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Hello, friends! Can you believe January’s already half gone? It’s weird to me, since Portland has been half-buried under snow for over a week. I was running all over getting ready for winter term to begin, and then I ended up stranded at home, waiting for the snow to melt. Portland doesn’t know how to deal with snow, so we ground unceremoniously to a halt about a week ago, and haven’t quite recovered yet.
Half of my classes were cancelled last week, but I’ve been working to get things off the ground and get myself organized for a successful term. I’ve got a new Leuchtturm1917 dot grid notebook + my Passion Planner, and with the two together, I’m ready to get on top of my life and my school work, so I can rule this term. These aren’t the only tools I use to keep on top of my work and my grades, but I’m saving “the Binder” to talk about in February. For this post, I’m gonna focus on the daily life stuff. Because I have ADHD, organization is something I can struggle with, and I’ve been working hard to build better habits for the past couple of years. I want to share how I stay organized and hear your favorite tips and tools!
First up: the schedule. This was the first week of classes:
Classes were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday, and had a late start Monday and Friday. I used that extra free time to get started on the reading, and get my planner and papers in order. (I also took my bestie to see Hidden Figures—so worth it— and, before getting snowed in, went to see my mom.) My planner currently has my class schedule and other obligations written in, and I’ve got a color coding system in place already. (I’m using the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens, which come in a handy carrying case, and I just keep them with my planner.) As the term goes along, I’ll use the focus boxes above each day to highlight the most important tasks, as well as take notes in the blank area below and prioritize life tasks in the to-do section.
I love the Passion Planner, because this sort of thing is built in. You set goals, set deadlines, and then there are places to slot those goals and their deadlines in where they need to go. Each week also includes a little gratitude box, inspirational quote, and mindfulness exercise, which feels really nice. I opted this year for the half-size planner, and I’m not sure I like it as much—I might need the room that the bigger planner has! But I’ve got ultra fine-point pens, so it may work out alright. The upside of the small size is that I can throw this into my purse on days I’m not taking a backpack out with me.
Now for the notebook! My bullet journal—bujo for short— is in a Leuchtturm1917 dot grid notebook in the A5 size. (If you don’t have any idea what a bullet journal is, here’s a link to the website that explains it all.) I use the multi-color Fineliners to make fun and creative spreads, but I also often default to a plain black pen, and that’s usually a Pilot G2 ultra fine point. I also cut and paste things in, when hand drawing something would be too tedious.
I created this habit and symptom tracker in excel, and I check it periodically throughout the day to record various things. The categories listed are either symptoms, healthy or unhealthy habits, or goals. It’s a good record for my own reference when talking with doctors and counsellors, and having it helps me be more mindful of my emotions and body. The spreadsheet includes separate sheets for each month of the year, with an extra sheet included for February during leap years. Click the link above or the picture to go to dropbox and download the file for your own use—feel free to edit it to suit your own needs!
This spread is the 20 month eagle eye view of the work I need to do to get from the middle of senior year (right now) to attending a graduate history program in autumn of 2018. It’s sparse now, but I’ll fill it in more in the next 6 months.
One of my worst habits is forgetting to eat when I’m feeling stressed out. Add that to all of my food sensitivities and allergies, and I can fall really easily into the “there’s nothing to eat in the house!” trap, and go out for food or buy carb-heavy snacks at the corner store. I made a spread with easy gluten-free and diabetic friendly snack and meal ideas that I can check out when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Having lists with these kinds of foods will help me make better choices for myself and keep my body well.
On a day-to-day basis, the Daily Log of the bujo system helps keep me on track. Using this, I can track everything I need to do in a day in one place. It’s flexible enough for any purpose—from writing down reminders to noting down scheduled activities to brain-dumping whatever’s bugging me, I use the daily log for so many things. I have a key set up in the first page of the journal—stars indicate tasks to prioritize, for instance—and make the next day’s list shortly before bed time. The planner helps me keep track of future stuff, but the daily log is what I use the most, checking in with it several times a day. This thing runs my life, and is partially responsible for any productivity I achieve. It feels really satisfying to check stuff off my list as it gets done.
This one is a prioritization tool, for when I can’t seem to pick out what to work on first. When I’m struggling to keep on track, I use this one: the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, attributed to President Eisenhower. Every task I need to get done is measured on two factors, importance and urgency, and then placed accordingly into one of four quadrants, labelled “Urgent & Important,” “Urgent But Not Important,” “Important But Not Urgent,” and “Not Important & Not Urgent” respectively. I used to use an app on my laptop for this, but now I generally prefer to do it in my notebook, since I don’t always have my laptop with me. I use this one most often on the weekends, when my time is less regimented by external structures (no classes), but I still need to make sure certain things get done. Chores, fun tasks, boring tasks—if it needs to get done, I think about how each of the factors applies to it, and write it in the chart wherever it belongs. This can really help combat overwhelm and give me a place to start, which I sometimes need help with because of my ADHD.
And sometimes I just need to scribble. The plus side of a notebook is that I always have the option to just draw some doodles, practice my hand-lettering, and make a fun and inspiring message for myself. I can write poetry, journal, vent—whatever I want. It’s my notebook, and it becomes a record of my life as I fill it up with notes, lists, pictures, and so on. This quote is to remind me that I’m where I need to be, and that taking longer to complete my degree doesn’t mean anything about my worth. This June will be the 10th anniversary of my high school graduation, and I’m battling self esteem issues over how long it’s taking to get my bachelor’s degree. This quote says taking lomger is okay, that taking longer means I’m more ready and mature and experienced than I might otberwise be, and that may help me succeed in grad school.
So, there you have it: my BuJo + Planner system for staying on top of the things I need to do to succeed at school, managing my physical and mental health, and planning my future. The follow-up post next month will cover the schoolwork-specific binder system I started using last January and talk about how it’s helped me stay on top of things and pull in all A’s and B’s in the last 3 terms. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about how you stay organized—leave a comment and let me know!