BuJo – For Real, This Time

I love making lists. Love checking things off to do list and recording what goes on in my life. The thing is…I sort of stink at actually keeping up with any of it. I write a to do list during work of things I have to do at home on a trusty sticky note. The sticky note never even leaves my purse upon getting home. Just stays there to be found days later, when I roll my eyes at myself for being such a flake.

My work life is kept very separate from my home life. I have a work notebook that stays at work and a work calendar that is meticulously maintained so I’m not the one forgetting about a 10 o’clock meeting that I’m supposed to be running (which I did in the past). Those times work or home interferes with the other (e.g. in to work late due to a dentist appointment, have to stay until 6 pm for a late meeting), I try to write down. But where? One of those stickies or in whatever notebook I have in front a me. A notebook that I’ll probably toss aside at the end of a month or when I get tired of it and convince myself it’s time to buy a new notebook. If something happens weeks from now and I don’t have the right notebook/calendar in front of me, it’s a 50/50 chance it’s getting forgotten until the week of.

I tried Getting Things Done. Easy – you make a giant list of everything to do then organize all of the paper you need to do those things. One folder per project. Done with a project or putting it off until later? Stash it away. All well and good…if your life can be tracked entirely on paper. But I’m an engineer – we do print out way too many Power Point slides but most of my life is transacted electronically. Emails. Policy notes. Excel files. Models. Diagrams. Do I make a million separate files, taking up a ton of space on precious shared drives or SharePoint sites? (Yes, we still use those.) It wasn’t working. I was too focused on how to plan out every.single.thing. that I didn’t have time to actually do anything. The to do list grew and grew and grew.

I became someone who purely reacted to things as they happened, maybe getting ready for something a few days in advance. My to do lists were only the things I absolutely had to do that day, unless they could be tracked via email or calendar invites. If something was in my inbox, it meant I had to do something in response. That trusty Outlook flag used for the most important things – well, in theory. Often my entire list of opened but not yet archived email was flagged.

I’d heard about bullet journaling for years. I’d read the summary from it’s creator on its elements. I’d pinned 100s of beautiful BuJo pages on Pinterest. I’d followed converts on social media. I even tried it but realized I was doing it as a way to try to appear impressive. Look at how beautiful I can make my list of books I read this year! They look like little books! Again, nothing was getting done at a rate any better than my miss-matched system of stickies, reminders, and repeating “pack lunch” in my head until I fell asleep.

Just before the end of the year, I bought a copy of the actual book, The Bullet Journal Method and read more about the “why” of all of it. Why you need to empty your head of to do lists. Why you need to focus on the things you can do today and keep things to do in the future on a different page. Why it doesn’t have to be pretty but does have to be legible and easy to find information. Why you should just keep going, one page after the other, because your brain works like that, anyway (and you have that index to find stuff).

I started just after Christmas which is amazing as I usually put off starting until a big milestone, like a new month. I emptied my head into a big list of things I knew I had to get done, from the immediate (do laundry) to things happening weeks away (see if Sarah can cover reserving a booth on 8 Jan). I read the book in bits and pieces when I was waiting for my computer to log in or my lunch to reheat. I took notes IN THE NOTEBOOK, though these did get relegated to a random later portion of it so they could all be together.

So far, it’s really working for me. I’m finding myself feeling less frazzled and getting more things done. I’m focusing on why things need to be done, not just assuming if they pop into my head as needing to be done that they’re both important and need to be done by me. Also, I’m not trying to make things super pretty. I’m using mostly whatever pen is nearby, often a random black pen or marker. Stickers if they’re handy.

The Leuchtturm I’m using comes with its own Index which makes things easy.
Things I’d like to do this year. Made a similar list last ear but only finished half the items.
January title page which is sort of funny as January notes and things don’t start for several pages. But thisĀ  is fine, as my Index tells me where things really start. (Stickers are from my Pipsticks subscription package from December.)
Random daily page. I’m not normally this productive.
Yarn stash vs planned projects. These were layer added to my Queue for better tracking, but this was how I got started with the planning of it all.



Do you BuJo? Have you before? Does it/has it worked for you?


10 Tips for Habit Trackers

If you’ve ever checked out Pinterest or Instagram for BuJo inspiration, you’ve seen lots of examples of habit trackers folks have created for themselves. But, with all of that inspiration comes a bit of decision-paralysis. How do you choose what to track? How much is too much? Here’s ten things to keep in mind when setting up your own habit tracker.

  1. Track positive steps over negative ones. You’re more likely to be motivated by “Veggies as main dinner side.” rather than “No carbs at dinner.”
  2. Don’t track too many items. You’ll find yourself totally overwhelmed, trying to keep up with everything. Your tracker will also wind up being so large you’re likely to go crazy drawing it out.
  3. Include easy wins. Ever made a to do list with things you already did on it, just to make yourself feel like you’d accomplished something? Include something you’re likely to do, anyway, even if you didn’t have the tracker. It’s not fair to include “Made bed” if you already do it 90% of the time, but include things you do most, but not all days.
  4. …and stretch goals. No use tracking all of the habits you already have! Track some things which will need to remind yourself of on a daily basis.
  5. Consider tracking things which are not habits, per say, but things like “Low anxiety day” or “Migraine” or your cycle. You could also track your mood, helping you to figure out how you figure out how your habits impact your mood.
  6. Resist the urge to change the habits you track each month. This may sound appealing, but most of us needs to focus on habits month after month to make them stay. If you feel you’ve mastered a habit, pull it from the tracker, but don’t remove things you only did only some of the time, assuming they’re still important to you.
  7. Review your list every morning (or, if you’re not a morning person, before you go to bed). Every day. It’ll help remind you what’s important and keep your habits in the forefront.
  8. Make your tracker pretty. I know, I know. The habit tracker is really about the tracking part, not the aesthetics, but having a pretty tracker will help you to use it more. Because don’t we all want to look at something that’s visually appealing?
  9. Ensure each item on your list is measurable. Yep, goal-making 101. Record 30 minutes of cardio rather than simply exercising.
  10. Resist the urge to wait until the beginning of the month or week or you get a new notebook. You can start on a random Thursday afternoon. Think of it as a dry-run for a time you feel important enough to get started.


In case you need some inspiration or ideas: