how many days you completed these tasks and look for patterns. This is a great way to track self care habits, water intake, practice sessions, and so much more! Start small – track two or three tasks or habits for a week before trying to document and monitor your entire life.