If Your Life Doesn’t Fit In Boxes || Jessica Bolyard

Two years ago I decided to get serious about organizing my life and my schedule. At the time, I was running a direct-sales business along with my writing and speaking pursuits, and needed a way to wrap my head around the things that needed to be done for each. I’m not naturally disciplined or organized, so I was eager to jump into the world of planners and organization that works so well for so many women.

I bought an exquisite planner, customized with categories and tabs and sections I needed. It was a beautiful book in every way, and although it wasn’t cheap, I felt confident that it would be worth the investment if it helped me finally get a grip on my life.

And for about a month, it did. But soon, I realized that the format of the planner wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t using entire sections and was using others just because they were there and I felt like I should. The fact was, my brain couldn’t work within the precise system of boxes and columns and tabs. My life just doesn’t work that way.

So before I ever got to use the March monthly layout in the wonderful planner, I scrapped the whole idea. Down onto the bottom shelf of my desk it went, collecting dust with other relics of good intentions and terrific plans. At that time, I decided I probably just wasn’t meant to be one of those organized moms who always seem to have it together. If a planner designed just for me and my life and my needs couldn’t make it happen, what in the world would?

Flash forward a year or so, and meet…..the bullet journal.

This book has changed everything for me. That’s no exaggeration. I’ve based mine loosely on the concept of the Bullet Journal (or BuJo) first created by Ryder Carroll. And that’s the thing about bullet journaling that I love: it truly is customized to my needs, and it works the way my scattered mind works. It’s adaptable, flexible, and has finally given me the confidence to say that I have my schedule under control.

I know, right? You’re wondering how in the world a little notebook from Target can do that.

Here’s the thing. My mind doesn’t work in boxes, so I don’t use boxes. My schedule isn’t one that I can lay out months or weeks or even days in advance. Having adult attention deficit disorder, I feel completely restricted by someone – even a book – telling me how to manage my life. For me, the bullet journal is where it’s at.

How does it work? However you want it to.

The idea behind the bullet journal is that by using four simple components (topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets) a simple journal can become a system around which your life can be organized. Certain symbols and codes can be used for clarity and ease of use…or, in my case, can be altered or omitted altogether if they don’t work.

Here’s how I use mine:

1 – A weekly layout.

Every Sunday I sit down with my felt-tipped markers and plan out the week ahead. Appointments, meetings, and other inflexible events are logged first, with other “to-dos” coming afterward. Usually, the daily to-dos are added day-by-day, with the flexibility of migrating a task from one day to another if (let’s face it) it just didn’t happen that day. I also write down the supper menu for the week, and will include quotes, sermon points, scripture, or song lyrics I want to keep in mind throughout the week.


2 – A reading log.

I was always taught that leaders are readers, and that’s even more true for writers. I do love my books, and have so many in my reading queue that I often forget what I have. (Sad, right?) Enter….BuJo! With this cute layout, I can keep track of what I’ve read and what I still want to read. Plus, I can make it colorful, which is obviously very important to me.


3 – A place for miscellaneous lists.

We all have lists we need to go refer back to over and over, and my bullet journal is where I keep those. Christmas lists, weekly cleaning schedules (that I do my best to stick to), favorite quotes….there’s a page for all of that. I mark them in the table of contents and with washi tape so I can easily find them later.


4 – A brain dump.

This book has everything in it: sermon notes, blog post ideas, journal-type entries that I just have to get out, scripture doodles. It’s with me all the time, so if I have something to say or to remember, it goes here. No more scraps of paper or blog posts on the back of receipts. It’s all right here.


The truth is, bullet journaling has helped me to get control over my life. With everything together in one book and the flexibility to change what doesn’t work for something that does, this scattered mama feels more put-together than ever.

A few notes, though, if you decide to try it:

1 – Start slow.

When you start looking into all that a bullet journal can be, you’ll be overwhelmed. I promise. There are millions of people writing millions of fancy things with their fancy pens in their fancy notebooks. Some of those ideas will work for you, while others won’t. You may want to get fancy pens and all, or you might want to start with the pen you accidentally stole from your church last week. Don’t feel like you have to do it all in order to do anything. Start with what you most need to get under control (for me, it was the weekly schedule and to-do list). Adjust that – symbols, pictures, abbreviations, etc. – to what works for you, and then move on to other uses.

2 – Don’t be afraid to change mid-journal.

I may be scattered and undisciplined, but I am a perfectionist. When I first began this technique, I was nervous to change layouts or techniques from one week to another because *gasp* it might not look good. That doesn’t matter. The prettiest planner I’ve ever had didn’t work for me. If this is going to work, it might not be pretty, but functionality is more important.

3 – Have fun with it.

This is something you’re ideally going to use every day. If it’s a chore, you won’t want to do it or use it or keep up with it. Look up fun ways of recording significant things. Use pretty markers. Bring out the colored pencils or stickers or a thousand colors of washi tape. Make it something you like doing and looking at, or it won’t work.

Bottom line: the same methods don’t work for every person…and that is okay. When we have our HFL team meetings, there is always some laughter about the difference in my “planner” and everyone else’s. But God didn’t design all of us the same way, and it takes all of the different, beautiful ways our minds work to make this wonderful world work the way it does.

As Mandy Hale says, “Just be yourself. Let people see the real, imperfect, flawed, quirky, weird, beautiful, magical person that you are.” And yes, that even applies to your planner, because even to-do lists and schedules can be fun.

Are you going to give it a try? Check out my Bullet Journaling board on Pinterest (or any of the other millions!) and search #bulletjournaling on Instagram. If you try it out, I’d love to see your progress and ideas! Tag your pictures #HFLlifeplanners to share!


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