Bullet Journals? WTH is That?

Ok, so I like to spend my breaks at work (and a lot of my free time at home) wandering the internet, and I wind up spending a lot of time reading things on BuzzFeed. What can I say, I’m a sucker finding 34 new easy and simple DIYs I can make out of things found in my bathroom.

Lately, though, they seem to have become obsessed with these Bullet Journals that everyone seems to be talking about. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out exactly what these things are.

I mean, I can see that they’re some sort of journal-sketchbook-day planner hybrid where you can keep track of your schedule with cutesy little doodles and charts letting you track your Vitamin D consumption and how many seconds you plank a day. It’s some sort of weird collection of to-do lists, to-read lists, to-watch lists, and pages upon pages of calendars and day logs.

Honestly, it looks so damn time consuming, it makes my head spin.

Seriously, I have a hard enough time trying to keep track of my life and stay motivated already. How is doodling little coffee cups and kittens into my day planner going to help me with any of that?

I admit, there are a few things I like about these damn things. But I can’t get behind the whole idea of it, and I hate half-assing things when I don’t have to. A part of me wants to dive right into these things, because they are just so damn pretty and cute. A big part of me, though, is resistant. I mean, I don’t want to have to invest so much into washi tape and gel pens that I can’t afford groceries. And I can’t draw or lay-out pages like all the examples I’ve seen online. Part of me is like, “Why bother? No matter what I like about these things, I could never make mine look like THAT!”

Still, there’s a few things about these damn journals that just really intrigue me. I know that things like a monthly list, a list of annual events and important dates, a long-term to-do list……. these are all things I’ve used in the past to keep me organized. In a journal like this, though? I just can’t seem to make it work.

I think I’m going to try, though.

For now, I’ve got a little composition book, and I’ve been trying out three things: A To-Do list broken into four categories (cleaning, personal, shopping/groceries, and writing); A Did-Do list (a list of things I accomplished throughout the day, like my work hours and what I did off my lists); and the Brain Dump. This page is basically just a random mish-mash of things that pop into my head that I don’t want to forget. I’ve got a bento-box sketch, Christmas gift ideas list, things I want for Christmas, things to remember to put on lists in the future……….

I’ve been doing this for a week now, and I’m liking it. I’m thinking about grabbing a little book today and starting a full bullet journal. You know, just a place to track goals, birthdays, work schedule…….. but then I remember I have a really nice day planner.

So what exactly is the point of these things? Do you have any idea how these work, Sunshine? It all seems like a great idea,  but I’m not sure if this is supposed to be in addition to a day planner, or if it takes the place of a day planner. I’m toying with the idea of playing around with these a bit.

Maybe I’ll read a few more posts on my break at work tonight, who knows.



Scheduling and your Syllabi

Your syllabus is probably the most important document you’ll receive in a class. It’s your schedule, your contact info, your lifeline for the next semester. How many of you know how to actually use it to your advantage though?

I’ll admit, my first year in University, I didn’t pay much attention to the damn things. I’d write down in my day planner when my exams were and when papers were due. Then, I’d stick my pile of syllabi in a folder and throw my day planner in my backpack. I didn’t check it regularly, and the “F” on my transcript is my proof of that (damn you History and Politics of Asian Religions!!!!).

I wised up a bit my second year. I’d check my planner once or twice a week, keep my syllabi with my class notebooks, and thought this was good enough. Actually, this is what most students do. And this is why so many students try to write 15 page research papers in two days, pull all-nighters cramming for exams last-minute, and spend more on coffee and Monster than tuition.

This method lulls you into a false sense of scheduling security. Yes, you have everything you need written down in front of you somewhere. And yes, you actually check what needs to be done the beginning of the week. But what do you have next week? Or a month from now? Can you open your day planner to a random page from this semester and easily figure out which classes will take up the most of your time and resources at a glance?

In my third year, I came up with a system. The first week of classes, I got all of my syllabi in class or on the class websites. Then, I took a whole afternoon to go over them and start scheduling. (Come on, it’s the first week of classes. You can spare a few hours to make the next few months a little easier!) All I needed were some coloured pens, sticky notes, and a day planner.

First, each class was assigned a colour. In the day planner, go through class by class and fill in WHEN each class is. I know you think you’ll remember that you have that Post-Modern Comic Theory class every single Thursday at 1pm. In a month or two, when you’re running on no sleep and ALL the caffeine, though, you may not even remember you’re enrolled in that class, let alone when it is. This also puts it right in front of you, in writing, when you are committed to be there.

Then, for each class, make note of your exams, papers, assignments, labs, and anything else that is a part of your grade. Write down when these things are, and a detail or two about each (like exam rooms and times, paper lengths, etc). This gives you your deadlines.

Now, for each major grade event that you need extra time for (like paper writing or studying for exams), give yourself at least one weeks notice. Flip back one week in your day planner, and make a section for this. Some planners come with a Notes area each week you can use. If you don’t typically have much planned for weekends, you could always use your Sunday space for this. Or, you could use the sticky notes I said to grab. (You can never have enough sticky notes in your life). Write down the day, time, subject, and how much of your grade this is worth. This ensures you have extra notice, so things don’t creep up on you at the last minute.

And now, VERY CAREFULLY read through each syllabus. Each syllabus is your professor’s notes to you on how to get as high a grade as possible. Take a page in your planner and write down each professor’s contact information, office hours, the course you are taking with them, and the course time and place. Then, read their instructions. Some professors will throw in exactly what they expect for assignments, or a grading rubric to help you plan our papers. They also give details about your exams, like if the final exam is cumulative, or only covers materials you learned since the mid-term.  Some will break down exactly what chapters to read each week, what online material to look up, and what they expect to cover in their lectures each week. Make note of ALL of this! You need to know what you’ll have to do before each class, or else you can’t actually do it.

I know this seems like a lot to do all at once. This is the simplified version of what I did for three years, though, and what a lot of friends and colleagues have said have worked best for them. When my schedule got really tight (4-5 classes, two jobs, 6 volunteer positions, fraternity events, family obligations, sleeping, eating…..), I used a day planner, a one-month wall calendar, a 4 month wall planner, a system of 4 separate To-Do lists, and email reminders to keep everything straight. Compared to all of that, this is a walk in the park.

This also helps make your semester run a little more smoothly. Imagine, never checking your schedule on Monday to find out you have a paper due Wednesday that you forgot about; never again forgetting about your Monday midterm until Saturday night; never missing a party because you have to pull an all-nighter to finish an assignment you forgot. Sure, this will take a few hours to get done in one day. But think of all the money you’ll save on energy drinks, caffeine pills, coffee, and everything else you’ve been using to keep you up for those last-minute all-nighters.

Most of all, think of all the stress you can save yourself by giving up one afternoon to write stuff down with pretty coloured pens. You can plan things out like those real grown-ups you see in the movies, with their leather-bound planners and appointment books, snootily telling people “sorry, I need at least 3 weeks notice. I’m already all booked. Are you free in May? I may have an opening in May sometime.” This one afternoon with your day planner could be all it takes to put you on the path to becoming Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.……. or it could at least free up enough time for you to remember you love that movie, and actually watch it again.

Day Planners, Calendars, and Knowing What the Hell is Going On

Happy Friday everyone!

I’m on day 12 of a 12 day stretch of work, between the two jobs right now. My temp job ends next week, and I’m trying to pick up as many shifts at my awesome other job as I can. That means 50-60 hour weeks, no weekends off, 12 hour days (including my commutes, they’re 13+ hours), and no extra time to waste. Luckily, I’m super organized!

I have a wall calendar I got for $2 at Giant Tiger (came with coupons too!) that I track my work schedule on. I keep it somewhere that the boyfriend can easily see it. I also have the most amazingly awesome purple and gold day planner I take everywhere. In there, I can track my work schedule, To-Do Lists, the boyfriend’s schedule, and any other obligations I have (like my awesome Cousin Brunch tomorrow morning with my siblings, a few cousins, and a giant plate of bacon). When my schedule gets really crazy, I colour-code everything. It’s not as hard as it sounds: black ink for my day job, blue ink for my night job, red ink for social things, green ink for the boyfriend’s schedule, and purple for To-Do Lists and reminders.

On top of that, I always have Post-Its and To-Do Lists for the day and/or week. I’ll make a list when I get to work of all the things I need to get done that day, and start working my way through. And I keep a list of things to get done at home, like laundry or a manicure, and work through them one at a time.

The boyfriend can’t quite grasp this system, though. He can never remember to check the calendar to see if I’m working two jobs that day or just one. I have to constantly text-message him to remind him. And he can never remember to give me his schedule either. To him, all of this planning and scheduling is really not important. If something is that important, he’ll remember it.

But he doesn’t.

For Valentine’s Day, we had planned a nice day together. Costco for lunch, Applebee’s for dinner, and then a little wine and cheese at home where we could just relax together. Everything was set, and we set out to grab the last bit of wine and cheese on Friday night…….. when his sister texted to remind him that her bus was getting in the next night and she would be spending the night at our place. Oh, and he would have to drive out to the bus station to pick her up…… meaning no wine and cheese, and an early dinner for us.  Our night wasn’t totally ruined, but it wasn’t at all like we had planned. And why? Because he didn’t bother putting a reminder about his sister anywhere before we started planning!

This is becoming a regular occurrence with us. I tried to make plans for us to go to his old fraternity’s annual formal, to find out he’ll be out of town that whole weekend. I tried to make plans for us to spend a nice afternoon together running errands and relaxing, to be told he’s working out of town all weekend. It’s frustrating, and causes quite a few fights between us.

There is no one method to keeping your schedule straight. Some people need multiple calendars, day planners, lists, reminders in their phones, and an online calendar. Others just need a simple wall calendar. How you keep things together is up to you. But when you have others who may be impacted by your schedule (roommates, significant others, parents, kids, co-workers, etc…), you may have to step up your planning game just a bit.