Journaling Journeys #2: Planning with Autism

by | Mar 25, 2020 | Journaling Journeys

It’s already time for the second Journaling Journeys post and this time we have an interesting take from Lydia of Mademoisellewomen who uses her Journal to help her manage her daily life with Autism. It’s something that really opened my eyes to the impact the Bullet Journaling and planning with Autism can have. Read on to hear about her experience.

Read more Journaling Journeys stories here.

About Lydia

Hello! My name is Lydia, and I am a blogger over at Back in January 2015 I was diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder; I document this on the blog and on my Instagram. This includes looking at travel, writing creatively, interviewing people such as Anastacia, reviewing books … and collecting stationery. I am also a freelance journalist with an NCTJ qualification; you can see my work in places such as The Independent, Readers Digest, Refinery 29 and more. I also am beginning to work as an Autism trainer where I live! I have issues associated with my Autism Spectrum Disorder. executive dysfunction can mean that I struggle with organisation and planning. And that’s where I started to journal and plan.

What kind of journal do you currently use? 

I was gifted a notebook from Nero’s Notes; it’s a gold, hardcover Leuchttrum 1917 notebook. I wouldn’t call it a Bullet Journal, as I prefer to write long-hand; I have adapted some bullet journal spreads, I guess? It’s just a kind of all-in-one notebook. The different sections of my life have different sections, but the long-hand need disqualifies it from being a bullet journal, I think. The adaptations I’ve put in place make it easier for me to juggle multiple roles, and recall information I need – like conversations with a source as a journalist.

Lydia uses a bronze Leuchtturm1917 to plan

How did you begin your journaling journey? 

At college I began to mess around with various systems; I had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder maybe eighteen months before. Not a lot of thought had been given to organisation, and keeping on top of things, I feel. A Levels are a step up from secondary school; I had a lot to adapt to. At the time I was also running my blog – and that included interviewing people.

On top of this, I would sometimes write for the local press where I live; I was a monthly columnist for my county newspaper for about two years. The college I attended was not good, and closed down in my first year; changes can occasionally be a struggle for me. To begin with, I used a Filofax. I still have it; it’s battered, but still a favourite thing of mine. It’s almost like an old friend! But a Filofax is just a bit too rigid; I couldn’t plan my routine in the detail I needed, or plot goals for a week.

Then Bullet Journalling exploded online at the time. (I’d later interview the creator of the Bullet Journalling system!) I’d return to it around the time I undertook my NCTJ diploma – but the adaptations took a while. After, while going freelance, I was disorganised to the extreme, prone to changing notebooks quickly and ineffectively. Now, I have a monthly planner; a notebook I designate with a theme, and every possible detail I need to plan my daily life while coping with my Autism.

Lydia of mademoisellewomen shares with us how she uses her bullet journal to plan her life with autism

What areas of your life has journaling had the biggest impact on? 

My organisation has become far better! Executive Dysfunction can be difficult to explain, as Autism is a spectrum; everyone is different. I struggle with aspects of time-keeping; this can be how long for a task, for instance. I also find it challenge to work at the most productive level, such as by prioritising tasks that need to be done first. Juggling deadlines makes this difficult at times – so putting your brain on paper into a plan can help me.

Interoception is another sense we all have; it’s the bodily sensation we equate with emotions. For example feeling nervous may be butterflies in your stomach. Some people on the spectrum can struggle with this; I know I do. But I have a way of tracking this on a daily basis; the chart helps me, and it stops burnout.

Were you surprised by anything when you started journaling? How did your journaling process change or develop? 

I like structure. But creating the structure I needed was difficult; that’s what surprised me. I cannot draw to save my life; it’s frustrating to see elaborate bullet journal spreads online, then failing to replicate them exactly. For a month, I need different viewpoints; this includes a calendar to see the month at a glance, a weekly overview to set goals and daily things (like shorthand, scheduling emails) to not forget, and two pages to a day. (A kind of chart to juggle appointments, things like walking the dog, and everything on my to do list for that day.)

Lydia has modified her bullet journal to suit her needs for planning with autism

What advice do you have for someone wanting to start a journal? 

To quote from an old APPLE advert; simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. So try not to overthink things. If you aren’t artistic like me, it doesn’t matter. Just try not to get bogged down in pursuit of the Instagram curated perfection! I also think it’s good to consider what you need. A Filofax is good, but can be limited in what it offers; mine grew to be so stuffed it weighed my bag down significantly! Bullet journals are a great concept, but the use of the key and categorising confuses me; I prefer long-hand, and have created my own way of planning around this.

Do you have experience of planning with autism? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

This month in Journaling Journets I have a contribution from Lydia who shares how she goes about planning with autism and using a journal to suit her unique needs.


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