Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bullet Journal Binder: my version of a "bullet journal" style planner

At the beginning of last year I noticed bullet journaling becoming popular. It seemed to be a trending topic both in social media + local events. Here there was a group of ladies getting together to update and decorate their planners (planner parties!). I love planners but to me this sounded more like scrapbooking than planning so I opted out. I am not a scrapbooker because I just can't keep up with it. I like crafting but this just wasn't an area of interest for me. I didn't look into it any further and moved right along with my usual way of making lists upon lists everywhere.

Around that same time I had implemented a new large calendar in our kitchen that Ben made me. I absolutely love it and will probably use it for as long as there are children with busy schedules under our roof. I have all these events on my phone but needed something that the whole family could easily access. The large squares make for plenty of room for writing down multiple things each day. It lives on the fridge because we spend most of our time in or near our kitchen, and I even color coded it (with these pens)for at-a-glance interpretation. I do a mass update around the end or beginning of every month and make smaller changes as events are added or cancelled throughout the month. It has really helped me this past year to see how our schedule looks all lumped together, meal plan based on activities each evening and simplify our schedule (AKA say "no thanks) when things got too busy. 

Aside from the calendar our fridge also had a list of monthly to-do lists that were categorized by type, a laminated chore schedule for us and one for the kids. Then on our desk was a clipboard full of various notes and lists, some of which I filed away when I was done with them and others that got recycled if they were no longer needed. I had a seperate notebook for keeping track of essential oil orders + uses, a large spiral notebook with blog notes, a small notebook with our weekly meal plans (we keep our grocery lists on an app called Our Groceries because it syncs between our phones), and if there are any special events or things that need planning they either add to the lists on the clipboard or get their own file (like when it's time to do taxes) that sits in a pile with the clipboard. My lists were everywhere. To-do lists for cleaning, home repairs, event planning, shopping for specific items (notes on prices, brands, and other comparisons), decluttering (oh the irony), gifting during Christmas...

Then during this past winter break I came across something on pinterest that perked my curiosity about bullet journals again. I would give credit but I got swallowed by Pinterest's hoards of information on the subject and can't recall where I had begun but it's likely on my new Organize 2017 board somewhere... The thing that caught my eye was the idea of having all of my events, lists and the like in one area. The dealbreaker for me was that I would have to predict how much space I would need in a bullet journal for a certain section and risk having to continue that section elsewhere in the notebook. I prefer having "like with like" so that wasn't going to work for me. I searched "bullet journal binder" and found hardly anything so I realized I was going to have to figure something out on my own. I realized that while I could format much of this binder like a bullet journal and find ideas using that term, that I could really customize it to my needs and wants. A sort of bullet journal/planner hybrid.

{my cover + Index, as well as my favored pens}

To create my bullet journal binder, I shopped the house. I had quite a few office supplies in good shape from my college days. That was the best part to me because I am out little to no money if I eventually decide this doesn't work for me. Same goes for a traditional bullet journal, there are very inexpensive options out there to start with! I can't say the same for most planners, they tend to be very spendy + expire after the calendar year. 

I posted a few snapshots of my process on Instagram + Facebook and had quite a few questions roll in so I figured posting more extensively about it here would make sense for those interested. 

My first piece of advice is: make it work for you. Don't be afraid to customice pre-existing options and think outside of what current trends are. What first kept me away from bullet journaling was all the pretty curated versions everyone shares. This can be as pretty, plain, or messy as you want it to be- it's for you and no one else! 

I should mention that my version is not meant to shove in a purse and use on the go. I will use all these notes at home. Anything I need to be mobile, is on my phone in the Evernote app, my calendar, or to-do lists. We utilize the family function on iPhone to coordinate tasks + events between myself + Ben.  

After spending a lot of time looking at what I wanted in my binder,  I gathered my supplies: 

Gather your Supplies + make  a wish list: 
First I took notes on what I wanted to have in the binder and how I wanted it to work for me. What features I needed it to have. 
Then I went over all my current methods that I wanted to consolidate and made a list. I used this list to create categories that would go together well for me and turned it into my Index. This would help me create the sections of my journal. 

{upper left: a binder pocket with a label a section label,
 upper right: the legend for symbols used throughout,
ower left: dividers with erasable tabs + washi tape tabs}

Next, I browsed to learn more about their concept and format. I used some of their formatting style and left other pieces out. I implemented the Index (but did not number my pages), future log, weekly calendar (which I may not keep up), a daily section and collections. I left out the monthly section since I have those details on my oversized kitchen calendar.

My favorite part is "collections" because it can be whatever you need it to be. You can keep running notes or a "brain dump" section, you can add a section for books you want to read/listen to, you can have to-do lists specific to projects, events or other categories. It's really fluid. If you need aditional inspiration there are ideas all over Pinterest (of course) for different lists to incorporate for both organizational and creative uses. Some are even free printables which make starting up these sections even easier!

Create your Main Sections:
Once I had the big picture down I created the sections based on my index. I worked first on the future log, weekly pages, and daily to-do. I moved anything from my calendar that I wanted to have access to from the notebook to this area. I like the future log for seeing a 6 month period at a glance, I just keep highlights for each month there, I don't include our weekly outings like play dates + Bible study since those are recurring. I also only put immediate family birthdays since I have an extensive list of birthday reminders on my phone. 

{upper left: my future log per the bullet journaling format,
upper right: my daily section on grid paper,
lower photos: my oversized monthly calendar}

The weekly section is still a work in progress for me as I figure how much or how little to include there and whether this section is necessary for me. I like the idea of putting more details on this page than I want to/can fit on my calendar, so it may stay for that purpose. Like notes about what to bring to certain events for example. The daily page is great for tasks, it helps me to remember all the things I wanted to accomplish that day and if something isn't urgent I can add it to the next day or move things I've not finished. 

While I was in the middle of setting up this whole binder I realized I had a ton of things piling up in my brain so I did a quick "brain dump" list so that I could clear my head and move on. I think I will find myself doing this fairly often, It was such a relief to get those things out of my head so I could listen to an audiobook and finish putting this thing together without those distractions. Later in the week I moved things off of that page into the sections where they belong. 

{a printable year at a glance + more 3-ring binder pockets with labels} 

On my Index page you can see the sections I created under collections and some of their subsections. So far my main collections are home, family, health, hobbies and notes. In home I will keep lists of home decor projects, repairs, yard + garden ideas, and the like. Under family I will keep our meal plans, notes about schedules and extracurriculars, birthday planning, etc. 
{upper: our master grocery list for easy restocking reference, l
ower left: weekly meal planning with sticky notes!,
lower right: a list of our favorite meals to aid in creating the sticky note meal planner
and adding variety to our dinner plans}

I made health it's own category instead of putting it under family because I wanted it to have several sub categories. The first page is a lot of notes about each of us and our various ailments because we have all been rotating sickness the last couple of months. This has come in handy already for relaying symptoms and length of time to the doctor at our appointments. I won't keep long term information like allergies and medications here but in our file cabinet with other health records.  I also keep a list of everyone's medication allergies in evernote because our allergies + sensitivities are just simliar enough to each other to get confusing when the time comes to remind the doctor or pharmacist. In the health section I also have a page of essential oil uses and recipes. I had been keeping sticky notes in my oils notebook where  I had kept track of my orders and inventory. Now I can keep those seperate (I have a doTerra section for ordering in the back of my binder). 

My next section is for hobbies. I have quite a few hobbies that I juggle, then leave sitting for a time but always come back to. When I do that I am sometimes left wondering what step I was on in a crochet piece or who was I going to make something for and what colors did they now I have a place to keep all those notes straight. I also have a section there for this blog to keep things straight when I think of an idea for a post or when someone wants to do a feature + review (I have 2 new ones coming up!). 

{left: my first "brain dump" list after having moved these items to their appropriate sections,
upper right: remedies page in our health section,
lower right: crochet projects in the hobby section.}

And at the very end of my binder is a section all for varied notes + to-do lists. I would like to create subsection for books I want to read/listen to, I have notes going for a book on the enneagram types I am listening to right now (so fascinating!) and I'm sure I'll keep adding notes to this section. 

My binder is fairly narrow so I see myself pulling things out once I stop needing to add or refer to them any longer and filing them away. In our desk we have two file drawers that we keep things in for less frequent access and storage. Then from there we move things on to recycling, or storage in the garage file cabinets, and lastly if they are a keepsake (like kid's art work, but of course not all of it!) they get boxed for long term storage. I keep a large padded envelope for each child each year so they can be stored away in those for future access, rather than take up precious filing space. 

How do you organize your schedule? Do you bullet journal, use a life planner, or keep track of things in some other way? I am just so thankful there are as many ways to organize things as there are people with different preferences! Only time will tell if this method sticks for me, but I am enjoying trying something new for the moment. 

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