Monday’s Motivation: Finding Work-Life Balance Through Bullet Journaling

If you’ve been keeping up with the Weekend Coffee Share posts, you know that the last few weeks of my life have all been about finding that work-life balance. Namely, recognizing that they were completely out of balance, and trying to find a way to get them back into balance.

After spending 48 hours without sunlight week before last, and then beginning last week with food poisoning because I was too lazy to go grocery shopping, I realized something had to give. But I was also aware that some things were already going better… albeit only when I stick to my plan (which I hadn’t been doing).

Believe it or not, I am more organized now than I have ever been in the past, and it is all thanks to my bullet journal.

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I know, I know, bullet journaling has been on the rise for a while now, and I am definitely late to the party, but, as I stated in this week’s coffee share, it is making a difference!

One of the biggest things I did not expect from keeping a bullet journal would be that I felt more creative. There is something about doodling/sketching in my bullet journal to set up each weekly layout that actually makes being organized (dare I say it?) fun!

I’ll watch a handful of “Plan with me” videos on YouTube, and decide on a theme for each month, and that theme determines the colors. When I first started using this thing, I just went with triangles, telling myself I was doing a “Southwestern” theme, but in reality, I just didn’t know what I was doing.

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I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I was determined to figure it out. I’ve always been one of those people who learns a little better by doing than actually by reading the instructions.

I also (that first couple of months) was using a very cheap knock-off bullet journal. I wanted to try it out, and I thought that $20 for an empty book seemed ridiculous. What I realize now is that the quality of the paper is important! You don’t want some thin paper where the pens/markers will easily bleed through.

Habit Trackers

Another thing I did, in the beginning, was to make my habit trackers weekly instead of monthly. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain in the butt to go back and forth between the weekly pages and the monthly section, but it takes up so much less space this way.

AND it allows me to see how I did over the whole month, instead of just a few days at a time. I put mine in a circle because I like the way it looks. To me, it looks cleaner, more compact that way.

So what sort of things do I track? And how does that help me to be more productive or reach my goals?

Me personally, I track health and routines. My morning routine involves a little 10-15 minute workout and a particular order to my morning to make sure that I don’t forget anything, and that I have time to wake up properly. It involves a short meditation where I lay and stretch my back while thinking about what my goals for the day are.

Since I’ve added the meditation and workout into my mornings, I feel happier… on the days I do them. It also means that I stick to my wakeup times better because I know that I have a set number of things that must be accomplished before I have to leave, and I don’t get to color in my tracker if I don’t accomplish ALL of them.

I cheated for a while because I realized I wasn’t ready to include the exercise into my schedule when school first started back. I needed more time for the “lay there and meditate” portion of my morning, so I allowed myself that cheat, but I made a note of it in my monthly review section.

I track exercise separately because, in order to count it, my Fitbit has to recognize 30 minutes of activity outside of my normal walking. My morning exercise is only 10-15 minutes; by itself, it can’t count. I want to be healthier and to lose about 80 pounds.

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I also track when I post. This includes Instagram and Twitter posts (meaning every Sunday is a given) as well as what posts here. I keep trying to build a fan base for my writing (what little is out there), with the hopes that once I finally finish a major work, I’ll have a ready-made audience.

It gives me a way to feel like I am still working on my writing, though I haven’t written anything creative in a while…

But that’s about to change! Using the bullet journal is helping me to find time to do the things that I want to do. Just this weekend, I was super productive, thanks to my little to do lists in my bullet journal! And I do write some. I count the words that I write for this blog, and that gives me something to track… For every 1,000 words, I get to color in some symbol for the monthly theme. This month’s theme being falling leaves… and the occasional apple in honor of Mabon.

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Just as a side note, that picture was taken before I’d written anything for the month. I’ve gotten to fill in a few of the leaves and will get another one for this post.

So thanks for reading and giving me a reason to color!

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Meal Planner and Grocery Lists

I’ve also streamlined my weal prep and diet by adding a weekly meal plan and a grocery list. By making a grocery list for my meal plan (and snacks!), I also can check to see which of my items is available for an Ibotta rebate or a coupon from the store. Just by taking the time to check, I managed to get over $200 worth of groceries for about $150, not too long ago, and then was able to get another $15 in Ibotta rebates.

It may not be as good as those super couponers who use so many coupons they manage to have the store owe them at the checkout, but for someone who once applied for food stamps because she wasn’t making enough to go to college, pay bills, and EAT, it’s kind of a big deal for me.

And my Expense Tracker is super happy when I save money! (I don’t have a picture of that to share… sorry)

Plus, I’ve gotten over $250 back in rebates from Ibotta, as in actual cash. (If you’d like to sign up, to try them out, click here: Ibotta)

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“Brain Dump”

You’ll notice the “Brain Dump” page there. That’s for when my mind is racing at the end of the evening and I need to go to sleep. It allows me to empty (or dump) my worrisome thoughts to look at the next day. It also serves as a catch-all for when I’m out and about and need to write something down but it doesn’t fit in another category.

One of the things from last week’s brain dump was that I should re-arrange my posting schedule for here so that each day fits a theme for posting. You’ll notice I updated my “About” page with an explanation of what each day will be.

In July, one of my brain dump ideas was to make the theme for August be Sunflowers in honor of Lughnasadh, which I did.

Sometimes the ideas aren’t as great, but either way, it gives me a way to worry less, and that helps keep my productivity up and allows me more time for relaxation outside of work.

Weekly layouts

The weekly layout spreads are probably the most fun because they are the most diverse. A quick Google or Pinterest search will land you with hundreds of options and variations for weekly spreads. There are whole groups of bullet journalers who share their spread layouts and designs!

I prefer a layout that shows me the whole week in one 2-page spread, allows me to show off my theme, and leaves enough room for a notes section… similar to, but not quite the same as, a “Brain Dump.”

For August, I chose one that left a section for events (including Twitter hashtag games) as well as a “To-Do” section. But for September, I found I need more space, so by going left to right instead of top to bottom, I can better utilize the space, and, if necessary, I can make multiple columns per day.

The Take-Away

So what does it all mean? Sure, it all takes a while to set up, but it’s worth it.

I allot a few hours each Saturday (sometimes Friday) to set up the next week. And then I watch some plan with me videos while I’m lesson planning or grading papers to come up with ideas once a month.

My favorite is Amanda Rach Lee, and I found her July Sunflower theme super helpful for my August layouts!

In the end, what happens is that I take a few hours once a week to be creative and plan out my week (along with about 15-30 minutes each night to update), and it helps me to get more done and it’s relaxing! I get to color for a few minutes EVERY DAY! And all in the name of being ORGANIZED…

All of that allows me the time to do fun things, like go to painting classes or happy hour with the girls, confident in the knowledge that I’ve gotten everything already done. I’m more relaxed, eating healthier, saving money, and I’ve got time for me!

I call that a win.

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About Elizabeth

First and foremost I am a teacher. What I teach is a blend of grammatical art, literary love, and a smidge of spiritual awareness. My blog tries to combine the best of all three over a cup of tea.

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