Bullet Journaling · Family · Work

[Bullet Journal] Planning for Day-to-Day Survival

December is upon us! Like most people, for me this time of year usually means a lot of chaos and activity – both at home and at work. On the home front, I’m trying to determine my gifting list, as well as planning special activities and meals that come with “sharing the holidays with loved ones.” This also includes two major birthdays – my son (on Christmas Day) and my husband (on New Year’s Eve). Needless to say, December is CRAY CRAY in our household. Add to that the fact I work at a church, where Christmas Eve is one of the two MAJOR events of the year…

…ultimately, any and all organizational skills and resources I may possess
are being called upon in order to maintain sanity and GET. THINGS. DONE!

As you all probably know by now, I have been bullet journaling for about 15 months now (started August 2015). My hat is off to Ryder Carroll once again for coming up with this concept, because I don’t know where I would be without it. I have always loved planners and planning, but was never able to stick to one method for any length of time. The bullet journal changed all of that (more on this here). After 15 months, I have found a planning format and flow that really serves me well.

So for the next couple of weeks, I want to share how I have been using
my bullet journal to keep on top of the craziness that is the holiday season.

This week, it’s all about the day-to-day planning (aka my daily planning spreads). There are specific components of my dailies that I wanted to walk through that have been crucial in helping me go from the planning phase to the EXECUTION phase of said plan.

The Set-Up: How I Format Each Week of Days

Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start).
~ from “Do-Re-Mi,” The Sound of Music

If you don’t know already, I use the Traveler’s Notebook system for my bullet journaling purposes (for more on this notebook system, check out this post). I find it very difficult to do my spread set-up while the notebook is inside the cover. So I remove the notebook insert to give myself a level surface to work on.

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Why need a level surface, you ask? Well, because of this…

Straight, clean lines…nothing more, nothing less!!

My writing instrument of choice for these lines? The Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen FINE in black. I normally use the Fine pen for lines like these, and then a Superfine pen for writing…but I’m currently without the Superfine, so using the Fine for writing as well (meh…it works for now).

Each half page (quarter page for weekends) represents one day’s worth of planning. A lot of bullet journalers choose not to have lines like this, allowing how busy (or not) they are on a given day dictate the amount of space/number of lines they use. But…for me, there is a reason I need the same amount of space each day.

These bars I add to the side of each day is a time tracker. More on this in a moment…but you see now why I do as I do? I need at LEAST this number of lines per day to accommodate for my time tracker.

After all, that’s what bullet journaling is all about.
Making it work for YOU (in this case, for ME)!

Finally, the Daily Spread set-up is completed by writing the date for each day of the week in its appropriate spot. I have chosen my Stabil0 Pen68 Mini in green for the month of December.

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I choose a different color for each month, as this helps me differentiate the end of one month/start of the next when there are overlapping weeks. I’ll explain this in more detail when I talk about my monthly spreads in a couple of weeks.

The Timeline: Assigning Tasks Throughout the Day

So…more on this “time tracker” business…

If there is one thing I’m good at, it’s planning out my day. If there is one thing I’m BAD at, it’s actually following through with said plans.

Anyone else have that problem?
(Please tell me I’m not the only one.)

I found that the main reason for this is that I tend to list a whole lot of tasks for me to accomplish in a day, with no real consideration for the amount of time I would have during that day to DO them. I realized I needed to be more mindful and realistic about the number of hours in the day I have.

This time tracker idea is not a new concept in the bullet journaling world. In fact, I got the original idea for this time tracker from Boho Berry (see her “daily planning” video here). However, while she uses a horizontal time tracker across the top of each daily task list, mine looks like this…

I realized that simply putting a time tracker that shows my work schedule for the day wasn’t enough. Even color coding, as visually helpful as it is, wasn’t enough to help me navigate through my task list everyday.

(Side note: I use my Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens for color coding my time tracker.)

I needed to spell out exactly when I would which task. Thus, a vertical time tracker would allow me to group tasks and point them to a specific point on the tracker.

Seriously…I’ve got to spell it out for myself.
I’m THAT bad at this whole “execution of plan” business.

When I break up my tasks into smaller chunks of time like this, it gives me the motivation to finish tasks within the time period I’ve assigned.

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Case in point…a blog post is ACTUALLY being written.

And being able to fill in these check-boxes? One of the best feelings in the world
for this Type A, task-oriented, admin-minded bullet journaler. 

Checking it Off: Frequently Used Bullets & Symbols

So like most bullet journalers, I have my own set of bullets and symbols I use to show tasks that are completed, unfinished, forwarded, and cancelled.


During the daily planning process, each task on my daily list gets a check box in front of it. The original Ryder Carroll system uses a dot bullet instead, but for me, marking through a dot isn’t as satisfying as filling in a check box.

And for me, any amount of additional satisfaction in completing
a task is NEEDED to motivate me. #typeAweirdo

From there, the following…

#1 – The check box is completely filled in when a task is complete…and ONLY when it is complete! I know that there is a partial fill/cross-off for a task in progress in the original bullet journal. But that simply doesn’t sit well with me (perfectionist to the MAX!). So, I make my system, an “ALL OR NOTHING” one. Either I complete it and fill it in, or I don’t complete it and leave it blank.

#2 –  Ahhh…the unfinished task represented by the empty check box. It is disturbing enough to keep me motivated to complete tasks (or if there are too many, totally paralyze me from getting anything done…which leads me back to the “time tracker” system).

#3 – Now, just because the window of time a task is assigned has passed doesn’t mean I cannot complete it later in the day (or even ahead of time, if I feel the need/desire). I simply fill in the check box if I’m able to finish it later on (no special indicators needed). However, in the case I simply run out of time and am unable to finish a task by the end of the day, I then forward it to later in the week. I use the arrow to show that it has been moved to another day…and yes, I DO forward tasks on a daily basis, not by spread. Again, it’s all about what works best for ME.

#4 – Now, there are some tasks that become obsolete/irrelevant through the day. For example, I did not pack a lunch on the particular day shown in the photo. But…I’m not going to forward packing Tuesday’s lunch to the following day, right? So I simply cross it out to show that particular task (preparing Tuesday’s lunch) is no longer needed. I’m sure to some, forwarding makes sense since they probably want to prep lunch the following day. But for me, each day’s meal prep is a separate task, only applicable to that particular day.

If it doesn’t make sense to you, that’s okay. Since it’s MY bullet journal, 
as long as it makes sense to ME, it’s all that matters.

Just as YOUR bullet journal on need make sense to YOU.

My daily spread in my bullet journal has been a lifesaver in motivating me to get things done AND helping me remember what exactly I need to get done.

However, as helpful as it is to make sure my daily tasks are getting done, it’s also important to make sure I know how these tasks play into the larger projects I have to accomplish for a given week. This is something I do not keep track of in my daily pages. Instead, I have a separate WEEKLY SPREAD that helps me bring it all together.

But that, my friends, is another post for another time (specifically, next week).

Until next time, keep on living to learn and love!

Lydia    ❤

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