by Jessica McCabe
I love planners. I love organizers. I’ve always been drawn to anything that promises to Tame the Chaos, because there is a staggering amount of internal chaos that comes with having an ADHD brain. It’s incredibly satisfying to me to “get organized.” But staying organized — that’s another matter.
Turns out, my brain is used to the chaos, and feels uncomfortably boxed-in by the same rigid systems I’m drawn to through the shiny promise of “you’ll finally have your s&*$ together.”
I usually give a new system 2 weeks before I’m back to the freedom of random post-it notes and lists and notebooks full of ideas and epiphanies that I will…never find again.
I settled for my YouTube channel. You can see the full extent of my enthusiasm here.
I dove in headfirst and never looked back.
As I began to use my bullet journal, I noticed some limitations — what if I couldn’t find my bujo/left it at a friend’s house/am currently waiting tables and can’t carry it around with me? Where am I supposed to capture my awesome ideas then?
What if my schedule keeps changing? There’s only so much white-out you can use without getting frustrated at yourself for not being able to stick to what you had planned. Which for ADHDers, happens…often.
Cool, I feel super relaxed and confident about my schedule and…“wait, what do you mean we have a big important meeting today? It’s not in my bullet journal!” (The bullet journal is…not great at syncing schedules).
Turns out, I still need a digital calendar I can share with my team. I still need a whiteboard to quickly hash out a show schedule for the month and make adjustments as necessary. I still need a notepad on my phone to dump stuff when my bullet journal isn’t by my side. My bullet journal is not the One Tool to Rule Them All I hoped it would be. Which would have been terribly disappointing…
Except, in the time it took me to figure that out, my bullet journal was quietly doing amazing things for me.
Here’s what I really love about the bullet journal, after having used one for a year, and why I will probably always keep one:
It’s amazing at reducing my mental load.
I notice a huge difference on days when I offload to my bullet journal vs. days I try to keep everything in my head. I’m less overwhelmed, I have less anxiety — both of which are common issues for ADHD brains. Not only do I feel better, I also *work* better because my working memory is freed up for actually working, rather than trying to remember all the stuff I’m supposed to do.
It’s given me a relationship with myself.
Everything in my bullet journal, I put there. It’s an extension of me — my thoughts, ideas, what I find important and want to be a part of my life. As someone who’s often been swept into the current of other people’s lives and wants and goals, it’s good to have a touchstone to what I want, who I am, what I’ve accomplished. Yeah, I can do that in my phone or my computer, but those are tools I use to connect with the rest of the world — my bullet journal is a way for me to connect to me.
It’s a fantastic litmus test — if I’m too busy to update my bujo, I’m too busy.
It’s really easy for ADHDers to take on too much, because we tend to be enthusiastic about new things…and also underestimate how long those things will actually take. Not having time to plan is the canary in the coal mine that lets me know I’ve got too much on my plate and I need to say no for awhile.
I’m still 100% in love with the index.
It blows my mind every time I scribble something random and *can find it again later*. It’s so simple it’s brilliant. And hey — I can still write on post it notes!
It helps me prioritize.
The executive function deficits that come with ADHD can make it challenging for us to plan, prioritize, and sustain effort toward our goals. Which means we end up putting a LOT of effort into life that never really pays off. With the help of my bullet journal — even though I am FAR from perfect at using it — I’ve gotten better at spending my time and energy on stuff that matters, and I’ve made more progress toward my goals in the last year than I ever imagined was possible. I got to quit my day job to become a full time YouTuber and ADHD advocate, and even gave my first TEDx talk.
I’m grateful for what the bullet journal system has helped me learn about myself and accomplish, and I’m excited to see what 2018 will bring.