Healthy Mama Habits #1: The Bullet Journal

This is the first post in a new (hopefully monthly) series on healthy habits that I am trying to incorporate into my life. I’m not just talking about physical health, but emotional, spiritual, mental, financial, and relational health as well. This first habit has to do with mental health, namely, a way to get all the random events, ideas, and to-do lists out of my head and onto paper so I don’t waste valuable head-space on them (because who has any extra brain power to spare?).
I’ve kept a journal since I was a kid. I didn’t write every day or even every week, but I’ve always had some sort of notebook by my bed. I’ve recorded home decorating plans, written prayers, tracked calories, poured my heart out, penned stories, even listed the characteristics in my ideal husband (a list I referred to during our wedding ceremony :)). I have had some journals that were single purposed – prayer journal, thankfulness list, mommy journal – but most of them have just been a mash-up of everything I needed to put down on paper.
Now I keep most of my lists and my calendar on my phone since I always have it with me, but sometimes I crave a pen and paper. I was pretty consistent about writing down the milestones and highlights of Charlotte’s first year in my “mommy journal,” but poor Tessa suffers second child syndrome…I think I wrote down her birth story, but that’s about it. I wanted to develop better journaling habits, and I needed a system to help me be more intentional with my time. I’d gotten tired of getting to the end of my day and wondering what in the world I accomplished, besides keeping the girls alive (which is admittedly a huge success some days.) 🙂
Several of the bloggers I follow have started keeping what they called a “bullet journal.” Naturally I was intrigued. I watched this introductory video by the guy who invented the bullet journaling system, and the index idea alone was enough to hook me. I started “practicing” with a half-filled notebook I had lying around. After just a few days I was in love. I ordered a Leuchtturm1917 dot grid journal (like all the experts use) and these pens, then waited impatiently until the beginning of March to set up my “official bujo” (as the pros call it. ;)). I’m not going to go into all the details of how to set up a bullet journal, since I’m no expert and there have been lots of better bloggers than I to tackle that info. Instead I thought I’d just do an abbreviated walk-through of my bujo to give you an idea of what it is and how I use it. This makes me feel a bit vulnerable, since I’m of giving you a peek inside my private thoughts (and I wish I’d used my best handwriting on every page) so please be kind. 🙂

The first page in any bullet journal is the index. This is why I sprung for the expensive Leuchtturm, because is has an index built in and all the pages are numbered. When I start a new spread or list I write down the title and page number here, and I can easily find it again. If I refer to a page frequently I also mark it with a paper clip or washi tape.

I spent way too long drawing out this year at a glance calendar, but it was fun to do and it’s nice to have it for reference. Some people color in coloring books to relax, I draw little squares and numbers.

The “official” bullet journal monthly spread looks like this, with the days of the month numbered down the page and a to-do list opposite. I did something different for April, but I might go back to this for May. Or I may forget the monthly planner and just rely on my Cozi app like I’ve been doing for a couple years now. I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to use my bullet journal for.

Here is my first “collection” (list), my spring capsule wardrobe. I’ll do a whole blog post about this little game-changer, and I plan to eventually upload it all into the Stylebook app, but it was fun to write it out and see exactly what I have to wear. I try to put a tally mark next to each item when I wear it so I can keep up with what I wear most/least, but I haven’t been very good about that.

Here is an example of a “daily spread.” Don’t be too impressed with my artistic additions, I borrowed heavily (see copied) from bohoberry for ideas. This is the heart and soul of my bullet journal. Every evening I look over the day’s to-do list and events, check off what I accomplished, and add a couple notes about the day’s highlights/lowlights. It’s been a great way to get back into the habit of recording those little memories of the girls that I don’t want to forget. Next I draw and color the next day’s header (day, date, weather, dinner menu). This may be a little silly, but it’s a fun way to be creative and accomplish something at the same time. Here is where I write down any events I have planned that day and tasks to be accomplished. This has taken a lot of tweaking, but it’s been so good for me to see exactly what I can and can’t get done each day. It helps me be realistic about my time, and the “completer” part of me takes great satisfaction in checking off each item that I did. Even if I don’t use any other part of the bullet journal system, I don’t think I will give this up.

Here’s a close-up of one daily log (yesterday actually). You can see that I didn’t get everything done (which is totally fine). The task that wasn’t completed has an arrow by it, which means I “migrated” it to the next day’s list. I don’t do this every day, just when I start a new spread.

Here is the month spread I’m trying out for April. I really like it so far, especially the daily tracker at the bottom. This is where I mark off any task or goal that I want to accomplish every day, but don’t want to have to write out over and over. This tracker has really helped me prioritize my time and remember what I really want to do each day. Note there are a lot of blank squares. Just because it’s a goal doesn’t always mean it gets done every day, and I am learning to be ok with that. I also have a small calendar where I write down big events like holidays and birthdays, a Bible verse I want to memorize for the month, and some weekly/monthly goals and on-going projects to work on. The Fringe Hours section is a list of the activities I’d like to do when I have a few free minutes to myself.

Here’s another collection that I’m excited to keep adding to. These are just the books I’ve read this year…I keep a bit more comprehensive list in Good Reads. My genre color-coding may be a little over the top (it’s the former reading teacher in me coming out) but I am trying to get more variety into my reading habits. I can tell at a glance that my taste still runs heavy into mysteries, so I’m trying to alternate a mystery with a book from another genre. Hello, my name is Dana, and I’m an over-thinker.

I’ve tried a couple different future logs, but so far this is my favorite for it’s simplicity. I don’t have a ton of plans that go out many months in advance, so this seems to work.

These are just a few of the “spreads” and “collections” in my journal. I’m still tweaking and figuring out what works best for me, but on the whole I love this system and I can see myself using it for a long, long time. What about you? Any other bujo junkies out there? Do you like a paper journal/planner or are you all digital, all the way? If you like the idea of the bullet journal and want to get started with your own, I highly recommend reading this post which simplifies the whole system. Happy planning dear readers!

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