Sunday, October 29, 2017

My Bullet Journal presentation from the 2017 Moonlight & Magnolias -- part 2

Hi, all! Last time I talked a bit about what a bullet journal is. This time I'll talk about why I started using one.

super-cool powerpoint outline
I’m sort of a plotter in my writing, but pantser in my life, which is not a great way to get things done. I’m bad at goals, so I sort of drift around, wondering why I can't seem to finish anything. (Am I the only one who thinks it's more fun to begin things than to finish them?)

About a year ago, was having hard time falling asleep – I would go to bed and then lie awake thinking of all the things I had to get done the following day, or the rest of the week, or sometime in my life. When would I get them done? How would I remember all of them? “I have to do A and B, and oh, crap, I forgot about C, I need to remember to do C….” So this would go on for an hour or two, and then I'd finally fall asleep. Then I'd wake up at 4:30 AM (as women of my age tend to do :) ) and it would all start up again: “Must remember to do A, B, C, must remember, how will I remember?” And that would keep me awake for another half hour or so.

You're probably wondering why I didn't just write everything down on a To-Do list. I've tried To-Do lists in the past, and here's how they tend to go:

I would create a To-Do list on a piece of paper, then lose the paper.
I would create a To-Do list in a Word doc/google docs then forget to look at it.
OR I'd remember to look at the list but the same long-term tasks would loom, so a) I didn’t want to look at it, or b) they’d be there so long my eyes would stop seeing them.
The same thing happened with computer desktop post-its. The were so pretty and fun, but eventually the last two would just sit there on my desktop and my eyes just stopped seeing them after awhile.

When I explain this to people who use To-Do lists well, they ask incredulously, “But doesn’t it feel great to cross off a finished item?” For me, the answer (weirdly) is "no". I don't see my accomplishments. All I see is everything else that's still on the list. It's like I've reached what I thought was the peak of a mountain only to find out the rest of it was hidden in the clouds and I still have 5000 feet to go. I guess it's some weird psychological thing. Maybe I should try therapy someday....

Another weird psychological thing is the feeling that crossing off a task from a paper list or deleting it from an electronic document means it never existed, so I don’t get “credit” for completing the task. Again, not how To-Do lists are supposed to make you feel.

Shorter version: To-Do lists don't work for me.

So there I was about a year ago, not falling asleep and panicking about how I was going to get everything done I needed to get done.

One day I was perusing Facebook (hey, it's part of my social media presence! Certainly not just another method of procrastination!) and I happened to see a post from Andrea Judy, a local writer whom I met at Moonlight & Magnolias a few years ago. She was asking her fb friends what planner she should get for the following year. Being perennially interested in getting organized, I read the replies. The first one said "Bullet Journal."

(I just have to add here that when I told this story during my presentation, a girl in the third row waved and said "That was me!" So thank you, Vikki Perry, for setting me on my Bullet Journal path! :D)

I read Vikki's comment and thought “WTF is a bullet journal?” So I googled "bullet journal" and found a Buzzfeed article entitled “WTF Is A Bullet Journal And Why Should You Start One? An Explainer” and I thought, "This is the article for me!!"

Here's the says-it-all graphic that accompanies the article, used entirely without permission:

image by Ellie Sunakawa / Buzzfeed

I read the Buzzfeed article, went to the official Bullet Journal site to learn the basics, and read a few other articles. Then I bought myself a cheap composition notebook and started my own BuJo. That night I vomited all my thoughts into it. Everything that needed to be done at some point, everything I was stressing about remembering, literally every worrisome thought that crossed my mind went into that notebook. Basically, I emptied my brain.

And that night I went right to sleep for the first time in months.

I remember getting into bed and waiting for the thoughts to come and keep me awake like they did every night, but my mind was blissfully empty. I'd written down all of my worry-causing thoughts. They were all safely tucked away in one place, so I didn't have to hold them in my head, repeating them to make sure I remembered them. It was almost like I had permission to forget about them.

If you remember from my last post, the reason we write things by hand is because it helps us remember them better. So you might think it's a bit paradoxical to write things by hand in order to remember them, but then allow yourself to forget them because they’re written down. But think of it this way: your brain should be used for thinking and solving problems, for useful knowledge and memories, not for storing to-do items.

Now when I go to bed, I work out story plots instead of trying to remember that I have to pick up the dry cleaning I dropped off two months ago or the vet appointment next week or the food in the fridge that should be used up before it goes off. And actually, I don't usually get too far with the story plots, because I fall asleep pretty quickly most nights.

So for me, To-Do lists were intimidating or useless, but now I actually like writing things down. It gets all those thoughts and worries out of my head and someplace where I can do something about them. I don't have to stress over trying to remember all of them. And I get "credit" for the things I get done. I'll explain that in a future post.

Now you know why I started a Bullet Journal. The next post will be about why YOU should start a Bullet Journal! :)

If you've already started a Bullet Journal, please let me know how it's going. And if you haven't started one yet but these posts are persuading you to do so, go get yourself a journal, because we'll be doing Reader Participation in a couple weeks. The journal doesn't have to be expensive, just something you're willing to carry around with you most of the time.

Thanks for reading!

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