My Bullet Journal Has No Bullets

January 29, 2017

I think I first saw bullet journaling on Pinterest. But some brief research led me to the original Bullet Journal creator - Ryder Carroll - and his website, which is great for teaching you the basic premise of bullet journaling and then offering to sell you one that is sold out. Carroll's "speed of life" journaling system & product is a Kickstarter success story, having raised about $80,000 of its $10,000 goal. It's pretty awesome, but it wasn't for me.

 

The idea behind a bullet journal is that you create your own unique planner/journal/diary/to do list and use little bullet graphics to make looking at your life's chaos a lot faster and easier. Carroll's website, of course, does a great job of outlining the basics. The "Rapid Logging" system is designed so you can quickly note goings-on and track their progress - everything from events to long-term goals to reminders to do your freaking laundry. You really do just need a notebook and a pen.

 

But why write things down when you can just ask Siri to remind you?

 

Fair. Especially because you're already carrying around your phone. Just consider that old fashioned journaling and using technology are not mutually exclusive. I ask the Google Assistant to remind me of things all the time; I especially love that she is GPS-ing me constantly (with eerie accuracy), so she can remind me to do all the things as soon as I get home that I couldn't accomplish at the office.

 

My bullet journal serves a different purpose, and I have very quickly moved away from using it as a task tracker like Carroll intended. Instead, I use my "bullet" journal as an outlet for creativity that conveniently doubles as a habit tracker, daily gratitude log, calendar, book list,  baby name brainstorm book, and source of inspiration. I have a page for keeping track of birthdays, a page for noting things I want to learn, and an un-numbered page in the middle of the journal that was an accident but is now an opportunity to hide my secret plans for world domination (maybe...I haven't figured out what to use it for yet).

 

The most important thing I've learned so far about bullet journaling is that it is not going to work for you unless you make it work for you. I don't mean you need to practice following the same system Carroll designed, or even the same system you used last week - in fact, over the course of this month, I have tried totally different layouts each week and worked on including/excluding different sections to see what I really want and need. None of them are perfect, but after four weeks of experimentation, I finally have something that will probably work for me going forward. And if it stops working for me, I'll just change it again. It's MY journal, so I have the freedom to do that.

 

Your journal needs to work for you, whatever that looks like.

 

It turns out journaling, on actual paper, with pens, is also pretty fun. Adult coloring books are a huge movement right now, with the pitch that they will help you de-stress - and it's true. After a long day of taking calls about broken toilets, roof leaks, and stuck elevators, I am more than ready to relax at the end of the day with some freaking adult coloring time. Plus, my brain feels a lot better when the TV is on in the background but I'm focused on creating something instead of consuming it like a zombie. Bullet journaling is like adult coloring on steroids. Maybe it's because I can justify it as something #productive, or maybe it's because I'm creating something from scratch instead of coloring inside lines someone else drew. Either way, my bullet journal is sans bullets because it's a free-form creative expression of me - and it turns out I'm not the bullet type. Maybe you will be, but if you decide to try bullet journaling, remember not to impose too many rules/systems/standard formats right away. Give yourself time to experiment and see what works for you.

 

One other thing I've discovered about bullet journaling is that it creates a unique record of day-to-day life. I don't stop myself from going back and making notes about past events; I write in when I change an appointment; I even add it in when I do something spontaneous with a friend so I'll have a record of it later. The coolest gift I got for Christmas was a bunch of old calendars and journals my mom had about me, starting with her third month of pregnancy. There's literally a calendar of my first year of life that says what the family did almost every single day (even on days that just say "Mom was sick" or "Chels helped grocery shop"). The closer I get to being a mom myself, it seems more and more important to document who I am and how I spend my time. My bullet journal is already a glimpse into my passions (reading, music), how I spend my time (my job, dates with friends, what shows I'm watching), and even things directly relating to my future kid (12 week doctor visit, stayed home from work). Not to mention, by including things like my daily gratitude log and list of things I want to learn, future me (and others lucky enough to see this journal someday) will get to reminisce about this time in my life, how I was changing, and what I was working on. It's almost like a weirdly specific time capsule.

 

I would recommend bullet journaling (in a super flexible, fluid way) to:

 

- people looking for a creative outlet

- people trying to become more organized

- people working on building or breaking habits

- people who need a little more inspiration in their everyday lives

- seriously anyone

- just try it

 

If you do decide to try bullet journaling, you should start at Carroll's website for a foundation and then simply Google "bullet journal ideas" or look on Pinterest or other websites for different formats, sections to try including, fun printables, stickers, drawing tutorials, etc. Here are some sections you might want to try:

 

- index (I use it to keep track of pg #s for randomly-placed non-calendar pages)

- 2017 year calendar

- birthdays

- month layout

- monthly habit tracking (you can also do this weekly or even daily)

- weekly layout pages, possibly including:

   - calendar overview

   - sneak peek @ next week

   - playlist (what you're listening to)

   - sticky notes/things not to forget

   - TV guide (this helps me watch less)

   - what I'm reading

   - meal planning (this did not last for me, but could work for some)

   - daily gratitude log

   - dollars & sense (to make goals or track spending)

   - brain dump

   - fun quotes/stickers/photos/etc. to motivate or inspire you

- "I want to learn"

- places to go

- to read list

- addresses/phone numbers/passwords/other important life notes

- literally anything you can think of that you'd want to try in your journal

 

Remember to not impose too many rules on yourself, know that you can't *always* draw straight lines or have perfect handwriting, and most importantly - have fun!

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