It has been just over six years since I originally shared on this subject. To be honest, I didn’t expect the attention it got back then, but what can I say? Us paper and pen fanatics love to find ways to streamline things. And who doesn’t love a good peek into a bullet journal, am I right? Over the years I have definitely adjusted my approach even more to fit my lifestyle, my day-to-day flow, and what I need to keep track of. I thought I would share an updated look into bullet journaling and how I manage my to-do list.
If you are new here, I am a mother of five, who also home educates, and who happens to run a business. So you can imagine how often I get asked, “HOW DO YOU DO IT ALL”?! And while I assure you, I definitely don’t it all (no one does), I love the system I have in place for myself to keep track of everything I need to. My bullet journal is my second brain for when the original one fails me – ha!
Bullet journaling was the original (and brilliant) idea from Ryder Carroll. Gosh, it’s been eight years practically since coming across his idea and method. Now there are journals you can purchase, there’s an app, and even a community rallied around this concept.
I immediately connected with the concept, especially being such a pen and paper kind of gal. But my situation and daily happenings were so unique that I had adjust it a bit to fit my needs better. This is exactly why I could NEVER find a paper planner that worked for me. Either it was too involved and left me with a lot I didn’t use, or it simply wasn’t enough. I want to manage tasks and know what my day looks like, but I also want to be able to sketch an idea out, or put down some chicken scratching when needed. Bullet journaling was absolutely a perfect fit and I just had to find my own approach to it.
For the past six years, I have only used one notebook. I’m a simple gal and I don’t care for any crazy colors or designs, I want simple lined pages, and no extra “fluff”. This Greenroom one from Target has been my go-to. Whenever I am there I always grab one to add to my stockpile (I am very unlucky in falling in love with a product only to have it discontinued). I would link it for you, but Target does not list the softcover on their website. Only with a hardcover. I’m not sure if this means that it is on its way out, but I am still able to find it in person at my local Target. Fingers crossed!
My other must-haves? My Pilot G-2 pens, but only in 0.7 size. Never anything else. This is the only pen I have used in the past… well gosh – I don’t remember the last time I used anything else. Using anything else just feels wrong. Please tell me I am not alone in becoming obsessive over writing utensils. I also love sticky notes in neutral colors. It’s all about aesthetics, you know? Black ones, kraft ones, and the translucent ones are so pretty. I also make sure to have white Gellyroll pens on hand for those darker sticky notes. And don’t forget the Wite-Out. I love this mini style the best.
And of course, washi tape. I like the thinner variety and this set of more muted colors are awesome.
I am a firm believer that a system that works for one person will not necessarily work for another. Why? Because we all have different lifestyles and structures to our days. But this is why the concept of bullet journaling is so great – because you can adapt it to your specific needs. For me, I have to mix business with personal. My entire day ebbs and flows between the two and I don’t want to switch between two different planners to get what I need.
At the top of my page, I add the date, day of the week, and the month. I usually pre-date and set up pages a week in advance.
Then underneath, there are three things that fill the space. First, is the blog post I have going live that day. The second is if I have a marketing email scheduled to head out that day. Seeing both of these visually helps me quickly gauge what I might jump on my Instagram stories and share about each. And third, I add my “batch focus” for the day.
*Sidebar: I have learned over the years that batching my work keeps me focused, better prepared, and a lot less frazzled mentally. Every day of the week I know a single area of my business is going to get batched which allows me to work ahead. Things like photography and video production, content writing, even social media graphics and other design needs.
Having that visually at the top of my page also keeps me aligned with my goals for the day.
Then, it’s my “daily do’s”. At the top I always list my three PNN’s and my three BNN’s. PNN is ‘personal non-negotiables’. And BNN? You guessed it… ‘business non-negotiables’. Anything can throw off my day being a working mom at home with all of the cubs. While I try and maintain structure, there’s always possibility for hiccups. If I got to no other tasks for the day other than my non-negotiables? Well, I know that I took care of the most important things. The three that help my business stay relevant and present, and the three that ensure I am putting energy into what I need. Because we all know what happens when I don’t. Never again, friend. Never again.
Below that are my tasks for the day along with any appointments, meetings, or events. I use to glorify being busy. I used to think productivity meant a mile-long to-do list. Which 85%, oddly enough, would get shifted over to the next day because – shocker – I didn’t get to all of them. With age and experience has come a knowing that 3 or 4 tasks completed in a day will move mountains. And it will also keep me sane and a better mom which is the real bonus.
On the right side of my own task list is one for the cubs. They have the same few things to accomplish every day, but I like seeing it as well as adding any other related tasks that I need to keep tabs on. For instance, I need to order Brooks’ new course books for his kindergarten curriculum. So I would add that to the task list on the right.
Maybe for you, it would make more sense to separate your types of tasks – personal on the left, business ones on the right. Or maybe you want to track a habit! Customize this layout idea to fit your unique needs.
Finally, at the bottom of the page I leave a section for “brain sprinkles”. Yes, brain sprinkles. What are “brain sprinkles” you might be asking? It’s anything you need to get out of your head. And it’s so much more pleasant to say rather than “brain dump“. *Gag* This is basically just a place throughout my day to add any mental notes, ideas, or things I need to remember.
Because when I say my bullet journal is like a backup for my brain? I mean it.
At the beginning of a notebook, I will count out the pages for the entire month. So, for example, August has 31 days. Then on the 32nd page I will fold a piece of washi tape in half and stick it to the side of the page to act as a tab. Then, I will go back to the first page that has the first day of the month and do the same thing – fold a piece of washi tape in half and stick it to the side of the page. The tab added to the daily outlook page will be shifted throughout the month depending on what day/page I am on.
Doing this allows me to flip to the notes section of my notebook quickly and easily and then back to my daily outlook. Also, I will leave a good chunk for ongoing notes and then simply start the next month after that chunk of pages. And the whole thing then repeats until I have reached the end of a notebook.
So there you have it! A peek into bullet journaling and how I manage my to-do list. Not at all fancy in any way, but it keeps a busy gal sane! I hope this gave you some ideas on how to manage your own to-do list and maybe even inspired you a little.
Are you a fellow paper and pen fan too? What system have you found works best for you?