This article originally appeared on moreloveletters.com 8 September 2021.
I am a parent working at home with three children aged seven and younger. I rarely have days where I know exactly how many productive hours I will have. I’ve tried the Bullet Journal and really like many aspects of it, but found it hard to keep up with. I needed something less goal-oriented and more supportive.
From years of experimentation, I’ve created my current diary setup, which I call my “Dailies”. I start a fresh page each day and use simple symbols to block off sections for supportive goals, acknowledging successes, practicing gratitude, and task management. One page is usually enough. If I feel the need to journal long-form about anything else, I start on the next free page and go on for as long (or as short) as I’d like.
At the top of the page, I write the date and day. Additionally, I use my phone’s calendar app to keep track of all my schedules, events, and appointments. I prefer my phone so I can schedule things as they come up, without needing my notebook on hand, and reference it each morning as I start my day with writing out my Dailies.
Next, I use a star symbol for my goal for the day. I always try to make this goal doable and supportive. Something easy that will hopefully help improve my day instead of adding stress to it. A reminder that self-care is as important as being productive, and that they usually go hand in hand. Sometimes I choose a vibe I’d like to feel during the day or an area I’d like to focus on. I’ll also use this star space to mark off occasions like a birthday, holiday, or vacation.
Some examples I’ve used in the past:
⭐︎ Slow down
⭐︎ Saturday vibes + stay cool
⭐︎ Work reset
⭐︎ AP’s birthday!
⭐︎ Family time
⭐︎ Be patient (w/kids)
⭐︎ Chore day
Next, I draw a simple crown and leave two lines open. This marks the space where I acknowledge and highlight any successes I had during the day. Sometimes they are impressive. Sometimes I struggle to find one. But I always dig for something I’m proud I did that day. I found this technique from a YouTube video by Ronald L. Banks. Acknowledging our successes is a simple and powerful tool to bolster our self-worth. It’s been a new concept for me and I like the changes it’s brought to my outlook. I usually fill this in at night so even if I had a bad day, I end it with a positive note.
Then, I use heart symbols to list five things I’m grateful for that day. I started with a smaller list and grew it as I’ve practiced. There are many resources online and in books about the “how-to”s and benefits of practicing gratitude. Having it as a part of my Daily page makes it easy to keep up the habit. I usually fill in this section at night, too.
Finally, I write out my task and event list for the day. Some days I have one or two items, others I could have close to a dozen. The symbols I use for this are very close to Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal signifiers. Anything left undone gets “migrated” to the next day (I always check the previous day’s page when writing out my current Daily) or crossed off if it becomes irrelevant.
✕ Completed task
/ Task started or delegated (may need follow-up)
• Irrelevent task
> Task migrated to next day
! • Important or time-sensitive task
I keep my starred goal in mind as I check back on my task list throughout the day. If my goal is “Chore day”, I’ll prioritize those tasks. If my goal is “Rest”, I’ll do only the necessities and save the rest for another day. All together, these pages keep me focused without being overwhelming. They help me focus less on what gets done and more on how it gets done. And, most importantly, they remind me to be proud of what turns out well and be grateful for the things that add joy to my life.
I welcome everyone to try what sounds good and leave anything that doesn’t suit you. I created this setup because it works for me; change around whatever you want. Strive for something that blends self-care with productivity, support with encouragement. We all have stuff to get done, let’s not drive ourselves crazy doing it.