3 kinds of lists for your bullet journal

Do you know what I’m really excited about these days? It’s how bullet journalling has made it cool and trendy to write things down 🙂

When you write things down, it frees your mind for more big picture thinking and you don’t have to worry too much about the details because they’re written down so they’re not disappearing anywhere.

Here are 3 types of lists you could use to help manage your time effectively. You can make the lists in your bullet journal or download them from my website.

Master to-do list

1. Master list
This is a place for a “brain dump”, a place for ideas you might want to pursue in the future or possible projects you need to tackle.

You can work off one master list for months, like I do with my business or blogging ideas.

I also have a master list of things to do in the house. I write up a new list every year and I work on that list the entire year.

To-do list

2. To-do list
This list can be monthly, weekly or daily. I post a weekend to-do list to Instagram every weekend.

The difference between this list and the master list is that this one has a time deadline attached to it.

I have a monthly to-do list, which is really my monthly goals list. I keep this one with broad goals like go to the gym 8 – 12 times, a weekly to-do list with about 3-5 business tasks to get done and then my daily to-do list which spreads out those 5 tasks so that I have only 1 or so to do daily.

Sometimes 1 task is very big and takes a couple of days so I’ll leave a couple of smaller ones to do all on one day.

I want to caution you to only put a maximum of 6 items on your daily to-do list so you don’t become overwhelmed!

My checklist to live my best life

3. Checklist
This is a place with a list of items which you check/ tick off.

This list is ideal for anything you need to do regularly, like the order in which you do your photo backups, a list of weekly business tasks, travel checklist, shopping list, etc.

My favourite checklist used to be my “newsletter” checklist which walked me through a process of ensuring I repurposed every bit of the content I create. These days, the one above is my favourite checklist 🙂

Once you start using the correct list for the task at hand, you’ll be flying!

You can download a variety of lists in the free pack on my website.

Do you prefer to print out your lists or to write them into your bullet journal?

Choosing your 2018 diary

August, as well as being my birthday month, is also the best bookshop month ever.

It’s when the new diaries start appearing.

I’m very clearly a paper-embracing gal and I love a paper diary, but I have had lots of back and forth within myself on which diary to buy for next year.

If you’re on my newsletter list (if not, sign up here), I wrote about this when I sent out the mid-month newsletter.

Here are a couple of questions that might help you decide on your 2018 diary:

Am I a J or a P on Myers Briggs?

This is a fun one to start with and I’ll tell you why. Js actually use their diaries; Ps like the idea of using a diary but they don’t. If you’re someone who stops using a diary by mid- or end-Jan, are you perhaps a P?

(take the test here)

Do I prefer the A6, A5 or A4 size?

Is your diary going to stay on a desk, in which case you can get a big, hefty one, or if you intend to carry your diary around with you,  you may want to opt for a smaller size no matter how much you love the bigger one.

Do I like a daily, weekly or monthly planner?

I’ve seen very few monthly planners (literally just a month at a time with maybe a picture on the top), a fair number of weekly planners and tons of daily planners.

Is everyone really a daily planner? If you are, please tell me.

Then, the fun part, if you’re a weekly planner like I am

Do you need it to start on a Monday or a Sunday, or does that not matter? Do you prefer a vertical or horizontal layout?

I saw a lovely Joyce Meyer daily diary with a weekly review layout just before each week starts. I was this close to getting it 🙂

Do you need space for notes in your regular planning, at the back of the diary or not at all?

Yes, yes and yes again for me (see the Legami planner above). I do know that some people don’t need note space.

Do you like a month-at-a-glance page before the month starts? Do you need a goals page?

I like to have an overview of the month, preferably in a block layout, not just lines running down the page, and of course I like a goals page.

What about other features that will make you like your diary more?

Do you like a bright diary or something that won’t stand out? Do you need a pen loop? Do you like perforation so you can mark where you are in the diary? Do you like a bookmark? Do you prefer hardcover or softcover?

Which of the options above do you definitely know you need?

So many things to think about! I could be very happy with 3 different diaries 🙂 and hopefully, I’ll be able to make my final choice soon (confession, I’ve bought one but I haven’t opened it because I’m not sure… I don’t want them to sell out though)

PS I asked my husband (high J!) and these are his diary preferences:

  • neutral colour (but I convinced him to get a nice blue!)
  • daily planner with times going into the evening
  • month at a view
  • notes page

My new bullet journal – a grid notebook

I’m on my third bullet journal for the year, my sixth overall.

For this year, I’ve had a lined one, a dot grid one and then I was undecided between another lined one (a pretty purple one) or a grid notebook.

I decided to go with the grid notebook because I wanted to try all the versions of notebook (last year I used lined paper for two of them and then a blank notebook) paper so I could see what worked best…for me.

And the verdict?

I’m loving this grid notebook.

  1. It’s a Fabriano A5 grid notebook – made in Italy. South Africans, I bought it at Exclusives for R23. Yes, you read that correctly. They come in gorgeous, bright colours for such a great price.
  2. They had a spiral bound version about twice the thickness (and double the price – I think R48?), but since this one is travelling in my handbag on a daily basis, I didn’t want the spirals to get messed up, and I definitely want to finish using it by the end of December.
  3. I’m using my Staedtler triplus fineliners and the only Schneider Topliner I own because the paper is a nice firm 80g/sm that can hold these fineliners.
  4. I think a combination of the pen plus the grid makes my handwriting look neater.
  5. Also, I love making little blocks of exactly one grid next to my to-do list items.

There is possibly only one thing that could be better, and that is to have a non-scuffable cover. I’ve wrapped it in plastic to protect it.

What should you consider in a bullet journal?

size – I love an A5 size, but I’ve seen people use smaller and bigger notebooks

thickness – I like to change mine all the time so I love the 80-page notebooks because they last about 3 months. If you want one for the entire year, go bigger

paper – choose your paper depending on the size of your handwriting, and whether you naturally write in a straight line or not. Is that even an issue for you? It is for me? (I have since discovered I’m not a fan of light dot grid notebooks; I may be convinced if there are ones with a darker dot that I can try)

pens – on the more Kraft-type paper (the slightly brown paper), a gel pen works beautifully because it “sinks” into the paper. On a whiter type of paper, like this one, I find the staedter fineliners work beautifully. Of course you can use any pen on any paper (there are no rules!) but I know that I prefer a certain look to my handwriting with a certain pen on a certain paper 🙂

Tell me how you decided on your bullet journal

PS If you’re South African, pick up one next time you’re at Exclusives and let me know which colour you chose 🙂

7 ways to use project life cards aside from project life journalling

If you don’t have project life cards, you could quite easily cut cardstock to size (4 X 6) and use these same tips.

1.Labelling craft kits

I have, occasionally, put together some beading kits and once, an easy craft for kids. I bought wooden letters and packs of buttons from a craft store, added a jar of craft glue, and gifted that to some of my kids’ friends.

The project life card is the perfect size for a label on the one side, and one or two sentences on the reverse.

2. Gift tags

They are particularly lovely to use as gift tags on presents.

3. Conversation notes

This might confirm that either I’m super weird or very intentional. Let’s go with the latter, okay?

I sometimes use PL cards to keep notes of things I want to remember to chat to friends about so when we meet for tea/ lunch, I have a visual prompt.

I’ve also twice had meetings with teachers and I use a project life card to write down my thoughts so I don’t get sidetracked in the meeting. I hope I look organised and invested in the meeting 🙂

4. Speech preparation

My kids have started to do little speeches at school.

They’re allowed to use a card with keywords, so they use a Project Life card.

5. Scriptures/ affirmations

One of my kids was quite fearful about going to bed for a month or two, so Dion wrote out a scripture to be kept next to the bed.

If I want to be reminded about something, like “I can only do what I can do; I can’t control other people’s work”, then I write these not-so-little things on a PL card.

6. Labelling shelves

I change things in my house all the time. Not furniture, but the way things are organised. For instance, when the kids were at pre-school, we had a lot more space dedicated to casual clothes, because that’s all they wore.

These days we have a shelf each for school clothes because of the uniforms. And they only wear casual clothes for 3.5 hours every afternoon, and on weekends.

PL cards are easy to use, change labels and just stick on the shelf with Prestik.

7 . Love notes

Kendra just piped up from the lounge that we also use them to write love messages for each other 🙂

How do you use Project Life cards for non-Project Life purposes?

PS I really like this lady’s idea for a running list!

How my whole planning system fits together

This year I have three diaries/ notebooks going. I know what you’re thinking and I agree, three is probably too many but I’ll explain the intricacies below.

Shining Planner

Moleskine weekly diary planner

Bullet journal

  1. Shining Planner

I use the shining planner to review the month that’s just passed, and to set goals for the month ahead. It has a really thorough review and intention-based process. I use one of the pages not as it’s intended because I just do a list of all my goals for the month on that page.

I also love these prompts at the start of every week:

  • this week I want to receive…
  • I want to give myself the gift of…
  • I want to feel …
  • I am grateful for …

And your top 3 priorities  – personal and work – for the week.

For the rest of the week, I put in anything that has a scheduled time but that’s it.

—>>> Goals for the month, setting intentions for the week and top 3 work and personal for the week. These top 3’s are usually taken from my goals for the month, or something urgent that’s come up, like a geyser thing we had a few weeks ago.

This planner stays on my desk at home because it’s too bulky to carry around with me.

2. Moleskine weekly diary planner

This is my preferred diary format – a weekly horizontal down the left and on the right, lined paper for my lists.

(do you know how few diaries have a horizontal weekly layout? I’ve seen only 3 – this one, my beloved Legami and another spotted on the fly – I should do an instastory from Exclusive Books!)

I write those same scheduled things from the Shining Planner down the left side of this diary (standard things I would write out for the month, like Tues 6pm Barre, 7pm Spanish). If the nanny’s off work, I would note that down here, or if I’m working from home, I also note that down here. In other words, all appointments with others or with myself (upholder!)

The right side is for my personal and blog goals. Beth and I chat every Thursday night and set goals for the week ahead. So on a Thursday night of one week (say, 5 October) I write things down on the next week’s page (week starting Monday 9th October). Meanwhile, I still complete (mostly!) the current list for the rest of this week. If this is confusing, sorry about that. It makes complete sense to me because I’m just “pausing” the current week for 30 minutes to think about next week, without actually starting next week until it arrives. Make sense?

I usually put no more than 4 – 5 personal and 3 blog goals for the week ahead. These are all from my monthly goals. Sometimes they’re carried forward from previous weeks – it’s all okay.

If other things crop up, I can easily add it to either of the lists (I leave space) without feeling overwhelmed. Other non-goal things I add are usually appointment-making things.

3. Bullet journal

The only real planning that goes on here is my weekend to-do list and the daily to-do list I write when I work from home. That’s really it.

If you read this post, you’ll see I mention the goals review and goal-setting here too. This is just for a quick brainstorm, key points, etc. to jog my memory.

My weekend lists are my favourite things ever – I like a combination of out and about (I’m an extrovert), productivity (either in the house or on computer) and true relaxing (reading/ photos, etc).

The items on my weekend list are sometimes carried over from the Moleskine (finish a book, or finish editing photos, for instance) but are mostly new things. I never put house stuff on my weekly list because I work full-time and the only time I get to potter and organise is on the weekend, unless it’s to do a quick 10-minute organising project.

Then the whole thing repeats every week, and at the end of the month, on Goals Night, I do my monthly review and goal-setting.

And that’s it!

All that said, I’m already excited for next year because I decided I’m not ordering the shining planner so I’ll only have my diary (it’s looking like a Moleskine for now) and my bullet journal.

Has this helped anyone? Please let me know.

How does your planning system fit together?

How do I control all the paper?

One of the most popular questions I get is this:

How do I control all the paper?

I understand this question completely because I have a big yellow desk and when I get lazy, that’s the first area that goes out of control for me too.

The first thing you have to do is make decisions on what next for every piece of paper. I like using a timer because I’m naturally competitive (anyone relate?) and that inspires me to take action, and quickly too!

Before you start, gather the following items:

1. a timer (use the timer on your phone)
2. wastepaper basket
3. brightly coloured pen (I like a nice thick red gel pen)
4. notebook and/ or planner
5. post-it notes (the originals, not the cheap stuff)

Right, now you’re set!

There are only four actions you’re allowed to do once you’ve looked at each piece of paper. Don’t take longer than 30 seconds to scan the page.

1. Dump it

Throw it in the bin. The more ruthless you are, the less you have to file. Win-win!

If you only need one piece of information, write it down straight in your notebook or diary, and then throw the piece of paper away. Some of you are hyperventilating – you’ll be okay.

2. Delegate it

If someone else has to attend to it (husband needs to phone), write the action on the paper itself or on a post-it note and put that in a separate pile.

3. File it

Please do yourself a favour and only put paper in this pile if you absolutely need to reference it again. Just a quick statistic before you add anything to that pile… only 20% of filed papers are ever referenced again. Ahem.

Use your post-it pad for different categories. For example, when I’m doing my weekly paper sorting session, I use Household, Marcia, Dion and Kids as my categories.

4. Do it

Here I apply the two-minute rule. If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it right there and then. When I say “do it”, I mean either action it or schedule it to action later.

For example, if you’re working on your papers at 10 pm and need to make an appointment, you can’t phone right there and then, so write it on tomorrow’s to-do list or add it to your phone as a reminder. That’s within two minutes and it counts.

There you have it – the only four things to do with paper. If you stick to making decisions and taking action continually, your paper will be beautifully organised in no time at all. But remember, there’s no shame in the paper getting out of control now and again.

Is paper an area in your life that you battle with?

Is it the decision-making part, the sheer volume, the fact that you’re scared you may need it again? Tell me more.

Bullet journal 101 – most useful pages

If you haven’t seen the last post on bullet journal, have a read here to find out all the pages I use for planning.

Today, we’re going to discuss three of the most useful pages for me:

When I last
This is a page I picked up from browsing the #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram. I took a screenshot immediately and kept it on my phone for a few months before trying it.

Basically, it’s to remind you of things you need to keep track of, but that don’t happen daily, weekly or even monthly.
I track when I colour my hair (I should do that monthly, but I do it when I can’t stand it anymore) and when I have my Brazilian Blowwaves done. I also started tracking Connor’s haircuts.

Any ideas you have for this page? Or ideas for me to use this page more?

This is not my reading goals page but just my monthly reading list 🙂

Reading goals

This is one of my favourite pages in my bullet journal.

I wrote out these goals at the start of the year when I thought of how I wanted my reading life to look this year.
I’m happy with the amount of reading I do but I wanted to get intentional about a few other things – books to re-read, how many Audible books, etc.

So I look at my list at the end of each month and I see how I’m doing. And then, of course, I make adjustments for the month ahead.

If you’re a reader, I highly recommend a reading goals list.

What were/ are some of your reading goals for this year?

Favourite author lists and the books I already have

This page started as an action from my reading goals page. And then I accidentally bought a physical copy of a book I have on my Kindle, and the page morphed into one where I tick off the books I own, and I highlight them once I’ve read them.

I’ve now trained myself to not buy books until I’ve checked my pages just in case I own a copy.

It’s so useful. If you have a bad memory for books that kind-of sound the same, make yourself a list of your favourite authors and the books you need to read from your physical or virtual bookshelves.

How do you keep track of the books you need to read from your favourite authors? Goodreads? Page in your bullet journal? Notes in your phone?

Which are some of your most useful pages in your bullet journal?

Bullet journal 101 – planning pages

Thanks again if you took the bullet journal survey. If you still want to weigh in, go right ahead – I have one more post planned besides this one, but if there are more questions left on the survey link, there might be a third post this month.

If you’ve never done a bullet journal and you want to try….but you feel intimidated by the fancy ones you see on Instagram (clearly not mine!), I’d say if you do nothing else but a few standard pages, your life will feel at least ten times more organised.

Take some time and think through your needs

  1. Do you think in terms of daily or weekly planning?
  2. Do you prefer to get things done during the week or on the weekend?

If you’re like me and you think of getting your stuff done over the course of a week, then you’ll do weekly planning. I actually still recommend this option to most people because it takes off the pressure from achieving something every day. I personally don’t mind if I have a day or two of slothfullness because I know I have 7 days to get things done; not only 1.

However, if you like to get a few things done daily, and you won’t beat yourself up about a few days of non-achievement here and there, then by all means, do a daily to-do list.

To sum up, these are the pages I suggest you pick from for your basic bullet journalling.

1. Monthly review of the month that’s just passed

Use my standard 4 questions – what went well? what didn’t go well? what have I learned? what can I let go of? Of course, you may add more if you want but we’re keeping it simple

2. Goals for the month

Keep it simple to 10 or so items. I think in categories so I have socials, family, fun, health, house.

3. Life admin list

This is a master to-do list and has all those things you currently need to take care of – hair appointments, car stuff, electrician, and so on. You could incorporate this into your goals for the month if you won’t get overwhelmed. I like them separate so I don’t feel drained when I look at my goals list.

4. My weekend to-do list

This is still my favourite list.

I make one every Friday evening and as I’ve written before, it has to have 3 categories. Please click that link so you can see a real person’s to-do list. It is not Pinterest perfect because it is a tool to get things done.

Fun fact – way back when (Dion and I have been married 22 years and we’re both strong J’s, and upholders, so we love planning), D and I used to make a little list every Friday evening on the back of a used envelope. I think I was too poor to buy cute (unnecessary) stationery back then.

5. Daily to-do list (my work from home list)

I cut out on my commute (a whole two glorious hours) when I work from home so I can either get more work done which is the case most of the time and especially the last 3 – 4 months, but at other times, I keep a list of things to do around the house during my breaks. I usually have about 6 tasks that are all super quick things to get done. Either that or I get some errands done.

If I don’t have a list, I find that it’s easy to simply scroll instagram instead of being productive.

6. Weekly list

I make my weekly list (because I do weekly planning) in my Moleskine planner. You can see the specific style of diary I prefer to use in the pictures on this post.

Beth and I chat every Thursday evening so that’s when I do my weekly planning for the week running Thursday to Wednesday.

I attach no schedule to these things at all unless they’re time-based activities, like my weekly flamenco dance class or book club.

Basically, I glance at the list every two days or so and do them when they suit how busy my day is, or not.

In case you’re thinking this is very “loose” of me, that is true, but over the years, I’ve more or less settled into a loose rhythm, like Mondays is my main writing night, Tuesday is dance class and reading when I get home, Wed could be photos or podcast club, Thurs is Beth/ coaching/ starting on a small thing on my weekly list (to build momentum),  Friday and Sat are reading nights again (that’s how I read so much) and Sunday afternoons are blogging, planning, reading 🙂

For your own planning purposes, which of the pages mentioned above would suit your lifestyle?

My new bullet journal – #2 for 2017

I used my first bullet journal for 2017 (and my 4th overall) for the first 6 months of the year, and when the time came to replace it, I had a couple of choices:

  • use a thicker notebook for another 6 months, or
  • use thinner notebooks so I could try out a couple of different styles

I asked for your feedback here and you weighed in 🙂

Ultimately, I decided to try out a dot grid notebook since I have used blank and lined paper before. So I went with the one at the bottom of this stack.

So how am I feeling about my bullet journal choice, 3 weeks in?

  1. It’s a smaller notebook, so I feel sometimes like I’m cramming things onto a to-do list
  2. I’m still getting used to the dots (they’re quite light) and to be honest, it feels like I’m writing on blank paper most of the time 🙂
  3. I feel zero perfectionism about writing in this notebook. I’m not sure if that’s because there are another two waiting for me or because it’s a smaller page with rougher paper so it feels like it lends itself more toward scribbles.
  4. I love the rougher paper because it “soaks up” my gel pens. Yum!
  5. I’ve had to cover my notebook with plastic because I don’t want stains or moisture on the cardstock cover.
  6. I’ve migrated nothing but I did reprint my friendship spreadsheet and I took photos of my reading pages 🙂

What type of paper do you most enjoy in a notebook? Lined, dot grid, grid or blank paper?

Did you start a new bullet journal at the start of the year? Are you still using the same one?

PS I used 3 bullet journals over the course of last year, but I only started in March 2016.

Creatives can’t get organised. Myth or truth?

It’s true that creative people need different ways to organise themselves because traditional methods usually don’t work too well for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to organising; in fact, since each person is unique, each person’s organising system should also be different.

Let’s look at four areas to organise yourself for success:

  1. Attitude
    It’s a myth that creative people can’t work in a structured environment. On the contrary, having a bit of structure in your life actually enables you to be even more creative and to do better work.

A few years ago, a client emailed to tell me how she’s been energised and has been creating beautiful things again.

What was the difference in her life? We’d worked on organising her office space and within the new-found order, she could be creative once again.

Stop telling yourself that you can’t be organised; rather tell yourself that you organise yourself in non-traditional ways.

  1. Schedule
    Traditionally, we’ve all been told to work according to the clock. I’m telling you to work with your energy cycles; don’t try to battle them.

If you know that you go through a bit of a slump around lunch time, maybe that’s when you want to run errands or exercise to give yourself an energy boost.

If you design websites and you know that you’re most creative at midnight, then design your websites at midnight  Who made the rule that you have to start working at 8am?

  1. To-do list
    Scrap the to-do list. Yes, you read that correctly. The to-do list may set you up for failure especially when you feel you’re not getting things done.

Rather use an Eat the Frog list. This list helps you be more flexible so you only need to get the most important things done. My clients are always a bit shocked when I tell them, “the fewer items you have on your list, the better it is”. Just make sure those are truly important things on your list.

  1. Workspace
    When you can find your equipment and supplies easily, your valuable energy is used for actual creativity and not wasted on looking for things.

It’s so important to have your workspace set up according to your organising style. Are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? Are you a paper or electronic person? Maybe the reason you can’t seem to get your papers organised is because you’re actually an electronic person.

I’ve had clients with very messy offices whose computers are perfectly organised, and vice versa. It’s so important to play to your strengths.

My friend, Suzanne, admitted on the podcast that she hadn’t been creating because her workspace was too messy. She then took up my challenge to organise her environment so she could create again. Look at these fantastic results!

My challenge to you
Check your attitude and start telling yourself you can get more productive once you organise according to your style.

Tag me on instagram to come see your workspaces and creative environments. I can’t wait to see.

Are you creative? What are your particular challenges with regard to your workspace?

PS I wrote about my space to create on the blog before.

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