Avoiding the Scheduling Extremes :: BuJo Setup Mini Series

May 2016 165

Confession: I’m just a woman who learns from all my many (daily) planning failures; I’m really not a scheduling guru.

Also, I’m pretty normal when it comes to busy seasons of life – I fall into the lazy mode of letting things coast. Have you been lured into the “schedule-break” temptation too? The bait goes something like this:

“Living moment by moment isn’t so bad! Things are getting done, taking a break from writing out a ‘week at a glance’ isn’t a big deal, and I’ll remember that appointment – no need to write it down.”

After giving into these thoughts for weeks (or even months!), I wake up one day way too stressed for the level of activities in my life and way too overwhelmed by the amount of list-items swirling around in my head.

The pendulum has swung and I’ve gone from one extreme to the other – hyper-scheduling to under-scheduling.

When I swing too many times, I go a little bit nuts and start to think in extremes:

“I’ll never be able to manage our calendar.”

“I will always fall behind on laundry.”

“I never remember to take our library resources back on time.”

“I’m always running late for our appointments.”

And this is when I have to admit to myself (and others) that I need a Bullet Journal intervention. I need to stop avoiding the work, stop neglecting the truth – that organization is best in small daily doses, and stop over taxing my brain by trying to just remember it all. Just by spending 15 minutes per day, I can completely order my life and trade my crazy for calm.

Have you tried using a Bullet Journal? Do you use it for your calendar too? If so, do you copy your schedule in multiple places? Does that help? Why or why not?

I want this series to be super practical, and that means addressing potential setbacks before you even begin. The swinging back and forth between the scheduling extremes is common. Don’t feel bad about doing this in the past. Now I want to give you some ideas to think about. I call these questions The Big Jump. (Soon I’ll focus on the baby steps.)

I need to set aside an hour to have a JDM – Journal Defining Moment. This is when I decide what the scope of my BuJo (Bullet Journal) will be. I answer these questions:

  • Will my BuJo be my calendar too?
  • Do I need to write out the months in advance or just each week?
  • What other planners and/or organizers am I currently using? Are they working?
  • Am I going to include journaling space too?
  • What categories of my life will go into this BuJo? Homeschooling? Personal Growth? Family Activity Calendar? Business Goals? Etc.
  • Do I feel creative and what tools do I want to try to use? Am I satisfied with this BuJo being plain?
  • Is it important to me to be economic or visually appealing* with my entries?
  • What “Mom Bag” will I use to carry it in and will I commit to taking it everywhere? (This may seem like an unnecessary question but I will address why it’s a big jump question later on.)

* I say visually appealing not creative because even though I can create some pretty pages sometimes, my right hand tends to shake and I can’t guarantee pretty handwriting all the time. I like to use markers and larger point pens because when I write too small, the strain hurts my hand too much. SO. I will never be the person who can boast of being a closet hand-letter-er. But I do like to make my pages visually pleasing to me. Meaning: Spacious, colorful, and clearly readable. I tried being super efficient with my pages for a while – cramming more than one day or more than one list onto a single page and that made me crazy. You, however, may feel more productive setting yours up this way. You do you.

Can you think of other questions that would be important for your personality to think through before you take a big jump into a new BuJo? List it out and face it before you start! This will set you up for personal success. Many times I look at other Pinterest-worthy BuJos and think “Oh…in a perfect world, I would just copy their set-up!” But they don’t have 4 kids, or work 3 jobs, or their spouse works from home and their home set up is catastrophically different than mine!

Hear me: To successfully set up YOUR BuJo, you have to do it for YOU. Copying mine or even the expert BuJos online will only set you up to quit a quarter of the way through it.

And I bet you know what that means.

You will feel like a failure, let your scheduling slide, and wind up stressed and overwhelmed a-g-a-i-n.

And one more tip before you start the next step: don’t take the Big Jump until the timing is right for you. How do you know if the timing is right?


  • If you are reading this post and thinking: Wow, that’s really great for her. It sounds like she’s really thought this through. I may give that a try sometime. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOU.
  • But if you are reading this post and thinking: She’s reading my mind. I need to start this process yesterday! I’m ready to do this for ME. THIS IS DEFINITELY THE RIGHT TIME FOR YOU.

Ready for more? The mini series will continue! Did you miss the first post in this series? Click here. Want to see what tools I use? I wrote about them here. 

Bullet Journal Update: Videos and Tips

Bullet Journal Update 1

Quick – without looking – answer this question: where is your planner? Second question: what was the last thing you wrote in it?

Life is a lot of work. Planning well for living a life that actually accomplishes priorities, goals, dreams, and steadily moves in a disciplined direction can feel like a joke when the hard work of life clouds out the reasons why we want to try for such a planned life in the first place.

May I suggest that we make planning too difficult and that’s the reason we want to give up after 2-3 months of trying something new? Also, planning is made too difficult when I try to force my brain into someone else’s method. I bet it made perfect sense to the creator of Mead to put all the notes pages at the back of the calendar, but I need a random smattering of notes pages all throughout my calendar. Some weeks I need more blank space than others.

That’s why the Bullet Journal is the system has worked for me the longest. I have had the most success with recording, planning, goal setting and tracking, and journaling than I have ever had before in my life combined.

Since, I wrote all about the Bullet Journal system before, I won’t go into all the reasons why I enjoy it. (You can read my why here.) But I thought I would bring it up again to update you on what’s working, how I get myself to keep journaling (even on days when I’m sick of it), and what I don’t do.

Also, I am still using the Bullet Journals for my kids’ lessons which serves as our home school record. So, technically I keep 3 Bullet Journals going. It can feel like a lot of writing on some days, but it’s totally worth it (compared to what I’ve done in the past) and here are all the reasons why:

The Updates

Week-at-a-Glance. The most important routine I’ve established with using my Bullet Journal is to write out my weekly goals and home school plans on Sunday. Figuring out my Week-at-a-Glance is relaxing for me. On the few weeks where I didn’t get around to writing out our week or my goals, I would quickly figure things out Monday morning – only to feel rushed and behind – and the whole week would feel off. The takeaway: Find a day and time that works for you to plan and write out your Week-at-a-Glance, include your meal plans and other activities. Write out your priorities and then make the times and activities specific.

Threading and Washi tape have helped me more than the index (see first picture to see the washi tape tags). I still struggle to fill in the index daily, but I do still use it and keep it up. Threading is when you continue a topic several pages later in your journal and write the corresponding page numbers at the bottom of the page for reference to your other thoughts. Washi tape helps me visually to see the categories of pages from a glance. For example, when I want to flip through my journal to find the homeschool page where I wrote out all the books included in our curriculum, I just flip through the pages with the green tape. I can skip over so many other pages and find the one I want a whole lot faster because it is flagged by color-coded tape.

The Index = Attendance and Home School Records. In my kids’ Bullet Journals, I knew that the lessons assigned and completed within the journal served as our home school record, but I just discovered (by filling in almost 2 months worth of dates in the index) that it also serves as our attendance. I hadn’t paid much attention to the index for them, I was focused on writing in their assignments everyday, but now I take time to jot the date in the index.

Change it up. Don’t chain yourself to one way of planning out your day. Take the time to record what you do. (See my practical planning videos for tips on using a time budget to get started with planning. I’ll be sharing these on Facebook, so visit my page. If these are helpful, let me know and I’ll record more.) For us, we were able to do morning lessons for the first 2 and a half months of school. Lately, we have had to do our group lessons while my youngest is napping. It took me a good week to get into a new comfort zone that this change was for the better, and the first few days of the new routine left me feeling like a failure – only because my blocks of time were rearranged. Be okay rearranging. Use a time budget to see where to move things.

Bullet Journal Update 2

Write honestly. I’ve learned that on days when I just simply don’t want to go through the discipline of writing goals, plans, or lessons out a-g-a-i-n I need to own the feelings and move on. It doesn’t take that long to physically write out what I need to do, and when I’ve done it I’m always thankful I did. When I have allowed myself to skip it, I’ve regretted it every time. Sometimes I simply can’t plan. My mind is in such a tangled place that I can’t even list a simple page of to-dos. So, I do one of three things: I write a journal entry and try to work out the kinks in my brain, I write a bare bones list of only the essentials that have to be done that day, or I don’t write anything and I just use the week at a glance page for reference. I know if I go more than 2 days without writing in my Bullet Journal then I start to veer off track and I lose grasp of my goals for the week. This is motivation for me to keep trying to write even if I don’t feel like it.

Know your game-changer. At what point in the day do your plans need to be done and you need to settle down? I discovered through planning our home school lessons, house chores, and outside activities that my game-changer is dinner time. I need to be able to prep dinner without interacting with my kids. I crave calm in the kitchen, and for me that means that I need to wash all the dirty dishes and wipe down all the counters before I even begin making the next meal. Because this is such a big deal to me – by this I mean it has such a great effect on my attitude – meal planning is a big deal, I do this 2 times per month and I plan for the whole month, and then each day I begin thinking about dinner at breakfast. Then I start my dinner prep as early in the afternoon as possible. I use lower temperatures to slow cook and I use the “warm” setting on my oven to keep everything ready for when we actually sit down to eat. As I’m cooking, I also wash my prep dishes as soon as I’m finished with them because I tend to get really discouraged if there’s a mountain to wash after dinner. So, in my Bullet Journal, a lot of attention is given to dinner. Equal to the attention given to home school plans because for me to feel successful in our day both the lessons and dinner must be complete.

Common questions:

Isn’t it redundant to write out the lesson plans every day? Yes, it sure is. And sometimes it’s irritating that it takes a chunk of my evening to do it, but again the repetition helps me stay focused on being accountable to doing the lessons the next day. I took the time to plan it all out, write in all down, and now all I have to do is direct the kids to their Bullet Journals and half the battle of the home school routine is over.

Check out this bonus video on how I layered my children’s lessons to build momentum in our school year. I think layering has been the #1 most helpful thing for building their attention span, increasing their discipline, and ensuring our lesson success. Read more about layering lessons here.

Do you ever wish you had bought a fancy planner? Nope. I waffled for a good two weeks on this one. I really was tempted by a super nice (Ultimate) homeschool planner because it had so many components to it that brought in the whole philosophy of why homeschool. It pushed the why throughout the layout so that I would be constantly reminded that this isn’t just about following an Instructor’s Guide and finishing on time, this is about nourishing a child as a whole person one day at a time. (Obviously, I still recommend it, and I think it’s great.) For me though, I had to own that I’m way too scatter brained to follow someone else’s layout.

What else is there to know about the Bullet Journal? Nothing and everything. You probably know enough to get started and you definitely will learn and change things as you gather more tips. Just try it. Even if you simply start using an index in your current journal, you’ll be glad you did when the notes you took are easier to find.

Other Keys to Planning Success Videos (Coming soon to my Facebook Page):

  • Time Budget: Learn to Record Before You Plan
  • Using a Time Budget to See Goals
  • 3 Things I Learned from Completing a Time Budget

When it comes to making and keeping plans, I feel like often times it’s the good things that get in the way. If your current tools aren’t working, then put them away and try a blank 17 cent notebook and pen for a week.

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Also here’s a sneak peek at an eGuide I’m working on detailing how to set up and use a Bullet Journal for home school plans and records. If you’re reading this post and feeling lost, then this eGuide will be for you. It goes through in detail the steps to set up a Bullet Journal and then describes what each method in the system is useful for so that you can determine how to customize the system to best suit your style.

Have you heard about the Official Bullet Journal put out by Leuchtturm? It’s amazing (thanks friend) and I highly recommend it. One thing I forgot to point out in this video, is that it has 3 ribbon bookmarks! One for my Month-at-a-Glance, one for my Goals and Week-at-a-Glance, and one for my current day – it’s genius and so helpful.

My previous posts on Bullet Journaling:

Thanks for reading this super long post! If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.