Using Your Bullet Journal to Have a Productive Day… When You Feel Brain Dead

by Ruth K Charlton

December 2016

This is not the post I intended for today, but I have been having one of those weeks. If you’re heading into double figures for how many times you’ve face palmed today, read on…

Now you have two options:

1. Declare the day a failure. Shut the curtains and hunker down until the day is over.

This is a completely valid option. There have been days I’ve announced to my kids that we’re pretending the house is a cinema, and we all sit under a blanket and watch Frozen. Again. And again.

But what if that isn’t an option? Most days there are things that you HAVE to get done, and you can’t put them off even if you do feel like a zombie.

2. Grab a pen and your other brain, your bullet journal (I would also be grabbing my largest mug and filling it full of coffee at this point) and write an Idiot’s Guide to Your Day.

Yes, I know it’s not very flattering to consider yourself as an idiot, but let’s be honest… we all have those days when we feel like one. Hopefully by doing this you’ll be able to fake being a functioning human being. No one else will know that this morning it took you ten minutes to make a cup of coffee because you didn’t turn the kettle on and then you poured your coffee into your breakfast bowl.

How to Write an Idiot’s Guide to your Day

Don’t worry, I’m going to keep this as simple as possible, as to be honest this week I’m not capable of much more:

Divide your page in two and, down the middle, write the hours of the day. This trick is called a time ladder and if you want to learn more about it read this article from The Bullet Journal. Mine looks like this:

What is happening when today? Write it all in on the left-hand side.

  • Meals
  • Work schedule
  • Appointments
  • Meetings
  • Activities
  • Vitamins/ medications you need to take

Is there any preparation time needed for any of them? Mark that on your time ladder too, being generous with the time you give yourself. Remember today everything is just going to take longer.

On the right-hand side, write each step of preparation needed for each of the activities.


I’m not going to lie, the reminder about going to the toilet before we leave is not just for my children. When you already feel like an idiot you don’t need the few of your functioning brain cells screaming But Where Is The Loo!

Now is there anything else that HAS to be done today?

  • Letters to be posted?
  • Food to buy?
  • Clothes to be washed?
  • Reports to write – if this is on your list on a brain dead day you have my sincere sympathies. Here’s three very quick tips to help with that:
    1. Put arse in chair.
    2. Start writing. No matter how rubbish, for that first draft just regurgitate whatever is in your brain on the page.
    3. Edit. Keep editing until it looks like an intelligent person wrote it. Tell no one the number of drafts it took. Or if you have to tell them, tell them the truth but with a laugh so that they’ll think you’re joking.

Moving on…

Now I know it’s hard but have a quick think about tomorrow. Is there anything happening then that needs preparing for today. For example if it’s Sunday, I know that first thing Monday morning there HAS to be my work uniform and two sets of school uniforms that are clean and ready. That means it has to be done on Sunday.

If you have a meeting at 9am first thing the next morning, what do you need to take with you? Stick it in a bag now and put it by your front door. You will thank yourself tomorrow. Do you need a map to get there? I even find it helpful to have Google Maps telling me where to drive on routes I’m fairly familiar with on brain dead days. If I’m not 100% certain. I managed to take a wrong turn on my way to the dentist this week. I’ve been with the same dentist since I was born. So be honest with yourself. The last thing you need is to be taking the wrong turns when you’re trying to get to an appointment and your brain cells number in the single digits.

Carry around a pen and paper with you today. Any to dos that occur to you today, scribble down, or other things you will need to remember. This is known as a mind sweep; I call it my outsourced brain, if you want to know more watch this excellent video about it from Laura at How to Get Your Shit Together.

Keep your bullet journal/mind sweep close at hand. For those many moments of when you walk into a room and can’t remember why, just flip open your bullet journal and check what you should be doing.

I hope these tips help, they certainly worked for me this week.

If you have any good tips please share in the comments below!

Hi, I’m Ruth! I’m a working mum with 3 young kids who is always within three feet of my planner and/or a cup of coffee. I’m a planner and productivity addict always on the lookout for ways to hack time and craft a delightful life. My usual habitats are my blog, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

3 thoughts on “Using Your Bullet Journal to Have a Productive Day… When You Feel Brain Dead

  • December 2, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    hahahaha! I love this article. This was so me the other day!

  • December 5, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    This is awesome! I love how you explained using the time ladder! I’ll be doing this TODAY!

  • January 26, 2017 at 9:06 AM

    Fantastic. Thank you for the good advices. And your humour in a sad situation.


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