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Bullet Journaling for Stay-At-Home Parents

I learned about bullet journaling while I was in the depths of studying library and information science, over two years ago now. Keeping track of my life digitally wasn’t working; I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a planner I wasn’t going to use well; I needed a new notebook anyway. And then, I discovered this beautifully magical system that literally just used to-do lists peppered in among spreads that tracked whatever bit of life I wanted. It was so versatile, so scattered, so organized, so creative, so perfectly me.

(Unfamiliar? Check out the bullet journal website for a fantastic overview.)

I’ve used the system on and off with some success and some failures ever since. I’m pretty free with my use of the system – I’ll add in a spread here and there, throw in a random to-do list, scribble a bunch of notes from a meeting without worrying about what came before and what came after. My journal is a fluid thing.

At the beginning of this year, I had been a good four months without a bullet journal. After it failed me once over the summer, I had purchased a proper planner and was giving it a valiant try, by as per usual, more often than not, it was merely a weight that I carried back and forth to work and never actually removed from my bag. I was itching for a little bit more, so I snagged a cheap notebook and started browsing all the bullet journal Pinterest boards and Facebook pages once again.

This time around, I knew two things: as a newly minted stay-at-home mother, some traditional aspects of bullet journaling wouldn’t work for me at all: for example, weekly and daily spreads were just going to remind me that most of my days and weeks were just like every other, and writing out the day’s to-do list would be an exercise in tedium.

Secondly, I knew I wanted to embrace some of the creative aspects of bullet journaling. Some people turn their bullet journals into a world of art contained between two covers. I have no delusions that I can create so beautifully, but I do want my journal to help me develop and sustain some aspects of creativity in my life.

So, this is my bullet journaling: a focus on spreads to track the priorities, successes, events, projects and achievements of my life, created intentionally with as much focus on creativity as possibly within each page.

One month into this year, I thought I’d show you the spreads I came up with for the month of January. I have some new ideas for February, and I’m excited to get working on setting it up for the new month. But, let’s review first.

Yearly Spreads

Books

This seems like a no-brainer. I’m a librarian: I need a spread for books. I found a good quote to pair with it and set my tracker up as a bookshelf. I’ve set myself a goal of 50 books this year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t squeeze quite that many spaces onto my shelf and, now that January’s over and I’ve only finished two books, I’m wondering if that goal might be a little high.

Cleaning

I’m not exactly the best housekeeper, but one of my goals for this year is to try to improve and practice cleanliness. I feel like this is especially important for my mental health in this season of stay-at-home motherhood. When the house gets messy, I feel messy and crowded. Our days go so much better when there’s space to move and live around here. This spread includes the tasks I aim to complete daily, but this yearly spread is really focused on the weekly and monthly tasks. (It looks like I better get on those monthly tasks for January! Time is running out.)

Knitting and Crocheting

Another hobby tracker! On this page, I draw a little doodle of the projects I’m working on and track their progress by colouring the doodle in. I’ve barely started both of these projects, but the idea is that, as time goes on, they’ll eventually get completely coloured in.

So far, that’s it for my yearly spreads. However, I have left a few pages blank before starting into January in case I think of anything else I would like to track over the year.

Monthly Spreads

Month At-A-Glance

I realized early on, after booking an optometry appointment for Isabel, that I was going to need a proper calendar of some sort in this notebook of mine. We maybe don’t have a lot of appointments, but we do have a few here and there and I would need to write them down.

Goals

I also realized early on in the year that setting myself some goals was going to be important if I was going to find a sense of purpose in my life as a stay-at-home parent. My goals at the beginning of the year were pretty half-baked and they changed a lot between the time I made them and the end of the month. In fact – maybe I should be embarrassed to admit this – I didn’t meet any of those goals. But just making them gave me the motivation I needed to come halfway, to find a sense of focus and vocation.

Habits

The traditional habit tracker is the bullet journal spread that had me hooked on the system, so I use it every time I set up a new month. I incorporate all the daily cleaning tasks into it in order to make sure I’m tracking those and add in all the things I want to do like reading, intentional creative practice, exercising, etc. There’s something about colouring in the little box after I’ve hit a habit that gives me a little buzz, a reward without actually being a reward.

You might notice this habit tracker is only half done. I’d like to say that’s because I took this picture on the 18th or 19th but no… I think I need a line item in my habit tracker for filling out my habit tracker.

Good morning

Going into stay-at-home parenthood, I knew that mornings would be crucial. Problem? I really suck at mornings. Like, really, really suck at mornings. I’m the kind of person who stereotypically grunts a greeting when I come down the stairs, who can barely keep her eyes open for the first twenty minutes after dragging herself out from under the sheet. Mornings are hard. So, I created this spread. It’s essentially a habit tracker, but with a slightly different format, focused on the first couple of hours of the day, with a colour for each item. Do the item? Put a coloured dot on the date. Again, I haven’t been consistent with this one, and, for February, I think my habits will change, but I will come back to this spread.

21-Day-Fix

This spread is pretty self-explanatory. I copied the exercise calendar for Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix workout program into my journal so I could track my workouts. After every workout, I got that little rush of reward as I crossed off the workout in pink. I fell off the bandwagon this too, obviously – but 8 days of exercise is always better than 0 days of exercise.

Meal Planning

Turns out, meal planning in bullet journal format really works for me. I set the spread up for the whole month, but only plan week to week. And, I only focus on dinner. We tend to scrounge and/or eat a lot of kraft dinner for our lunches, so I don’t bother making a plan for it. That helps me keep this spread delightfully simple. You’ll see that I have no qualms about scratching out plans and rework the week when something doesn’t work for our day.

Budget

This spread came into play a little late in the month, and we had already blown well past the budget we had decided on. I hope to be a little more successful with it in February. I don’t put all our expenses here, but I do track the ones I know I can control, things like groceries, hygiene, clothing, coffees, etc. etc.

And that’s it for January!

A few spreads I thought of doing and didn’t get around to this month, but might make use of in the future:

  • Naptime hussle: track the things I want to accomplish during the 15 minutes to 2.5 hours I have during naptime. Habit tracker style.
  • Mood tracker: for me, but even better, for the girls. I’ve seen some gorgeous colourful ones, even ones that have you recording the colour coded mood in the petal of a flower.
  • Sleep tracker: for Eden. This one might be a little too depressing though. I do I really want to track how many times she wakes up in a night?
  • Daily review: my grandmother used to write a couple lines every day in a journal about what she did that day. I wonder if that might be a good practice to start.
  • Daily reflection: beyond documentation of the day’s activities, reflection might also be a good practice, to put into writing just a few thoughts about the day, what was good, what could be better.

~*~

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