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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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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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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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The Downside of Unplugging

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 26 2020 daily proof of life post. Today I want to talk about the downside of unplugging. There is one, but it’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind.

Unplugged

It’s not being out of the loop, or not having contact with friends. Unplugged doesn’t mean you can’t still be in touch with people, it just means you’re not accessible 24/7. Which in pre-internet days was the norm. It would be weird if people were calling your house or showing up at your door before a certain hour of the morning, or after a certain time at night. There are no such boundaries with email, text messages, and social media.

No, the issue is becoming sort of unstuck in time. I already work from home, which people in COVID lockdown now understand a lot better. While I stick to a schedule, there are no “external markers”. I don’t have to commute, or punch a clock, so time starts to become abstract. Weekends aren’t that different from weekdays. With the pandemic, there aren’t any extracurriculars going on. So one day is essentially the same as the next.

It has been years since I’ve watched anything on television in real time. Okay, I’m not counting the Castle Ball on Finnish Independence Day or the live New Year’s Eve concert. Those are exceptions. I don’t watch television. Everything is on-demand streaming content. There’s no senese that if I’m watching such-and-such show it must be Thursday.

Untethered

Then there’s the fact that it’s summer in Finland. The sun never sets. As I’m writing this it’s around midnight, and the sky is blue. There are stilll people down on the beach. It’s a little dim because the sun is all the way in the north, but it’s still above the horizon. Until you get used to it, the eternal daylight can mess with you just as badly as the Long Dark in the winter.

You’d think the bullet journal would help, but since I switched to a weekly dashboard I’m more concerned with what need to be done next than with what day it is. Which feels like the right focus for me at the moment, because I’m getting a lot done without a lot of distractions.

So what kept me anchored? Blogging. When I was doing two or three posts per day on the regular, it gave me a sense of what day it was. I was writing proof-of-life posts in the morning when I got up. Since I started batching them (and this post was begun 10 days ago, before midnight on 17 June 2020) there’s no direct connection between what I’m writing and the day it’s posted. I will write four or five of these things in a stretch, schedule them.

Then I can be off the internet for days. The downside of unplugging is that I’m not getting news the moment it happens. I’m not connecting with people in real time. There is a real sense of being in control of communications.

Unconcerned

It’s peaceful, absolutely. But I honestly had to look at the calendar to figure out what the date was, and what day of the week it is. There’s something weird an unnatural about it, until I realized that it honestly isn’t all that important.

All of us have spent a good deal of 2020 sorting our priorities. We’ve had to sort out what’s essential and what isn’t. All of us have learned to do without things, realizing that much of what were were used to never truly needed. Free from artifice and expectation, it’s really not all that important whether today is Wednesday or Sunday. I get to put all of that aside and focus on just living.

The Downside of Unplugging

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Channels and Playlists for Writing Projects

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 24 2020 daily proof of life post. Today I want to talk about channels and playlists for writing projects. There are reasons that I prefer one over the other, and I’d like to discuss how I use music as part of my process.

At one point in my writing career I would carefully curate playlists for each writing project. It was fun. It was also terribly time consuming. Listening to hours upon hours of music to select perfect tracks basically amounted to procrastination.

The other problem was that even a perfect soundtrack would become repetitive. Say I crafted a playlist that was 2 hours long. I write for at least 4 hours a day. That means I hear the playlist twice a day. Multiply that for however many days. It gets tedious.

There are also the contradictory issues of distraction and diminishing returns. Obviously I picked songs that I like. So when certain tracks come up, I want to listen. Maybe sing along. Maybe play that track again. After hearing the soundtrack for the twelfth time, though, I start to tune it out. I’m ignoring it because I’m starting to get sick of it. At that point it’s not serving any purpose.

My current method is to choose channels. I basically pick a genre and a time period to be the general soundtrack for each project. Then I go to AccuRadio or YouTube and search. I let those sites select the music. For active projects, I try to select things that are dissimilar. Synthwave and 1950s jazz, for example, or classical piano and Brazilian bossa nova.

(For the record, I don’t use Spotify because it won’t let me use it in English. Because I live in Finland, it forces me to see the site in Finnish. Which would be fine if I weren’t trying to do things on the fly, or if my language skills were better.)

I mark the name of the channel on the project page in my bullet journal. When I work on that project, I only put on that music. It creates a special mood for each piece of writing, and helps me to transition between different works in progress within a single day. By picking music that I enjoy, it also helps to build my enthusiasm. When I work on X, I get to listen to Y.

Channels and Playlists

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