Task Management and Bullet Journaling

One thing I’ve been working on lately is figuring out how to best manage my to-do list. I often have a lot of different projects going all at once, and along with that often a lot of little tasks. Keeping track of everything—and knowing what to do when—is something I definitely haven’t gotten down to a fine art yet.

Daily log

Sometimes, I have to wonder if a lot of the struggle is mostly found in the fact that I’m in an in-between stage—not a child anymore, not really a young teenager anymore, almost an adult but not really that, either. As I’ve put it to some of my friends before, “Adulting it is hard.” Sigh. (And yes, all of you people with many years and much more experience than me, feel free to chime in with any advice you may have!)

What I’ve been doing lately as far as task management is collect everything in Todoist, then work through it each day as I can. I love Todoist because I can paste in multiple jobs at once, and if I type them up right, the inline parsing setting will automatically assign dates and priority levels (1-4) to the different tasks. It’s slick, easy, and remembers the stuff I need to remember.

Often through the days, though, working with Todoist involves transferring jobs to my “daily log” notebook—a fun gift from my aunt!—which I love, because seeing something written down and completed on paper is just that much more satisfying. It’s also helpful in the fact that if I want to find out when I last did something in particular, it isn’t hard to skim back through my previous entries.

Daily log

However, this means that in effect I have two systems running at once. While it works, I would like to figure out how to do this faster—or eliminate one or the other to make things go smoother.

Lately, I’ve come across a system called bullet journaling. And although I haven’t looked into it much, I do know a lot of productivity gurus out there use it. However, I’m not sure the time spent (at least at this stage) would be worthwhile to figure out how to do it. One thing I have discovered, much to my surprise, is how much of a “thing” this is! Search “bullet journal” on Pinterest, and you’ll find pages and pages of pins. Look on Youtube, and it’s easy to find 10 – 30 minute videos.

So while I’m curious about how some people do it, at this stage I’m choosing to use what I have. I wonder if Paul’s admonition to be “content in all things” would apply here?

What do you use for keeping track of tasks? How do you streamline things so you get things done rather than always trying to make the process work better for you? Have you ever heard of bullet journaling before—and if you have, do you have any experience with it?

My Goals for This Week

Planning has always been a sore point for me. I love the idea; love the feel of paper under my fingers and seeing plans take shape before me. I can easily spend hours reading productivity blogs about how one could go about making a plan for what you want to do in a year, broken down into quarters, months, weeks, and finally days. I love it, I really do.

Yet, this morning, as I was mulling over the words from Proverbs: “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule…” (12:24), I realized how very lazy I have been about my work lately. How little I’ve accomplished, and how much I’ve let the important things slip.

I’ve discovered—over, and over, and over again, that I don’t do well with no plan at all. The weird thing is, I rarely finish everything I plan for a week, but maybe knowing that I want to do it spurs me on to at least try to meet my expectations. It is discouraging when I realize that what I planned to do four weeks ago is still there to be done this week, but somehow it is also reassuring that somewhere I’m still fighting to continue making progress.

Morning Beauty 01

I’ve never quite known how to combat the endless chain of planning and then after a few weeks feeling discouraged because I didn’t manage to even hit the mark on my own expectations—let alone meeting the perceived (more likely imagined) expectations other people have for me! In some ways, it’s a harsh, never-ending rat-race.

Then I looked out the window at the foot of my bed and saw the rising sun coming through the trees, lighting them with a golden glow, and was reminded that each day is a new day. Yes, we—our work—suffers when we don’t do it, but the Lord is gracious and gives us a fresh, golden start. Every. single. day. Even when we don’t see it. He gives us a chance to try again—and it’s up to us to take that chance and use it to its full potential.

So for this next month, I’m going to fill out one of Productive Flourishing’s weekly planner, and scan a copy (one for the past week, one for the coming one) to post on the blog each week. I don’t need to do this, but I want to be accountable to myself. I’m going to do this.

Morning Beauty 02

After praying about this month and this week, here are my plans for what I need/want to get done this week. Next week, I’ll show this one again (with the accomplished stuff marked off), and next week’s plans.

Week Planner

This week, I want to focus on learning from the Lord. From that, I want to do my work to serve Him and His people better. More opportunities seem to come up daily to serve. I just pray that I can be faithful to this calling, and be able to support those around me in their callings as well.

Midweek Mix-Up — Pride and Prejudice and a Free High School Biology Curriculum

Welcome to another round of midweek mix-up! I’ve been doing a lot of reading this past week, beyond a few breaks to do other necessary work and spending some quality sibling time.

Books I’ve been reading this week:

 

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea

The Sound of Diamonds, by Rachelle Rea
Progress: 45% (last week: 24%)

This story has grown more interesting, and the romance thread has grown stronger, too. I’m taking the opportunity to study how romance books work, and will find it interesting to see how the story ends.

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, by David M. Shapard

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, by David M. Shapard
Progress: Finished.

I’m not a big fan of romance, but I loved reading Pride and Prejudice. Probably part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was because it’s an older book—I’m finding that classical literature has a glory all its own, even though it is hard to get into. I’ve also watched a movie based on the book before, and listened to a version of the story on LibriVox, as well, so it was interesting to compare the original story with my memories of the audiobook and the differences with the movie. The annotations for the story were very in-depth, providing a lots of interesting tidbits from Jane Austen’s life and letters, explanations of the social structure of the times, and many other fascinating facts and quotes about the story and the time period it was set in.

This isn’t a book for the faint of heart, though. At close to 800 pages long (the spine is just over 1 ½ in. thick), I highly doubt I ever would have gotten through it but for the fact that I had to read it as part of my school curriculum. In the end it was highly interesting, and all the notes make a study of the time period very informative.

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems, by Janet & Geoff Benge

Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems, by Janet & Geoff Benge
Progress: 89% (last week: 55%)

I am loving Amy Carmichael. We have a Trailblazer book about her, but that only tells about her time in India. I’m really enjoying this glimpse into her life as a whole, and seeing how God worked through her to touch so many lives. Her life story is certainly a challenge to me!

Useful posts this week:

  • 24 Ways to Develop Your Muse — I’ve used a lot of these methods before—most of them unconsciously. But they are some of the best methods out there for ideas. I especially like #3—something that has proved very true for me!
  • Writing Out of an Era — So many tips in here for learning more about the historical period you are writing about! I am definitely going to try some of these next time I’m writing a historical novel—they sound so fun!
  • Discovering rare and interesting instruments — I’ve only heard of one of these six rare instruments before, so I found this post fascinating. This post would be very useful in teaching your children about different musical instruments, especially if they enjoy music. I think my favorite one here would be the Nyckelharpa—it has a beautiful sound!
  • Goal Setting for Beginners [Podcast] — This podcast (This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt) is always inspiring to me whenever I take time to listen to it. I enjoyed this quick refresh on Michael Hyatt’s goal-setting principles, and immediately after listening, I typed up this year’s goals into Evernote. I’m now planning to add a few “due-by” dates to some of them.

Resource of the week:

Otter’s Christian High School Biology Curriculum

Otter’s Christian High School Biology Curriculum

From the website:

Otter’s Biology is a FREE Christian biology curriculum that incorporates a free high-quality textbook, videos, tons of labs to choose from with a multitude of budget and interest options, living books, a free workbook & answer key, incorporated Greek & Latin roots vocabulary, an independent study schedule, and more! If you are a secular family or a family that believes in evolution, the schedule and labs will still work for you, too (more instructions concerning that are included below)!

This looks like a wonderful (free!) resource for high schoolers who want to study biology! The woman who put this together has a daughter who is a RN student, and she has consulted with her quite a bit as to what was helpful for her prep work, and what wasn’t so helpful. I will be looking into this further, because I believe it could be helpful to me in pursuing nursing as well, but you might find it useful too.

How to Prepare for a Productive Day

Note: This is the first in a three-part series on productivity and gaining momentum. If you find this helpful, please leave a comment–I love hearing from you!

The worst way to prepare for a productive day is to wait until the last minute to get started. As soon as we sit down at the computer, ready to work, we are instantly bombarded with distractions. Distractions spell only one thing–disaster. If you don’t have a game plan before you’re even ready to begin, your day will not be near as productive as it should be.

It’s still fairly early in the morning. You have an idea of what you want to get done today, and you sit down at your desk . . . and nothing happens. After several minutes to half an hour of sitting at your desk, checking email and perusing Facebook, you realize you’ve been sucked into the greatest time waster in history. Again.

Hopefully, that picture isn’t of you. It is of me—way too many days. I’ve often found that when I sit down, ready to write or fix something, I end up looking at the clock half an hour or an hour later and say, “Hey! What happened?” Then, guilt sets in because I’ve wasted so much time. Bad deal.

How to Prepare for a Productive Day

Courtesy of Pixabay/merad44520 | License: CC0 1.0

If you find yourself in my shoes, I’d like to share with you how I get stuck into my work—and actually make progress toward its completion, without wasting time or becoming guilty and stressed out over the fact that so much time is gone already.

I’d like to share seven techniques I use to prepare for a productive day and get stuff done.

Getting ready to start is an absolute must. Almost 100% of the time, if I don’t prepare ahead at least a little bit, I will not be nearly as productive, and I will also not get up to speed near as quickly. Preparation—so that momentum is already sitting there, ready to be released—is a must if you want to make an impact in the time you have.

Here’s how I prepare for a productive day:

  • Find an inspiring quote. Maybe a quote for the project at hand, or for the day, or maybe even your quote-of-the-week! Find something that makes you want to sit down, dig into it, and finish the job. Don’t take more than five or ten minutes on this, though, because that would ruin the purpose. (For fun, my quote today is: “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill)
  • Break it down into simpler pieces. Sometimes, our projects are just too big. Breaking it into bite-sized chunks makes it doable, instead of blowing our creative energy to bits with just the thought of its ginormous size.
  • Clear your brain. If I have a thousand things bouncing around in my head simultaneously, all my creative energy is used in solely remembering everything so that I am sure to get it all done. That isn’t healthy—it makes you feel out of control—and overall you can’t get anything done if you’re trying to remember all the different bits and pieces. Especially if you’re terrified of the consequences if you forget something. (*Be sure to come back to read my third and final post in this series, Resources, to find out about one practical tool I use to help with this!)
  • Start the night before. I know this seems a little crazy, because the last thing at the end of a long day is the worst time to be doing anything but resting. However, I know from experience that if I start the night before, I’ll be able to get into the zone much easier the next morning. Each evening, I try to:
    • Plan. Write down what I expect of myself the next day (generally trying to keep under five main projects for the day), and plot out what hours in the day I expect to get them done in—time slots help a lot in putting personal deadlines on your day.
    • Gather the tools you’ll need. As a knitter will make sure she has enough yarn and a carpenter will be sure he has enough nails and screws to do the job, you need to have all your tools handy as well. Make sure all the bits and pieces for your project are ready to grab just as soon as you get to work in the morning. It will make the day that much less complicated.
    • Do the first five minutes’ worth. For some of us, this is a ludicrous idea. We’re exhausted. The last thing we want to do before bed is work. But, really, it does help. The other day, I had a huge job waiting for me the next morning. I decided I could take just a little bit of time to work on it, and by the time my five minutes were up I realized it wasn’t as big as I had originally imagined. Remembering that realization in the morning made it that much easier to get into it first thing.

I enjoy the preparation process. When I am finally ready to jump into my project, I feel like I’ve already conquered it to some extent. When I can be productive early in the morning—without wasting time trying to get into the zone—I am a happier person.

Don’t wait until the last minute to decide what you’re going to do–plan ahead. You’ll be thankful for it in the morning..

Question: Do you struggle with losing time? How do you overcome it? How do you prepare for a productive day?