Planner peace… it’s not just a pipe dream. I’ve finally found the Holy Grail that combines the bullet journal with the Getting Things Done system – with an added dash of rebel tendency strategies. The key for me was separating the planner from the “grand ideas” parts of the system, because trying to cram all my visions into one book was just… no. Not possible.
So that’s how I came up with a self-contained three tier system for 1) day-to-day planning, 2) more long-term dreams, and 3) crazy-ass scribbles.
The video below explains all this in detail with a concrete example at the end, but the short version is that the big A4 “messy books” contain all my random scribbles and drawings and almost diary-type brain dumps about things that pertain to my teaching, my research, my home projects, and my creative hobbies. In the two smaller A5 “maybe books”, I gather all my ideas in someday/maybe list form. Finally the black A5 “master book” functions as my planner, with a calendar section, weekly spreads, and lists of projects and next actions.
The point of the system is that there are binding threads connecting all these books, and I don’t write any good ideas on random slips of paper or in loads of different notebooks that get lost or forgotten – no, it’s all in the self-contained three tier system where each book has its own theme with different project areas that are separated and signified by tabs in different colours.
3. The messy books (A4)
(Yup, I’m starting from the back, with number three, and saving the numero uno master book for last.)
So two of the messy books are for work. The port red one is for teaching, and the green one is for research. In these I jot down messy ideas concerning courses I teach and the studies I conduct. I could use ordinary, ugly, cheap notebooks, but these Leuchtturm ones actually make it more fun to work, so I think the expense is worth it.
To keep track of where I’m writing about what, I use tabs in different colours that signify different courses and studies. That way when I get an idea for something new, I can just turn the page and start writing, bullet journal style, and still have a structured and easily navigated book.
The other two messy books are for home. The black one is for duty type projects like car maintenance, paperwork, and renovation. The blue one is for creative projects like writing, photography, and social media, and that’s where I plan out my books and brainstorm videos like the one below.
2. The maybe books (A5)
The maybe books are for more structured lists of ideas, a place where I go to see if there are any good ideas I feel like acting on. This is where the system becomes an actual system, because the maybe books correspond to two messy books each. One maybe book is for work (port red) and contains someday/maybe lists for both teaching and research, so it combines the ideas I brainstorm in the port red and moss green messy books.
The other maybe book is for home (pink), and it contains someday/maybe lists with ideas that pertain both to the black duties messy book and the blue creative messy book.
The tabs in the maybe books correspond to the tabs in the messy books, so that for example, a pale purple tab signifies writing in both the maybe book and the blue messy book. This way I can easily find anything to dow with writing and easily flip to the right spread.
1. The master book (A5)
Finally, it all comes together in actual planning and carrying out of tasks in the planner.
This is where I keep all my current and time specific projects and tasks. Nothing goes in here that isn’t important right now or within the next month. No grand ideas, no long-term dreaming, just the day-to-day deadlines and appointments, notes for meetings, and brain dumps that will be irrelevant once I process them and turn the page.
Want to know more about how the system works and how I combine the Getting Things Done system with bullet journalling concepts? Please watch the video below, where I explain all this in more detail, with an extended example to show you exactly how I use the system in real time. The video contains references to my books.
For stationary addicts, perfection can be confused with an empty planner. The pristine page – symbolising a whole, untouched year – is so daunting that you hesitate to put a blot on it, because what if you ruin it?
Well. I propose another way to look at perfection. And obviously I’m operating from the assumption that there is such a thing as perfection, even though I know that can be debated. But we’ve all experienced something we felt was perfect – a day, a movie, a piece of music – but that perfection isn’t universal, or valid for everyone. It’s not an objective fact – it’s a subjective fact.
Which, you know… aren’t they all?
But let’s not go down that rabbit hole today. I’m just here to propose, on the third day of the western new year and the cusp of breaking all those resolutions, that perfection isn’t a new beginning. It’s what comes at the end of a messy process full of dead ends and mistakes. You don’t put pen to pristine paper and produce perfection from scratch. Nothing grows out of perfection – it’s perfection that does the growing: it’s the end product, and it literally needs some shit to give it life.
Take a flowering apple tree: it didn’t spring into existence from a perfect void. It grew from dead leaves and dirt.
So why do some of us view the emptiness of infinite promise as perfect, rather than the end product? Because we haven’t put our (imperfect) stamp on it. We haven’t ruined the thing with our less-than-stellar Stuff. We haven’t yet revealed our new 2019 life for what it is – “a mingled yarn, good and ill together” (All’s Well). Perhaps it feels messy and wrong to fill a pretty book with pain and confusion side by side with euphoria and hope.
Is that the problem? That the book only seems pretty until you fill it with your ugly handwriting and your slightly non-noble thoughts? That the year looks promising until you’re a few days in and you realise you’re the same person you were in 2018, with the same insecurities and baggage?
Well, you can’t fix a shitty self image in a day. But maybe you can get somewhere in a year? Maybe it’s not in January we should judge ourselves, but in December? At the end of the year, when the planner is all filled out, maybe that’s when you’ll see the beauty of it. Maybe your ugly handwriting improves in hindsight, when every page is covered in the same illegible scrawls, making the whole thing a kind of abstract pattern.
And maybe a string of bad days can take on a new and beautiful meaning as you look back on them and realise that holy fuck, you actually survived that!
Today I’m sharing a “craft with me” video where I add to my December junk bujo. Only for the journal obsessed. The rest of you will fall asleep!
This new journal hobby of mine is quickly spiralling out of control. I’m now branching out into junk journalling, which is when you recycle scraps of paper and other materials to make notebooks. Many of the stunning work I’ve seen on YouTube and Instagram are very romantic and as far from minimalistic as you can get. Count me in!
My latest haul from the thrift store! 🙂
Which I’m now ripping apart…
… and staining with tea and coffee to make the paper look old.
The stained paper will soon join forces with postcards, flowers, silk ribbons, and lace to form new books!
And if this horrifies you, remember that these books I’m destroying would probably never have been sold anyway, so in the end they would have been burnt. I mean, come on: a booklet about the history of banks? At least I’m giving them a second life. 🙂