When I created my Bullet Journal spread this month, I looked over previous diary entries and recorded thoughts to see if a recurring theme would reveal itself.
The one that caught my eye was the word “Forward.” I’d been making a lot of progress in various areas – losing weight (lost 30 pounds over the last six months), improving fitness, accomplishing personal goals, participating in more events that matter to me…
At the same time, I realized I waste too many hours on stuff that doesn’t matter, and I make too many spontaneous or thoughtless choices that hinder progressing in the areas I say are important.
“I could write…” but I play a couple hours of video games.
“I should eat the healthy meal I planned…” but I reach for cheap junk food.
“I’ve got more exercise to do if I’m gonna meet my goal for today…” ehh, but there’s always tomorrow.
“I’ve had enough food. I should drink water and let my body realize it’s full…” but another slice of pizza is sitting right there and I think I heard it beg for death.
Point being, if all these little things are like running a race, I don’t want to step off the track or leave the course when the finish line is in sight. And while it’s sometimes frustrating to realize that there is no true finish line, just a good habit that I continue doing into the future, I realize I’m only tripping myself up and pushing the short-term goals further away when I make bad decisions.
So this month’s spread is trying to capture the idea of stopping the old habit of “two steps forward, one step back” — or more true to my life, two forward and three back.
We also watched Moana near the end of March / beginning of April, so that influenced my pictures. Hei Hei is there because he’s awesome and hilarious, and an Alan Tudyk character is always a good choice. The quote I found which I put above Moana’s sail is: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean.
I picked up a pack of Stabilo markers from the base art supplies store, and I love the colors. While I enjoy colored pencils (which I used for the Moana and Hei Hei pics), I hate scratchy media. The Stabilo markers don’t seem to bleed through the paper so long as I’m not going over the same spots, and the colors show up brighter in my opinion.
Sorry for the quality of the pic – it’s just off my iPad.
I added a couple adjustments to my Bullet Journal process since my last post on the subject. Here are a couple quick tricks that I think work for both the minimalist version and the artsy / time-consuming arrangements.
Track the workplace “fires” that you put out
Office workers know the pain of watching your organized, planned-out schedule burst into flames as managers or circumstances bring you all sorts of “fires” to put out. Urgent tasks demand attention. Surprise emails reprioritize your day. The boss comes in and says “Drop what you’re doing, I need you on This now.”
Bullet Journal is about tracking what you’ve done as well as organizing your future effort, so from the beginning I’ve written down the unplanned or unexpected tasks I accomplish. But I decided to capture these random “opportunities” with a symbol all their own: a little flame on the task. Not only does that identify the task as HOT but it also shows that I didn’t plan for this… which might explain why other tasks get migrated to the next day (yet again).
Even more rewarding? When that surprise tasker is completed, I can draw a squiggle on the fire to show it has been put out properly. We joke about putting out fires all day—why not incorporate that into my BuJo?
Yep. I still hate the term “BuJo.”
Color code or number your top priority tasks
When I first started my journal, I picked up a set of five ultra fine point gel pens with different color ink: black, blue, purple, red, and green. I thought I’d use them more often, but I prefer colored pencils for anything artsy. So I’ve had these things sitting in a pen case doing nothing.
The other day, I think a motivational video or article suggested organizing or identifying certain tasks as the priorities for a given day, and hitting those first. I could use numbers, of course… but why not the pens? Now I look over my to-do list for the day and underline four tasks in priority order—red, purple, blue, green—as my primary focus items. It’s an added satisfaction to check those off as done.
Today, I knocked out everything on my high-priority list before my lunch break. Now I can get to some of the other tasks in the afternoon, with the satisfaction that the big items are out of the way.
On a side note, when I reviewed February’s journal entries, I found a lot of references to using the limited time we’re given wisely. As I considered how to lay out March’s monthly calendar and tracker, I decided to incorporate that message into my spread as a constant reminder this month. I found a few sweet quotes that spur me on to do the most with each day:
And naturally, as a Whovian, I had to incorporate the Doctor and some items related to his adventures. Here’s my timey-wimey March page:
Some of the applicable motivational quotes that have come my way include:
The billionaire and the beggar each are given the same 24 hours in a day.
You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.
We hold other people to guarantees and promises, like “30-day satisfaction or your money back.” Why don’t we hold ourselves to that standard? You owe you, you owe it to yourself to set such a standard.
It’s not a last minute “fire” task if it’s a “waited until the last minute” task. That’s just poor planning or poor execution. (That’s my own, in light of the fire symbol idea.)
In my first Bullet Journal post, I talked about the results I tracked during the first month testing out how I liked the system.
In this post, I wanted to share a few of the personal touches from my journal.
A look through social media or Google Images for anything “bullet journal” might return wild results that look more like a scrapbooking site than some quick and easy system for tracking tasks.
Some argue there’s a difference between bullet journals (which have little to no complexity, basic subjects, simple uses) versus the “omnijournals” where people are tracking anything and everything, from books to read, to which episodes of Dexter they’ve watched, usually with impressive calligraphy, artwork, colorful inks, and even art supplies like stamps, stencils, and washi tape. It can get expensive if you go all out, but the system can function just as well in a 69 cent memo pad.
While I think the minimalist version has great usefulness and merit, I’m too artsy and doodle-prone to be content with that. So when I found an article called “The Comic Book Journal” on the bullet journal site blog, I decided that was closer to what I wanted. This allowed me to capture some moments and memories, like a family trip to a restaurant, some time relaxing in the shade of Okinawan banyan trees, and a silly drawing to remind me to avoid superficial garbage and distractions.
Here’s what worked for me:
Beyond the basics (index, future log, monthly spread, daily entries), I adopted a more complex monthly format that allows tracking of recurring activities–great for building habits and checking progress toward goals.
A lot of the purpose of the bullet journal is to serve as a brain dump memo pad which can quickly feed into indexed sections based on the content. Someone recommends a good book? Jot it in the daily notes, so that later you can put it into the “books to read” spread. Hear a line that inspires you? Add it to a motivational quotes spread for mental fuel when you need a pick-me-up or a kick in the procrastination. When the spouse says “We need toilet paper next time we go to the store,” or when you realize the car needs a tune-up next month, put those on financial spreads split for short-term and long-term expenses.
I loved pictures I found of a bookshelf spread with books you color in as you finish reading them, or popcorn kernels for movies you want to watch.
I have some fitness goals I want to reach, so I set up a tracker for push-ups, sit-ups, planks, and generic strength-focused workouts. I also put in a page for meal plans, so I can easily grab the right ingredients and put together lunches for a few days at a time. For my writing efforts, I put in a year-long word count spread with a color code for how many words I manage on a given day, and space to jot down writing ideas.
Some of the artistic pages incorporated ways to track or focus on gratitude, which I thought would help me maintain positive energy. I liked the gratitude “sunburst” the most, with rays for each day and then some.
I viewed that as part of my month-long tracking, so a new sunburst got added for this month right before my February spread. The habit trackers have been great for pushing me toward making better decisions and achieving my goals. For example, last month I tracked whether I logged all my meals in my fitness pal, but this month I added a box for which days I kept below my calorie count. And while I don’t drink alcohol all the time and keep it to a small amount (a couple shots max) whenever I do imbibe, I decided a box for “no alcohol” was a way to force a conscious decision of “do you really want a drink?” The mental reward of checking a box that said I didn’t partake is enough to make me hesitate and actively consider the question rather than drinking just because it’s there.
The artistic aspect of the way I’m doing my journal lets me capture memories and moments in pictures. Maybe it’s a character’s silly expression or a mindless doodle, but sometimes it’s an attempt to capture the way the sunrise painted amber on the tips of purple clouds, or the hilltop view overlooking the ocean with islands on the horizon. For me, these also break up the monotony of tasks and appointments in my journal, giving me something cool to look at when I flip through the pages.
All of that said (and shown), this is just what I found kept me motivated and engaged in these areas I wanted to track. My format might not work for every reader.
The personalization makes all the difference.
I have a co-worker friend of mine who started setting up his Bullet Journal, and he paged through mine to get some ideas. We talked at length about what I used and why, but from the get-go, he proclaimed he wanted the minimalist arrangement, nothing elaborate or frilly. I stopped in his office today and saw a Leuchtturm 1917 opened with a number of familiar spreads–all of them clean and neat, black and white, crisp and sharp. Most of all, I noticed the bright smile on his face as he showed off his work in progress. I recognize that happiness–it’s the same sensation I feel about my Bullet Journal, even though mine is full of varied letter shapes, random doodles, and colored pencils.
Do you “BuJo” ? (confession: I hate that word and I won’t be using it any more.) What have you found works for your needs? Do you go artistic or minimalist in your journal? Let me know in a comment. I’d love to see how you set up yours–maybe I’ll get a new idea for mine!
After a 13 hour work day (with a 9.5 hour operational sortie), I wanted nothing more than to go to bed as soon as I got home.
Well, I guess that’s not entirely true… because I forced myself through a 30-minute bodyweight exercise workout, and now I’m sitting on my new indoor bike pedaling away against moderate resistance while typing these thoughts.
I’m mostly doing it because I know the Air Force still has PT standards and I still have a PT test coming up in 2 months. And I don’t think I presently meet the standards, so it’s going to take action to fix that.
How bad do I want to sleep? How bad do I want to avoid getting in trouble with the military? And how bad do I want to feel lighter, healthier, more energetic?
I know it’s possible… because a year ago I was in far better shape, and I felt great. How bad do I want that state back?
Throw the switch on the tracks of this train of thought, and let me think about writing.
Today I handed out four or five copies of my novel to co-workers and friends who expressed interest. One of them saw me signing a copy for someone else and said, “Hey, I’ll take one of those. I like your writing.”
I expressed surprise and asked, “What writing of mine have you read?” I forgot that he took a gander at a short story I’d written for a Blog Battle entry. And I realized that even though I work with a bunch of fellow nerds who love to troll and tease each other, some people genuinely enjoy my work.
When I handed a different friend his copy, I had another one of those “yes, you can look me up on Amazon” conversations. It felt awkward, as always. It felt cool, as always.
And today one of my first fans asked, “How’s book two coming?”
I had to stop and admit that the book two word count hasn’t moved in probably a week or more. I’ve been flying a lot, but most writers (and I daresay all amateur writers) have full-time jobs and real-life demands.
So how bad do I want to send a fan a link to Book Two? How much does it mean to me that people want me to sign a book for them? What do my actions say about what this hobby/job means to me?
Since I started out writing, I’ve encountered several intelligent and capable people who also express interest in writing. But almost all of them talk about it as a “what if,” or “maybe someday,” or “it would be cool to…”
Diffraction was my “maybe someday” for several years, until I cracked down, cranked out the work, took the lumps of constructive criticism, cranked out more work on revision, and formatted the manuscript.
On December 21st, 2015, “maybe someday” became “today.”
What’s your “maybe someday” dream?
One of my goals for writing is to reach 20K words / month, preferably on the sequel to Diffraction. Between that, finishing my NaNoWriMo book, continuing Echoes on WattPad, participating in occasional Blog Battles, and maintaining a somewhat frequent blog, I have plenty of writing options.
Brandon Sanderson posts his word counts and percentages complete for various projects. That struck me as a great way to inject a little discipline or intentionality into my own writing–something I lack. I’m used to winging it, writing when I feel like it, for however long the mood strikes. But like many disciplines (dieting, exercise, learning an instrument, studying for school), a little organization and tracking can show you how much (or little) you’ve done.
I finished 50K in a month for NaNo. I chose 20K a month as a sustainable pace (given I have a full time job). And I thought, “This will be easy.”
Yet my word count tracker tells me otherwise:
I flew twice for work over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I spent Monday thinking “I’ll write some in a bit.” Then I spent pretty much all of Tuesday confined to bed with a terrible nauseating headache sinus combination of death. Still, the excuses don’t make me feel much better when I have to hit ‘0’ for that field.
Looks like I have some catching up to do.
I’m always grateful for a little motivation from my friends and co-workers. Whether it’s the question, “So when’s book two coming?” or a simple, “I got a copy of your book the other day,” every little bit helps spur me on to put words to paper.
I’ll say I would write these stories anyway, because I do enjoy the process and the accomplishment. But it’s easy to wonder if anyone cares.
Then I get a text from an old friend:
He actually asked, “Think I can get the author to sign it for me?”
The answer of course is yes, gladly.
Another friend, whose feedback has been the most thorough and constructive, said to me, “I’m thinking of writing a story in your world.” He asked as though this was the most arrogant of requests.
I saw it differently. By writing a book, I’ve invited readers into a world that only exists in my head. Someone wants to play in that sandbox? That’s amazing.
And one of my long-time WoW buds is starting writing. I guess he figured if both Dave and his wife could knock out a book, then anyone can.
Motivation is everywhere… So I have no excuse but to get those words down. It’s a hardship but I think I’ll be okay.
His personal story is compelling to me on several levels.
I’ve said elsewhere on this site that it feels like I do a number of things at the “karaoke” level — well enough that people are impressed, but only when it’s free. Writing is one such endeavor.
Songwriting for Christian worship services is another. I have over a hundred songs inspired by sermons and Scripture over the last seventeen years. Some have been used in church services for a season, many have been files taking up space on a hard drive. Similarly, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words, including two complete novel manuscripts and several short stories. But most of those are (for now) using up cloud storage space and nothing more.
Positive feedback from alpha readers is helpful. But let’s be honest; these are my friends and acquaintances over the years. They’re willing to pick up and read a novel because we already have a connection. I won’t be so lucky with your average reader browsing through a pile of self-published e-books on Amazon.
A friend of mine sent me this picture, which I took as much needed encouragement:
So… why write? Am I willing to put forth the effort to craft the seven or eight novels bouncing in my head at present, knowing they may do nothing more than collect dust and entertain my kids? Am I willing to pen songs for personal worship knowing they might never be played in a public setting? Am I willing to throw a handful of words onto this webpage and click “Publish” knowing I might never have a bunch of Likes or hits?
Yes. I hope you are too.
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.