A Geek’s Guide to Bullet Journalling

Bullet journalling is a hobby that has popped up in the last few years and become INSANELY popular among organization addicts. Basically, it’s a system involving a blank book and some specific symbols that are meant to help you organize your life. For some, it’s been a godsend, for others it’s extraneous to the digital organizers that are omnipresent in all our lives. It can also be a creative outlet, if you’re so inclined. Late to the party though I am, a new organizational system always appeals to me, so I decided to give this trend a whirl. I gifted myself a blank journal and a set of colored pens for Christmas and hit Pinterest with a vengeance.

I do not recommend this tactic. I was quickly overwhelmed, intimidated, and paralyzed with fear of messing up my pristine $5 journal. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest is a GREAT place to go once you know what you’re doing or what you want to do, but for blank-slate newbies, it’s just a little terrifying. I highly recommend exploring bulletjournal.com and watching their video to get the basics down. Even if you don’t think what they’re doing will work for you, it’s a good place to get started. Another good tip I got for overcoming nerves about “ruining” your journal is to give yourself a spread or two to just mess up. Draw or write whatever you want. I ended up with a “Welcome to 2018” spread with some inspirational phrases, another with a list of general goals for the year that I thought my BuJo could help me accomplish, and a third with a list of what I wanted to keep track of and some tips/notes I picked up from bulletjournal.com

I like words more than pictures, so I try to be creative that way. You do you.

It’s only been a few weeks, but I’m already starting to find my own way of doing things. I changed my weekly layouts based on how much space I need on which days. Going forward, I do think I would like to use a proper bullet journal designed for that purpose. Dividing the pages evenly in a regular old blank book is challenging and bugs my symmetry loving brain. I will also likely RELAX with the colored pens. I couldn’t help myself, this beautiful 30-pack was 1/3 the price it normally is and I was a major stationery addict in the pre-digital age. But it’s just not practical; some of these pens are not even legible. On top of which, I am not an artist, so there’s really no need for me to make sure I have every color of the rainbow available 24/7. I am also thinking that my monthly spread going forward will be just a big Master Task list from which to migrate bullets to my weekly spreads. I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to be putting on the page that lists the dates down the side. And I believe the operating theory for this hobby is, if it’s not working for you, lose it.

These are soooooo pretty, but kind of a pain in the ass to carry around.

So far, I’ve enjoyed collecting data and I feel like it’s been helpful with some of my goals. I’ve been trying to make sure to drink more water and be more active and charting has helped with both of those. I do sometimes worry I’m collecting data for its own sake and not using it for anything, as I have been known to do. It will be easier to know whether the data is useful after a little while. I also find the future log helpful for keeping track of those occasional tasks like a quarterly sewer bill or a child’s well visit to a pediatrician that’s scheduled three months in advance. And I have found that breaking down my task lists to the daily level (in the weekly spreads) helps me actually accomplish things.  My prior to-do lists were just long and overwhelming and could lead to ignoring all but the most important things, skipping over the little boring details. Now, I not only know what I need to do, but I am forced to find a place in the schedule to get it done.

I’m only through February and I’ve already used 1 of my 2 index pages? I’m screwed.

I’ve made some “mistakes” that you might be able to learn from. The most important of which is  to make a collection page when there’s something you want to start tracking, not when you think of something you *think* you’d like to track. In other words, don’t create a collection just to fill up your book, because you think you have to. Create a spread when you’ve had the thought “man that’s the 4th time I wish I’d remembered to do something” not when you have the thought “I really should [xyz] more often.” You will end up with blank wasted pages (which is ok, it’s a process). Another thing I’d recommend is, if you’re not artsy, don’t worry about being artsy. A lot of what you will see on Pinterest looks SO FANCY. 90% of it is beyond my reach and that’s OK. The point is to be more organized, the creative pretty part is a bonus. If you’re looking for recommendations of supplies that might be useful, I think that washi tape is a great easy way to make things look pretty and can be used to make tabs so you can easily flip back to a page you use often. Stencils are also a good idea if, like me, you can’t draw a straight line to save your life. And always, always, ALWAYS leave more room than you think you’ll need for your index. My index is 2 pages and the last entry in it is going to be to be the page number for the continued index because I ran out of room before I ran out of book.

So far, I like this hobby, it’s a fun and effective way to stay organized. I’m still not 100% sure whether I’ll stick with it or switch to a digital alternative, because it’s not quite as convenient as something I have on me all the time is. But I’ll keep it going for now and see where it takes me. Are you a bullet journaller? Newbie or seasoned pro, hit me with your tips and/or questions, I’d love to hear them!

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