How I Create a Stress-Free Life

If you are subscribed to my newsletter, (if you’re not, go here!) you’ll know that I’ve been working on this post for a while. I had promised to show you my method of keeping the madness tamed through my schedule, and it’s finally here. I’m so excited to finally be able to share my favorite ways to live productively and graciously. 

So let’s get started!
The main key to my success is my Bullet Journal. And since some of you may not even know what a Bullet Journal is, let me enlighten you. 🙂

1) Have a Bullet Journal. This non-comformist way of journaling has hit the world by storm. The best part is that you don’t have to buy *the* bullet journal. You can buy a cheap journal at Tuesday Morning like I did and create your own Bullet Journal. ($5 instead of $20, yes, please) The idea behind the Bullet Journal is being able to create a planner, memory bank, list keeper, etc. that is completely personalized to you. I had never been able to find a journal that would fit my needs. That is, until I read about the BuJo, as it’s been affectionately nicknamed.

The most important part of the Bullet Journal is the customizable index. This is how you keep track of what is in your BuJo and where it is. Every time you add more material to the journal, you go back to the index and write down the page number and a title for the material.

As you can see by the list, sometimes I write down an idea that I want to include in my BuJo, and then end up not assigning a page number to it. It’s kind of my “To Do” in my index. I’ve either decided to wait to do those pages, or I’ve found another place to write those things down. (*gasp* I write things down in other places than the all-important bullet journal that’s supposed to have EVERYTHING from EVERYWHERE in it? Yep. I still have 2-3 other notebooks I use for long term things that wouldn’t make sense to put in my BuJo. That’s also the beauty of the BuJo.)

Every planner I had found previously had too many pages and too many options. I’m also a non-conformist in certain aspects of my life. I didn’t like being tied down to one way of organizing my schedule. Personally, I don’t plan my day by the hour, so that was a ton of wasted paper. I wanted a place where I could record my thoughts, lists, and quotes that I liked all together instead of using 3-5 notebooks for all of those things. I use my BuJo for planning events and trips, logging my workouts and sauna sessions, webinar note taking, and now that Christmas is coming, a gift list!

2) Do a monthly schedule. Every month I draw a calendar (with the help of a ruler. Can’t draw straight lines for anything…) and I have fun personalizing each month. One month may be written out all in cursive, the next in block letters. By planning by the month I can easily write down future portrait sessions, family plans, etc. I only do a month at a time, so it’s a little challenging when I need to write down an event that is more than a month away. That’s when my phone comes in handy. So you might say I keep three calendars. My long term calendar is on my phone, my monthly calendar in the BuJo, and then my weekly plan is scattered throughout the journal. All of that is mixed in between my brainstorming ideas for photography, passwords to remember, books I want to read, and goals I want to accomplish.

I also do a fun page for every month where I write down fun memories that happened. Also funny things my little brother has said, and milestones I’ve passed that  month. It’s fun to look back on previous  months and see the things that stuck out for me!

3) Plan for the week. I have just recently started doing a weekly plan, and I love it. This has also been a work in progress. Another thing I love about the Bullet Journal is the freedom to mess up. Not everything has to be perfect. I’ve changed the layout and content of my weekly plan twice already. I separate my weekly plan into three different sections: Personal, Spiritual, People, and Photography. Currently, I am also tackling a definition of love that I found on Pinterest each week. (The article can be found here. I highly recommend you read it.) My goal each week is to find ways to live out that specific definition each day.

Under Personal goes anything from health goals to errands I need to run before the week is out.  Each Monday I am excited to create a new weekly plan! I begin by looking at the previous week to see if there was anything I was unable to accomplish. Spiritual is the place where I write down my Bible study goals of the week. My section titled “People” is my place to remind myself to engage with my family and friends. If I don’t purposefully set a reminder to engage with my siblings, for example, I’ll come home and get caught up in everything else *I* need to get done. People is my section for watering relationships. Finally, photography. This is usually the biggest planning section of my weekly plan. It includes galleries I need to send, sessions I need to edit, blog posts I need to write, etc., etc.

4) Do a weekly Gratitude Challenge. Another part of my weekly planning is setting the page opposite that apart for listing 3-5 things I’m thankful. Each morning, one of the first things I do when I get to work is write down three to five blessings. I try to have at least one of those be spiritually minded. I’ll even write down things like my favorite colors, or the fact that I have the ability to feel the wind. It’s all a part of creating the mindset that everything is a gift. We are entitled to nothing.

Over the past month, I’ve also started a “God Is…” section. Each day I pick an attribute of God, usually the first one that comes to mind based on my study the night before or that morning. After I write the attribute or character trait, I write the first verse that comes to my mind using that description of God.

In the past, I didn’t want to plan for the week or give myself deadlines for my goals because of my Type A personality. The deadline would create stress rather than alleviate it. “I HAVE TO COMPELTE EVERY SINGLE TASK AND DO IT PERFECTLY ALL IN ONE DAY” my brain would scream at me.  If I wrote something down to do on Monday, and didn’t get to it that day, I hated having to move it to another day in the week. Not only did the calendar look messy, I felt as if I had failed and my life was unproductive.
But the BuJo has helped me relax and let things go. If I’m not able to complete any my tasks in one week, I just write them in again next week. As a Type A, I need empty space and flexibility. I need to have the knowledge that if a task takes longer than expected, it’s ok. Because my schedule was left intentionally flexible.

By having a monthly plan and a weekly plan, I don’t clutter up my monthly calendar with things that I can’t set down to a certain day. By simply planning to get tasks done in the week, I have the freedom to choose what day I want to do it, based on how busy I am that week. The monthly calendar helps me remember big things that need to happen on a specific day, or events that have been scheduled outside of the current week. I also write events that may be canceled or moved to a different day (such as basketball games) in pencil so I can erase if necessary rather than scratch through pen.

But what about procrastination?

Because everyone procrastinates at one point or another in your life. But if you don’t have this struggle, then I want to be the first one to say you need to donate your brain to science once you die. I fight against procrastination by drawing a bubble or square I can fill in for each task of the week. There’s something about being able to fill in circles and see a page with no empty spots that drives me to complete each goal. Now there are still times when that drive to fill in circles of wonder isn’t so strong. Then it’s pure laziness that drives me to complete the task. How is this, you ask? Laziness drives you to not procrastinate? Because I get tired of writing the same task over and over, week after week. If I just get it done, I don’t have to write it again the next week. So that’s how I choose to schedule so that my life is stress-free and productive, while still challenging myself to do hard things.

I hope you’ve been inspired to create your own Bullet Journal, or at least to find ways to make your life less crazy. What’s your favorite way to keep life organized? I’d love to find out, so hit comment or send me a message over on the contact page!

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