Bullet Journal Brain

Here is the long procrastinated blog post about how I use a bullet journal to keep track of my life. Perhaps the reason I am getting it done now is because I am procrastinating getting my homeschool planning done! The other truth is that despite the appearance of my house I am a bit of a perfectionist. I usually put off starting a project until I can get it done to my high specifications. Children of course have quelled some of this need for perfection but I still allow it to persist in some arenas. All procrastination, aside how do I manage to keep my chemo brain working toward all the things I need to do in a given day? Enter bullet journal. At the beginning of this year I was at my worst chemo brain. I could hardly remember to do anything. I forgot to get gas more than once and walked through the rain one day because of it. As the person who was always in charge of remembering where people put things, this was very difficult. I was desperate to find a way not to be embarrassed again for having to call for help and I definitely wanted to not come to the point of forgetting a child at an activity…which I had come very close to. As I was participating in a chemo brain study I was learning that writing things down on paper was proven to help. I latched on to this idea as I had tried more than one app with no success. I soon realized that there were a lot of pinterest ideas popping into my feed of something called a bullet journal. After some googling I discovered the originator was Ryder Carroll and his website bulletjournal.com gave me a good start. The beauty of this system is the adaptability of the system. I spent a few months changing things and I soon found that if I wrote things down in a weekly log, then again the night before and then looked over it repeatedly throughout the day I was remembering more!

I now use it together with my google calendar to keep my life in order. I put all appointments in the google calendar on my phone that way at the very least I do not forget to go to appointments. The kids also know that if it is not in the calendar it does not exist and I am not responsible for any missed activities due to it not being in the calendar. The google calendar allows us all to keep from double booking our family…well unless it is two different sports activities and we have to divide and conquer. At the end of each month, on a Sunday, I sit down with my google calendar and my bullet journal and transfer everything.

As you can see I am a fairly simple person. Number one, I do not have any artistic skills whatsoever, all those genes went to my brother. Number two, I also have a lot going on with 4 kids two of whom I homeschool, so I do not have much time for setting up all these layouts. I use a fairly simple system of each person in the family having a different color for their event/activities/appointments. Then I use one color for family activities such as visiting grandparents. This allows me to get a quick look at the chaotic needs of the month. This month is pretty benign as most fall activities have not started. I set goals for each month to keep me on task for my own activities. At the end of the month I will return to this page and see what I was able to achieve.

Once the month setup is done I move on to my weekly setup.

The setup I use can be adapted to whatever I am currently focusing on. The top row I use for re-writing appointments and top priority to-do’s such as blood draws. The second row is for the exercises(runs, arms, legs) I plan on doing each day. Clearly I am not exercising this week. I overdid last week so I am taking it easy this week. Still not 100%, but close enough that I trick myself then pay the price. The bottom row is where I do my meal planning. I do not keep my shopping list in my bullet journal, I rely on my phone for that. When I was working there was another row that I would write work to-do’s in. All that space at the bottom I have not figured out what to do with. During shopping weeks, if I can remember, I use this space to track my spending.

The next step is daily logs.

Here is my daily bread and butter. I write everything I need to do each day here. I carefully log the medications I need to take. If I don’t write down that I took them I have absolutely no memory of it so it is critical that I write it all down. I keep the color coding consistent through each log: monthly, weekly, and daily. I write down the smaller things that need done: phonecalls, small to-do’s, big to-do’s, ongoing tasks, holidays up under the date, and anything else I need to remember. By the time an appointment has made it to this page I am confident I will remember it and make it there as I am on my third time writing it. At the end of the day I try to use the remaining space to journal the day. I note things the kids have done, symptoms I have had, foods that did not work with my joints, and I try to end it with some gratitude notes. Keeps things collected and in perspective.

I use washi tape to mark pages I may need to flip back to. Purple glitter, given to me by my youngest, marks the month calendar so I can flip back to it each week or as events are added. I use gold to mark the start of my oral medication cycle. I have a blue one I use at the back of the journal for reference pages: family present idea page, exercise idea pages so I can mix up my workouts, song wish list, or anything else I may need to reference. As the days go on if I find I need to take notes for some reason I just put them on the next available page and list it in the contents at the beginning of the journal. Before doctor appointments I take a page to write questions so I don’t forget to ask anything. When we go on trips I make packing lists and to-do before the trip lists. Whenever I need to write something down I keep it in this journal that way I don’t lose pieces of paper and I always know when and where I need to be. It works really well. Now if I could write down everything I need before I head into the pantry I would not waste as much time standing in the pantry wondering what on earth I am doing there.

I enjoy the setting up of the journal every morning. My mathematical mind revels in the perfectly made lines. My realistic mind lets the mistakes slide, after all I am not perfect why should my journal say otherwise. When I was on steroids and had insomnia I would easily get up early pour a cup of coffee, get my breakfast potatoes started and sit down with my journal to set up the day. I felt so organized and peaceful. By the time the kids got up I felt ready for the day. I am naturally not a morning person so this was all new to me and I enjoyed it. So now that I am off the steroids and back to not being a morning person, I am desperately trying to get my butt up early enough to reclaim these moments of peace. I guess I should have added that to my monthly goals. I better get to bed so I can make another go of getting up early!


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