January 27, 2017

Analog vs Digital (or How I Use a Bullet Journal)

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The author of one of my favorite e-newsletters recently confessed that she's struggling in her attempted transition to using a bullet journal. I've experienced a similar struggle over the past couple of years; in fact, last year I attempted to go full-on digital*. And failed.

My search for the perfect calendar/project system began in high school (nerd alert!) when I became yearbook co-editor. A few years later, my employer brought in a time management expert to teach us how to use the system he'd developed, and I was hooked. Over the years, I experimented with other systems, finally coming up with a funky hybrid that worked well for me... at least at the office. Once I came home to work, all bets were off.

When I started homeschooling, I knew that my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach just wasn't going to cut it. A wise woman recommended this book (sadly, no longer in print) and, while her unit approach to homeschooling wasn't for me, her home/task organization tips and charts saved my sanity, especially when my kids were younger.

Years went by, I drifted through various planners and systems... then I discovered the bullet journal idea. It's a big idea, because it's completely customizable. It doesn't require a huge financial investment, and it can flex as I go. And while I'm pretty good at making lists and adding things to my calendar, I did find one weakness in my use of a Bullet Journal: me, or rather me sometimes forgetting to check it and letting things fall through the cracks. And that's what led me to try to go full analog with Todoist and Cozi last year. But there was just one problem. I'm more of an analog person. I enjoy writing things down, turning pages, seeing what a previous day or month looked like.

Besides those things, the biggest reason I stuck with the bullet journal is just the ability to keep all those stinking lists I write in one place. Good things that happen can be telegraphed onto a monthly or daily page, but I can also add a little more info on a journal or gratitude page, if I want. That list of books I want to read or need to review is easy to include, and I love seeing things get checked off. Random quotes, snippets of poetry, blog post ideas, prayer requests, inspiration, hostess notes -- there's a logical way to fit it all in. I can make it mine.

This year, my plan has morphed into an analog/digital hybrid (and we'll see how that goes). I use my bullet journal for the basics, such as the monthly calendar page and daily to do lists. But I also use the reminder app on my phone for time sensitive things (like "finish taxes once and for all" or "give dog monthly meds" or if I'm out and about and need a quick brain dump (because I usually think of things I need to do at exactly the moment I cannot do them). I use Trello for projects that relate to internet resources. And I'm wholly devoted to the Cozi app for our family calendar and quick shopping lists.

Here's another confession: at some point, I got a bit sidetracked by all the overwhelmingly pretty and creative bullet journals out there on Instagram and Pinterest. Look, that's fine for some, but most of the time, it's all I can do to keep things legible, much less beautiful. So I've decided to save my creativity for things I want to see and share -- encouraging words on index cards for my family, favorite quotes on my chalkboard wall, handwritten notes to friends. 
So here's my encouragement to the struggling e-newsletter author: 
...give a try for a couple of months, but make it yours. That's the beauty of the whole thing. Let it be a tool to help you live the life you want to live, to free you to use your gifts, to serve God and others, and to just be able to think. And as I re-read those last sentences, I think to myself, "There's a life lesson in there, even beyond my bullet journal."

*This book prompted my analog attempt; while the digital approach didn't work for me, the principles set forth in this book are still foundational in my current analog/hybrid approach.


  1. SUZANNE!!!!! It's been forever!!! I met someone the other day with your name and I had to see if I could find you. Here you are! Hope to hear from you soon.

    Charnika (grace bible~2009)

    1. CHARNIKA!! So good to hear from you! My email address is still the same, I'd love to get an update from you!


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