My new mornings.

I’ve got a late work day today to avoid overtime (thanks, capitalism) so I’ve got a wider-open morning than usual. This got me thinking about just how much better my mornings have been lately. I wouldn’t call myself a morning person, but I’ve definitely softened to the idea.

Having these mornings has given me a lot of time to think about life. I’m almost 30 and back in school trying to get my associates, trying to finish before I have to say, I’m almost 31 and back in school trying to get my associates. My endless cycle of perfectionism, anxiety, depression, and avoidance has left me with 4 sequential language courses to finish. If all pans out I’ll be blogging next year that I’ve finished. I’ve got a month left this semester and still have a single math course to finish, but besides that It’ll be a year of French nouns and verbs and stuttering.

This has led me through a lot of reflections regarding my previously listed laundry list of habits to clean. I went in to it telling myself I wasn’t going to be valedictorian. I don’t need the Dean’s List. I need to pass, high enough to move on to a 4-year institution should I decide to. That’s it. I repeat it to myself a couple of times every time I think it: That’s it, that’s it, that’s it. Sometimes it sticks, just long enough to get through a weekly quiz or oral practice video. Sometimes it doesn’t. I end up waiting until the last minute, stressing every moment that I don’t do something that I should be doing something, stressing that I didn’t do something when I could have done something. Thanks, procrastination. Thank you so much.

But I’ve been trying to chill out on myself lately. See the bigger picture. Just vibe. My reconstructed mornings lately have been a big part of that; what once was (and occasionally still is) a chaotic mad rush out the door has been coopted by a series of leisurely, simply-living focused steps.

I’ve been very lucky since covid hit that the mall where I work hasn’t lessened their hours, and probably won’t any time soon with covid still going and the hiring difficulties. Three years ago I was working in operations and would have to wake up at 5am, sometimes 4, in order to get to work hours before my store opened. This was fine when I was 25, but it was taking a toll. My new job and position running sales has meant being where the people are, nolittlemermaid. After two years of this new normal, my body has finally become accustomed to a sleep schedule.

This has made it so much easier to wake up reasonably on time, and reasonably early. What used to be me waking up ten minutes before I had to leave is now generally at least an hour or two of morning time. There was never a problem tending to my dog, but now it feels less like an obstacle and more like a chance to step outside and enjoy the morning air. I’ve also shrugged away my old habit of constantly buying Starbucks or similar. In the last month, I’ve been making some of the best iced lattes I’ve ever had. Showering is no longer chaotically fit into my schedule, but a part of the routine. The most surprising to myself and most rewarding has been capping the morning with a meditative practice of bullet journaling.

I know, I know. Those of you who are even slightly like me are rolling your eyes. But it helps! Even if I ignore every task I write down, something about the process is deeply relaxing and centering. It’s helped me from being overly perfectionist. It helps me focus on what’s important. After a few false starts and a few pens and journals tested (moleskin, never again), it feels just creative enough to allow me to structure how I want.

I’ll never be a physical artist. Years of being too anxious to join an art class as a child saw to that. My skills and creative spirit have always come down to computers. But it is so easy to ignore a notification, never open an app, or close a browser. Having something physical, something that takes longer to draw out a line or scribble my chicken scratch into, is game changing. Having the freedom to skip a day, week, or month without leaving emptied and wasted pages gives me the confidence to start up again. I can experiment with layout, try things out day to day or week to week. Skip a page, go back and make a tracker. X out a tracker that I don’t care about. Remake a tracker on another page.

It’s lucid, like my thoughts. But it’s not unstructured. I began the process, like most of the things I learn, by tackling the subject on YouTube. And there were a lot of pretty journals out there, but all of those seemed to miss the point. That wasn’t me, and even if it was, making art feels like such a permanent proposition. Instead, my journal is meant to be evolving. A little ugly. It’s taught me to spend three hours trying to be fancy just to start the next page with a simple list. Trial and error chipped away at my perfectionism. I grew comfortable with my handwriting again (It’s not the worst, but it’s bad, just trust me).

I’m still following the original bullet journal method, in a sense. I start off with a list of intentions and commitments for the year, things that would cross over to another journal if I run out of pages. These are the things I talk about on here quite often. Staying alive. Being healthy. Financial stability. School. DIY. Veganism. Living with intention, forgiving mistakes. They’re all there, aligned on the left side of the page. In a box to the right are my commitments, the things I devote my energy to in an overarching sense; the more esoteric version of my intentions, the buzzwords that run through all of them. Mind, body, spirit. Home. Community. If my intentions are the what’s, these are the why’s. It’s easy to forget, when things get rough, what I’m even striving to improve.

Next up is an index to be filled as time passes, as my journal is filled with daily logs and recipes and fitness trackers. DIY goals and lists of books to read when school is out. It was this concept of the bullet journal, that it could be everything in one place, that drew me in. The idea of my own index released me from the constant feeling I’d always get when I used to think about journaling: how would I find stuff? It seems so obvious now, but journals and agendas never showcase this stuff.

I follow up with a future log. Here, I diverged a bit. There’s only 80 pages in my notebook. It felt silly to look forward 6 months when the year ends in three. Three monthly overviews (2 pages), at least 4 weeks per month (24 pages), daily logs with 1 – 4 days per page, more some days, less others. Recipes and brain dumps and notes. I didn’t want to pressure myself into expectations down the line. 3 months, take it or leave it. I wrote this on the page opposite my index. The pages are about 45 usable spaces vertically, so I figured this would be more than enough to list the contents of 80 pages.

After the future log, I left some empty spaces. One of the things I saw online that I want to do is a running list of “things to do,” tasks that my ADD brain just don’t think about when I’m feeling productive but not productive enough. Spending 10 minutes cleaning, researching, writing. Clearing out folders. Checking expiration dates. Doing a face mask. Whatever. When I’m not feeling productive, when I’m exhausted and overwhelmed, sometimes just doing something kickstarts my will to live. Putting this list at the front may not be a traditional bullet journal section, but that’s what made me fall in love with the system. It’s tailored to my needs.

Next is my monthly overview for October. As I said before, I’ve tried a few different journals lately, and I had a lot of chances to draw out October. I’ve seen a lot of people drawing lines to separate the weeks, or drawing out cubes to do traditional calendars. What worked best for me was a taller journal that I could skip a line after each Sunday. I skip a square after the date and don’t bother anymore with the day. The first day in my week is Monday. I don’t need to write it out. On the second space I went through and either leave blank or put one of two symbols; a dollar sign on pay days or the moon phases (for spirit reasons). I skip another square.

In the traditional bullet journal method, the future log is for planning and this monthly view is more of a reflection tool. I don’t put anything like work schedules or emotional events here, but I do mark a vertical line to the left of the date for my days off to anchor tasks around my days with more energy (supposedly). I go through and fill out school due dates. I write out what bills I’m paying on pay days. I scribbled in Spooksgiving for when I see my friends near halloween, and of course, Halloween. It’s mostly empty, this page, and I like it that way. When I look at it, it feels less daunting to just get through life. It reminds me that the majority of my stress and exhaustion are situational and temporary. I won’t work retail forever. I’ll graduate eventually. One of the events I want to start scheduling is blogging. I won’t lie, before last week I forgot about this. I’d even intended to blog about my vacation and forgot. I’m not a very invested English major, clearly.

On my weekly view pages, I’m trying out the “rolling weekly” technique. Here, you write out the days and separate them into one-square columns, in my case by highlighting every other day. This felt less cluttered that outlining everything. Then, to the right, I list out all of the tasks I need to complete, referencing the future log and reoccurring task lists for examples. Then, to the left, I assign the task to a day by x’ing underneath that day. Because I’ve been jumping through journals as I get used to it, I only have weeks 3 and 4. (I also forgot about week 5 this month, oops. Later.) Because I’m just trying to get through school, classwork is the only thing on here for these weeks at the moment, but I’ll expand later.

I’ve been thinking about what habits I want to build, and how I could use this to build them; just today I added daily vitamin to the task list and boxed out each day, instead of X’ing them to say to-do on this day, I can ✓ the boxes to say I to-did this. We’ll see if this works, or if I need to make a separate section for these habit tracking.

The daily page are where I’ve created my own method after trying a few things out. Some people are writing out gratitudes and agendas and events and to-dos. As mentioned, I can barely schedule showering at the same time every day, so this amount of planning does not work. Instead, I thought about what I was willing to put into planning and I go from there: 10 minutes for 10 things, roughly 2 hours. I give myself at least three. If I’m out the door at 11, I’m up by 8. Having this extra time gives me time to work slowly, to pace myself, to just vibe.

When scheduling this morning tasking time, I include my daily tasks that I often don’t think about when I’m beating myself up for “being lazy”: waking up at all is a challenge, and I succeed everyday. I support a life. After each number I leave extra spaces to put symbols, such as a or an X or a > for rescheduling. My daily 10 look like this:

FRI OCT 15

  1. Wake.
  2. Mabel. (my dog)
  3. Coffee.
  4. Shower.
  5. Journal.
  6. Lunch.
  7. [morning task]
  8. Work 12 – 8.
  9. Dinner.
  10. [evening task]

Below or to the right side, I’ll write any additional notes I need, such as what I just thought about doing tomorrow, or the significance of the moon cycle, whatever. Down the line I need to work in things like exercise; maybe I’ll get so comfortable I’ll want a 12 in 12, or a 15 in 15. But for now we’re just vibes.

This probably looks like the bare minimum to most people. Only doing 10 things?! But the beauty of this is that every extra accomplishment moves into 11, 12, 13 etc on the right side if I accomplish more from my week. It’s really more of a visual reminder; it doesn’t capture all of the tasks I do at work or taking care of my family. But it’s a far cry from the times I’d just stare in the mirror and tell myself I did nothing all day.

I feel so much more accomplished when I see just how much effort goes into staying alive. Sometimes I barely complete 1 – 10, and that’s ok. That’s the depression, sweetie. You can see how front-loaded my new morning routine has been, not that this list is necessarily chronological, but the extra time I’ve given myself keeps it from being overwhelming. Sometimes I batch make a meal (like last night’s stir-fry tofu), and the next few days I don’t have to worry about lunch and can do another morning filler task. Sometimes the filler morning task gets pushed to the evening, but I’m usually exhausted from retail by that point. Some of these tasks don’t take 10 minutes, and that’s great. Some take more, and that’s great. When I see these lists, I’m just grateful to be here.

I’ve struggled with tasking in the evenings, mostly due to how tired I am from living, and haven’t perfected the end-of-day journaling yet. I’ll usually review the next day; did I do this, did I do that? It’s definitely something I want to work into my practice, but I’m willing to take the time to be comfortable with what I have. I’ve been training myself to be loose with it, to not strive for perfectionism. I’m not trying to be valedictorian of bullet journals here.

During my testing weeks, I’ve tried out some other ideas; drawing out a weight graph to show my progress so far (30lbs!). A page for iced latte flavor profiles (maple, cinnamon and chili powder, yes please). Some of these will likely work their way into the official journal, especially as a meditative process. I also want to work on some brain dumping, especially when it comes to my intentions and commitments. But I’m taking my time to enjoy the process that I’ve got going. So for now, I love bullet journaling.


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