Organizing 2018: Bullet journaling for better spirituality [iman]

I discovered the bullet journal last year through Pinterest. The basis of the bullet journal is simply to take a much more freeform approach to your day planner, working from a plain, dotted, or lined notebook. I had some minor successes in 2017 but, as I contemplated beginning a new journal for 2018, it became apparent that I would require a very different approach. I also wanted to include more Islamic stuff to help my spirituality [iman].

So it’s with these ideas and lessons learned from the previous year, that I began to plan my planner. Before putting anything on paper, I wrote down various pages I wanted to create. Then I broke them down by categories: Monthly spreads, weekly & daily spreads, general trackers, Islamic trackers, project trackers.

One of my main annoyance from 2017 was that I had built monthly spreads with weeklies, but then didn’t wind up writing down stuff every week. I ended up with a number of weekly spreads with nothing but the dates, and ran out of pages for trackers I wanted. So for 2018, I decided to bundle the monthly spreads separately from the weekly/daily/diary pages. I winded up putting these after the general and Islamic trackers with approximately 60 blank pages left to my imagination, but in retrospect, I truly should have put them at the very end of the journal rather than squeezed in the middle.

I’m going to break down the rest of this post by sections to give you a better idea of my bullet journal set up:

Introduction to 2018

  • Verse from the Throne [Ayat ul-Kursi], Qu’ran 2:55
  • Index + motto
  • Goals
  • A year at a glance

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Verse from the Throne [Ayat ul-Kusi], Qu’ran 2:255

Believed to grant spiritual and physical protection, I figured it would be a nice way to start my journal with positive spiritual intent. I penned it in the very first page of the cover.

Index + motto

Choosing my motto for the year 2018 took some brain thought. I wanted to give myself the correct basis upon which to tackle all of my projects for the year. My 2017 motto was “Be better, Do better!” but, this year, I took a much more skeptical approach with “whatever it takes”. My partner appropriately pointed out those are the lyrics to “Degrassi: new generation” theme song, and while that wasn’t my original intent… it fits!

Goals

The GOALS page was an important foundation to determine how to shape my year and, therefore, it played a role in drafting everything else in the journal. This is sometimes referred to as a “10-level life” page where you define your ideals for various disciplines, you draw in one level each time you feel you are getting closer to your ideals. I set mine up for 8 sections with specific goals for each:

  • Family & friends (Plan bi-weekly “date nights”, plan a housewarming party)
  • Community (Volunteer 1x/mth, donate to a charity)
  • Career (Attend 4 training, do overtime 1x/wk)
  • Finances (Sell 100$ of craft, reduce debt by 5000$)
  • Physical (Take a 30min walk outside 2x/mth, do 15min strength training 3x/wk)
  • Emotional (Keep track of emotions, schedule 1h/wk of “me time”)
  • Spiritual (Read entire Qu’ran, write sincere du’as monthly)
  • Personal (Take an online course, read 4 books)

TIP: have a variety of small and big goals that you can achieve in 1-2 weeks, 1-2mths, 6mths, a whole year!

Year at a glance

A pretty straight-forward page with tiny calendars for each month of the year, a small note of the civic holidays and I highlighted the days of Ramadhan.

Part 1: Monthly Spreads

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There’s always so much I want to track on a monthly basis but I can only do so much. I decided I needed a good way to track events, budget, and a few relevant trackers.

I started with a small, icon-coded, calendar. I added icons for civic holidays, birthdays pay day, garbage and recycling days. While I pen down the current month, I’ve only pencilled in the following months so that I can easily change the layout throughout the year if I choose to do so.

Right below the calendar, I usually will track holidays, birthdays, and multi-day events. On the right of the right page, I’ve set out each day of the month with blank space on the right. I usually will write out events or appointments taking place on a particular day. I also keep a small, icon-coded budget for the month. I usually write down the amount of each bill and checkmark the icon as I pay them. In the same area, I also set out small goals for the month, from a subject or person I’d like to get to know, to project deadlines, and tasks to accomplish.

I strongly believe in having health and “adulting” trackers, habits I want to form or get rid of over the course of a month. As someone who is greatly interested in substance use and abuse counselling, I first started with tracking any and all substances as well as my sleeping patterns which deeply affects my mood and my mental health. I track sleep with dots on or between lines numbered 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 depending on the hours of sleep between each day.

Any spare space in my layout goes to motivational quotes from activists, organizers, and scholars, especially by women of colour who have unfortunately been left out of my general education (*if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments!)

Part 2: General Trackers

The line is very blurry between what is a “general tracker” and other types of trackers. Basically, if it does not fit neatly in the categories of “Islamic” or “Projects”, it goes in the general trackers category:

  • Mood
  • Savings
  • Budget
  • Meal planning + shopping list
  • Morning schedule
  • Evening schedule
  • Bedtime routine
  • Cleaning schedule + checklist
  • Bangali phrases
  • Gifts
  • “Adulting”

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Mood

By FAR, my favourite tracker of 2017, my mood tracker allows me to track a general mood each day of every month. I’ve organized the tracker so that weekends would fall next to one another, allowing me the ability to track patterns between week/weekends.

Seeing as emotions are categorical rather than fixed, I’ve selected 9 “general” moods and described various emotions that may be attached to these categories: Energized, Happy, Calm, Uncomfortable, Annoyed, Sad, Fearful, Angry, “Fuck off!”. Each category has its colour, and I use that colour next to the date to track my day’s emotion. I also plan to circle days in red if I happened to be menstruated that day (it DEFINITELY affects my mood greatly).

Savings

I like the design of this page: I create a beehive for each item I want to purchase throughout the year (from gifts to home repair), each hexagon represents 100$. I also pencil in hexagone each time I put money aside. When I decide to make a purchase, I colour the “beehive” in the corresponding colour. This gives me a great visual way to plan out my expenses.

Budget

As mentioned in my monthly spreads, I have been using iconography to track my finances for some time. Using the same iconography, I track my expected income, debt, expenses, and draft a monthly budget. This is the same budget I track in the monthly spread.

Meal planning + shopping list

Most convenient thing in the world, meal planning and writing down groceries (and other purchases) on Post-its pre-arranged in a two-page spread!

Morning schedule + Evening schedule

As they’re both a similar concept, I’m amalgamating them together: the morning and evening schedules allow me to create a template upon which to plan my free time. It’s not perfect but it definitely helps me coordinate some of my goals in a timely manner.

Bedtime routine

I’ve put a stupid amount of work figuring this one out, much of it due almost entirely on the fact that I have, until now, had TERRIBLE sleeping patterns. This is my 30-minute self-care routine, making sure I have taken care of all the basic points of my hygiene and health so that I can sleep better and wake up rested.

As I write this a couple of weeks into January, I can attest that writing out a schedule like this has truly helped. It’s also a great example of printing out the stuff I simply do not have the skills to draw. I’ve taken the idea from Google images and pasted it in my journal in such a way, that I now have bedtime yoga poses with me anywhere I can take my journal.

Cleaning schedule + checklist

I have the horrible habit of leaving all my cleaning up to the day before I need my house clean. I hate that about myself and it’s something I’m trying VERY hard to correct. This schedule is key to helping me focus on one task at a time and HOPEFULLY get it all done by the end of the year.

I’ve also created the full checklist of everything that needs to be done in each room so that if we need to do it all at once, we can do it all!

Bangla phrases & words

I do not speak Bangla yet, but as my partner is Bengali and I would love to be able to communicate with him and his family in their mother tongue, I decided to start a spread of Bangla phrases & words that I can consult and study from times to times.

Gifts

Pretty simply, I made a one-page spread to plan out some gifts for friends and family members throughout the year. Of course, there are more people, but these are some of the people for whom deciding on gifts can take a bit more work.

“Adulting”

As part of the habit trackers of the monthly spreads, I decided to give myself “rewards” in the form of stickers (yes, I am 7yo) with different sizes of stickers for the level of achievement.

TIP: I left about a dozen pages blank at the end of this section for additional trackers. You truly don’t know what you might need throughout 365 days.

Part 3: Islamic trackers

I figured I would keep all my spiritual trackers separate from other trackers but now I slightly regret not putting them along with my project pages (part 4). Either way, all that really matters is that the spiritual trackers are together rather than scattered throughout other tracker pages.

  • Qu’ran tracker
  • Qu’ran Verses
  • Sincere Du’as
  • Ramadhan tracker

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Qu’ran tracker

In 2017, a friend sent me M.A.S. Abdel Haleem’s new translation of The Qu’ran. I’ve decided to give it a read in order of revelation. Just like my previous ramadhan planner, I split my readings into 30 sections [juz] in order of revelation. I fill in, with highlighter, the box next to each chapter once I complete reading it.

Qu’ran Verses

I’m always trying to memorize more of the Qu’ran and need continuous reminders of the words when I pray, I started tracking the verses I use most on a two-page spreads. In retrospect, I really should have left more!

Sincere du’as

Just like my Sincere Du’a project from 2014/2015, I want to put in writing my genuine needs from God. I’ve set out a two-page spread where, each month, I will enterprise to write down an informal prayer [du’a] representing my experiences throughout the month.

Ramadhan tracker

I decided to start prepping early for Ramadhan 2018. It always comes too fast so it can never be too early to start setting up.

This year, I’m tracking prayer times, which are pencilled in until I know the exact start date. I’m also tracking whether I’ve eaten the morning meal [suhoor], if I fasted, if I had the breaking of the fast meal [iftaar] at the mosque or with friends, if I prayed the night prayer [Taraweeh], if I prayed the pre-dawn prayer [Tahajjud] and if I read the Qu’ran.

Part 4: Weeklies, dailies, diaries

Because I’m quite scattered when it comes to making weekly, daily or diary spreads, I have kept much of this section blank. I wish I had placed this section towards the end as it would visually probably make more sense but it still works. I kept approximately 60 pages; 52 weeks in a year plus a handful of daily pages if special events occur.

  • Memories
  • Weeklies/Dailies/Diaries

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Memories

It was a fun page I had in 2017 but I had kept much too little space for this at the time. This time I chose a two-page spreads where I will add noteworthy events, funny quotes from friends and family, highlights of any travel or vacation, etc. (I also have a “Lifetime” journal where I track similar things but on a larger scale – I might make a post on this later).

Weeklies/dailies/diaries

My initial design is rather simple but bundles a LOT of information. I will most likely change the layout on a near weekly basis but here’s what it includes for now:

  • A small monthly calendar with the current week highlighted
  • Prayer times for the week as well as jummah time for the mosque nearest me at prayer time
  • Daily journaling: date; feelings in the morning, afternoon and at bedtime; weather and temperature; point form info on the day’s event

I might create special daily or diary pages if special circumstances call for it.

Part 5: Project Trackers

As I mentioned earlier, I wish I had included my Islamic trackers in this section. The basic idea for this particular section is to keep track of the specific projects I have outlined on my Goals page.  A few trackers for personal projects are not listed here, but here are some of my more general-interest pages

  • Physical Health
  • Brain stuff

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Physical Health

I had SEVERAL pages dedicated to health and fitness in 2017 and I made use of mostly none of it! So I opted for some simpler spreads this time around:

On the first spread, I track weight and size, monthly 30-day challenges, and a walking log which will switch to a running log if I can get myself to that level.

I glued exercise ideas (arms, core, legs & stretches) between my two spreads as inspiration.

The second spread is a monthly exercise plan. I’m breaking it down in 3 exercises per day for now until I get myself up: one in the morning before work, one over lunch at work, and a third exercise when I get home. Each exercise targets a different body part: arms, legs or core. I fill in each day one of 3 colours based on the exercise I accomplish.

Brain Stuff

I’ve set a few different personal goals for 2018: publishing one article per month, take online classes, read 4 books.

This page is still in progress and I’m still not quite sure how I will track each of these, but I’m improvising and using pencil for some parts.

Tips to start your own journaling

1. Get a notebook you can carry with you everywhere

If you don’t want to carry a giant notebook, do not fret. There are smaller notepads and notebooks you can use. I made small pocket-sized bullet journals for people who don’t want to carry too much or already carry a lot. You can always adapt your design to the size of your notebook.

2. Plan your journal first

So, obviously it won’t necessarily be perfect the first, second or even third year you make a journal, but you can still have a much better chance of success if you plan you pages before putting pen to paper. See how many pages you have in your journal and decide what takes priority. It will help you avoid (or at least limit) drafting over and over again!

3. Draft everything in pencil

I’ve eaten up more than half of a block eraser already! I even have two types of erasers: block erasers and pencil erasers (for details). Drafting everything in pencil keeps me from being “stuck” with a page I don’t like! I draft until I’m at least 90% happy and then go over my lines in colourful pen!

4. Break everything down into its parts

Reading the entire Qu’ran, reducing debt by $ 5,000.00, working out every week: it seems daunting when I look at it overall. But then I break it out into chapters, track every 50/100$ paid, track every time I workout… and it turns out, I’m doing better than I anticipated! Track everything and look for progress not perfection! Expect every month to do a little better and keep an eye out for any way to do just a little bit more. Just one more page, one more dollar, one more rep… it adds up!

5. Track EVERYTHING

If you have a goal, even a very vague one for the long term, start being intentional about getting it done by first writing it down. It makes a difference when you can visualize what you want to accomplish and it helps you stay motivated when you can finally start tracking small even itsy bitsy progress!!!

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff

My partner’s cat licked one of my pages and ruined the beautiful pattern I’d made. Sure, I could have ripped the page up or covered it up, but instead I wrote a small note “This is what happens when your stuff looks so good, the cat tries to taste it!” and it made it even better! As I said earlier, progress, not perfection!

Materials

Praise be to God [Allhamdullilah!], I have been able to purchase and have been gifted many materials to help me design and update my journal. I give out my material as information only, keep in mind that all you really need is a notebook, a ruler and a few pens/pencils:

Notebook: Leuchtrum 1917, medium (A5), dotted in Emerald

Pens: Stabilo 30 point 88(R) fineliners, Studio fineliners, and Zebra Mildliners.

Stencils: Staedtler’s Pocket General Purpose template,

Stickers: “Adulting” stickers ($1.25each from DollarTree), other miscellaneous stickers from Dollarama, and Michaels.

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