Throughout most of the end of 2016 (and when I mean most, I basically mean the last nine months of 2016), it was a very chaotic time for me. My business, January Creative, was growing more rapidly and I was taking on lots of new projects and clients. At the same time, I started ramping up a side project/hobby of mine that I had been working on for around a year, and was ready to take a new leap with the hobby.
With so much going on, I was struggling to keep up: staying up late every night to get things done, neglecting important things such as taking care of myself, pushing off things such as marketing my business, regular house cleaning, and personal finance management (the bills still got paid, but the record keeping was left to a less busy time). I could go on and on (and likely will in future posts), but for now let’s just say: things got crazy.
Not only did things get crazy, I was dropping the ball on the small things: forgetting to do things, not keeping on pace with my goals, had notes everywhere on things I wanted to do, and I didn’t spend time adequately focusing my time and attention to the things that mattered.
By the time it was Christmas, I was wore out, behind, stressed because I was behind, and thankful that things were starting to calm down as 2017 was quickly approaching. I knew I needed to make some changes.
Should I or should I not buy a planner?
At the start of 2016 I bought a nice fancy planner (as I always do at the beginning of each year since I was in high school) and had used that to help me stay on track of things. But, as the year progressed, I found myself using it less and less and ultimately ended up not using it much past March other than as a place to hold bills and important pieces of paper in the front. At the end of 2016, the planner had a lot of blank spots in it.
I debated on even buying a planner for 2017. I figured, if I didn’t use the 2016 one (and let’s be honest, I didn’t use much of the 2015 one either), then why spend $40 on one that I will end up not using? So I had made the decision not to buy one. Right before I had made the decision not to buy a planner, I entered a long-shot giveaway for…. a planner. I knew it was a long shot and likely wouldn’t win, but the planners they were giving away were so damn cute, and I love me some office supplies.
I said no to a planner, but then I won one
Well, I ended up being the second of 12 winners, which was awesome, and almost a week after I had decided not to buy a planner. I was excited that I had won a giveaway (because I never really win anything). I ended up picking the Plans + Things planner and it arrived around the first part of December.
It was as beautiful as I had hoped it would be, and I was excited. So excited I immediately went to Etsy to start shopping for—- planner stickers. I’ve never used planner stickers, but in deciding which planner I wanted for the giveaway I won, I seen how others used these fun, cute, bright, and awesome planner stickers, and I was hooked. I bought way more than I care to admit in planner stickers, and proceeded to gush over them to my fiance for the next several weeks (I still do).
Bullet journaling has been a recently intriguing concept for me
Thus, I proceeded to use my new planner for 2017, but it still didn’t totally fit everything I needed nor wanted. It worked for some things, but not all. So, one of the main changes I made going into 2017 was the desire to start bullet journaling. I had seen others talk about it, seen it show up in various social media channels I regularly spend time in, and had seen websites that mentioned it as well. I then proceeded to do what any other curious person would do: I researched and learned what bullet journaling was all about.
And I was hooked. I knew this was a way to not only help me get back on track and focused, but would pull me out of the rut and the mess I made. I needed some way to keep track of my goals in my personal life, business life, and in my hobbies. I had so many things I want to accomplish, so many things to look forward to, so many things that I wanted to start tracking and build better, healthier habits.
Melding the use of a planner and bullet journaling
Why did I just go into detail about my off-again, on-again planner use, even though this article is more tailored to bullet journaling? Mainly because I still use both the planner and bullet journal now, but for different reasons. I use the planner to plot specific events (birthdays, bill due dates, doctors’ appointments, family events) as well as make a record of what happened that day. With the use of my fancy planner stickers, using the planner has been more enjoyable as I’m always eager to use a new sticker.
My bullet journal, on the other hand, is more for free-form or specific types of things that I want to plan, record, and track that isn’t well suited for the planner. The planner keeps me from missing important things, and the bullet journal helps me keep organized.
My life doesn’t fit neatly in the layout of a pre-made planner
As a freelancer, I’ve found that my life can’t neatly fit into a planner, and I would likely go through an entire bullet journal in a few months due to all the things I could have used it for. Most people who bullet journal do daily/weekly spreads, in other words they create their own planner that fits their needs. In my case, I skipped the daily/weekly spreads and only do monthly spreads.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now what I use my bullet journal for as a freelancer, as I don’t use it as a planner.
Being a freelancer means I’m juggling various things: client work, business goals, personal goals, marketing, etc. That’s a lot to try to manage in a planner, not to mention things like ideas, lists, plans, goals, habits, and exercise.
My bullet journal fills the gaps that my planner can’t
My planner is for: events; meetings; appointments; a list of things I did that day; a kan-ban board type system for items to do, currently doing, done, and waiting; a place to put post it notes for things like “things to order;” and keeping track of what I prepared for dinner and on what days (no more wondering how old something is in the fridge).
My bullet journal is for: habit tracking, list (collections) making, broad journaling, future tracking, monthly overview of goals, running personal project list, and other such items.
So far: the bullet journal has been a life saver, and my planner has been its side-kick
My bullet journal paired with my planner keeps everything on track. I keep track of my habits I’m trying to build, my exercise routines, article ideas I want to write about, personal projects I want to get done, things I’ve promised others I would do for them, a mood tracker, a daily gratitude journal, a future tracker with all of 2017 months in there, my self-made cleaning schedule for my home, and a monthly spread of goals and big items I want to tackle for the month. My planner keeps track of the things I did that day and the things that need to be done that week, along with any random post-its that are important, but temporary.
So my first 30 days using this system (well, it’s been about a month and a half now as I’ve been finishing up this article) has helped me establish better habits, monitor my goals and mood, and have a running record of things I’ve done and things to do. It’s improved my ability to get things done and push myself to my goals. It’s becoming a peaceful time for me to sit down and reflect in both my bullet journal and planner as I go through the pages recording the days activities and habits.
(What, no pictures of your bullet journal or planner? What gives? I wanted to, trust me, but I felt like most of my stuff was private and I didn’t want those things to be so visible on the web. Sorry.)