How I Use Bullet Journaling



Every year in January, I head to Target and buy a new, crisp planner.

And every year I use said planner for approximately 2.3 weeks before my motivation to get organized peters out and I forget about it.

I am one of those people who likes the idea of a planner, especially the ones with monthly goal sheets and weekly layouts - but when it comes to actually using the planner, I usually find that all my organizational hopes are disappointed.  I stare at the blank lines and want so much to fill them in, but I usually end up writing stuff in those spaces just so the blank space won't be staring at me, or not using it at all and feeling like I failed somehow.  I've never been able to find a planner that is structured enough to help me stay organized and motivated without being too restrictive for my actual life.  

So despite dropping a twenty on a pretty planner, I usually still end up with random pieces of paper in a pile on my counter with scribbled to-do lists, book lists, quotes, and reminders.

However, I'm happy to report that all that changed last fall when I finally figured out what people meant by "bullet journaling".  

A few days before Georgiana was born, I was walking through our newly remodeled library and saw a new wall with displays of DIY books.  I stopped to skim, and found a book called Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.  The subtitle said How To Start and Keep The Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That'll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together.  Honestly it just kind of looked pretty, so I picked it up for fun and started flipping through it in the car.  



I realized almost immediately that this was the planning and organization system I have been looking for!

Basically a bullet journal is a self-made planner and diary that can be anything you want it to be because you are the one who organizes it.  There are really no rules to it except the ones you make for your own journal.

I told Derek that I needed to give this a try, and we spent an afternoon driving around in search of a dot-grid journal.  On Sunday I finally got one, and I sat down to start getting my journal set up just as my labor contractions started.  I ended up bringing my bullet journal to the hospital with me, and one of my first pages is a timeline of my labor and delivery with Georgie!

To get a solid grasp on the system, you can check out the official bullet journaling website for free, but I highly recommend checking out Dot Journaling, because to me, it made the whole things seem more doable.  But that said, here is a little tour of my bullet journal to give you an idea of what it is.

Key

A page with a code for any of the symbols you choose to use in your journal (see "Daily Entries").

Index

Most bullet journals have an index, where you record what is on each page of your journal.  This makes it easier to find something later.  I guess some people write down the page numbers each time they mention different topics, but I think that sounds like too much work, so my index is pretty straight-forward.



Yearly Calendar

This is a calendar of the year, just for reference.  I have mine set up so I can write in dates of holidays, birthdays, etc. under each month.



Collections

In my journal, these are ongoing lists that I know I'll be adding to frequently.  I have:

1. Books To Read page
2. Books To Buy page, 
3. Products To Try page
4. New Words page (an idea I got from the Dot Journaling book that has proved really useful).

Trackers

I have a few pages dedicated to trackers for habits I want to nurture every day of the year.  In my journal these are:

1. Bible/Prayer Time Tracker
2. Exercise Tracker
3. Read-Aloud Tracker

The tracking pages are something I would like to be more consistent in using.  I have found that I haven't been updating my trackers that well, which kind of defeats the purpose.  I'll see how it goes over the next few months and evaluate if I think I'm using these enough to include them in my next journal.



Monthly Pages

In my journal, these pages are a calendar for the month where I write in events, doctor's appointments, etc (this was really useful to have in December).  It's nice to have my calendar all laid out and organized in a book I can carry in my purse, instead of just on the wall at home.  And I know they make pocket calendars, but I never use those.  For some reason I do use the calendars in my bullet journal.



For my monthly view I also have been including a habit/mood/health tracker, with categories like:

1. Drank 2 glasses of water.
2. Drank coffee.
3. Took a nap.
4. Had a migraine.
5. Feeling sad, irritable, anxious, happy, etc.

Once again, I feel like I haven't been as consistent as I would like with tracking my habits.  I would like to get better at this because if I could keep track, I think it would help me figure out some triggers for different health and mood related things (like migraines, being irritable, etc).  But the great thing about bullet journaling is that if I don't feel like I get the hang of it over the next couple months, if it's not working for me, I'll just drop it.


Daily Entries

In my journal I don't have any weekly planning pages since I don't find them particularly useful - I just skip right to my daily entries, which I organize with a to-do list at the top and notes about my day underneath that.

The night before I write the date and to-do list for the next day (with little dots next to each task).  I always have an idea of what I want to accomplish the next day, but in the past this list has just resided in my head or on random scraps of paper around my house.  I frequently forgot things.  It's been great to have all my to-do's in a central location - they don't get lost this way!

In the evening I cross out the things on my list that I finished (with an "x"), migrate things forward (with the > symbol) to the next day if I didn't get them done, or cancel them (with a slash mark).  

After that I write little dashes underneath with my notes about the day.  This is the "diary" part of my bullet journal.  I just write down whatever I did that day, and I can (briefly) include my feelings about it or not.  It's just a record of my day.  There have been a couple times so far when something was bothering me and I spent more time writing about it in this section too, but usually this note-taking only takes me a few minutes at night.  

Not everyone necessarily uses their journals this way, but I really like the idea of being able to look back on my daily entries years down the road.  I've often said the same thing about my blog - it's nice to look back on old blog posts, and this to me is like a mini version of that, filled with the things that no one will find interesting but me, or things that I might not find time to blog about (not everything can make it onto the blog).  

Now, I don't do a daily entry every single day.  Some days I'm just too tired, some days I forget, but once again, the beauty of a bullet journal is that whenever you miss a day, there is no blank paper staring at you, making you feel guilty (or is that just me?).  One entry just goes right after another, even if a week has passed.

Quote Pages

I wanted a place to write quotes that I like, but the problem is that I don't know how many quotes I will find before my journal fills up.  I didn't know how many pages to assign quotes, so I decided to put these pages in the back of my journal.  I've been reading books with a stack of index cards handy, I write down the quotes that I like.  I either transfer the quotes to these back pages or tape the index cards directly onto the pages, starting with the very last page and working backward.  When my daily entries and the quote pages meet, I'll be ready for a new journal.

Other Pages

Scattered in the midst of my daily entries are random pages that I just make whenever the thought strikes me.  Examples are:

1. Sermon Notes pages.  I take my journal to church each Sunday and make a page for my sermon notes.  This way they aren't on a paper that I'll just end up throwing away!
2. Random lists.  For example, I made a page with a list of all the gifts we got for Georgie in the hospital.
3. Grocery lists.  Yep, just sandwiched right in between my daily pages.
4. Budget pages.  I just started including budget pages, so I'm hoping to refine these a bit more, but so far I have stuck a monthly budget page in whenever the monthly bills have get paid off (sometime during the first week of each month).




This is where I can see how a bullet journal wouldn't be useful for some people.  Those with more of a type A, it-has-to-be-perfectly-organized personalities would probably go crazy sticking a random page in their journal like this.  But those type of people also probably do just fine with traditional planners.  For people like me, this is the beauty of bullet journaling!  I can write down whatever I want, anywhere in the journal, enter it in the index so I can find it later, and there are no blank pages!  I also cannot overstate the benefit of the amount of paper clutter this has eliminated from my kitchen counter.

Doesn't It Have To Be Pretty?

No.  Also, stop looking at bullet journals on Pinterest.

My journal is not very pretty.  My handwriting isn't very attractive, and I still have not developed any lettering skills. I have a bunch of mistakes crossed out.  I don't have any doodles.  I try to jazz up some pages with washi tape, but that's about it.  My bullet journal is very functional, and I like it that way, and I don't feel the need to make my pages Pinterest-worthy.  If you want to make your journal all pretty with your artistic skills, definitely do!  But don't let a lack of artistic skills stop you from giving it a try.

What Do You Need To Get Started?

First I'd recommend trying to get Dot Journaling from the library, because she has so many ideas for ways to use your journal.  My ideas here are just a small sampling, and it's quite possible you'd find a bunch of useful things that will work better for you than what I listed here.  You get to make your journal whatever you want it to be!

After you read that book, if bullet journaling is for you, you'll probably be itching to get started (and if not, that's okay).  Technically after that you only need a notebook and a pen to get started, but this is what I actually use:

1. A dot-grid journal.  I like having a dot-grid because it allows me to more easily make calendar pages, and it helps keep my handwriting straight.  I also think the pages look cleaner without lines cluttering it up (at least when you have my handwriting, which looks a little slapdash as it is).
2. My favorite pens.  I like .5 mm pens.
3. A ruler (for making calendar pages).
4. A couple colored markers or highlighters (optional: just to make it prettier).
5. Washi tape (also totally optional, makes the pages prettier since I don't have a level of artistic ability that would be acceptable to me).

Why I Like It

As I said before, I don't think every personality type is conducive to bullet journaling.  People like me, who want to be more organized but don't care if everything is perfectly organized, probably would do better with this system.  This is why I personally like bullet journaling (if you didn't already gather my reasons from the rest of this post):

1. No blank pages.  One of the reasons planners never worked for me is that I get discouraged by the blank pages when I miss a day, or just don't have anything to put in certain sections.  There is none of that with bullet journaling because I only make the pages I think I will use, and I can drop them if I don't.

2. Less paper clutter.  I used to write all my random lists on random pieces of paper that would eventually end up in the trash or stuffed in my junk drawer.  Now I can either add those random notes to an already-existing list, or make a new one, and my to-do lists are organized in my daily entries.

3.  Everything is in one place.  My calendars, to-do lists, grocery lists, budget notes, quotes - they are all in one handy little volume that I can fit into my purse.  Things don't get lost.  I'm less likely to forget things.

4. I feel more organized and productive.  The daily to-do list setup has worked really well to keep me on task and help me not forget things that need to be done.

5. I have a record of daily life.  I know I'm going to find it interesting to look back on my day-to-day life when a few years have passed.  My daily entries have daily events, but they also have little things the kids did (or other things I want to remember) that never would have been recorded if I didn't have a bullet journal.

Will you like it for the same reasons as me?  Maybe, but it's quite possible that you will like bullet journaling for entirely different reasons, because I doubt you will end up using yours in exactly the same way I do!  Bullet journaling, in the end, is whatever you want to make it, and that's what I find fun about it. 

Do you have a bullet journal?  How do you use yours?






Hello Mornings Book Review - Well, Rats



2.5/5 stars

So, this book did not make a great first impression on me.  Here we go.

Negatives

My main issue with this book is that I felt from the very first chapter the gospel was presented very weakly, or even misrepresented because of ommission of the key points of the gospel.  Kat Lee opens the book with this explanation:

“Friends, I don’t know where you are in your journey with God.  I don’t know how many times you’ve tried to spend time with Him or read the Word or prayed and felt as if you failed.  But I do know that He does not merely stand at the finish line awaiting your triumphant victory.  Our loving God, our faithful Father, is fighting to come alongside you in the journey.  To push past all the discouragements and distractions.  To speak words of love, hope, and courage over you. To wrap His arms around you and finish the race with you.  Because of Jesus, God does not require our perfection; He wants a relationship with us.”

This is all good and fine if she is speaking exclusively to fellow Christians, but I fear that for the many non-Christians that may be reading this book, she leaves out any real explanation of the gospel here.  I kept looking for a fuller explanation, and Lee never got there.  The truth is that God does require our perfection, but we are wholly unable to attain perfection, and that is why Jesus came - to cover our filthy sin with His perfect righteousness when we quit trying to save ourselves and put our trust in Him.  That is why we who trust in Jesus no longer have to worry about perfection and can have a relationship with God.  To me, she really missed the boat on explaining that here.  

It didn’t help when later in the chapter she mentioned that some women reading this book may have had a great life and "wish they felt like they needed Jesus a little more".  If a Christian is feeling that way I’m not sure they really understand the weight of their sin.  Even if we haven’t had a single difficult thing to deal with in our entire lives, we are still in desperate need of Jesus because of our sin!  We can't be righteous enough to be in a right relationship with God on our own.  This is the problem Jesus came to solve!  He didn’t come mainly to help us through the difficult seasons of life or to overcome our feelings of a lack of purpose, and I am afraid the way Lee presented things in this chapter gave the impression that this is all we need Jesus for. 

Positives

Once I got past this frustration in the first couple chapters, I thought Lee had a lot of good things to say about developing a morning routine.  I definitely appreciated her tips about how to develop habits effectively.  She gives a lot of ideas for different habit-forming methods and how you can apply them to developing morning routine.

The Hello Mornings method focuses on three areas for a morning routine - time with the Lord, time to plan the day, and a jumpstart for making physically healthy choices during the day.  I thought this was a thoughtful way to focus a morning routine in a short amount of time.  She encourages developing a three-minute morning routine with these three things.  While that sounds like it wouldn't be enough time, I liked the idea of having an "anchor" habit so that whether I have only those three minutes or a much longer stretch of time, I can start the day off right.

I also really appreciated how Lee focuses on the "why" of developing a morning routine, which is to serve the Lord better through focusing on Him first thing, making a plan to be effective for Him that day, and developing healthy habits so we have enough energy to serve the Lord well.  The section at the back of the book where Lee includes different ideas for Bible study time was also a great thing to include, and I thought these suggestions were really solid.  

Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that I'm a little bummed about this book.  This would have been a higher-star-rating for me if it wasn't for my frustrations about the way she didn't explain the gospel.  

While I can understand that she was mainly writing this book for Christian women, I don't think any Christian author should assume their readers already know the gospel, especially when it's a book about a subject that would be of interest to non-believers as well.  I thought that because she didn't explain the gospel it gave the impression that she was saying that if you just "spend time with God" each day, you're good to go.  That's just not the case.  We need to trust in Jesus's sacrifice for us on the cross and His righteousness to save us from our sins and an eternity in Hell.  Only when we understand that, and stop relying on our own works to save us, can we have a relationship with Him and look forward to eternal life.  That piece was missing from this book, so I wouldn't recommend it to someone who I didn't feel was a solid believer already.  So that was a bummer.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Dimples - Georgie At Two Months



We officially have a smiling baby!

Georgie smiled a little bit at me before she turned a month old, but this month she has become a lot more generous with her smiles! Have I mentioned she has the best little dimples?  (See the smiling pictures on my Instagram!)

Growth

Georgie is supposed to go in for a two month old visit, but I haven't got it scheduled yet so I'm not sure how much she weighs.  However, she has definitely started to grow out of some of her pajamas already.  I feel like she barely got a chance to wear some of her clothes!  She's in 0-3 month clothes, but some of them are still a little too big.  My girl has long arms and legs, but she's a not chunky at all, so things are usually loose on her.

One thing that is really growing is her eyelashes!  I could see her little eyelashes when she was born, but they were blond and pretty short.  They have darkened up a lot over the last month and are probably a good quarter inch long at least!  

Her feet are still pretty tiny, so we're not in shoes yet.  She wears a size one diaper, but it's honestly still a smidge big.

Eating

She eats every three hours or so during the day, and seems to be doing really well with nursing.  I have figured out though that spicy food does not agree with her.  Whenever I eat something spicy she is so uncomfortable the next day.  It's sad!

Sleeping

Georgie is a little dream baby when it comes to sleeping.  I usually put her down between 7-8 PM, and she sleeps until anywhere from 8-10 AM.  That's right, she sometimes sleeps for 14 HOURS straight!  The blessing of this is not lost on me.  We've got to be some of the most well-rested parents of a newborn around (and when we're not, it's not because Georgie isn't sleeping). Don't worry, I know it's all going to change in another couple months.  I'm enjoying it while I can.

Firsts

Derek is sure he heard Georgie laugh at Gwendolyn the other day when she was talking to her.  I did not hear it, but it's quite possible this happened!  Georgie loves all her siblings, and I'm constantly catching her grinning and crinkling her cheeks and nose at her brothers and sisters.

Georgie also rolled from back to front twice.  How did she manage that?  Back to front is the hard one!  I don't think it was intentional, but yes, technically she rolled over this month.

We obviously also celebrated Georgie's first Christmas, which was sweet!


Personality

Since she started smiling more this month, I feel like we are starting to get a little glimpse of her personality.  She smiles easiest when you just sit there and talk to her. She loves to be talked to, and sometimes she'll coo in response!   

She usually likes to be held, but if she has her wubbanub pacifier she will lay on the couch by herself too.  She wraps her little arm around the stuffed animal part and just looks around at everything while she works on her pacifier.  If she doesn't have her wubbanub, she usually ends up sucking on her finger, or even sometimes on the corner of her own lip!  (It's pretty darn cute.)

She likes her carseat pretty well and takes nice naps whenever we have to drive somewhere in the car.  If I wear her in our wrap carrier she almost immediately falls asleep.  She likes to be snuggled close, and she likes to be warm (even though her normal body temperature runs on the high end of normal anyway). 

If she is unhappy, it's usually only when I waited too long (according to her) to get her up in the mornings.  I'll go in and apologize while I unwrap her from her swaddle, and she just looks at me and juts out her lower lip in the most pathetically cute frown you've ever seen.  She forgives me pretty quickly though!

---

Dear Georgiana Bea,

My darling girl, I love this age with you so much!  You've got the adorable smiles and facial expressions, but you are still my snuggly newborn girl.  Even though our house is always busy (that's what you get when you're the fifth baby), I take any opportunity I can to just sit down and hold you.  Your tiny little body just relaxes into me, and I love it when you'll take a nap in my arms.  Your eyelashes are long enough to brush your cheeks, and I kiss your little eyes while you sleep.  I think you are getting used to the abundance of kisses now - you get them from six people in this house!

One of my favorite things about this month though was when I knew you recognized me.  I had run out somewhere, and when I got back, Daddy was holding you.  You were hungrier than expected and not a happy camper.  I came in and said your name, and your eyes locked onto my face and you jerked toward me and made this little hiccup sound.  Now darling, you love your daddy a whole bunch, but in that moment you leaned toward me! I grabbed you and you melted against my shoulder like you always do, snuggling your soft little cheek against my neck.  I think that was my favorite moment this month.  I wish I could bottle up the way it feels to hold little two-month-old you in my arms.  I love you so much, sweet girl.

Love Always,

Mama


Why I Didn't Rebel Book Review - Meh





It was sheer curiosity that prompted me to pick up Why I Didn't Rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach. The subtitle states that the book is written by a millennial who did not rebel as a teenager and I was also a millennial who did not rebel as a teenager, so I wanted to see if our experiences were similar.


I thought the author presented some interesting reminders in this book. I could relate to a lot of the points she made because a lot of the things that she experienced in her family were things my parents also did.  I think this book may offer some value in helping parents to start thinking about how they can aid of their children in not rebelling (or how they may inadvertently push them toward rebellion). So many of her points had to do with building a strong family unit through communication, traditions, and a family identity, and I thought she had great things to say on these subjects (though her "evidence" is almost purely anecdotal).

However, there were some areas where I felt that the author's lack of experience on the parenting side started to show. I am a millennial who is a little further down this road because I have children of my own now. Coming at this as a parent of young children, I felt that some topics that she tried to cover can be a bit more complicated than she made them out to be. A good example is the chapter on discipline. Entire books have been written on the topic of discipline from many different perspectives, including different strategies than the ones she presented in this book. I felt that she oversimplified that whole topic and didn't take into account viewpoints that were different than her own.  I was also surprised that she didn't mention any biblical principals in this chapter, because God obviously has something to say in the matter of how to train children. The only mention of Scripture here was an expert's opinion on why he thinks the Bible doesn't advise spanking (which people obviously also have a lot of opinions on, but only one side was presented). A huge opportunity was missed here to make this whole book more biblically grounded, so I found that disappointing.

(It also irked me when she stated her opinion that it was better not to focus on what are right and wrong decisions when talking to teens, but rather what is "smart or dumb". Why can't we include both? I think it is more effective to include both angles, so I disagreed with her here.)

The further I got into this book, the more something started to bug me.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it until the last chapter, and I think it boiled down to two things.  First, I felt that the way she presented her points in this book came off very formulaic, as if doing certain things would almost guarantee that your kids wouldn't "rebel".  And while I thought a lot of her advice was good, I finally figured out why her approach was bugging me - it's because overall, this book felt very weak to me on the Gospel.  The author mentions "authentic" Christianity, and even repentance or forgiveness of "mistakes", but it is never tied together into a full picture - that ALL children are naturally rebellious against God.  That's called sin.  And in order to not rebel against us, they first need to stop rebelling against God, turn from their sin, and believe in Jesus Christ and His righteousness to cover the debt of their sins that they cannot pay.  

If our children aren't first truly saved, it doesn't matter one wit if they don't "rebel" in the traditional sense - they are still lost in their sins, and that is the most serious rebellion of all.  I thought the author was perhaps trying to communicate that with her "authentic Christianity" talk, but it sounded like a bunch of buzz words, and to me, she failed to communicate what should be the main point for Christian parents, which is communicating the Gospel effectively to our children in every way we can, in word and deed. 

So overall, I don't know, maybe I'm being a little hard on this book, but something didn't sit right. I won't be recommending this book.  I feel there are more complete resources for Christian parents out there.

(If you are looking for a more biblically grounded book about raising children, including preventing rebellion and teaching them how to trust Jesus as their Savior, I highly recommend John MacArthur's Successful Christian Parenting.)

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.
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