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If you have researched planners lately or have perused Pinterest for more than five minutes, chances are, you’ve heard of a Bullet Journal. You can read about the basics of Bullet Journals here – which I am all for. People have somehow taken these to this extreme with drawings and graphics and colors. This is the new fad these days and they’re becoming incredibly popular. There are Bullet Journal how-tos on YouTube, blogs dedicated to them, the list goes on and on.
However, if you’re like me, you buy a planner with the best of intentions only to use it for a day and then stop. Then somehow, I always get tempted to buy another one (and another and another) because I’m convinced a new design will somehow make me more accountable and more likely to use it.
Not the case.
After one glance at a blinged-out Bullet Journal, I knew mine would suffer the same fate as all of my other poor planners that are sitting in a tote somewhere wondering what the hell went wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, Bullet Journals are amazing tools if you’re dedicated enough to use them. You can make lists of just about anything…books you want to read, things you need to buy, meal plans, etc.
The problem is, the simplicity of the Bullet Journal is getting so lost in all of these graphics and colors. It is way too time consuming for me. Yes, you can make one from a simple tablet and not waste the money on a planner, but most of the Bullet Journals I’ve seen go way overboard.
There are hand-drawn banners and fancy handwritten fonts, colored pencils get involved – it scares me.
What works for me has been this incredibly simple system a coworker showed me a few years ago.
When I saw her taking notes in a tiny tablet and asked her to explain her system, I immediately said “Oh my God, I’m totally stealing this!”
She said “go ahead! I stole it from somebody else!”
…And here we are.
This is basically a bare-bones daily Bullet Journal with daily “migration” instead of monthly, as is recommended in the original Bullet Journal video.
My much simpler version of the crazy bullet journals you’ll find on Pinterest doesn’t involve a key or modules or monthly migration. I simply use a regular day planner, but have used a plain tablet (my current favorite) with equal success. This is probably closer to what the original developer of the bullet journal intended. There are no illustrations or drawings in the original bullet journal instruction video which you can find here.
Here’s what I do:
I simply make a list on today’s block of everything I want to get done.
That might be doing dishes, running an errand, calling a utility company. I even list things that I know don’t stand a prayer of happening today. I list as many things as I need to in order to get my whole to-do list down in one main list.
Then, as the day goes on, I check off everything I’ve accomplished.
At the end of the day, anything that hasn’t been done gets an arrow next to it and highlighted. I guess this is my version of migrating the task.
I then write that same to-do list entry on the next day.
See how the task that I didn’t get done the day before is at the top of my list for the next day?
Here’s what I love about this extremely simple system:
You’re basically rewriting your to-do list every day. It takes only a few minutes. This keeps everything right in front of you so you have in your mind what you need to do. It eliminates the possibility of forgetting to do something because you’re literally rewriting that task every single day until you finally get it done.
I actually end up getting annoyed that I’m rewriting this task for the tenth time and finally make it a priority to get it done.
In the Bullet Journal system, you would go back through your daily log at the end of the month and rewrite all items with a task symbol that you didn’t get done that month in your new month’s list.
My problem with this (and the beauty of a Bullet Journal is that you can tweak it to fit your needs, so this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker) is that you’re potentially letting a task go undone for a whole month before relisting it.
That would make it really easy for me to completely forget about that task for a month.
I can’t think of anything on my to-do list that could go a whole month without repercussions. If I don’t pay that electric bill, handle those taxes, do the dishes… Things can really fall apart in one month!
The main difference between the system I use and the Bullet Journal system is that I’m rewriting things everyday instead of making a list of daily entries throughout the month and going back to reevaluate them on the first day of the following month.
I also don’t list events like birthdays since I use a planner and can write those ahead of time anyway. Plus, with Facebook and my phone’s calendar, I honestly don’t have a need to remember a birthday in my handwritten planner.
If you do, you can absolutely incorporate that into your planner.
I now use a plain tablet as my simple planner instead of a planner with blocks for each day. This works even better for me. This one just makes my soul happy, I swear. I can’t get enough of that Moroccan print these days.
That’s it! So by making a simple list of goals every day, moving the incomplete ones to the next day (my version of “migrating”), and checking things off as I go, a simple to-do list in a planner is my much simpler version of a Bullet Journal.
Do you use a Bullet Journal? Have you tried multiple planners and failed to stick with them like I have? What did you finally do to get organized? Let me know what works for you in the comments!