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A few years ago I decided to keep my kids home with me and homeschool them. Between speech therapy and soccer practice, meal planning and science books, my brain turned to mush. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I needed to be better organized, as our days could easily go haywire. In my search for a new way to tame our chaos, I stumbled upon a gorgeous method called bullet journaling.
I saw hundreds of Pinterest-worthy bullet journals, complete with fancy fonts and vibrant watercolors. There were glorious spreads meant for keeping track of everything, from goals to weight loss. And while they all were nothing short of spectacular, they were discouraging.
Knowing myself and the amount of free time I have to spend doodling in a planner, I knew this wasn’t a bullet journal for moms. (Well, not for homeschooling moms with an already crowded plate anyways.) As I scrolled through Pinterest, I didn’t see a single bullet journal with rough and wrinkled pages, dried from spilled juice. I didn’t see chocolate fingerprints or scratched out plans. There was no scribble marks from helpful toddlers.
But the idea behind the system stuck with me. The ease of migrating forgotten tasks, the mindful way it encouraged productivity and the simplicity of tracking events was like no other I’d seen.
I didn’t really know what I was doing but I jumped right in anyways. Creating a simple bullet journal for moms was going to help reduce my absentmindedness and I just knew it!
The Basics of a Bullet Journal For Moms:
Contrary to what the beautiful bullet journals on Pinterest say, you don’t need a lot of time and money to use a bullet journal. In fact, you could use a plain ol’ spiral notebook and old-school pencil if you want! However, I went ahead and splurged on a couple of supplies.
- NOTEBOOK: After reading hundreds of opinions about which notebook was best, I settled on this one. The dotted paper is thick and most pens won’t bleed through. The cover is soft and flexible and the binding allows the journal to lay flat. (This was a big one for me. I don’t have room on my desk for a bulky 3 ring binder and I didn’t want to have to work around spirals.)
I opted for the dotted paper, as it looked most aesthetically pleasing to me. The grid paper would be my next option, then lined. I have found that the dots leave me plenty of room for my ah-mazingly disastrous artwork, if I attempt to get creative. It also is perfect for spacing and helps make sure my washi tape is straight.
- PENS: While you can opt for any pens you choose, I’ve fallen head over heels for these. They write smoothly and don’t smudge. However, I did start with a pretty set from the local dollar store. The issue with these was that they smudged super easy and ran out of ink in just a few months.
- WASHI TAPE: I love washi-tape and already had a few rolls when I started bullet journaling. I found that washi tape gives my page a pop of pretty that I couldn’t achieve otherwise. As I already stated, my artistic ability is equal to that of a rabid dog with a paintbrush in his mouth. With minimal effort, my pages go from blah to ahh! There are literally thousands of washi tape designs on the market so you’re bound to find something that suits you.
- STENCILS: While setting up my 2018 journal, I decided to buy some fun bullet journal stencils. They help me achieve the “hand-drawn” doodles that I’ve attempted on my own, without looking like a preschooler drew them. For the price, I wish I would’ve grabbed them a few years ago!
One of my first concerns was that setting up my bullet journal would take a lot of time. But it didn’t. I spend about an hour setting up my new journal each year and then another 15 minutes every couple of months setting up my weekly pages.
The journal and pens always stay on my desk and I keep the washi tape and stencils in a drawer nearby. I like to corral my washi tapes so I can grab them all at once and set up my journal while I watch TV with the family.
One thing that drew me to bullet journaling was the ability to keep everything in one notebook. With household responsibilities, homeschooling field trips and blogging deadlines, this system transformed my day. No longer did i need to pull out a separate notebook to see when the next soccer game was.
My entire life’s agenda was contained in this one notebook. Not only does it take up less space, but the convenience of looking at my ENTIRE life, instead of one aspect individually has helped to avoid overwhelm and over-scheduling.
‣‣‣ I have 3 main areas of my life that I use my bullet journal for: personal, homeschooling and blogging.
My personal collection contains my Christmas shopping list/gift ideas, cleaning tracker, passwords, self-care reminders, etc.
In my homeschool collection, I have books we want to read, unit study ideas, math tracker, field trip ideas, etc.
My blog collection has affiliate links, post ideas, stats, paid projects, income and expenses, deadlines, etc.
Daily spreads are super helpful for those days when you have a ton going on. I personally only use them when I know I’ll have a ton going on and need to remember all the details, which isn’t very often. For our Veterans’ Day lunch, I tracked our menu, games, guest list and RSVPs on a daily. The only other time I’ve used a daily is for Christmas Eve one year. I had a ton of stuff that needed done before family arrived, after they left and before the next round of family showed up. It helped me to have all the details in one place. (I could’ve put both of these daily spreads into my collection, but I liked having it in my calendar spreads so I could see the days and what needed done as it got closer.)
A weekly spread is what I use the most in my bullet journal. I like how I can see what’s planned for the entire week at a time. I generally write down any important tasks or events at the beginning of the week, then I fill in the gaps with things I want to get accomplished on which days. For example, I know that I have to take my son to speech therapy on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I try to do any grocery shopping or errands on those days. That leaves me 3 other day to focus on housework and homeschooling.
Using washi-tape, I divide my pages into 6 sections. The top left section is dedicated to weekly goals and to-do’s. These are things that need done that week but not on a particular day. (For instance, as long as laundry gets done, I don’t care what day I do it.)
The remaining 5 sections are for my weekdays. I fill them up with chores, school work, appointments, etc. I typically do a brain dump each night for the next day so I’ll know exactly what I need to do the next day.
For me, the weekends are generally unplanned and relaxed. I don’t do a ton of blogging or housework on the weekends and we hardly ever do schoolwork. If we have an event on the weekend, I simply write it at the bottom of the page so I don’t forget about it.
A monthly spread is perfect for when you need to see the entire month at a glance. I generally make my monthly spreads ahead of time so I can add to them all year long. For example, I only set up about 12 weeks at a time in my journal (so I can work along with The 12 Week Year) but if I have an appointment 6 months from now, I can easily add it to my monthly spread. When I set up my weekly, I check my monthly spread to see if there’s any important event or date that I need to include in my week.
I’ve grown to love a list-like monthly spread. I use the opposite page to write down any goals for the month, as well as any notes or reminders that I might need. I’ve found that flipping back to my monthly goals helps keep me motivated. Another option is to do a gratefulness tracker on this page. You could write any and everything that you’re grateful for here, in an effort to keep you thankful for even the smallest things in your life.
Any bullet journal junkie will tell you that the secret to success is the bullet journal’s key. However, I tried using the original key and failed miserably. I do better by creating my own key, one that comes natural to me.
The original bullet journal system includes symbols for tasks, completed tasks, migrated tasks, events, notes, etc. There were a lot of symbols for me to memorize and I still kept reverting back my what came natural to me. Instead of fancy bullets, I prefer to keep it simple. A small circle or box next to a task/event/etc. can be crossed off when completed. If I don’t get it completed on the day it needs completed, I simply move it to the next day, without crossing it off my list.
Another reason that people love bullet journals is because of their index. I don’t use an index. Instead, I keep all of my weekly and monthly spreads together in the front of my journal and keep my collections in the back. I have 3 sections with tabs that I use to easily find what I’m looking for. (One tab for homeschool, one for my blog and one for personal stuff.) If you want to include an index, you would simply number every page and keep a running index of important pages.
The Original System:
As I stated above, the original bullet journal is simplicity at it’s very finest. The first thing I recommend you do before starting your own bullet journal is head to the website and take a look around. You’ll find some great ideas that may work in your journal that aren’t necessary for me. The next place to look, of course, is Pinterest. But be forewarned, it’s a deep dark hole that you will easily fall into. Don’t get caught up in the comparison game. I’m showing you my less-than-perfect journal in hopes that you will start your own journal, no matter how ugly it may be. 😉
Once you decide to use a bullet journal, there’s no looking back. You’ll fall in love with the ease and flexibility that it offers, while making it work for you. You don’t need to worry about falling off the wagon and wasting half a planner. Instead, you can simply pick up where you left off. With so many ways to use your bullet journal, your life will feel more organized and productive than ever before!