I have tried to use planners and calendars in the past and have had success with them. Calendars are good for having an overview of your months, appointments, deadlines, etc. My issue with using a day planner was I would be too ambitious. I would schedule my entire month a day at a time. It would work for the first few days, maybe even weeks, but eventually I would go rogue and throw off the rest of the month. Maybe something came up and it got prioritized over what had been originally scheduled. Maybe I was burnt out on a topic and needed to refresh with something else, or inspiration hit and I wrote three articles in a day while ignoring the other tasks. Regardless of what caused me to go off track, I inevitably would, and when I did my day planner would be full of crossed out tasks, new tasks written over top, and it became an illegible disaster.
I tried to go without a planner of any kind but found myself floundering a bit and things were getting forgotten. I tried to write a ’to-do list” on a post-it note at the start of the day, but again, things would get missed and I was feeling incredibly unorganized. Despite having excel spreadsheets, reminders in my phone, and post-its stuck to my desk it wasn’t helping. I decided I needed to re-implement the day planner. But I needed to do it in a way that I would be able to stay organized, where I wouldn’t get ahead of myself, and would be able to stick with it. As I started to pay attention to what others were using I found reference again and again to a “bullet journal”. Curious, I looked up the website, BulletJournal.com, where there is a video with a step by step how to set up your own bullet journal. It really is an ingenious idea and can be implemented in any blank notebook.
It starts with an index, future logs, month overview, month task list, and then the daily tasks. The theory of the bullet journal is that it gives you freedom to migrate tasks and reorganize if priorities change. To start, the Index is just that, indexing page numbers and what is on them so you can easily find things in the future. The next page spread you set up as “future logs” you then divide this page into three blocks, here I added an extra smaller block at the end for quarterly goals, Next, is the month overview ?where you write down the number of days and beside that what the day is, easy reference if you need to look something up. Then the task list, everything you hope to get done in the specific month. As you schedule your days, I usually only go 3-4 days in advance, noting on the month overview if there is something happening on a specific day, I use bullet points for tasks that need to be done, an open circle for events to attend, and a dash for notes. I use a check mark for tasks completed, and > for tasks to bump to the next day or >> if I am bumping it two days. If the task is no longer important, I cross it off and forget about it altogether. If the task still needs to be done, but can move to another month, <, and then write that task into corresponding month in future logs. I took a bit of time to set up the bullet journal, and I have personalized it a bit along the way. But it has proved to be incredibly useful for me. I can easily see what needs to be done, I can move tasks to another month if their priority has dropped and not lose (or forget about) anything. Each day is hand writtem, which means I have lots of space for days that are packed with tasks and yet I don’t feel tempted to try and plan too far ahead, because I don’t know how much space certain days are going to take. This method has kept me organized without over-organizing. I can see the tasks I need to complete and schedule into my weeks without scheduling every day of the month. This method allows me to work with freedom, I no longer go "rogue" because my scheduling allows me freedom to breathe and reprioritize without turning my planner into an illegible disaster. Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature. Follow her path on the writing journey at https://deannaroney.wordpress.com/