Have you heard about bullet journaling?
Several months ago I started seeing the phrase “bullet journal” pop up everywhere. I had no idea what it was, and after years of trying and failing and trying and failing again to find a planning system that worked for me, I was both wary and curious about it. After visiting the official Bullet Journal website and reading a couple of blog posts, I decided to give it a whirl.
Several months later, I’m completely and totally sold on the bullet journal system, and one of the reasons I love it is because it truly fits our life as a family with two special needs children. If you aren’t familiar with bullet journaling, you can watch the following video for a brief overview of how it works:
The video above is short and helpful as an overview, and the Bullet Journal website has more information on how to get started. For me, though, this blog post at the Lazy Genius Collective was the most helpful in terms of understanding how it could work for my life.
The beauty of the bullet journal for someone like me is having one place to keep All The Things that swim around in my head daily – anything from appointments to tasks to my family’s favorite meals to books I want to read. I need to “brain dump” on a regular basis! But one area that I didn’t see covered in all the many posts and pins I found about bullet journaling is how to use it if you’re a special needs parent, and I figured out early on that it’s GREAT for that.
Here’s how: If you watch the video and click through to the links above (they will open in a new window – go do that now if aren’t already familiar with bullet journaling), you’ll find that two of the keys to bullet journaling are the Index and the Collections. Collections can be anything grouped under a specific topic (such as “Books to Read”), and a lot of special needs info fits really well into a collection. Here are a few examples:
When you know an appointment is coming, make a page for that appointment. In the weeks or days before the appointment you’ll think of different things you want to ask and share, and this page is a great place to put all of it. As you think of them, write down the things you want to tell (or ask) the doctor and on the day of the appointment write down everything that you discuss with the doctor when you’re there. It’s important not just to remember WHAT was said, but WHEN it was said, and the bullet journal helps you keep all that information together.
Insurance Company Contacts
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent on the phone with insurance companies (and the insurance point person at physician and therapy offices) discussing claims and payments. Keeping up with who I talked to about which claim number and on what day(s) is critical – having all of the most recent information in one notebook that I keep with me all the time is a lifesaver. How often have you gotten a call back about a claim when you were out-and-about? I slip my bullet journal in my purse so I have what I need wherever I happen to be.
Knowing that my son’s year-end IEP meeting was coming up at the end of the school year, I created a collection page in advance of the meeting. As various issues or questions popped into my brain, I wrote them down on the page so I’d have it to reference on the day of the meeting. The same goes for meetings about my daughter’s 504 accommodations.
In thirteen years as a special needs family, we’ve seen a LOT of different therapists and doctors. Every time we see a new pediatric specialist or therapist, I have to fill out a questionnaire about my child, and they always want to know at what age my child reached certain developmental milestones. Having that information on me when I go to the doctor can save me time and frustration.
How often do you find information when researching your child’s condition that you’d love to be able to reference later on? What about your favorite special needs mom blogs? How about the best sources for specialized equipment your child needs (or links DIY hacks to save you money on that specialized equipment)?
A lot of people use “habit trackers” in their bullet journals – these helpful tools are pages laid out in a grid format with a list of recurring tasks that they want to track. Examples could be Exercise, Read My Bible, Meet Step Goal, etc.
Trackers don’t have to be just for habits, though! Trackers are good for keeping up with many of the tasks that we special needs parents must manage. Medications can be tracked (both for acute conditions, like strep throat, or long-term needs). Therapy homework can be tracked, as well (to keep us honest!)
The bullet journal can be whatever you need it to be.
Use the general guidelines on the Bullet Journal website to get started, then let it evolve over time to fit your life and the way your own brain works. Start simple with any functioning pen and an empty notebook already in your closet until you figure out what works best for you.
- BulletJournal.com – The official home page for the Bullet Journal system, created by Ryder Carroll, which explains the concept.
- How to Bullet Journal: The Absolute Ultimate Guide – The post that showed me how a bullet journal could work for me, a mom who’s always going in a million different directions and doesn’t want to spend a lot of time making things “look pretty.”
- Thorough Guide to the Bullet Journal System – Exactly what it says it is – a thorough guide to the system, with a summary and an infographic for reference.
- How a Cheap Blank Notebook Is Changing My Life – The post I wrote on my own blog a couple of months into the bullet journaling process; I shared tips for not getting overwhelmed and shared pictures of my own bullet journal (as it looked then – I’ve changed it up a bit since the post).
Andi Sligh is an ordinary mom living an extraordinary life on the Alabama gulf coast with a daughter with cerebral palsy, a son with Down syndrome, an adventurous husband, a wild Westie, a rescued Schnoodle, a camera, and a worn out pair of running shoes. She blogs it all at Bringing the Sunshine and tweets a little @AndiSligh.