I’ve never found a physical planner I like that was completely functional. One Drive calendars are helpful, and I do use it to set reminders and schedule meetings and social engagements. I have a blog and a journal which I keep up with sporadically. Then a friend of mine in the Audiology department showed me her bullet journal. It’s a combination of a journal, planner, and to-do list, which you can customize to fit your academic and personal preferences and needs. I was a little overwhelmed so I immediately, of course, researched the idea. Perfect Pinterest and Instagram pictures popped up everywhere and I thought, “Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m a terrible drawer.” I was determined to figure it out and find a system of organization that worked for me. I first had to buy myself the essentials to get started. Grad students don’t have a ton of expendable cash and so I read about products that bullet journal enthusiasts loved and recommended.
My kit included stencils, a dot grid essentials notebook (dot matrix, not ruled), stencils, a 6” ruler, and Paper Mate ultra-fine markers. I began by making of list of dissertation ideas as a brainstorming exercise to help me narrow down a topic. I then moved on to a dissertation timeline with actual dates and a dissertation completion guideline with intended dates. I wrote an outline for my prospectus, notes on all three drafts of the prospectus from my committee, pre and post proposal defense notes, outlines for each dissertation chapter, notes on feedback for each chapter, a list of sources, key search terms, a list of possible journals to send my dissertation chapters to, blog journal entry ideas to share research, goals, quotes, reading list, monthly calendars, weekly calendars, library book return list, a monthly budget, and a list of grants and fellowships to apply to related to my research.
Even more importantly though, a bullet journal can be used to remind you of self-care. I've got a self-care checklist, a list of my favorite movies and albums to listen to for inspiration during downtime, a gratitude list, a list of my favorite teas, a list of things I love about myself, and a list of positive feedback on my work. We all need these reminders when we feel like we're not getting enough work done quickly enough and well enough.
It would be easy to create an excel or word document for each of these tasks, but there are several benefits to taking time each day to make entries into your bullet journal. You can easily visualize and track progress, vent about frustrations (personal or professional), hold yourself accountable, keep track of everything in one place, and most importantly foster creativity. When I sit down to write in my bullet journal it's a reflection upon the day and my work. It’s a much-needed break for some me time which gives me a sense of calm because I feel I have my act together and know what I’ve got to get done and where I’ve got to be each day. I enter information into my online calendar and journal too, but until I’ve written it down, I feel as though all my tasks and responsibilities are floating around in my head and it makes me anxious. Pictures and links to products below. I hope you all find this information encouraging and helpful!
Paper Mate Flair
Essentials dot grid notebook small
Essentials dot grid notebook large
Leuchtturm notebook small (different colors)Markers do bleed through the page.