Oh friends – this semester is kicking my ass. I’m grateful for the endless amounts of bullet journal wisdom in the Insta-sphere – Aimee is helping me out and sharing her bullet journal system. She is a faculty member so she can give another aspect to using the bullet journal in higher ed as well as a few planning hacks of her own – in a regular pre-dated planner. Some of you have had questions about this, so see how Aimee combines the two systems together. Thanks for joining us, Aimee!
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Jessica was kind enough to extend an invitation for me to blog about my experiences with the Bullet Journal system. As I was deciding on what to say and whether I should have a meltdown or not (I chose “not” in the end, in case you were curious), I finally opted to focus on how I use BuJo to keep myself accountable in my professional life. I’ll explain how I arrived at my current planning method before diving into some of my all-time favorite layouts in my planner.
I started on my Bullet Journal journey in May 2015, while I was in the middle of a transition from graduate student/pre-doctoral intern to full-time professor. It was, as you can imagine, a stressful time in my life, especially since the transition included moving from one state to another and completing my dissertation while trying not to sink too far beneath the waves in my first year of teaching. From the very beginning, however, I used the BuJo system primarily for my work tasks. This is not to say that I had a handle on my personal life, but I definitely felt that I wanted to start off on the right footing with my brand-new career, and personal tasks were secondary to the goal of paying the bills and not getting myself fired from my job. 🙂
Although I started off in a gridded bound notebook when I first started (a Markings A5 notebook that I can no longer find anywhere), I currently use a lovely Daycraft planner with a “one day/weekend per page” format. I switched to a pre-dated for a number of reasons. First, I found that many times I was spending more time making my BuJo pretty than I was making it functional, at the expense of not getting my tasks written down since I hadn’t even set up the current daily page until early afternoon. Yes, I admit it, I was a mess in the early days and relied mostly on Post-it notes and heavy doses of caffeine. Second, I needed to be able to log events and tasks waaaaaaay in advance of the current date. Getting the entire academic year listed in my planner was a necessity to keep me on track for scheduling and planning. Yes, I know that is what the BuJo future log is for, but I found myself getting frustrated with not only making a future log and putting things in the future log, but also having to migrate events and tasks from the future log to my daily spreads. Third, my future log was too limiting—I had way too many events and tasks for each day and was running out of space. This was mostly poor planning on my part since I didn’t allocate enough space for my future log, but it was still a frustration to deal with.
With all of that being said, I have found that freeing myself from the routine task of creating future logs and daily pages by using a predated planner allows me to use my spare time to make my planner much more personal than any other planner I have used before. Depending on the day and my mood, I have used my planner as a notebook, sketchpad, portfolio for my amateur lettering practice, and journal, in addition to the primary function of daily collector of my tasks.
But mainly, when my planner isn’t my checklist of to-dos, it is lists, lists, and more lists (ya know, “collections” in Bullet Journal parlance). I do not have long-term collections in my planner, since those lists are housed electronically for perpetual reference, but I have what I term “monthly collections” that are the short-term lists that I create for use for just one or two months.
At the top of the list (pun intended) of my all-time favorite collections is the monthly tracker, which has evolved over the past year to include just about everything I do personally and professionally. One of the plans I had for the monthly tracker was a way to track my time at work as well as the recurring tasks (like preparing class lectures, printing handouts, and so on) that I didn’t want to add to my daily pages. Have I mentioned how much I hate migrating tasks from place to place? I finally landed on including all of these tasks into the monthly tracker, and what I now do is place a black box where the task MUST be completed, so I have a target date in mind for completing that task. This may not work for everyone, especially if monthly trackers are not your thing, but I love my monthly tracker and use it on a daily basis to check off tasks.
Another contender for top of the list is my hours tracker. This can be adapted in so many ways, but I currently use this layout to track how many hours I have spent studying for my professional licensing exam. I have also used a similar tracker to keep up with hitting time goals for work (working < 40 hours a week). In case you were curious, I am still tracking my time goals for work every day, but I am using a digital time tracking tool this month.
When I have a major project at work, I like to keep a separate collections page for those tasks so I can track them together. Since I use a predated planner, sometimes this means that I have to sacrifice one of the dated pages for a collection as I did for the hours tracker I talked about before—or, as I have recently discovered, this means that I can add in pages by using a half-sheet of copy paper and some tape! I also like to “migrate” the entire collection (again, keep in mind that I hate migrating) by making multiple copies of the collection and taping it into place each day that I need to view these tasks. Sometimes, I never go back to the original collection to cross off the items—whoops!
My latest collection is one that I started in November 2016. Every week I create a “master” task list that is permanently stored at the end of the week on my Saturday/Sunday daily page. Many people have “brain dump” or “mind sweep” collections. Again, my long-term brain dump (aka those tasks that have no due date) is housed electronically, but I like to pull things off the list to add into my weekly tasks, and of course, tasks that have been migrated multiple times end up on the weekly list for me to cross off ASAP. Prior to permanently writing them in, I had a moveable sticky note that transferred from day-to-day, and I found that useful. The latest version is just a more permanent way of listing these tasks instead of having to shift a sticky note from page to page. Yes, I really hate migrating that much! 🙂 Since this weekly task list shares the page with my Saturday and Sunday, it isn’t technically a collection page, but it is still one of my top “gathering of data into one coherent list” spreads.
And last but not least, I have mentioned journaling and more creative aspects of planning earlier. I do use space in my planner to journal about exciting happenings at work. ‘Nough said.
I hope you enjoyed a peek into how I use the BuJo method in my predated planner. More importantly, I hope you heard the underlying idea that the Bullet Journal system is adaptable and flexible. It is completely open for you to change and modify, in whatever way best suits your needs. Happy BuJo-ing!
Aimee Var is an assistant professor of psychology at a private liberal arts university in the southeastern United States. In her spare time, she labels herself a wife, mother-to-be, and amateur creativist, none of which pays that well. She can be found on Instagram at @aimeevar (personal) and @faded_edges_ (planning).