Sunday, July 17, 2016

An LDS Approach to Bullet Journaling

My scripture study is some of the most valuable time in the world to me. In order to be a functioning human being who is happy and at peace with myself, I need to be in the scriptures every day. And I admit, making it happen for myself is a struggle--even though I know how important it is. Even though I want to do it, need to do it, and genuinely love to do it. Life just has a way of crowding out the things that matter most to us until we figure out a way to stop it from happening.

I want to be the person that studies my scriptures every day. And I've never been able to figure out why achieving that consistency is so hard for me... until now.

About a month ago, I discovered Ryder Carroll's Bullet Journal phenomenon--which began as a minimalist planning system. I liked his approach, and decided to try it. The way he merged his journaling together with a homemade planner made a lot of sense. As I thought about it, I caught this awesome vision of how I could use it to take control of my spiritual life.




I see now why the system is so effective for me, and what my problem in the past has been. I've tried planning out my study before, but I greatly dislike most of the planners I've ever purchased. Having a planner separate from the notebook where I do all of my studying really doesn't work for me. It makes me treat studying and planning as two separate processes, when really I should be treating them as one. The moment I combined the planner into my study journal, the way the Bullet Journal system allows me to do it, I found it much easier to plan because I studied, and study because I planned.

So I thought I'd share a breakdown of the spreads I'm using, and why they're working so well for me over traditional commercial planners. As I continue improving upon my own approach, I'll try to add more ideas in some follow up posts!

Index and Numbered Pages

The first thing you do in a Bullet Journal, before you do anything else, is create an index. Now that I'm digitizing a lot of my past study journals, notebooks, and lessons, this practice alone is so valuable to me. When I try to access something again, or figure out the time period a journal covers, I can do that much more readily at a glance with an index. Now that I've been keeping an index in my journal, I don't think I could ever go back!

Monthly Spread

I follow Ryder Carroll here without a whole lot of variation. He numbers out each day of the month, then writes in his tasks and events on each day. He'll then migrate the tasks to the Future Log (which I don't use) or his Daily spreads as he needs them. I like the streamlined approach of it, especially the way I can use it together with the To-Do list.

To-Do List

This is a creation of my own, and is really all I need in terms of managing my ongoing projects. I write down all of the projects and ongoing tasks I have, then classify them by whether they are daily, weekly, or monthly tasks. Daily tasks are the elements I have built into my daily spread. Weekly tasks are ones I fill in automatically on the days that they apply.



Daily
Weekly
Monthly
Tasks
D


Scripture Study
D


Morning Prayer
D


Evening Prayer

Monday

FHE

Wednesday

Lesson Planning

Thursday

Temple Checklist

Saturday

Sabbath Checklist

1

Indexing


2
Digitization: Study Journals


2
Personal Progress


1-3
Visiting Teaching


For ongoing projects that aren't tied to any particular day, I write down how many times I want to work on each one in a day, week, or month. Based on those goals, I migrate each one into my Monthly spread, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This process alone made me realize why I find it so hard to use a traditional planner. They don't let me plan in this order because they don't give me space to really grapple with my goals like this. When the only place I have to write down my tasks is a calendar, I have to already commit myself to when I'm going to do them at the same time I decide I want to do them. But before I can do that, I need to analyze that task in conjunction with everything else I need to accomplish.

How often can I realistically expect to work on this project, with all of these other things I have to do? I can't decide when I'm going to do something until I've answered that question. I know that sounds so obvious, but I've never realized how important this is until keeping a bullet journal, because this is the way it encourages you to plan and process your goals.

Daily Spread

My daily spread, again, is not all that dissimilar from Ryder Carroll's. Instead of handling my tasks and events in a rapid log under the date, I use a two-column daily layout. On the left side is where I write in events from my Monthly spread. They're usually my higher priority tasks as well, since that's where I focus my planning. The right side is where I migrate things from the previous day, and write new tasks that come up throughout the day.



Date:
Prayer Tracker:
Scripture Study: Topic, Chapter, or Talk
Migrated Tasks from Previous Day
Events

High Priority Tasks

 

I have a weekly planning session every Sunday where I'll create a week's worthy of daily logs, fill in everything from my Monthly spread, then plan what I want to study in the scriptures in the coming week. I've really enjoyed seeing how the topics I choose end up being perfectly suited to what is happening in my day.

The day that's really unique is Sunday. Because Sunday is the busiest day of my week, this is a major reason that I can't use traditional planners. They cram Saturday and Sunday together, and I never have enough room for everything I need to plan for the Sabbath.



Date:
Prayer Tracker:
SS: Topic
Announcements:
Events

High Priority Tasks

 

I keep the two column format, but I include a lot more space. All of my planning happens in the left column, and the right column is for Announcements. I write down announcements from Sacrament Meeting, Young Women, and Relief Society on the right. If I have any meetings or events I need to schedule, I'll also write them in that column. Since that's also the day I do my weekly planning, none of the information sits for long. I get it all down in one place--the day that it's given to me--and I handle all of the scheduling the same day.

I also recently discoverd the calendar widget on my phone, so I'll also put events and meetings into my phone, so I can check them when I first wake up in the morning. Since I prefer to write things down and add them to my phone later, this approach works well for me.

Collections

Collections are made up of anything that you include in your journal that isn't a calendar or planning related item. Journal entries, lists of verses I create when I study, study questions, checklists--all of these things can be collections. Once bullet journaling hit Pinterest, there's no end to the suggestions for collections that are out there. Here's a few I've found, used, started, or am currently using:

  • Temple Prep Checklist
    • List of things I need to remember, do, bring, and ask myself before going to the temple for my shift. Since I've started planning to look it over on Thursday, I always remember my socks!
  • Sabbath Day Checklist
    • List of things I need to remember, do, bring, and ask myself before going to Church on Sunday.
  • Acts of Kindness List
    • List of things I can do to serve my husband, the sisters I visit teach, or anyone really. But especially visiting teaching. 
  • Scripture Study Topics
    • Since one of the biggest deterrents to me studying the scriptures is not knowing what I want to study, I keep a list of when I think of a topic or have a question, and keep them together in the same place. Then I look at the list when I do my weekly planning, and just pick stuff from the list.
  • Scripture Study Topics (Related to the Temple)
    • Our temple president is always mentioning fascinating things to study. And his suggestions are always good. So I keep them on a separate list, and try to study something from it the day before my shift.
  • Gratitude Log
    • This one is really popular. You write down something every day that you're grateful for. I'm really bad at remembering it, but it's one I want to work on until I get it down!
  • Humor Log
    • I did this on my mission. Any time something really funny happened, I would write it down. Once I got a good list, I'd write them all up and send them to my mom. Since she isn't a member, it was all stuff she could appreciate, and let her know that I was happy. I want to start doing it again because I liked the way it made me look for humor in what would otherwise be really crappy situations.
  • Books to Read, Buy, or Finish
  • Lists of Verses or Conference Talks by Subject
  • My Undo List
    • The Opposite of a To-Do list, because they're things you want to STOP doing. 
  • Lesson Plans
  • Ideas for Other Collections
My bullet journal for me is the place where I can keep track of my spiritual life. The chores and errands that I don't want to rule my life anymore are relegated to a white board on my refrigerator, where they can easily be erased. I begin each day with a blank slate for the most tedious things I have to do, instead of allowing them to rule my life. The feelings like I was born for more than housekeeping have already started to fade as I've given myself permission to do more than chores.

As time goes by, I look forward to seeing how my bullet journal experiment leads to greater things for my life as a Latter-day Saint.