I am one of the most ambitious yet least disciplined people I know. I dream big but don't like to do mundane work. I'm a Myers-Briggs ENFP and an Enneagram 7 to the max.
Lately, my shortcomings in responsibility have been really hurting myself and others. The house has been a perpetual disaster, making my home quite unhospitable (we're talking gross, not just "imperfect") and hindering my desires to have people over. Homeschool was inconsistent. I've been struggling with my personal disciplines too, and laziness had begun to rule me. I have started so many new systems and plans and bought or created so many organizational tools that I thought would help, but I haven't stuck with any of them. At the beginning of the year I read a really helpful book by Tim Challies called Do More Better that has helped me see why and how I should seek productivity, and what really changed everything was early this summer when my friend Rachel asked me if I had heard of Bullet Journaling.
Basically, a bullet journal is what you make it. You create an index at the beginning and you can use any notebook and turn it into your personal planner/accountability partner/diary/savings tracker/whatever you want it to be. Any short search on Instagram or Pinterest will overwhelm you with all the different ideas for how to implement Bullet Journals. Many of the bullet journals on Pinterest scared me, because with three kids and house that's at least twice as large as I can manage, I don't have very much free time at all. Spending hours color-coding and maintaining complicated keys and legends and focusing on artsiness (the skills of which I do not naturally possess) would be counterproductive for me.
So, as all BuJo users are encouraged to do, I've made it my own. And it's seriously changed my life.
This will be a large post so skim as you see fit.
Pens: I've tried Microns and Sharpie pens and Staedtler, and guess what I found: they're expensive and get stolen by toddlers and they're simply not conducive to my lifestyle. Plus, if I'm going to rainbow-color everything in my book, it will be really frustrating if my pattern is calling for a purple and I don't have a purple on hand. The inconsistency will stand out and I therefore might quit.
So guess what pen I've been using for my Bullet Journal:
Whatever cheap ballpoint pens are lying around! Usually they don't even have caps. But guess what, they work great, they deal well with water (unlike gel pens) and they look consistent.
Post-It Notes: Or their generic counterparts. You can spend money on various sizes or you can rip them to the size of your choosing.
Washi tape: You don't need much, but they will prove very helpful for making tabs. As you read this post, notice that I folded over pieces of tape to create tabs on the pages that I visit the most. I like to get mine from Raindrop Washi Shop on Etsy. Sometimes they sell a discount grab bag of slightly damaged rolls, and slightly damaged is my jam!
Separate planner: One of the most impractical things about the Bullet Journals I've seen are that people are taking the time and space to make them their weekly planners. That takes so much time. I will show you how to do otherwise.
So I recommend having a separate planner for your week. I use the Passion Planner for scheduling my week and choosing my meals and prioritizing my tasks. It is not overwhelming to have a weekly planner in addition to a Bullet Journal. By the way, you can print out the Passion Planner PDF for free.
Let's take a peek at the first page of my current journal's index.
I found it important to include in the first few pages of my journal why I'm doing these things in the first place, what my roles and goals are, and how I'm hoping to achieve them.
Bottom line: I want to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. But from that comes another way of phrasing why I want to be productive: Bless the World.
The scriptures I included to motivate my productivity were:
1 Corinthians 15:58
2 Corinthians 9:8
I divided my roles into spheres of influence, or spheres of blessing, and I included their ministries:
Self - Nurture my own body and soul so that I may enjoy Jesus and welcome others into this joy.
Family - Disciple and educate my children, strengthen my husband, and actively pursue all aspects of healthiness for each member of our family.
Neighbors - Be a good neighbor to all the people I know and meet by sharing and reflecting the gospel.
The World - Let my faithfulness in closer spheres of influence extend to far-reaching ministry.
This is the single most useful thing about the Bullet Journal for me. I'm able to use a chart and track how frequently or infrequently I'm actually accomplishing the things I really want to do. It was quite humbling at the beginning to realize that I thought I was much more disciplined than I actually was. "Oh, I actually only read out loud to my kids twice in the past week?"
"I never really have private prayer."
"Yikes, I'm not as consistent doing ___ as I thought."
It's excellent accountability for many different things about my life that I'm trying to improve. And I'm improving! That's so encouraging and I feel so much better getting more done each day.
Of course I recommend putting some things on your list that are a piece of cake to get done (such as making your bed or taking your vitamins.) And some things should really challenge us.
I don't think it's wrong to set a timer and make sure you spend 10 min in prayer or 15 min reading the Bible. That doesn't necessarily make a duty out of what should be a delight. If you've already decided that you delight in those things and know that you'll only delight in them more if you actually do them, that's evidence that this is not a dutiful task. But oftentimes we just get distracted and it's easier to scroll down Facebook than do what you know your soul needs.
As I look at my older notebook, it's neat to see that I'm shading more and more blocks over time. Some habits were set in and I was able to remove those from the list when I made this one. I hope to always be challenging myself and making new habits.
On the adjacent page I have stuck the following Post-it notes:
-a To-Do List post-it note of time-sensitive items that are not habits (such as "email this person" or "buy this thing")
-a lift of people I'm trying to remember to encourage
-the week's scripture memory verse
-the references to previous week's verses.
I also recommend putting your habits in order so you can move down the list as you go about your day.
For example, I want to read my Bible as soon as I wake up, so it's near the top of my list, but there are some things I plan for doing while the kids nap, after lunch.
Here's my list:
I also keep a tracker of my weekly habits; things I want to accomplish each week. (Don't judge me for how pathetic I am at keeping habits! Lol!)
Affirmations/Daily Truths:The popular thing lately is to repeat "affirmations" to yourself to begin your day. The idea is that you tell yourself things that you want to be true and they will therefore actually become true, such as "I am will love myself no matter what because I'm worth it" or "Wonderful things are going to happen to me today." If you want to see a list of examples, click here.
My personal belief is that the "love-yourself" mindset is not only selfish and foolish but also ineffective in actually helping your self-esteem. So, to be clear, I think self-focused and wishful-thinking affirmations are harmful, and I hate them. Also, denying that suffering is going to happen in no way prepares you for suffering.
But I like the idea of repeating things to yourself so I have come up with my own true affirmations, taken straight out of the Word of God. It's helpful to wake up each morning and remember eternal reality that changes everything for today.
So here are my daily affirmations. (I underlined the highlights for if I'm in a hurry.)
I am not strong in the area of private prayer. That shows a lot about my pride, yuck! So I've found it helpful to organize my prayer foci by week:
Sunday - my church
Monday - my family
Tuesday - people who don't know Jesus
Wednesday - the world
Thursday - my community group
Friday - my city / my country
Saturday - prayer requests gathered from the week
The prayer requests I wrote on the other days are general; I embellish as I pray. But Saturdays are for the more recent struggles; sickness, natural disasters, current events, friends who suffered loss, etc.
I like the way this works and I don't feel bound to the list. If it's a Thursday but I really want to pray for my family, that's okay. If I want to pray for multiple days that's great. I want to be led by the Spirit but also make sure that I'm actually praying for people.
Child Translation Guide:
Anyone who lives or works with young children will have a blast with this one. Sometimes kids really mispronounce words. It probably doesn't make any sense to other people who don't know them, but, for example, every time my daughter sees a buffalo and calls it a "buffafo", I want to cry happy tears because it's extremely cute. I want to always remember the cuteness. My parents remember words my brother and I mispronounced as young children and it makes us feel loved.
I printed some of my favorite hymns or songs and stuck them in the pocket in the back. Recently my heart felt really overwhelmed by some news from a friend, but the lyrics to William Cowper's "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" were right in the back of my bullet journal, so I was able to quickly turn my heart to the Lord through song.
Here are a few other peeks into my present or former bullet journal. I will post much more later but these are just some ideas to get started. Please let me know the creative ideas you have! I might feature them in a future follow-up post about bullet journals!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today