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I am a planner girl at heart! I crave the feeling of certainty. One way to do that is by having all my to-do’s laid out in front of me. It helps me plan, it helps me keep track of what needs to be done.
Secretly though, I like to write things down just so I get the satisfaction of crossing it out once the task is all complete! I also like having all my things in one place – a place to jot down my thoughts, task lists, look at the progress of projects. It’s a difficult system to accomplish!
As a result, I have a collection of planners, agendas, cute notebooks and colored pens. I find faults with every manufactured planner. I have so many half-finished notebooks and at least three unfinished agendas just for 2018. Each notebook or planner has been used a grand total of one week, after which I abandoned the system because they didn’t fit into my planning system.
I have also had the privilege of trying every free digital product out there for tracking your task list, to-do list, thoughts, and scribbles – Google Keep, Todoist, Evernote, OneNote, and now Trello – you name it! All this trial and error has taught me a few things about myself: I like old fashioned pen and paper for most things, and ideally, I want everything in one place, not in different notebooks, or apps.
My life currently is in a bit of a flux, so it’s hard for me to commit to an organization system 6 months from now, not knowing what I’ll be up to. However, the one thing I know I’ll be committed to, is writing everything down!
Enter: the Bullet Journal!
I figured it’s probably about time I give this a shot. And lo and behold this is a system that has stuck! It passed the test of time – 3 months and counting (which is a commitment for me!)
However it did take a bit of time to get there!
So, what is a bullet journal you’re asking? It’s a system credited to Ryder Carroll, a designer based in New York. In his words, the bullet journal is meant “to help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”
Why does Bullet Journaling work?
Many claim it to be their second brain, it’s where they note every thought, every task, and to-do list.
For me, it was simply a system that worked – it’s a habit I’ve been able to stick with!
I’m a planner at heart
I’ve said this before, I love making plans. It’s my comfort zone. Execution is a work in progress, but planning is at my core. As much as I love those cute agendas at Indigo, I can never commit to the system. Some expect me to have monthly things to do, others space for daily to-dos or the amount of space is too small, too big. I don’t have scribble pages. I typically abandon these in a matter of days, maybe a week if it’s well done. So I knew I needed to be able to write things down!
The best part of the bullet journal is that it is your own system. Yes, there’s a bazillion guides on how to get started and what pages to include. But the one thing to keep in mind is that it’s supposed to make your life easier, not more difficult.
Creating this system in a notebook with pages of your own choosing is ideal because it can be a reflection of you! Don’t worry – I’ll walk you through how you can get started.
Because of the flexibility that comes along with the bullet journal, there is inherently a lack of commitment to one layout that goes into it.
If there is a layout that works for you, stick with it, if it doesn’t try a different layout. The important thing is that this system actually gives you the wiggle room to try different systems to fit your life, without having to buy a new notebook each time!
The all-in-one solution
It is a one-stop shop. I can easily carry my notebook in my purse, or have it sitting beside my bed for a place to collect my thoughts. If there’s a task I need to do, I can log it. If there’s an idea I had, I can jot it down. I’ve created a space for each idea or task I might have.
The whole maintenance of a bullet journal is an activity in self-awareness. I love that feeling of sitting down with my journal, and looking through the tasks, and writing down what I want to do next!
Even at the task level, if I took the time to write it down, it was important. If for some reason I didn’t get it done, I tend to think about whether it is something I need to write again, or it is something I’m deciding to abandon. This activity in mindfulness is necessary for me so I don’t overextend myself, or fool myself into committing to useless activity.
There’s space for creativity when you’re feeling it. Other times you can choose to stay minimalistic. I use the space to doodle, write down quotes I’ve read that stick with me, or even use different fonts and colors to practice lettering!
Steps to a successful bullet journal!
So how do you get started?
If you Google how to start bullet journaling (because naturally, that’s the place to start) there is no shortage of ideas.
Most go something like: all you need is pen and paper. Then they talk about all these logs, pages, index and trackers, and I honestly felt LOST at first! It felt like this huge time commitment and I felt creatively inadequate once I started seeing all these pretty spreads. As much as I would like to stare at a pretty journal, I had to stay grounded in what I really wanted out of my journal. I pretty much read all the advice and largely ignored it to come up with my own method!
So I’ll walk you through the steps I used to start my bullet journal.
Step 1: Get a fresh, new notebook and pencil
Trust me, this will help! Once you have a clean notebook, it’s like a clean slate. There is something inspiring about being able to look at a blank notebook, waiting to be filled. Plus, it’s an excuse to splurge of course!
I would suggest getting a dotted journal as it gives you enough rigidity to stay in line, but also flexibility to doodle around what you want.
I got one from Amazon, which serves its purpose for me. A lot of people use the Leuchtturm notebooks as well – these have numbered pages which could be useful if that’s how you want to design your system.
Step 2: Put that notebook aside, and grab a piece of paper (you’ll see)
Coming from a corporate background, I decided to use my business education to get to the core of the issue.
I started scribbling my thoughts on what my goals were.
- Projects: I divided my page into four squares, for the different projects I was working.
- Vision: I then wrote down my ultimate goal or vision with the project.
- Tasks: I drilled down on the tasks that I would need to do in order to the vision a reality
- Metrics: How would I know if I was successful?
At the root of it, what was I trying to accomplish? It’s easy to get lost in the day to day jumble. Organizing my journal in a way that helped me accomplish what I wanted to do gave me a foresight as to how I would design my journal!
Step 3: Design your journal
Now grab your notebook and pencil, open your notebook, and visualize how you’re going to design your journal. Pencil in the first few pages to get a feel of what pages you want to include.
I use a slightly different system because although I like to write things down, I also use a calendar, and several spreadsheets to keep track of things. I’ll walk you through what my bullet journal looks like in the next few posts!
Keys to success!
Don’t be intimidated
The whole idea of this system of bullet journaling is to get you organized in a way that fits your lifestyle! The only way you’ll get started is if you try!
You can work your way up to the “pretty” journal – the important thing is that it should be a system that makes your life easier!
Test your system
The best part of this system is that it’s flexible. If you are on vacation for a week, maybe you don’t want to dedicate a weekly spread to it. Or add a page halfway through the year because a new project came up!
Abandon what doesn’t work
Don’t feel pressured by all the pretty journals to stick with a system that doesn’t work for you! If you don’t have time to make your journal “pretty” just scribble in it with a black pen.
I’ll be posting about how my journal is organized over the next few weeks!
In the meantime, if you’re feeling ready for this – check out my Pinterest board where I’ve saved some awesome ideas for bullet journal page layouts and trackers!
Remember – This is supposed to make your life easier!
If not, don’t hesitate to change the format, and try again. The system is supposed to make your life easier, not more difficult.