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I’ve started a bullet journal. Since as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a diary or journal of some sort. It started with notebooks when I was a child, with scribbles and Dear Diarys and fluffy, brightly coloured covers. Then, the more sober notebooks with details of my obviously very interesting love life. And eventually, I started writing an online journal on LiveJournal (with a few experiments on other journaling sites first).
All of these journals ultimately ended up facing the same fate. The same fate, in fact, I’m struggling to stop this very blog from facing. I would just…stop writing in them. I get distracted easily, and often my mind wanders and things fall by the wayside without me intending for it to happen. It’s because of this wandering mind that I am interested in bullet journaling.
What is a bullet journal?
The first question I asked myself is, “What the heck is a bullet journal?” From what I’d heard, you basically just wrote lists of things to yourself, and hoped you’d follow it. I operate pretty well with lists, but it didn’t make sense to create an entire journaling method just for lists that I was already doing.
What I came to learn was that bullet journals are, indeed, short lists and tasks. But they’re also so much more. I’ve used prefab planners before and struggled to keep up with them. Little did I know, I was feeling mentally stifled. The Bullet Journal system was created by Ryder Carroll, and it amazed me how something so simple could become so essential to my life and productivity.
Bullet journals are whatever you need them to be. Most people start with a blank notebook (often a dotted one like this Leuchtturm1917 Dotted A5 notebook, which is the very one I use!) so they have the most freedom. You can lay it out in months, and go as granular as you want (one day per page, one week per double page etc). Most bullet journalers will also have other trackers they’ve created, such as daily habits or intentions, sleep trackers, mood trackers, or fitness trackers.
Why I started a bullet journal
As I mentioned above, planners just weren’t working for me. I found myself feeling restricted in what I could record, and it just didn’t motivate me. I’ve always been a creative person, and having specific boxes I had to fill in that were the same every month just did nothing for me.
On top of that, I was finding it hard to keep track of my thoughts and stay focused. Now that I work from home and am trying to finish a novel, I have to be able to keep myself motivated. I was finding it harder and harder to achieve my goals with absolutely no structure.
Part of me wanted something that would keep me on track with all of my goals. The other, less logical part of me, wanted a place I could express myself and doodle and have a good time. Bullet journal to the rescue!
How I use my bullet journal
Everyone uses a bullet journal in a different way. The great thing about it being created from scratch is you are in complete control of doing what works for you. Best of all, if you try something and find it doesn’t work, you can just remove it and try something new next month. Or even next week, depending on how far ahead you’ve planned!
I personally have mine separated into months. At the beginning of each month, I have a monthly log showing all of the days and what I know ahead of time. I add an “intentions log” where I record specific things I intend to do each day (or at least multiple days a week, such as streaming). In my journal, I also have a stream tracker to track goals, viewership, and event streams. I include a gratitude page to remember things I’m grateful for. This could also double as a happiness page if you find you sometimes struggle with negative feelings.
Then comes the meat of my Bullet Journal. I chose to break mine down into weeks, spread across two pages. Here is where I record weekly tasks and events, as well as individual days with more detail. Sometimes I put everything in here. Others, I just record the most vital information. It depends on how much I need. If I’m having a week where I struggle with motivation or feel like I haven’t achieved anything, I record lots of small tasks to keep me going. This is where being a project manager comes in handy for personal projects!
Why my bullet journal has become essential
I never expected my Bullet Journal to become such an important part of my daily routine. And yet it has. There are a few things that make my BuJo important to me. First of all, it feels much more personal than a rigid planner. Whilst I am tracking my tasks and goals, I am also thinking of things I need reminded of. And I don’t mean just “What do I need to do today?” kinds of things. I mean things like being kind to myself, or that progress often comes slowly but that is still good and something to be proud of.
Another thing I love is that my intentions pages show me a map of my month, and how well I stuck to things I wanted to do. They might be work related (write X number of words per day, or publish X number of articles this month). Often they’re self-improvement or self-care related, such as doing some exercise, practising singing, or just drinking enough water. I even have some relationship related things to remind me to make relationship time a priority. Looking back, I can see an entire month as a pattern, showing me where I need to improve.
My friend Heather at Hey, Heather Bee said this, and I whole-heartedly agree:
What makes the Bullet Journal unique from other planning systems is that it was created to be forgiving. You do not have to wait until January or August to start, like most standard planners.
I started mine in April, and didn’t feel like I was wasting large amounts of space in a standard planner. The forgiving nature of Bullet Journal as a system means you feel more accepting of mistakes, too. Mistakes are a part of being human, and I’ve learned to go easy on myself for making them. I’ve written the wrong month on parts of my journal tons of times. Over time, I’ve just got used to embracing it. And using lots of washi tape!
So is a Bullet Journal right for me?
I don’t think Bullet Journals are right for everyone. It can seem very open-ended and intimidating, which is weird considering how freeing it’s supposed to feel. However, if you can commit to taking the time to find the right method for you, it can be immensely helpful. To quote Morpheus from The Matrix, “Free your mind.”
If you find other methods of planning too restrictive, or just find you can’t stick to them, it might be worth giving a Bullet Journal a try. You don’t need an expensive notebook to get started. I love my Leuchtturm, but if you want to stay budget-conscious you can use any notebook. There’s always the option to upgrade if you like it!
Are you a part of the BuJo crowd? What do you find most useful about your Bullet Journal?