Journaling has become part of my routine to survive the pandemic on a day-to-day basis.

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Illustrated by Wenzdai Figueroa

A year has passed since the pandemic changed life as we knew it.

At first, it made sense to buckle up, grit our teeth and get through the lockdown however we could. Remember when we thought all of this would only last a few weeks? *sigh*

Of course, we now know that this is a long-term problem that requires long-term solutions.

You might be surprised to learn that one of my solutions has been the bullet journal. Bullet journaling has become part of my routine to survive the pandemic on a day-to-day basis.

Last spring, I wrote a guide to managing depression and chronic pain during quarantine. That guide focuses on creating and implementing a daily routine that nurtures your mental well-being and physical health.

Think of this BuJoy article as a companion piece to that guide – a way to track and manage that daily routine.

All you need to get started is a blank journal, preferably dotted, and a pen.

Open a blank page in your bullet journal, or BuJo, and give it a header that you think is appropriate.

Here are some suggestions:

  • lockdown stuff
  • things to work
  • How to feel safe in an insecure moment

It can be simple. It can be tricky. It can be full of silly puns that make you laugh. You can even title it “This is stupid, but an internet writer made me do it.”

I do not mind! The only rule is that it has to work for you.

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Illustrated by Wenzdai Figueroa

Under your title, make a list of what you want to focus on. To me, this looks like:

  • exercising regularly
  • daily meditation
  • cross stitch projects
  • diy home decor

This list is simply a brain dump. There are not correct or incorrect answers. And writing down an idea doesn’t mean you have to commit to doing it. The ideas are not mandates, they are mere suggestions.

I like to break this list down into categories, like:

  • mental health
  • hobbies
  • family
  • job
  • Healthy habits

You can do this or keep it all in one general list.

My example of a brain dump is below. You’ll notice that my hand lettering is far from perfect, like how messy and cluttered the “s” is at home.

Fortunately, it’s not about perfection, it’s about getting your ideas across. Accept your mistakes and focus on quantity over quality, even if some ideas seem stupid or embarrassing. You don’t have to act on every idea.

As Jack Donaghy of “30 Rock” says, there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.

Review your list and determine what is most meaningful to you. Don’t just choose the easy things. Challenge yourself to pick at least one area that feels overwhelming or out of reach.

The idea is to reduce that overwhelming feeling by taking small, manageable steps to help you reach your goal.

I recommend choosing three, because I’m a big fan of the Most Important Tasks Strategy for making lists.

You can focus on more or less, but try to keep it around two to five targets. If you take on too much, it’s hard to give each goal the proper attention. Also, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed and give up.

I’ve added a heart next to the three things I want to focus on right now: daily meditation, cross-stitch, and framing the box of art prints currently collecting dust in my closet.

With your top three tasks in mind, begin to reflect. ask yourself:

  • Why is it important for you to get into a routine? [X]?
  • What stopped you from continuing in the past?
  • What are you worried about going wrong?
  • How can you be responsible with yourself?

Devote one to three pages to this, either in your BuJo or in a separate notebook.

When you feel like you’ve written enough, walk away for at least a few hours. Get some work done, watch TV, take a nap, call a friend, or walk your dog.

No matter what you do, just make sure you’re not obsessing over what you just wrote. Set a time to come back to your reflection pages, whether it’s in a couple of hours, 2 days, or a week. Then go back and read what you wrote.

Highlight or underline what catches your eye. Whatever your answers may have been, let them guide you in your next steps.

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Illustrated by Wenzdai Figueroa

When you know your “whys,” it’s time to focus on your “whats.”

Do you keep meaning to start meditating, but never cross off your to-do list?

Commit to doing it every day for a set period of time. In my experience, 30 days is a great starting point. It’s a significant compromise without being too extreme.

It can take between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit.

If you really want to know the science behind habit formation, I recommend the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business.” It’s full of useful anecdotes and research on how and why habits are formed, both good and bad.

To start, choose a challenge. Maybe you want to try a month without alcohol, 30 days of yoga, or a week of daily meditation.

You can also track monthly for a year, such as reading every day for a year. I’m working on that exact challenge in 2021 and included my tracker below.

I styled this tracker to look like a book shelf, because it makes me smile. Your tracker can look any way you like.

What would be motivating and attractive to you? For me, it’s pretty colors and washi tape. For you, it could be minimalism or glued-on images. For more inspiration, take a look Instagram or pinterest.

Until now, my suggestions have been of the responsible, adult variety: meditate, exercise, read.

Don’t forget to make time for recreation too.

Physical distancing reduces the spread of COVID-19, but it also leaves us isolated. You might want concerts, shopping in person, or coffee with your best friend.

Try to make a list of all the things you miss. Choose your top three and then brainstorm alternatives. Here are some examples:

  • Do you miss the euphoria of live music? Try searching on YouTube or for live recordings of your favorite bands.
  • Pining for the camaraderie of group fitness classes? Try ClassPass, Joyn, or Yoga at any time for subscription-based online classes geared toward various fitness levels and goals. For free options, try YouTube or podcasts.
  • Longing for the shared laughter of going to the movies? get the teleparty Chrome extension (previously known as Netflix Party), which allows you to virtually watch movies with friends. It syncs your video, features built-in group chat, and works with multiple streaming platforms.

Take advantage of the extra time at home by immersing yourself in all those TV shows and movies you wanted to see. If you like lists, you can keep track of everything you watch, albums you listen to, and books you read.

You can also make lists of things you want to watch and read. For the past 2 years, my husband and I tracked every movie in a google keep ready.

Not only is it a fun little time capsule, but it fills my neurotic, list-loving brain with joy.

Gratitude lists have emerged as a popular self-help tool in recent years. They can be a great way to change your mindset or mood, especially if you are experiencing loss or loneliness during the pandemic.

Even if the last year has been an endless series of bad, demoralizing, devastating and depressing ugliness, really, especially If the last year has been all of that, a gratitude list can help ground you and lift your mood.

Get started with these steps:

  • Open a new page in your BuJo or separate notebook to start your list.
  • Put a little extra love into making this page pretty – use washi tape or fancy pens to make it appealing to you.
  • Decide how often you want to contribute to your gratitude list. Daily? Weekly? As necessary?

Pro Tip: A good time to make a gratitude list is when you’re feeling particularly sad or angry. Remind yourself of what is good in your life, such as:

  • loyal friends
  • a potential job opportunity
  • the roof over your head
  • a cute pet
  • Your family
  • your favorite book

There are no limits or rules to your gratitude list. You can be thankful to be alive.

You can be grateful for something that happened to you 10 years ago. You may be thankful for a bottle of delicious-smelling soap. You can be thankful that “The Simpsons” has been on the air for 32 years.

Always remember that your BuJo is for your eyes only. There are no hits or misses when listing, tracing, or doodling in this clever planner.

It’s been a tough year and we still don’t know when things will get better. Although the effects of the pandemic vary from person to person, we have all been affected in some way.

Even if you are gainfully employed, in strong health, or living with someone you love, remember that you are still experiencing an unprecedented and destabilizing global crisis. It is good not to be good.

It’s good to take some time each day to focus on yourself and take care of your mind and body. It’s not too late to form good habits, and you’re not too old to break bad habits.

I hope that whatever you do to get through the pandemic, you are healing and finding hope. I may not know you, but I believe in you. Feel free to roll your eyes at my sentimentality. I get it: I’m a big cheesy jerk.

Write me or tag me on Instagram or Twitter to show off your bujo spreads or let me know your thoughts.

You’re going to get through this pandemic, and you might even emerge with a new, healthy habit or two.

Ash Fisher is a writer and comedian who lives in Portland, Oregon. The light of her life is her corgi Vincent. Learn more about her in her website.