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Journal Simplify

End of the World or End of the Year

Although it currently unclear whether this is the end of the world or the end of the year, I’m being optimistic. I’ve started thinking about how I want to set up my 2021 bullet journal. If nothing else, it keeps me occupied, and hopeful, and thinking about something other than the existential horror of 2020.

The first thing I did was review my current bullet journal to see how I’ve used it. There are pages in the front devoted to the four major goals I wanted to accomplish this year, all of which when straight out the window by March. Not because they were squishy resolutions; they were solid SMART goals. It was all COVID-19 and related ennui. I’ve settled on one objective for 2021, and it’s far less ambitious: just survive. I’ll write more on this in the near future.

Looking over the current journal, I realized that I have a finite number of pages left. This year was the first time I started a new journal on 1 January. I’d like to do the same for the coming year, because the tidiness of it sooths me. So I counter the number of pages left, and divided it by the number of weeks left this year, and that left me with a reasonable “page budget” that I need to stick to.

Going Mostly Analog

One thing I want to do next year is get rid of as many electronic tools as possible. When I look through the windows of our flat, I see forest and sky and a lake. Looking through the window of the internet on my laptop and phone, I see nothing but a burning hellscape. Again, unclear if this is the end of the world or the end of the year. I’d like to avoid that window as much as possible.

I’d also like to spend less time staring at screens in general. It’s far more pleasant to be able to look things up in my journal, write down notes, and review things while sipping coffee. To that end, I’m replacing Google Keep with tiny pocket notebooks that measure about 5cm x 7.5cm (2″ by 3″). When I’m not in a position to access my journal, I can jot down notes. I will hand-write grocery lists, and copy down any information I need before going it.

It also means that some things that I currently track on spreadsheets or in Scrivener will move into the bullet journal. I spent a day going over what I currently track, deciding what matters and what doesn’t. Then I figured out the most efficient way to turn those things into spreads, collections, or simple trackers in my bullet journal.

Two or Four Journals Per Year

I’ll be writing more about my new setup in the coming weeks. There’s still a lot of filtering to be done. I want to make sure that I’m not tracking things for the sake of tracking them, or making things needlessly complicated and confusing. Even though I fit all of 2020 into one journal, I figure that 2010 will take at least two. I’ll break it evenly, six months per book. There may be some empty space at the end, but not a lot.

If I add in some of the things I’m considering, though, I may even go to one journal per quarter. The appeal of that is more journals. There are very few things that I buy for myself, or enjoy shopping for. Journals are a treat. I find setting them up relaxing, and then using them extremely satisfying. The thought of a new journal every 3 months makes me giddy. It also means that I can switch things up as my life, and this f’n world, inevitably continues to change.

End of the World or End of the Year

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Create Journal Thrive

The Joy of Going Analog

I will say this again: one of my greatest regrets in life is getting rid of my Alphasmart. It was lightweight, indestructable, ran forever on 3 AA batteries, and the only thing I could do on it was write. Not internet, no distractions. It was the closest I have ever come to going analog with my writing.

The arthritis in my hands preclude writing longhand on yellow legal pads. I’d be in screaming pain within minutes. There’s also my strong aversion to doing double-work, and since I’d need to retype it anyway longhand always felt like a waste of time. I also know that there are other dedicated word processing devices, but they are expensive. Even getting a refurbished Alphasmart would cost a fortune to ship to Finland. So I need to accept airplane mode as the alternative.

Minimizing My Phone

Normally I take notes in my phone, using Google Keep. This week I purchased a pack of tiny 5 cm x 7.6 cm (2″ x 3″) notebooks to serve the same purpose. I carry one in my pocket, and jot down ideas and tasks as they come to me. It keeps me from looking at my phone, where the temptation to answer an email or look at puppies on Instagram could become a distraction. I’ve taken to putting my phone in my bag, rather than my pocket, when I go out. I also keep it across the room when I’m working.

Wall Calendars are Happiness

This week I also purchased a 2021 calendar. I have finally gotten rid of the last vestiges of Google Calendar. “Oh, but it syncs with everything!” Well that’s the problem, isn’t it? I’ve come to use my bullet journal for anything I found useful about GCal. I remember things better when I have to write them in the bujo and the wall calendar. Using a family calendar, I can use the spaces intended for different family members to track different projects. It’s easier to see, and so much more satisfying to update, than a phone app.

I need to keep looking for more ways of going analog.

The Joy of Going Analog

If you enjoy my posts (maybe not this one, because, you know), you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

Categories
Journal Thrive

These Bullet Journal Project Pages Were a Mistake

So I’m into the second week of using a weekly dashboard plus project pages. One ribbon bookmark on the week, the second on the spread for whatever I’m currently working on. Now I’m confused and overwhelmed. I’m starting to think that these bullet journal project pages were a mistake.

To be fair, I can’t actually tell if the project pages are the cause of my anxiety disorder flair up, or a casualty of it. When I had project pages in a separate journal, I would only have that journal open. The idea was to have 100% of my attention on that project for that period of time. When it was time to switch to something else, I’d turn to the relevant page in the project journal.

Having multiple projects in one book never tripped me up, though. I periodically considered using cheap A6 notebooks with paper covers, one for each project. It’s an idea I got from He Who May No Longer Be Named. Packs of 10 cost €2, and when the project is complete they can be filed or even thrown away. There was an appeal to making notes disappear when the book was done, so I could focus on the next thing. It never seemed necessary, so I never tried it.

Somehow, having the project notes a few page flips away from my weekly dashboard completely overwhelmed me. Instead of focusing on what needed to be done this week, and within the week what had to be dealt with today, all I can think about is the sheer volume of tasks awaiting me across several projects currently in motion.

To remedy this, I’ve gone back to daily journal entries. “Today I need to do tasks 1 through 7, in this order, period”. Bullet pointed lists. Which seems like extra works, the thing this new method of working was meant to avoid. It might just be temporary. Once my anxiety settles down, or I get used to this new process, it might go smoothly. The weekly is still working fine, after all.

These Bullet Journal Project Pages Were a Mistake

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Journal Thrive

Bullet Journal: Weekly and Project Spreads

A key advantages to using a bullet journal is its adaptability. You’re not beholden to  format forever. Recently I switched to using a weekly dashboard, and have ditched monthly spreads entirely. I’m now working from weekly and project spreads almost exclusively. Here’s how that works.

Ditching Monthly

Between working from home, being aggressively introverted, and the pandemic, I have few or no appointments or events. For the few things that do come up, I use the future log. When I’m setting up next week’s dashboard, I carry things forward from the future log rather than copying them to the monthly.

I don’t put weekly pages on the Index. That would be a bit much. Instead, I’ve been putting the page number of the first weekly spread. So the index entry “135 AUGUST 2020” refers to the dashboard for the week of 3 – 9 August, the first full week of the month.

Leaning on Weekly

As I noted before, my weekly dashboard is basically trackers and a few lists. Some things remain consistent from week to week, others change based on the needs of the moment. I still do daily entries, but that’s less rapid logging and more like a diary. There’s a sticky not on the page for rapid log entries that will be moved. For example, if Katie tells me about an appointment next month, I’ll rapid log it on the stick note, and then move it to the future log at the end of the day when I’ve reviewing and cleaning up. Most of the rapid logging ends up on the project pages anyway, where I also keep a sticky note for non-project thoughts to be captured so they can be logged in the proper place later.

Project Pages

I’ve been keeping a separate journal for projects. Moving between books gets to be a pain after a while. The project journal will continue to exist to document certain things, like release dates, sales data, standard operating procedures, and so on. Any information that I might need to refer back to. For day-to-day notes, I’m keeping project pages in the main book. If nothing else, it has the project name, the start date, and an “outline” list of the major sections. The latter get checked off as the sections are complete. I make notes below, and if I need more space I just thread it forward to the next available page.

Here’s the tip: My bullet journal has two ribbon bookmarks. When I was doing monthly/daily I kept one ribbon in the month and the other in the current day. As I moved to weekly, I put kept one in monthly and moved the other to the current week. Now I have one in the current week, and the other in the current project. I can quickly move between the two pages I will touch multiple times per day.

Weekly and Project Spreads

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Categories
Create Journal Thrive

Accepting that 2020 Has Us All Off Balance

Most of us can probably agree that 2020 has us all off balance. It’s nt the pandemic or protests that are killing me. We are at the mercy of unpredictable humans and seemingly unstable leaders. Common sense says to do one thing, so people naturally do the exact opposite. It’s maddening, it’s draining, and it seems impossible and pointless to make plans.

On another level, though, things continue to operate with clockwork efficiency. The rent still needs to be paid on time, or else. Paperwork still needs to be filed, if you don’t want consequences. We still need to eat. Those things don’t jibe with the randomness and chaos and desire for a basic, functional schedule.

For the past few months my productivity routines have been changing. I have to release new books to keep money flowing in. There are filing deadlines I have to meet to maintain my immigration status. Inside my apartment it still feels like groundhog day: wake up, shower, breakfast, write, lunch, write, dinner, write, go to bed, repeat. I rely on my bullet journal, my white boards, and a wall calendar to remind me that time is not a meaningless abstraction. Meanwhile, a large part of the world has embraced that time in a meaningless abstraction.

Spoon Boards

Currently all of my planning centers around what I’m calling “spoon boards”. It’s basically just the bullet journal method with an emphasis on the reality that I only have so many spoons to use in a day. Everything gets pushed out to the furthest possible week of the furthest possible month – a spoon future log.

I’m using weekly logs instead of monthly ones. What needs to be done this week. Of those things, what needs to be dealt with first? Do that today. Then the next thing, and the next. With luck, toward the end of the week I’ll run out of tasks for the current week and can get a jump on next week.

I pad to account for the unforeseen. Keep some spoons in reserve for when I get blindsided by the thing no one could have possibly anticipated. Push down the urge to try and prepare for every possible contingency, and stick to high-level and universally useful things, like making money and keeping the cupboards full of food.

Anything that’s not on my dashboard for this week isn’t anything I need to worry about this week. If it’s not on the future log for this month, I don’t need to worry about it this month. The key is to not become overwhelmed.

Cry when in spite of everything I get blindsided and it takes up everything, including the spoons I’d held in reserve. Learn to live with the contradiction that I am in control but still behind schedule. Feel guilty about taking time for self-care. Lapse into self-loathing for needing so much self-care. Realize that guilt and self-loathing use spoons and get over it.

It’s been a hell of a week. I hold out hope that the coming week will be better, while mentally preparing for the likelihood that it will only get stranger and more difficult.

2020 Has Us All Off Balance

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