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In college, I started using a paper planner to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and class schedules. (I would never have kept a 4.0 GPA all four years if I hadn’t invested in that cheap paper planner from Walmart every year!). In my senior year, I depended on that planner even more because I started working with a number of clients on editing projects while still balancing a full-time class schedule. But soon after college, I met Google Calendar and started digitally keeping track of my life.
But something was missing.
Inside Google Calendar, I had learned how to set recurring events (no more having to write down regular appointments or weekly work times!), schedule reminders for myself, and even share my Google calendar with others.
I live with Google Calendar always up on my browser.
But early last year, I discovered I missed having a little more analog in my life. I wanted to write things down more.
What resulted was a plethora of post-it notes.
I almost drowned in post-its.
At about the same time, a blogging friend introduced me to bullet journals. I bought a moleskine dotted journal and went to town. I immediately fell in love, but discovered I had fallen into a quandary: didn’t bullet journaling cost me more time than it saved? I was basically going to create my very own planner, right?
Bullet journaling gives me the freedom to plan, to take notes, to track habits, and cross off tasks on my to-do list. All while fully customizable inside my moleskine dotted journal (here’s the exact teal one I use and love!).
Do I still use Google Calendar to keep track of my schedule?
Yep! While I adore my Bullet Journal, I still use Google Calendar to house my calendar. Some reasons why:
- I love the color-coded freedom of dragging and dropping events on my weekly and monthly schedule. Quick. Easy.
- I share my calendar with my husband and input events that we both need to be aware of: such as the Wednesday night small group that we lead or double-date plans.
- I check my Reminders once a day to check off regularly scheduled things like changing the air filter.
- I enjoy having instant access to my Google Calendar through a user-friendly app on my phone.
That last one is especially helpful when a directionally challenged girl like me needs to GPS an address; clicking on an address inside a Google calendar event gives me the option of immediately opening my GPS app. Sweet!
With the exception of Reminders, though, Google Calendar doesn’t function for me in something I desperately need and thrive with: a to-do list. I’ve tried the Tasks function but that always seemed too clunky.
Enter the Bullet Journal.
How to organize your entire life with a moleskine dotted journal
Confession: I’m a productivity junkie. I enjoy writing and rewriting my to-do lists, crossing things off, and accomplishing my goals. I listen to entire podcast episodes about productivity.
I don’t enjoy having my computer screen plastered with post-it notes of things I need to do today, this week, this month. I don’t enjoy the clutter of how that looks or feels. So instead I use my bullet journal to capture my task lists.
I categorize my to-dos and tasks into two distinct categories: This Month and This Week
How does this work? Here’s the tour:
How I Organize My Week
My Google Calendar easily lets me switch between monthly and weekly views. (I never use the Daily option.) At a glance, I can see these two separate renderings of time: 30 days and 7 days.
I use the monthly and weekly views to capture big-picture things, such as:
- Upcoming Birthdays
- Important Dates
Inside my moleskine dotted journal, I also keep track of monthly and weekly views. Down one page in my bullet journal are all of the month’s dates and corresponding appointments, due dates, etc. But on the opposite page is a task list with my monthly goals and projects.
Then in my weekly spread, I outline a to-do list of 5-7 things I hope to accomplish this week. I identify my 5-7 things on Monday by assessing the big-picture items on my monthly spread and breaking down my goals, deadlines, and this month’s projects into action items.
So my weekly goals list looks a little like this:
- the three action steps I need to complete to reach my monthly goal or complete this month’s projects
- scheduling time to work on that novel I’m editing so I don’t miss the deadline
- a reminder to purchase a birthday card or gift
How I Organize My Future Projects
You may be wondering what I do about far-out things, past the next 30 days. My Future Projects lives inside of Evernote.
My Future Projects list contains everything from home improvement projects I want to tackle to beautify or better organize our home, my 30-before-30 bucket list, a list of ideas for books I want to write, etc.
My Future Projects are ideas for things I want to conquer in the future but can’t get to right now.
For example, if I decide one day that I really, really want to redecorate a room, I’m not going to just suddenly add that my to-do list for the week because my weekly spread is not a project list. It’s a task list and “redecorate X room” would overwhelm me because no way could I accomplish that in one week!
I’m also not going to add “redecorate X room” to my monthly spread because I need to properly plan for a project in order to see it succeed. I’ve already thoughtfully chosen the projects I’m working on this month. Maybe I’ll get to redecorating next month; maybe that will need to wait six months.
But now that project is safely listed in my Evernote where I won’t lose it or forget about it so I can come back to it later when I have the time and choose to use it in that way.
The system that keeps me on task and on time—all the time!
So there you have it! Using a bullet journal (and Google Calendar and Evernote to support it) enables me to consistently stay on task and on time. Of course I have bumpy weeks when nothing goes to plan and/or I get sick and get nothing done.
But using this productivity system saves me so much time and energy because I’m never wondering what I should do next or if I’m letting something slide.
Want to learn more about how to bullet journal? Check out my friend Kalyn’s Brainbook, the complete guide to bullet journaling.
With gentle instruction, encouragement, and down-to-earth advice, Brainbook serves as your comprehensive bullet journaling roadmap so you can turn any blank notebook into a powerful planning tool that corrals your calendar, to-do lists, notes, ideas, and long-term goals in one organized place.
In this guide, you’ll discover:
- How to eliminate “blank page fear” and set up your journal for success from the very beginning (also includes a setup checklist!)
- Which notebooks and other supplies are best for your needs
- The key to maintain your journal without it sucking all of your time
- Advanced tips and tricks to take your journal to the next level
- Five pivotal success secrets to keep your journal top of mind so it can support everything you do
- What to do when your journal isn’t quite working for you
But most of all, you’ll learn how to set up a personalized planning system that simplifies your life, helps you manage all your day-to-day responsibilities in addition to long-term goals, and supports your own personal growth journey, so you can be the wife, mom, friend, daughter, and person you’ve always wanted to be.
In other words, you’ll finally achieve balance!
Bonus Tip: Organizing my inbox the same way I organize my planner and moleskine dotted journal has transformed my inbox.
It’s true: Using the same mentality I’ve adopted with my schedule has revolutionized my approach to email, too. I now consistently hit Inbox Zero every single day I’m online (I usually ignore email on the weekends because #balance). I breathe a sigh of relief at the end of my every workday because I know I’ve conquered my inbox with the same mindset I’ve conquered my tasks and projects.
Read the complete post on my inbox management system.