Over Lughnasadh, I mentioned that I’ve found a way to balance my “real life” with my “spiritual life” using a Bullet Journal. My “real life” includes all those little tasks that are boring but necessary… like chores and a job, whereas my “spiritual life” is what I used to call all the little things I’m drawn to, including my creativity and my desire to help people.
The last few years, I’ve learned that those “real life” tasks are often in the category of “executive functioning skills,” and that is one of those areas where some people on the spectrum (myself included) struggle.
So what exactly are “Executive Functioning Skills?” And how can a bullet journal help?
If I’m honest, I probably should have heard the term “Executive Functioning Skills” before, and maybe I did at some point in a teaching class, but it didn’t stick in my long-term memory until I started looking into how Asperger’s Syndrome affected me directly as a person.
There have always been things that have been difficult for me to do but were seemingly unimportant for my ability to get good grades or fake functioning in social settings, so I didn’t really worry about it. For instance, it is really difficult for me to look at something from a different perspective, and yet I didn’t really notice it because I would use my brand of logic to figure out what a person meant and go on from there. I often didn’t realize that my perception of what was happening could be so very off from what was actually going on.
When I did x and then y happened, obviously the next time I did x, I would get the same result. I would study people and take extra note of their reactions to things I did or said, and when I wanted certain reactions from them, I would simply say or do the things that got those reactions.
It worked well enough on a superficial level that no one ever knew anything was different about me (I originally put “wrong with me,” but I have to avoid the mindset that my Aspergers is something “wrong with me”). Only when I would try to get seriously involved with people did it become an issue.
And intimately knowing someone is still an issue to this day, it seems.
This is one example of my struggles with executive functioning (specifically brain flexibility in the realm of shifting perspectives), and how I’ve been dealing with them. That one, in particular, is in regards to my social interactions… something the bullet journal may not be able to help, but it does illustrate how important these executive functioning skills can be.
On a more individual scale, things like prioritizing are very much difficult for me. My mother would always tell me to just write a list in order of importance… well that’s great, but when everything seems to be important, how do I know where to begin?
My most memorable example would be doing house chores. I will get so pre-occupied with whatever thing has my focus at the time that house chores might not get done. In college, dishes would pile up, laundry would pile up, trash would be bagged, but maybe I wouldn’t want to make the trek to the trash bin so the trash bags would also pile up, and school work would pile up around the bed and/or desk.
At some point, I’d become overwhelmed with all the pretending to be normal, and need to take some time off, doing next to nothing (often playing a game or binge-watching my favorite movies) for a few days… sometimes weeks! Then, about the point when I was beginning to feel like a normal human again, I would realize I needed to clean, but would become so overwhelmed by the process that I risked going back into my shutdown.
I wouldn’t know where to begin! Cleaning my room would often lead to finding dishes on the desk, which would lead to me wanting to do the dishes. Then I would start collecting dishes around the house, only to realize that I might need to begin with trash. And so on…
If my mom came to help, we could get it done. She would tell me what to do, where to begin, and we’d “divide and conquer” the mess. I’m ashamed to admit that on more than one occasion this process led to throwing out almost all of my dishes because I would leave them in the sink until they had things growing and moving in them.
On one hand, this is just being a slob, but on another, there’s an acutal reason behind it. I literally could not determine what was the priority. Eating is important, so of course I would cook, but dishes wasn’t a priority until there were no more dishes to use, and often even then I could find a way to convince myself that there were other options… like ordering take-out, or actually going out to eat.
Which is not the smart financial choice…
I now have some systems in place to help me not get to that state ever again. When I cook, I put things in the dishwasher as I go so that dishes aren’t an issue. In fact, I won’t let myself sit down to eat until the leftovers are put away as well, so the only thing left is to wash the dishes that I am using as I am eating, and maybe the pan I cooked in because I let it soak while I ate.
It’s little things like that that are helping me to become a fully functional adult… in spite of being on the spectrum.
The Bullet Journal has become one of those things as well.
Since it is totally customizable, I can add or remove whatever I need as I become more independent or if I have a particularly rough week coming up (or month, as is the case around STAAR time). I can choose what I focus on, how much time I want to spend on said focus, and how I’m going to measure my time spent on that focus.
And it allows me to be creative!
Or if you’re not for all the fancy doodles and illustrations, there are some easier spreads that are purely functional.
What I’ve found is that there are some things that I like to be very pretty, and there are some that I need to be purely functional, but most of my spreads are right in the middle.
I like the sketched look I get from the not quite straight lines, and even though the circles for my Gratitude log have nothing to do with my theme this month, I liked the look of them so much last month that I decided to keep them. Also, I could have just had circles for my Writing Log, but the sunflowers keep with my theme, which was decided upon because of Lughnasadh.
With my weekly layout, I have the days separated into a small box and a longer box. The small box is for events, but I’ve already realized that might be a waste of space. However, since I do want to get more posts in, I’ve already decided to include planned blog posts in that area.
The larger box is for the tasks I need to complete that day.
Of course, I didn’t start out at this level of BuJo. I took a couple months to figure it out, and there have been a handful of sites that have been particularly helpful in getting to this point:
There’s Pinterest, of course, the spirit animal of idea boards. For example, my current living situation doesn’t require a whole lot of house work, but a quick Pinterest search brings you a whole list of sites with spreads for chores and everything from a “to read” list to “what to do when your bored” lists.
Then there’s a couple of YouTube channels that I checked out. My favorite BuJo YouTuber being Amanda Rach Lee.
And then, to get my own skills up to stuff, I had to give SkillShare a shot. I was lucky enough to get a couple months free, a deal I’m willing to share with y’all. If you decide you’d like to try Skillshare out, click here and get your own 2 free months of lessons on everything from lettering to doodling to blogging to all sorts of things!
It’s just such a satisfying feeling to be organized and functional! And that’s my Friday Feeling this week: organized, functional, productive!!