Make a Change, Part II: Dream Up a Kick Ass Version of Your Life

Now that you are finished writing your “what sucks about my life list”, its time to write the “my kick ass life” list. This is the one that addresses everything you wish your life was, but isn’t. Here, you will write all those things you’ve imagined doing, if only you had the time, money and energy.

Let me be clear, this is not just a typical bucket list that only includes lofty goals like moving to another country or jumping out of an airplane. Those goals might make an appearance on this list, but you will also want to include smaller ambitions that will concern your day to day life. Things that you could change immediately.

Start off by reviewing your sucky life list and begin problem solving. Imagine this is your buddy’s list and you are going to save the day and fix all of his problems. Not going outside enough? Go on daily walks. Feeling rushed in the mornings? Prep the coffee and do the dishes in the evenings to make for a calm start to the day. These solutions should make up the beginning of your kick ass life list.

The next step is to take a moment to imagine what you want your life to look like and then start writing down everything that comes to mind (leave a blank line or two under each idea). Here are some questions to get you thinking (don’t feel like you have to actually answer these, they are just to help get the ball rolling if you feel stuck):

  • Where do you see yourself living? Apartment in the city, cabin in the woods, big house in the suburbs, your van, bouncing from hostel to hostel, on a farm?
  • How would you make money? Would you be working from home or in an office with coworkers? What would your job be?
  • Does imagining yourself training for a marathon excite or bore you?
  • Do you want to live within walking distance to your in laws?
  • Do you prefer to go out for meals or would you prefer to eat at home?
  • Where do you want to vacation?
  • What kinds of things do you want to do with your kids on the weekends?
  • What time would you like to start and end your work day?
  • Would you prefer making your coffee at home or buying a cup at your local cafe?
  • Do you want to have sex more often?
  • Go on date nights?
  • Start your own business?
  • What kind of parent do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to interact with on a daily basis?
  • Do you want to join a local sports league?
  • What kind of friends do you want to spend time with? Describe your ideal friend and their interests.
  • Do you wish you had a smaller home that is easier to maintain?
  • Where are your kids going to school?
  • What addictions do you want to quit?
  • Do you want to move so you are closer to family?
  • Do you want to eat healthier meals?
  • What hobbies would you explore? Think back to high school or your childhood, what did you do with your free time? What were your high school electives?
  • Do you want to be in your yard, working in your garden?

When you are finished, use the blank lines below each kick ass idea to get even more specific. Go on more walks? Go on a walk through the neighborhood every day after dinner. Want to quit your job? Work on resume and research job openings over the weekend. Hoping to eat out less? Meal plan and shop for groceries every Sunday. Writing exactly how these goals would look in your day to day life is an integral part of implementing change.

Now, you have two very powerful lists at your fingertips. Check out “Make a Change, Part III: Make Room For Change” to learn how to set these ideas into motion.

Make a Change, Part I: Write Down Everything That Sucks About Your Life

As our lives continue to change, so do we, but not always how we hope to. Choices that were right for us at one point have lost their charm and we crave something different, but we’re at a loss as what to do about it.  In this three part series, you will learn to examine and address the problem areas in your life, dream up a life you would want to wake up to each morning, and learn what is necessary to make those changes a reality.

The first step is to write a list of everything that sucks about your life. Everyone has aspects of their lives that they dislike and want to change, but making those changes can feel overwhelming and we often give up before we even try. This feeling of defeat takes over when we have all these frustrated thoughts, but we never do anything about them or even directly identify them. By writing this list, you will begin to address these issues and start to take control of your life.

What should you include in this list? The massive problems as well as the itty bitty problems. Anything and everything that sucks about your life, even if you have no idea how you could fix it. Even if it seems silly. Here are a bunch of examples to get you thinking (some of which are from my actual list):

EVERYTHING THAT SUCKS ABOUT MY LIFE RIGHT NOW:
  • Not outside enough
  • Yelling at my kids too much
  • Boss is a douche
  • Watching hours upon hours of TV at night
  • No energy for sex
  • Living paycheck to paycheck
  • Eating too much junk
  • Bathrooms are always dirty
  • No time to do my hobbies
  • Feeling rushed in the mornings
  • Constantly distracted by my phone
  • Fighting with my spouse
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Tired of having roommates
  • My job is not fulfilling
  • Winters are too long where I live
  • Not enough ‘me’ time
  • Eating out too much
  • Overwhelmed by laundry
  • My commute is way too long
  • Don’t exercise enough
  • Want to travel more

Keep writing until you have it all out of your system. I have written many lists in my life, but I had never written a list like this before. There is something magical that happens when you take something from your brain and write it down. Ignoring your problems no longer feels like an option and you begin to imagine what it would be like to address these issues and start living a more intentional life.

Next up, Make a Change, Part II: Dream Up a Kick Ass Version of Your Life

Drink The Bullet Journal Kool-Aid

“We have to externalize our thoughts to declutter our mind” – Ryder Carroll

Do you have random lists scattered all around your home? When you go to bed, do you think of everything you should have done that day, but didn’t? Do you miss the simplicity of pen and paper? Bring on the life changing, brain organizing, the one and only Bullet Journal. Oh how my life has changed for the better since discovering this simple but genius method. I will never buy a one size fits all planner again.

Do yourself a favor and check out this video before reading the ten ways that the Bullet Journal has streamlined my life.

1. CLEAR MIND

Being an adult means your mind is a very busy place.  We are constantly thinking of things we have to do, things we should do, things we forgot to do and it is stressing us out big time. Purging all of those thoughts via pen and paper is incredibly relieving and the first step in sorting through our mental chaos. When you do this regularly, your mind is free to move past those tedious thoughts and onto bigger and better ideas.

Before I discovered the bullet journal, I would get into bed at night and be bombarded with countless, stressful thoughts. What a terrible way to end the day. Now, I find that my mind is free for reflection or to further explore ideas I’m interested in. It is like I am able to bypass the petty aspects of my life and focus in on the substantial parts that have been out of grasp until now.

2. CREATIVE OUTLET

You don’t have to be a wanna be artist to enjoy having a creative outlet. If you loved doodling on your notes back in high school, then you will love adding this artistic aspect to your BUJO (oh yeah, thats a thing). Just go on Pinterest and searchbullet journal to see some exquisite spreads.

Warning: don’t let the beautiful pins stop you from beginning your Bullet Journal. It is fun to add color and design to your journal, but if you go too far down the Pinterest rabbit hole, you might get overwhelmed and never start. I found it was best to start with the simple version that Ryder explains in the video above and then slowly start to add more creative details and spreads as you go along.

3. JOURNALING

I’ve always been a journal keeper… until I had kids. Who has time for that? Well now I do, sort of. I don’t journal consistently, but sometimes I will write a few sentences down at the end of my daily log. I love that I don’t feel pressured to do this every single day and just do it when inspiration hits. I write about a whole range of subjects, but usually I just summarize the best parts of my day in the hopes that I won’t forget them in the future.

I also write about the cute and frustrating things my kids did that day. Ya’ll know that those memories are bound to fade by tomorrow, so jotting them down as they happen is perfect for busy parents. Here is a real example from my BUJO: “On the way home from hanging out in Manayunk, Jane asked us if when she grows up, will we still be her parents. So sweet and sad”. This is super useful if you want to make baby books for your kids, but just can’t find the time or energy to do it. You can refer back to these tidbits when you have the time to get crafty as fuck (you know, in like 15 years or whatever).

4. MOMMY BRAIN FRIENDLY

If you are a mom, you probably can relate to the phrase “mommy brain”. I think I need to rename this phenomenon, “worried I have a brain tumor” because there are some days where I am seriously concerned about my inability to form sentences. It’s a god damn miracle that this blog is even happening people! Seriously, while writing this post, I have had to google what I am trying to say in order to find the word that has escaped me. My three year old occasionally comes up with words faster than I do.

While the bullet journal can’t give me my old brain back, it can help me organize my thoughts and make it so I won’t forget appointments or playdates since I plan out each day the night before.

5. A LIFE REFERENCE

I revisit the pages of my bullet journal time and time again. When I am writing a packing list for my family, I will look back at a previous packing lists to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Every tax season, I scramble to remember how to locate everything I need. This year, I wrote it all down as I completed each task and included detailed notes that I can refer to in the future. This almost makes me excited to do taxes next year (okay no, that will never happen). I can see when I last cleaned the bathrooms or vacuumed so I know which cleaning task I should prioritize. I jot down little things like when I put in new contacts so I know when it’s time for me to open a new set. I also take notes during important phone conversations which has proved to be quite useful. All these points of reference help me stay on top of the little things that otherwise might through the cracks.

6. EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE

No more looking around the house for that piece of junk mail I scribbled an important number on. Keeping everything in one place is such an obviously great idea, but somehow I never figured this out until I discovered the bullet journal.  I used to record my notes and to-dos all over the place- phone apps, pads of paper, sticky notes, email, the list goes on. Never again. Every idea, list and doodle goes into my bullet journal where I can easily access it when need be.

7. FEELING ACCOMPLISHED

Every time I complete a task, I feel a little more accomplished. Being able to look back at the previously completed tasks makes me feel like I am on top of my shit. When you finish a task, as small as it may be, it motivates you to keep on going. That thrill of accomplishment makes you want to schedule that dentist appointment just so you can “x” off that task. If you decide to put it off, you have to rewrite that task for the next day. After doing this a few days in a row, you finally get the damn thing done just so that you don’t have to write it down for the fifth time. The system works and you will feel good about your day when you review everything you’ve accomplished.

Before I drank the bullet journal kool-aid, I rarely dealt with those pressing issues that should have been high on my to-do list but were too stressful to focus on. If I couldn’t manage my daily tasks, how the hell was I going to find the motivation to confront the bigger to-dos like finding a new doctor or setting up a Roth IRA account?

Now that I am able to stay on top of my daily chores, I find it less intimidating to add these more consuming tasks to my monthly spread. It also helps that when I add it to a month in my future log, I am not specifying which day I will undertake the task. I am simply setting a goal for myself to get it done sometime within that month. Once it is written there, it is way more likely that I will complete it.

8. IT’S ADAPTABLE

Possibly the best thing about the bullet journal is that it’s adaptable to you and your interests and lifestyle.  Every bullet journal is going to be drastically different because it reflects it’s author and their priorities. Here are some examples of what subjects have made an appearance in my bullet journals: quotes, savings goals, restaurants to try, names to remember (one of my all time favorite ideas- I write down peoples’ names after meeting them in the hopes that it will help my remember them and it totally works), birthdays, packing lists, ideas of things to do with my kids, Christmas gift ideas, my baby’s sleep logs, notes from the books I’m reading, family trees, my home’s floor plan layout, food logs, various fonts to try, things I want to learn more about, cleaning logs… maybe this should be it’s own blog post. My point is, there are so many things you can do with this and you get to pick and choose what works for you. There are no limits and that is why this is the only journal/planner for me.

The structure of the bullet journal is defined by its flexibility. You can start a list on one page and continue it ten pages later. You fill your bullet journal as you go and never have to worry about limited space which is a big concern in other planners. I find this especially useful for my daily log which varies in length throughout the week.

9. UNPLUG

I’ll admit it- I am really bad at unplugging. I am getting better lately, but it still takes a lot of effort to not glance at my phone to see if I missed a text or to check Facebook for the hundredth time. Bullet journaling is a much needed break from screens and power cords. I don’t have to update, download, restart or charge my notebook. It sits there peacefully on my coffee table, waiting until I have a moment to check in and say hi. Pen and paper are comforting and reminiscent of simpler times.

10. YOUR PRIORITIES COME TO THE SURFACE

Have you ever been asked what you want and answered “more time”. I can see exactly where my time is going when I review my bullet journal. All I have to do is look at the tasks, events and appointments that fill the pages and see what needs to go. It is hard to change anything in your life until you examine what you are doing right now. To save money, you need to see where you are spending those paychecks. To lose weight, you need to track your calories in verses calories out. Same thing goes for time. What do your days consist of? Does that make you happy? Or do you need to do some life editing? (Check out this post I wrote about how to do just that).

I hope these insights into how the bullet journal has streamlined my life motivates you to give it a try. You don’t need a fancy notebook, (although if you want one I highly suggest the very popular dotted Leuchtturm) and if you give it a go, you might find that you will be able to sleep a little better at night.

If I can’t convince you, maybe Ryder Carroll can. Check out this TED talk by the bullet journal creator:

HAVE YOU ALREADY DRANK THE BUJO KOOL-AID? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW.

Teeny Tidy Task #1 Clear One Surface

Home should be a place that comforts and reenergizes you, not a source of anxiety. The cause of this stress can sometimes be the piles of stuff cluttering our homes, which interrupts our productivity and stresses us the F out.

When you are trying to accomplish something, it is easy to get sidetracked by cluttered surfaces that are vying for your attention: unopened mail on the kitchen counter, dirty dishes from breakfast on the dining room table, tools that never got returned to the basement, yesterday’s jeans left on the dresser because you’re hoping to squeeze one more wear out of them. All of these things are fighting for your attention, which results in you feeling stressed out simply by walking from one room to the next. You end up forsaking your original task in favor of getting comfy on the couch to check Facebook and zone the hell out.

By decluttering your surfaces, you invite a sense of calm and order to your home. This results in you feeling at peace and arms you with the focus to conquer whichever task comes your way.

My first Teeny Tidy Task challenge to you is this: clear one of the cluttered surfaces in your home and keep it clean and tidy for one week. Here are five steps to make it happen:

1. CHOOSING A SURFACE

Time to choose a surface, the messier the better. Here are some clutter magnets you might consider: the top of the dresser, the kitchen island, the bedside table, the desk if you’re brave enough, the coffee table, the top of a bookshelf, the kitchen counter, the shelves in your bathroom, your kid’s toy shelf, the top of your refrigerator, etc. Choose a spot that you can manage to keep clean for an entire week.

2. EVERY ITEM NEEDS A HOME

Find a home for every item cluttering your space. Depending on which surface you choose, this step could take some time.

If you picked your dresser because you let your dirty clothes pile up there, then you need to focus on changing your habit and take the time to put the clothes where they belong at the end of the day.

If you chose your kitchen counter, then you need to be militant about getting those dishes cleaned (or at least put into the sink temporarily) and get creative about where you are going to store the appliances taking up your precious counter space.

If you chose your desk, you might have a lot of papers to sort and bills to pay and you’ll need to come up with a plan to avoid letting those things accumulate in the future.

3. Clean YOUR SPACE

Time to break out the cleaning supplies and clean the crap out of whatever area you chose. Don’t do a half ass job here. Make it look gorgeous so that you aren’t tempted to dirty it up anytime soon.

4. The Joy of an EMPTY SPACE

Consider leaving your surface completely blank. If you know having a lamp and a framed photo will bring you great joy, then go for it. Just don’t over do it.

Certain items are necessary, but you might be surprised by what isn’t. Maybe you have an alarm clock but you only ever use the alarm on your phone. Try storing the alarm clock down in the basement and see if you miss it. We forget to question why we keep things like this simply because they have always been there. Question every item that you want to keep on your surface so that you are left with only things you love or are very useful.

5. DEFEND YOUR CLEARED SURFACE WITH YOUR LIFE

Embrace your inner neat freak and keep that space meticulously clean and tidy. If someone in your home dares to clutter up this precious space, deal with it right away and put that crap anywhere else but there.

This is where the magic happens. As you go through your week, notice how you feel when you see that tidied area in your home. The calmness that ensues from these empty spaces is one of my greatest joys. Okay, that’s a little much, but damn if it doesn’t feel great.

Leave a comment SAYING which surface you chose and if you felt any magic as a result of this experiment.

Seriously, Make Your Damn Bed

You’ve heard it before, but did you actually make your bed this morning? I know you’ve got shit to do. Your kids are already calling for you. You barely have enough time to shower before work. You might take a nap later, so what’s the point? The point is, by making your bed, you are laying your foundation for the rest of your day. You are saying to your home and to yourself that the small moments in your day matter. Little bits of effort like this string together to help you stay afloat when the day gets crazy.

Okay fine, I’ll make the damn bed but first I need to brush my teeth and get the coffee started. Hell no! You know if you delay, it is not going to happen and if it does, some of that magic will be lost. When you roll out of bed, the first thing you need to do is make that damn bed. Doesn’t even have to be perfect, but make it satisfying to look at. I promise, every time you walk by your room, your heartbeat will quicken just a tad. Okay, maybe that’s just me but at least when it’s time for bed, you won’t be searching for your top sheet with your toes.

Let me add that it took me many failed attempts before this routine became my new normal. I still break my own rule on occasion (looking at you weekends) and that is why I know this is such an important routine. My day just never feels quite right when the comforter is left in a heap. I start cutting corners here and there and I never feel like I have my shit together. Once the bed is made, I can take a deep breath and know that I am on the right track.

That said, somedays you need to just say fuck it and have one of those braless, messy, never leave the house, let the kids watch way too many hours of tv kinds of days. I get it and I am a big fan of sprinkling those days in there when necessary.

Happiness is not wrapped up in you curing cancer (okay it is, please go do that right away), it is in the details. The in between. The moments you think aren’t that important so you drift past them.  These details make up your routines that are what you rely on for comfort when life decides to punch you in the face. When you find joy in the in between, you take control of your life in a very basic but fulfilling way. So fluff those pillows, smooth those wrinkles, and you might just find that you stand a little bit taller today.