I think it would be safe to say that everyone’s daily routine was upended when lockdown began. Weirdly, lockdown helped me figure out a more balanced day to day routine. Of course, my bullet journal is an integral part of this day to day routine. So today I want to share my daily planning routine in my bullet journal and how this helps me throughout the day.
I think to some it may seem slightly strange that I’m taking a positive view of lockdown. I know the last few months have been really hard for a lot of people. But realistically, my daily routine hasn’t changed all that much.
Despite all the anxieties which come from having reasonably bad asthma during a pandemic. Figuring out a daily planning routine has been one tiny positive aspect in all the other bad things which have happened. I know that your situation might be different and that you may not want to use this time productively. But I’m hoping this post may be of use to someone.
My Daily Planning Routine In My Bullet Journal
Starting My Daily Log
One of the main concepts of bullet journaling is the daily log. This is where you write down tasks you want to achieve that day as well as any other notes. One of the first things I will do in the morning is set-up my daily log. I don’t use my bullet journal every single day, I tend to not need it on the weekends. But for the most part, this is how I start the day.
The tasks on my daily log come from a few places. First I will look back to the previous day to see if there were any tasks I didn’t finish, those get migrated to my new daily log. I will then add any more tasks based on what I know needs to be done. After that I will look back to my monthly log, this is where I keep a running list of all the things I want to do in a specific month. I will take tasks from this list if there is something I can work on.
Structuring My Day
I will then use my bullet journal to help me structure my day. I dedicate the mornings to personal development. For the most part, this means working on skills and other projects which will help me move forward in my career. At the moment this mostly means learning calligraphy as well as working on my dissertation. My dissertation topic links to my calligraphy practice so I do both of these tasks in the morning as they feed off each other.
The way I write out tasks in my bullet journal helps me to structure my day. There are a few tasks I do every morning, as well as others based on my research. I like to add these tasks to my bullet journal in the order that I will do them. So my initial tasks are for the morning, then client tasks that I will do in the afternoon.
I prefer working in this way so I can get the most important tasks done first. It also helps because this is when I have the most energy during the day. So I know my most important tasks have been completed before I start to get tired. If I have any blog posts or other pieces of writing to be done I will get this out of the way first thing in the morning.
Adding notes to my daily log
After I have my daily log set up for the day I will start on work. Personal stuff in the morning like I said and client work or other projects in the afternoon. As I’m working through this I will inevitably have notes that I want to write in my bullet journal or come up with other tasks that I need to do.
All these notes and tasks are added under my original task list. I’m finding especially with dissertation research, it’s useful being able to write down any thoughts which come to my head. My bullet journal isn’t the best place for organising these research notes. I have another notebook just for my dissertation work, but I like using my bullet journal as the one place where everything goes. From this I can move any notes or ideas over to my other notebook as I think is necessary.
I’m using that notebook as something like a sketchbook for my dissertation. It’s hard to explain. That notebook isn’t a place for copying research taken directly from the internet. That would be a waste of my time and honestly, I just can’t be bothered. That notebook is more like the place where I’m writing my own though and ideas which come from doing research.
I’m going, to be honest, when it comes to the dissertation I have no real idea what I’m doing, and moving notes over is a bit of a hassle. But I prefer it to using my bullet journal as a place where I keep notes related to my research.
Using the Pomodoro method
If I have a large project I want to complete I will try to break that down into smaller tasks. This makes it easier to complete the project as a whole because it doesn’t seem like a huge piece of work. It’s just a series of smaller tasks. Okay so maybe this isn’t specifically related to my daily planning routine, but I thought I’d mention it because its something I use regularly.
I try to break down any tasks as much as I can. For example ‘write essay’ has been broken down from all the other tasks you might be expected to do. But when you think about it ‘write essay’ is still quite a big task. For this sort of thing, I will try to break my to-do list down even further into small, achievable tasks.
I have a few reasons for this. Firstly because I like using the Pomodoro method while I work. I try to avoid doing long stretches of work because chronic fatigue remember! I work more and I get tired. But taking small and regular breaks helps me not get quite so tired.
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These small chunks of time help because it’s surprising how much you can get done in a short amount time. If you decide you are going to spend an hour on a piece of work you’re probably going to get distracted. But if you give yourself a shorter amount of time to work it’s easier to stay focused on that same task. In most cases getting it done much faster than what you might have with more time.
But how does this fit into my bullet journal? When I’m planning out what I need to do I try to break down my tasks so they are around 20 minutes of work. So I can see exactly what I’m working on in that chunk of time. Rather than splitting the task over multiple chunks. So if we go back to that essay example, I would have a task list that went something like write ‘para 1’, ‘write para 2’, ‘write para 3’ rather than just ‘write essay’.
What to put in my daily log
I tend to start with a very small daily log. I’ll add more notes to it throughout the day but my initial task list is usually very short. There are several reasons why I do this. One of the main ones is that I can get overwhelmed by really big task lists. I’ll go on to break a task into smaller segments when I feel the need. But the truth is I don’t like having long to-do lists.
I would rather start small and add more manageable tasks rather than create a to-do list which isn’t achievable in a single day. Something which has become important to me and I’m sure everyone else is making sure I have a distinction between work and home. This isn’t easy when your office is also your dining room table.
I don’t want to have so many things on my to-do list that I end up working after 6pm to get them finished. It can also be quite discouraging to get to the end of the day and see all the tasks which I didn’t manage to get finished.
And though yes, I may spend the evening doing things which are relevant to my personal practice. I want to ensure that I don’t have any specific tasks, and so won’t feel compelled to continue working. Though it isn’t as necessary now, having this distinction was important while I was doing university work. Having free time in the evening caused so much anxiety and guilt because I felt like I should have been doing something productive during that time.
No bullet journalling in the evening
That leads on to the last part of my daily planning routine. I don’t schedule tasks or even use my bullet journal in the evening. As soon as I’ve finished work for the day I close my bullet journal and I won’t look at it till the next day.
I know some people will plan out their whole day from wake till bed but I’m not one of those people. Evenings have become my time for reading, one of the few good things to come out of lockdown. Especially considering I haven’t read much so far this year.
This reading time is split between reading books related to my dissertation and books for personal enjoyment. I know I said I try to avoid work in the evenings but it can be hard to separate reading for my dissertation from reading books for enjoyment. Especially when something not related in any way to my dissertation can spark an idea.*
I love that I can combine university work with personal interests but it can become a nightmare. This is why I have my no bullet journaling in the evening rule. Evenings are my ideation time, anyone in a creative field will know that they need time to just think about a subject. That is what I do in the evenings and it can be tempting to write all these ideas down. I try to avoid that because I will just spend all my time doing more work in my bullet journal.
It may seem counterintuitive, especially as those ideas could be useful and I will have to write them down at some point. But I also don’t want to feel pressure to work in the evenings and using my bullet journal has become part of that work routine.
I hope that gave you a good idea of how I use my bullet journal as part of my daily planning routine. Weirdly enough I’m finding I use my bullet journal much more since lockdown started. It has become an essential tool to help me stay organised and figure out what I need to do each day.
I know that this post has been focused very specifically on using the bullet journal to plan my day. But I’m sure many of the techniques I’ve mentioned could be easily transferred over to a planner. Especially if you use an hourly planner, as they can be really useful if you’re planning out blocks of time.
* The initial idea for an area I want to research was inspired by a line in National Treasure. Which as we all know is 100% historically accurate.