Do you ever find yourself fantasizing about being one of those parents who always have their shit together? You’ve heard of the type. They get plenty of sleep, are always on top of their kids’ extra-curriculars, and cook healthy meals that the whole family adores. They’re the most organized moms and dads that you’ll never, ever meet because they aren’t real.
Seriously, no one can live up to the sky-high expectations parents have for themselves (or each other), but it’s the perfect time of year to aspire to better yourself, in any small way. Enter one of the most controversial self-improvement tools out there: the bullet journal.
For the uninitiated, a bullet journal is a “rapid logging” approach to note-taking, as well as organizing your tasks and goals. It’s got a rep for being complicated, but as the name implies, the point of a bullet journal is to keep your journaling short and sweet.
Watch: how to start a bullet journal. Story continues below.
Most use a blank or dot gridded notebook, then customize it to best suit their needs. Those who lead busy lives swear by its life management powers, and who could be busier than a parent?
Before we go any further, no, a bullet journal doesn’t have to be pretty. Many bullet journal layouts on social media are daunting. They look gorgeous and take a million art supplies to create, but there’s no reason yours should.
Although many people take comfort in spending time decorating their notebooks, the method’s inventor Ryder Carroll says organizing systems like the bullet journal are just “a means to an end.”
“If you look forward to coming back to your book and feel like it’s your ally, then you’re doing it right … it’s less about how your book looks, and more about how it makes you feel,” he wrote on the journal’s website.
Here’s why you should start a bullet journal and how you can use it to track all your parenting-related needs.
The benefits of bullet journalling
There are several psychological perks bullet journal-keepers can reap. The first advantage comes from how tactile hand-writing is. Putting pen to paper and writing out your goals tells your brain that the goal is important. And studies on note-taking have shown that hand-writing forces people to think more about the message they are writing down, meaning they spend more time processing the information. This improves how well they can retain what they’re writing.
Then there’s the mental strain journalling can alleviate. Neuroscientist Daniel Joseph Levitin told the Cut that bullet journalling frees up space for your mental energies to focus on other issues. Think of it like adding a USB stick to your brain’s hard drive.
Emotionally, there are discoveries you can make through journalling. You can use a bullet journal to track anything, which can be eye-opening if there are bad habits you had no idea you were keeping. I’ve used mine to keep an eye on how much water I drink every day, my finances, and even how much alcohol I drink.
After just a month of tracking, I was Pikachu levels of stunned to see on paper how dehydrated, broke, and booze-prone I really was.
Start with a “key” for your journal
Using symbols and colours are essential shortcuts for many journal keepers. Called a “legend” or “key,” this space in your journal lists all the handy short-hand you’ve made that you’ll refer to whenever you update your notebook. There are some common symbols ― like checkboxes to designate a task and checkmarks to show a completed task ― but you can customize your key to be whatever you want.
A parent’s bullet journal may necessitate unique parenting symbols for actions that occur often in your life. For example, a star symbol might be used to indicate a child’s achievement in school that you want to celebrate. An expecting parent could find it useful to mark all their appointments with a triangle.
Take charge of your daily tasks
For one mom, bullet journaling consolidated the several to-do lists she juggled every day. Super Mom Hacks blogger Flossie wrote that she kept multiple to-do lists running on pieces of paper and in notes that would get buried on her phone, along with a mental tally. A bullet journal keeps her lists together in a place she can always turn to when she has a spare moment.
It can also be comforting to list out tasks you’re very familiar with. These lists, although less pressing to remember, can reinforce rituals you ought to practice frequently, like a self-care routine.
Track the family’s schedules with ease
Many bullet journal double-page layouts, called spreads, can accommodate for multiple calendars. Podcaster and blogger Evie Granville created a spread that tracks her kids’ activities by colour-coding their names. Because hectic schedules change last-minute, she uses semi-transparent tabs to move, overlap, or remove them as needed.
Others use their journals to make sure chores don’t fall to the wayside.
Spark excitement with different layouts
Some parents like to keep menu spreads that serve as food inspiration throughout the week.
And while they don’t have to be pretty, decorating your spreads can spark excitement for everyday activities, like planning an event.
Many get creative with their journals to track their habits, using pages to combine a tracker with motivational quotes and reminders why they want to keep or get rid of the habit.
Re-wire your mind with affirmations
It can be easy to feel discouraged when you’re in the parenting trenches. Life coach and mother of 10 Kimberly Job uses her bullet journal techniques to promote positive thinking.
Fall off the wagon? Don’t get discouraged
Many bullet journal beginners make rookie mistakes when they start off. They’ll try out too many trackers, come up with keys and symbols that are way too elaborate, or just forget to update their notebook. Don’t fret: the great thing about bullet journalling is its flexibility.
After a month of journal-keeping, evaluate how the set-up worked for you. Was it helpful to track everyone’s schedules in a graph? Did the symbols you came up with actually get used? Knowing what actually works helps you set up a more efficient layout for the next month.
20 Ideas For 2020 is our month-long series that explores easy ways to take action on the ideas and changes you may have already been thinking about.
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