Like many people, I do so much better when there are tangible goals that I have written down and have some level of accountability to. It reminds me of the time that I was in Rabbi Nivin’s Chabura, I was wildly productive then.
Also like many people, I often feel like I do not have time to devote to a system of journaling. It seems counter-intuitive, but now that my children are bigger and more self-sufficient I have less time. Maybe it’s because I’m more communally involved, or because I’ve dedicated more energy to domestic stuff, or because I’m in the car all the time driving them placses. Who knows.
In any case, it’s a new year (as I’m sure you’ve noticed, what with it being February and all) and I love external pressures to re-vamp my life. I am happy to have some reason to stop and evaluate, especially when I’ve been feeling that my time has not been utilized as well as it could be (“but you’re doing so much already, Rivki,” say my friends. And they’re right! Thank G-d! But still, I’ve spent far more hours sucked into a social media black hole or a Netflix binge than I am comfortable with).
Inspired by the consistently inspiring Nina Badzin, I finally started a Bullet Journal. Even though I started more than a week into January (the 8th, to be precise). Even though I didn’t have hours to invest in learning “how to do it right.” Those two factors right there have been excuses in the past to avoid starting something, so look! I’ve grown already! Awesome.
Something I heard over and over again from people who use Bullet Journals is that there is actually no right way to do it. You can tailor it to your needs, and you can change it up as you see fit. I like this so much more than any of the many potentially useful and inspirational planners I’ve purchased in the past. There’s never enough room for notes or lists in them.
With this method, I can make as much or as little space, and I especially love how it takes all the separate books and lists I used to keep and consolidates them into one location.
I used to have a planner for appointments, a notebook for my music log (which reeds are good, questions on pieces I’m working on, etc.), a diary, to-do lists, loose sheets of paper for menu planning and grocery lists, and those are just the things that come to mind immediately. That’s five different locations for important information. Now it’s all in one spot.
I also like the aesthetic element, how I can color-coordinate (I got pretty pens! And a student gave me a music-themed pencil case!) if I have time. Back in the day, in college, my journals were things of beauty, with multi-colored ink and drawings, cut-outs from magazines that I found beautiful. I doubt I will have the time or the desire to devote that much time to my Bullet Journal at this stage of my life, but it evokes a pleasant sense of nostalgia, and I’m good with that.
I’m a fan of keeping it simple, and Nina has a great post about how this doesn’t have to be a complicated process. I also really liked this site for when I was trying to figure out how and where to start.
For January, I had a monthly overview page, pages of the bullet journal thingy (basically a to-do list, for me), a tracking chart for habits I wanted to develop or change, menu plans and feedback, a diary, a reed log (for my clarinet reeds), a gratitude list, a list of private mitzvos, a weight log, and I think that’s it.
My computer is broken at the moment (horrible! I have it on my to-do list to schedule an appointment to bring it in, it’s at least six years old though, so I’m bracing myself for a big purchase in the near-to-immediate future), and I don’t know how to/don’t have an interest in discovering how to upload pictures from my phone to my husband’s desktop, so I”m going to post pictures of my Bullet Journal on the Facebook Page. Check it out, if you’re a visual learner. :)
Even with starting “late” and with taking some trips and having other disruptions (massive headache), I noticed a huge difference in the way my month felt.
I felt more in-tune with what my goals were, with what I hoped to accomplish, and I was actually more chilled about the goals I didn’t meet (*cough cough* davening, exercise *cough cough*). Those unmet milestones aside, I was remarkably successful with keeping my phone downstairs at bedtime (making sure I had a novel to read was critical to that success, and, bonus, I read a TON of books this month, like, SEVEN. I also starting keeping track of my reading again, using Goodreads).
I also got up earlier, more consistently, and I successfully avoided sitting in front of my laptop before 9am. Instead of zoning out with my morning coffee, I sat and reviewed what needed to be done that day, or I journaled. Even on the days when I wasn’t able to do that, I still felt more mindful in general. I also had clean sinks more nights than I’ve had in a long time.
I loved setting “small” goals that made a big difference in my day-to-day, and how I felt about myself. I was also less flaky because I was writing things down. All in all, after just one month I feel like a True Believer, and I’m looking forward to how this new habit develops over the course of the year (will I be able to keep it up? I hope so!).
If you have any questions about Bullet Journaling, feel free to ask! But better to ask someone like Nina who has more experience! Or check out some Facebook groups on it! Enjoy!