I have been bullet journaling for 3 years. It started as a way to be more organized and then quickly morphed into a form of cognitive behavior therapy. My relationship with journaling has had ups and downs, I have even gone through months at a time when I didn’t touch it at all. But it is the act of planning that allows me to take excess worry, anxiety and things stuck in my head and get them onto a page to make space for everything else in my life. Given everything I have going on, I can use as much space back in my brain as I can manage.
Here is a brief look at my 2020 planning spreads and how I use them. I hope this will be an inspiration for some to start their bullet journal journey.
All bullet journals start with a key and index pages. What I have learned after 3 years is that using a dot grid journal and squares as a task is more comfortable for me rather than simple bullet points. For the index I always leave 3 pages.
The next main staple is the future log. This is where you list all of the main events or important dates. This year I have used a new format I found on Pinterest. I like the color scheme and layout. It isn’t populated with dates yet because I am waiting on my final syllabi for spring semester to fill it all in with color coding.
It took me through my first year of bullet journaling before I could really determine goals to work on. I confess while I have worked on these areas, in 3 years I haven’t accomplished one fully yet. But much of bullet journaling is not about the accomplishment, it is about the practice.
Before I was able to focus on goals, I read two important books.
I use The Miracle Morning’s level 10 life concept to narrow the macro areas I want to focus on ie: love, health, mindset, career, etc. But I needed to read The Four Agreements to really understand some of the truth behind the self defeating thoughts in my head. So the picture I am showing you here is the layout for the main goal areas without the individual goals itemized (those I will keep private for now).
I transfer the level from my previous year, set new large goals and then review this monthly.
- You do not have to work on every goal every month.
- I do not fill in the entire year of tasks in January. Do at least the first month and then see how you do. Your tasks may not be concrete enough to accomplish or you may be piling too many things on yourself.
Goals then translate into monthly planning. You can see that I have outlined a box where I will put a goal for each of my 6 goal planning areas. So once I complete my annual sheet, each month’s actions go here. The trick is that the monthly goals are task oriented. The art is in planning that all the tasks you do over the year lead up to accomplishing the larger macro goal.
I also leave space on the monthly spread to come back and review successes and failures in what I have accomplished each month. It is also an important space to document what I like or don’t like about my planning spreads.
The second part of the monthly spread is the actual monthly calendar. After 3 years, I have not found monthly to do lists helpful. For me things only get done when I track them weekly. (More on that below)
Depending on what things you plan to do or track, you can also design a single annual tracking spread. The original bullet journal method calls this a “collection.”
For example, I track my annual reading list as well as movies and tv shows to watch.
Usually I put as many annual spreads before the start of monthly planning as I can. But if you think of more later not to worry! This is why we have an Index.
The main planning spread I use are weekly. This has everything happening for the week including my goals and to do list. You will note again that it is important to separate out weekly goals so they build to monthly goal accomplishments.
For example, if my macro annual goal is to lose weight, one of my tasks will be to eat healthy and replace sugary sodas with water. Rather than tracking replacement, I will track meeting a daily water intake goal of 64 oz per day ( I have only ever met this a handful of times in all this time tracking it). So weekly my goal is to meet the daily water goal, but monthly my goal is to achieve the milestone for every day having successfully replaced soda. The end measure is meeting this activity but than a secondary measure of seeing an impact in my weight. (These are the measures on the annual Goal chart)
This is one version of my weekly for the first short week of January. Once I start back into my PhD program in the spring semester this is likely to change because I will need to track an hourly schedule to prepare time for classes, reading and research on top of my full time job teaching schedule and family commitments. I’ll post updates with new spreads as the year progresses.
Other monthly trackers
There are other things you might want to track regularly but repeating the design each week is too much work or seeing the data all in one place is more helpful. I confess I am not the world’s best cleaner but tracking a cleaning spread at least tells me when I last washed the towels or the sheets so I don’t have to spend energy thinking about that. For the last few years I have also tracked mood to go along with my goals on mindset. This one is difficult to track. I have tried daily, weekly and monthly. I have settled in a mo they tracker because this seems to provide the best analysis. I like tracking it with moon cycles because I do find some relation. It is helpful to have a time each day that you recap everything to prepare for the next day. This is why any written diary journaling I think is done better at night.
I hope these tips are helpful for you to think about planning for a productive 2020. Ditch the New Years resolution and try a bullet journal.
If you are interested in more ideas for your bullet journaling, follow my Pinterest board.