After gently pushing my preschooler away from me and toward her teacher, I walked fast down the hallway until I found it: a nook with a soft, leather couch. It was our first Wednesday night at a new (to us) church — and also the day after she’d cried so hard during her first dance lesson that the teacher brought her out to me after 20 minutes. Since a rash of changes and new experiences had brought on some serious separation anxiety, I was ready to rescue her from graham crackers, Bible stories, and the kind-looking Miss April. My nervous three-year-old had demanded I not leave the building, actually; hence the camping out on that couch.

I listened for the familiar crying or the footsteps of a frustrated teacher, but after a few minutes of blessed silence, I settled into my seat and got busy. Leaned over my notebook I barely registered the woman walking by until she said, “Well, you look like you’re hard at work!”

A bit irritated that I was going to have to be polite and talk to a stranger — and a bit embarrassed to admit what I was doing, I smiled hello and said, “Yeah…I’m trying to organize my to-do list.” Looking down at my lap, and the papers lined up around my spiral notebook, I realized that sounded a little crazy. From the looks of it, you would have thought I was crafting some kind of strategic plan to take over the world. Or something at least that difficult. Instead, I was merely trying to combine scribbles and notes and reminders and, let’s face it, wishes into something that might actually turn into productivity.

I looked a little like Sheldon Cooper trying to come up with an algorithm for making friends, really.

I didn’t dare mention this to-do list situation on Facebook, even though I know I can’t possibly be alone in my drive to get organized as the seasons change. Why not open myself up to list-making solidarity on social media? Because I knew it would take a hot minute for the bullet journal and fancy planner people to find me. Of course they would! On the face of it, we have so much in common.

I like making lists. They like making lists.
I like organizing things. They like organizing things.
I’m a fan of bullets and boxes. They’re fans of bullets and boxes.
I like pretty pens and markers. They like pretty pens and markers.

But, friends, the similarities end there.

Because bullet journal and fancy planner people? They take list-making and organizing and bullet-drawing to a level I will NEVER reach. It’s incredible! The systems they create to keep track of ALL THE THINGS? The beautiful, font-like handwriting they use to label it all? Amazing.


I really am in awe of some of the bullet journals I’ve seen. But I cannot be trusted with a bullet journal. These admittedly beautiful organizational systems are just not for me.

Not that I haven’t tried!

Oh, I have. I mean, give me a pretty pen and a blank page, and I will make you the best-looking list you’ve ever seen. It just might take me a whole day and precious ink and pages to get there.

See, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it is coming up with great ideas and not doing a darn thing about them. It’s having brilliant plans and lousy follow-through. It’s creating the smartest, savviest, super-duper-est timeline, budget, checklist, and multi-tab spreadsheet and then realizing I spent all my time planning and am now certain to miss my deadline, again.

And that’s why I don’t bullet journal.

[If you do, though, you should read my friend Kendra’s extremely thorough posts about bullet journaling HERE and HERE.]

Making a clear, organized to-do list is non-negotiable for me. I don’t get a single thing done without one. And have I been known to tear out a piece of paper and start over just because my handwriting wasn’t pretty enough? Possibly. Fine. YES. But I try hard not to get distracted by the color of my pen or the curve of my handwriting or whether I’m using bullets or dashes this time. Because if I do? Even for a minute? All hope of productivity — finishing the list and getting on with the doing — is lost.

People who use bullet journals, on the other hand, understand that what they write in those journals — and the pretty, organized way they do it — is not the most important part of this. Instead, it’s their ability to stop perfecting their lists and start completing tasks and meeting goals that matters, that I really admire, and that I struggle with.

So while I will admire my friends with lovely journals with all the tabs and washi tape and symbols and colors and everything all in one pretty place, I won’t be joining them with a moleskine and gel pen. Much as I want to be distracted by the office supplies and lists of lists, I know I can’t. So I’ll stick with my notebook full of lists and notes and half-baked plans and bills to pay and Bible verses. I’ll keep pulling out a big notebook when I can’t contain my life to my smaller one, and I’ll keep using bent paper clips to keep it all together.

Whew! It feels good to admit that!

HOWEVER. This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a beautiful notebook or smart planner when I see one! I do — and I know that many of you do, too. (And I’m hopeful that you’re better than me and can resist the allure of making one more beautifully drawn list when work needs to be done.)

So as we’re all heading into a new season, I thought some of you might be interested in the new planners Dayspring has launched this year. They have several gorgeous designs, many of which can be personalized. And they’re 18-month planners! So you can get started now instead of waiting until January (since we all know the REAL new year begins in September).

These new Dayspring planners are only $29.99 and have a lot of things I love in planners (because despite my failure with them, I have tried a LOT of planners and journals!): spiral binding and lay-flat design, year overviews as well as expanded monthy and weekly pages, pocket pages, and pages for notes. Oh, and for you accessory people, you can get lots of accessories from Dayspring, too! (Washi tape for DAYS.)

Just to prove I’m not a total planner and journal grinch, I want to help one reader get started with one of these lovely planners from Dayspring. I’m giving away a $50 credit to the Dayspring store — which will let you buy a WHOLE LOT of fancy tapes, stickers and clips. To enter, just leave a comment telling me what kind of planner/journal/list you are currently using. A winner will be randomly selected at midnight on September 17, 2017.

Are you a planner person? Or a bullet journaler? What’s your to-do list strategy?

Notebook photos by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash.

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