Productivity and Life Hacks, Self-improvement

Why Organizing Matters More Than We Think

Curious to know why organization is so important? Read on to hear my thoughts. #productivity #organization
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A few weeks ago I wrote about why I love Bullet Journaling and how much it’s helped me with keeping my life organized. I use my BuJo not just for my daily to-do lists, but also to track habits like exercise, spending time outside, connecting with loved ones and making progress towards goals. I also use it as a notebook, jotting down ideas as they come to me, taking notes on new things that I learn, and making long-term plans and timelines. 

A few months ago, I discovered time blocking, a productivity hack that involves breaking your day into “blocks” of time that are set aside for various tasks and purposes. If you’re someone who has a lot of competing responsibilities and activities (and many of us are), time blocking lets you decide how you’ll spend your day so you can allocate the right amount of time to each item on your agenda. 

I started using my BuJo to visually block out the different parts of my day using my fancy colored pens — every task or item I need to do is coded with a different color. Check it out:

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A Bullet Journal is truly the Swiss army knife of planning tools; it’s a blank book that you can structure and fill in any way that suits you. The only limit is your imagination. And for me, it’s worked incredibly well.

But sometimes I wonder if I’m not taking this whole “organization” business a little too far. I’m extremely detailed and thorough in the way I go about staying organized, but surely not everyone sees the need for this. Surely not everyone is that into, you know, planning. I can almost guarantee that not everyone invests the kind of time and energy into it that I do.

Is there a way this could all be made simpler? Yes, perhaps there is. But I suspect that life would need to be simpler in order for that to happen. Sometimes I yearn for that kind of ease and simplicity; the kind of life where I could just take each day as it comes and not worry about planning or structuring my time. Freedom.

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As wonderful as that sounds, I’m starting to think that that life doesn’t exist; not in the real world. Our lives are complex and full of moving parts. We have responsibilities that continually multiply, and interests and passions that never stop evolving. There are relationships to attend to, dreams to pursue, fires to put out and worlds to explore. 

Life is an incredible gift that I am deeply grateful to have been given, and yet it can feel like so…much. And that, my friends, is where organization comes in handy: it’s a way of dealing with the “much-ness” of life and transforming the chaos into something meaningful. Here are the three main reasons I’m so passionate about organizing, explained:

Organizing helps life feel less stressful.

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Being organized is about so much more than crossing items off of a to-do list. Of course, lists like these are part of everyday life, because there will always be chores to do, errands to run, and things to fix around the house.

These obligatory tasks aren’t always fun. But taking care of mundane responsibilities matters. When we accomplish these tasks that need to be done, we create more order and peace by taking items off of our plates. We effectively declutter our minds, and we can proactively head off stress by staying on top of these routine tasks that we know we need to do.

And, even better, when we clear unnecessary clutter and stress from our lives, we create space for what really matters to us. When we aren’t bogged down by small to-dos, we free our minds to tackle bigger goals and dreams.

Organizing helps us prioritize what really matters.

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Organizing our lives makes us prioritize. We have to make decisions about what is most important right now and focus on those things instead of trying to do everything all at once. Getting clear on our priorities and understanding what we’re working towards makes us more effective at achieving our goals.

When we get serious about pursuing big life-dreams, we have to realize that dreams don’t come true without a plan — and keeping organized keeps us accountable to those grand plans. Through being organized, we learn how to transform big, faraway dreams into concrete, actionable steps that will carry us in the direction of the lives we desire.

Organizing helps us make the best use of limited time.

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I often feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything I want and need to do. Sometimes I wish that sleep weren’t medically necessary so I could get back that third of my life and spend those hours in a different way. But that’s not the reality we live in.

The reality is that we have only so much time in a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime. It’s all finite. I’m constantly aware of this — and I’m positive that that is a big part of what keeps me focused and drives me forward. Keeping organized helps me make sure that I’m spending my time in ways that feel purposeful.

Being aware that your time is limited is actually a great catalyst and motivator. When I really started to grasp that life doesn’t last forever, I stopped waiting around to live my longest-held dreams. I started taking more risks, opening my heart wider, and spending my days in ways that are more meaningful. I feel more motivated than ever to get out and live my life while I have it, and staying organized helps me do that.

Becoming organized has truly been a game-changer for me, and it can be for you, too. Organizing is vital for keeping your stress levels down, staying on track with your goals, and making the best possible use of your time here on Earth.

How about you? What are your reasons for staying organized? How has it changed your life? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Productivity and Life Hacks, Self-improvement

The Magic of Bullet Journaling

Need a fun, unconventional way to organize your life? Here’s why you should give Bullet Journaling a try. #bulletjournal #organizeyourlife #selfimprovement #personalgoals
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I am something of an “organization junkie”. I make lists — way too many lists — of all sorts, and I am a borderline-fanatical keeper of notebooks and journals. I love to write ideas down, to track things, to have a plan. I prefer feeling like I (sort of) know what’s going on in my life and what all I’ve got on my plate at the moment. And when I’ve got my heart set on achieving some kind of long-term goal, I truly enjoy the challenge of thinking and scheming about how I am going to tackle it.

But part of what fuels my love of organizing is that I need to be organized. I’m someone who tends to be doing a lot at any given time, and I’ve found the need for some system to hold and keep track of it all. I’m always seeking, always looking for novelty and ever-curious about trying new things — I live passionately, and I could never tire of that. My weakness is that I don’t always know how to rein it in; many times in my past I’ve taken on too many things and completely overwhelmed myself in the process. For as much as I love exploring all that life has to offer, I am also easily overstimulated, and when it all becomes too much I can burn out pretty quickly.

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I have other thoughts about why being organized is so important, and I’ll save those for a later date. For now, suffice it to say that, to me, organizing isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. And it’s also always been a bit of a challenge; I’ve used plenty of calendars and day planners but I never found a way of being organized that really “clicked” or worked for me. 

Which is why I’m so thankful that, a few years ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to a new system she had started using to keep her life organized: Bullet Journaling. I’d never heard of it before, but the name intrigued me. Basically, she said, you take a blank notebook, divide it into sections and use it to keep track of your various ideas, projects and goals. I started to do research online, and as I read and thought about this unique, quirky system, I realized I needed to try it for myself. I’ve never looked back. The way I use my journal has changed and evolved over the years, but I can honestly say I have never found a better organizational system than this.

So why is it called Bullet Journaling, anyway?

The technique was created by Ryder Carroll, who had trouble focusing and getting things done in conventional ways as a kid. As he grew older, he longed for an organizational system that mirrored the way his mind worked. After a lot of experimentation, he finally arrived at something that worked for him: a hybrid between “a planner, diary, notebook, to-do list and sketchbook”. He even created his own language to describe his one-of-a-kind process. One of the key practices is “rapid logging”, the act of jotting down daily task lists in shorthand sentences known as “bullets”. And that is where the Bullet Journal — or BuJo, as many people in the community call it — gets its name.

And what makes Bullet Journaling so special?

Now you may be asking what it is that I love so much about BuJo, and why I will extol its virtues to anyone who will listen. After almost three years of keeping Bullet Journals, I still geek out about it because:

1. It’s effective. Quite simply, it works. There’s a bit of a learning curve with starting your first journal, but once you get into the flow of using it, it’s very easy and intuitive. All of your to-do lists, plans, upcoming events, ideas, and notes go in one place, and it’s all organized by an index so you can easily and quickly find any information you need, which makes life feel a lot more manageable. I’ve been significantly more productive since I started Bullet Journaling regularly, and there are tons of other BuJo fans who I believe would say the same.

2. It’s incredibly flexible and versatile. A Bullet Journal allows you the freedom and the space to not just write down the items on your task list, but also make note of ideas, muse about long-term dreams or even journal about your day. It has the power to encompass more of your life than what a conventional planner or calendar can do, and that’s the beauty of it; you get to design the book in whatever way works for you and your life. There are as many ways to BuJo as there are people on the planet — the possibilities are endless.]

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3. You can create cool trackers, lists, and other innovative ways to organize info. Sure, you can fill your BuJo with lists, if that’s your cup of tea. But if you are more of a visual thinker, you might try adding some trackers to your journal. You can use habit trackers like these to record how often you do habits like exercise, healthy eating, sleep, reading, meditation, and time with loved ones. Other types of trackers let you document how many books you’ve read, how much money you’ve saved for your next vacation, or even what mood you’re in from day to day. Regardless of how you choose to use them, though, trackers can be a great way to visualize your goals and priorities. 

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4. Bullet Journaling is all done by hand. Writing by hand, Ryder tells us, engages our minds in a different way than typing or using apps. When we hand write notes, for example, we activate more parts of the brain and store information more effectively than when we type our notes. Writing by hand takes more focus and intention than typing, but it also keeps our brains sharper by getting us to think more deeply about the information we’re taking in. It also means less time spent in front of a screen, which most of us could probably use.

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5. You can make it as creative and colorful as you want. The artist in me loves this. A BuJo can be purely functional, of course, but there are all kinds of ways to add a little personality and zazz to your journal if you feel so inclined. Personally, I keep a stock of PaperMate flair pens on hand specifically for Bullet Journaling; they come in a whole rainbow of fun, bright colors, they write well and they won’t bleed through your paper. Aside from indulging my inner kid, writing in different colors allows me to color-code different sections of my journal, which makes it easy to scan through and see what those sections are about. Functional and fun!

6. You can see evidence of your progress. The Bullet Journal format makes it easy to thumb through your notebooks and see how you are doing in different areas of your life. Once you’ve been using your trackers for a while, they can show you your patterns over time — like which habits you’ve been most consistent at — and you can see a visual record of the progress you have made. I’ve personally found this to be very motivating. 

Even simple daily to-do lists, when they’re written by hand, give you the opportunity to physically cross each item off of the list. Digital to-do lists can seem faster and more efficient, but I’ve found I get a greater sense of accomplishment from using paper lists because they show me what I’ve done. When I’ve kept digital lists in the past, the things I’ve done are simply deleted, while new items continue to pile on. At the end of the day it’s easy to look at a list like this and wonder if I really did anything at all. A paper list full of finished tasks is a record of how I spent my time and an affirmation that I am, in fact, a productive human being.

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7. You’ll have old journals to look back on. One of my favorite parts of journaling — any kind of journaling — is reading through old journals. Cracking open a notebook from years ago takes me back to another time and place in my life. Suddenly I remember who I was then, what I thought and felt, and what was important to me. Journals from the past are a record of who you have been. And who you have been is what led you to who you are now. It’s an amazing thing, to be able to look back on years’ worth of stuff you’ve written and trace how you’ve evolved and grown as a person — and the rewards only become richer the more time you spend journaling.

8. It helps you live more mindfully. At its core, BuJo is a mindful practice. It’s all about discovering what is most important to you and learning to focus your time and energy on those things. It makes you look more closely at how you spend each day and helps you structure your time. BuJo is so much more than just scheduling and planning; it’s a journey of self-inquiry and exploration. I’ve found that it gives my days structure and helps me feel like I am spending my time in meaningful, purposeful ways. And to me, that is enormously valuable.

While I don’t think there is any “perfect” way to stay organized, I am a firm believer in the power of Bullet Journaling because it has worked so well for me. And I want you to know that if I could do this, you absolutely can, too. If more people could feel the peace and contentment that comes from something as simple as being organized, or the satisfaction of making progress towards long-held dreams, I believe we’d be living in a different world.

What about you? Are you a BuJo fan like me? Or are you thinking of trying it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.