Can a Notepad and Pencil Save your Sanity?

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Guest contributed by Sarah Dixon

You may have caught the headlines recently that being a mother is the equivalent of working two and a half jobs.

Mothers put in a whopping 98 hours of work in a week, between their actual jobs and time spent caring for children. Ms Average starts at 6:23am and carries on until 8:31pm. Although this information (gathered from a study by the US juice company, Welch’s) may grab headlines, it really only confirms to women what we already know; our plates are full.

Another survey, back in 2013, claimed that 85% of women feel over-burdened, and listed 26 jobs that women ‘have to’ do on top of their paid work. Participants revealed that they often had so much to remember that things inevitably got forgotten – 1 in 8 said they’d forgotten to pick their kids up from school!

Of course, what we need to do is to change society to make sure that women don’t take on the brunt of the caring duties (whether it’s for children or older family members) and that men truly co-parent and take on a bigger share of the parenting. But while we’re working towards a change in society, how can we save our sanity?

Go Analog

While there are any number of apps out there that claim to help you manage a busy schedule, many people are finding the key to managing the tasks in their lives by going analogue. The system that is helping people all over the world to get organized is called Bullet Journalling or BuJo for short. It was developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer from New York but is now used by converts all over the world.

From the relatively simple beginnings of Carroll’s system, bullet journalling has gone on to become a catch-all term for a pen and paper system. The Bullet Journal Junkies group on Facebook has almost one hundred and fifty thousand members, who share their own take on the idea. The most commonly used features are: An index to help you find information, and a daily/weekly to-do list that is kept deliberately brief. Tasks that don’t get done are migrated to the next day/week so they don’t get forgotten. Double page ‘spreads’ of reference information or long-term goals/challenges are also common; for example weight-loss trackers.

Of course, this isn’t the only system. Pen and paper journaling has become an industry in recent years with some systems launching via Kickstarter campaigns and others using more traditional means. What do they have I common? They tend to either be in a hardback journal or a binder which means they can be carried around with you, without getting damaged. They also make it a pleasure to use; focusing on good paper, including inspirational quotes or the opportunity to personalise or colour them in.

Brain Dump

Part of the reason that being busy is stressful, is because our brains are working overtime to remember all the things we need to do. That’s why a brain-dump is so helpful when dealing with anxiety. Rather than mentally juggling a hundred different things, you can just ‘download’ them into your journal and relax, knowing that you won’t forget them.

A journal becomes a permanent brain dump. Once you get into using a system, you come to trust that you won’t forget things; everything you need to remember is there, even that appointment in six-months-time and which episode of the Gilmore Girls you need to watch next. That frees up brain-space because the only thing you need to hold onto is ‘remember to check your journal’.

Your journal can also become a useful source of reference information. The Bullet Journal Junkies facebook group is filled with stories of how someone got a job, or a promotion, because they were in a meeting and had the information they needed at hand, because they had their journal with them.

Getting Started

Although journalling addicts may spend a fortune on journals, pens and washi tape, to get started you only need the nearest notepad and a pencil. Use the system for a while, and if it works for you? Then you can invest in something that will last longer. You may become one of the people who finds their busy life is much more manageable using this system.
The important part of any journaling system is that you should want to use it. It’s no use persisting with a pre-printed journal that doesn’t have the features you need or drawing up your own every week if your time is better spent elsewhere. Experiment with different ideas and see what works best for you.

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