Pretty Good Actually: Bullet Journal

So, this is a pretty accurate picture of the inside of my brain at all times:


the linked article from also really gets me

Throughout my life, I have always preferred to have too much going on than not enough. I like to have my hands in lots of projects and I am often having ideas about what to do next. Hilariously, though, I am also a chronic procrastinator. To add insult to injury, I also have a work schedule that has inconsistent hours and my busy-ness ebbs and flows from week to week, so I don’t have a good, structured routine to my life. As you can guess, my brain is always pinging around, thinking of all the random things I need and/or want to get done, but when I have a chance to actually sit down and do stuff, I am so unfocused and overwhelmed that I just zone out and watch YouTube videos, then wonder why I never actually get anything done.

Yes, I am aware of Evernote. And Google Calendar. And the Notes app. There are tons of tools out there that work great for some people, but I guess I have come to terms with the fact that I am more analog, more kinesthetic- I am way more inclined to remember something that I have physically written down with a (really nice) pen in a (really nice) notebook than popping into an electronic calendar that has no top or bottom or sides or frame for my brain to hold on to it with. I’ve tried traditional planners on and off over the years, and while some have had features that were flexible enough for me, most left me feeling too restricted, or like I was wasting pages that didn’t apply to me.

A few months ago, some articles related to Bullet Journals were popping up in my feed on Facebook. At first I rolled my eyes. I mean, sure, I’ve been sucked into watching videos of people planning in their Erin Condren planners and thought this was straight crazy- who has all this time to plan their week WITH STICKERS and templates and pages they bought from etsy?? You would have to plan your planning! It was all to twee for this girl, plus I could see it becoming a great way to procrastinate actually doing the things I was planning. But there was something about the Bullet Journal that made me click on one of these posts, and it suddenly all made sense:

A Bullet Journal isn’t a planner; It’s a place to put my brain.

The creator of the Bullet Journal system (Ryder Carroll) kept things simple. You need a notebook (any notebook will do!) and a pen. Each section is basically a list. A list of days in the month. A list of tasks and a simple system to note if you completed them, or moved them to the next list. A list of books you want to read. A list of your favorite songs for the year. Random ideas you have. Whatever. It is completely flexible and adaptable to YOUR BRAIN and how it wants to deal with information, but it’s kept in one indexed notebook, not scattered around on hundreds of random post it notes, napkins, and apps.

bullet-pensHere’s my bullet journal. It is a soft cover Moleskin with a dot-grid pattern on the pages. See, I’m a sucker for a nice notebook, so the tactile experience of opening and writing in this type of book really makes me happy, but you can use any notebook you like. I also have a few pens that I like- a Sharpie fine point pen, Stablio pens in a bunch of colors, and this Japanese mildliner. This is about the extent of my craziness. Ok fine- I have a few rolls of washi tape, which I use to edge pages that I want to be able to access quickly.


First Thing’s First: Time Management

future log

future log

One of the first things you want to add is an index. After that, it’s up to you. I started mine with a Future Log, which honestly, I didn’t think I would use. Turns out, it’s a great place to stick stuff that you want to remember in the future, but don’t have a place for yet. For example, I needed to remember to renew my license plates in October, but when I started my journal in September, I didn’t have an October to write it in.



month view

Here’s October, over to the left. Now you may be thinking “Jess, um, are you really taking the time to draw a calendar when calendars already exist??” Yes, yes I am. I find it oddly soothing and settling somehow to look at a month, draw it, and then add all of my out-of-the-ordinary appointments, events, and anything else I want to see a “big picture” view of (like those blue E&N posts).


daily view

Next, we have weekly pages. I know! I hear you! “This is so redundant!!” But that, my friend, is the beauty. I can see the whole year, the whole month, then a whole week, and actually have a grasp on it. Some people go on to daily pages after their weeks, but I haven’t had a reason to drill down that far (I do still keep my daily work appointments on an electronic calendar). The weekly pages are my favorites- I divide it into days of the week for noting tasks or appointments that are attached to a day and time, and then have a list of “to do’s” that can get done any time that week. Another thing I like about the Bullet Journal is that you never have to go backwards- if I don’t complete a task one week, I “migrate” it to the next week’s to do list. If I find I keep writing the same task again, I can either decided if it’s even worth doing, or if I just want to get it done so I don’t have to write it again. And yes, I also really enjoy the ritual of sitting down on Sunday night, planning out the next week. It helps me gain some focus, and prepares me for what’s coming down the road. It takes me about 15 minutes.

Lists on Lists on Lists

planning a trip!

planning a trip!

Here’s the fun part: rapid logging. These are pages just in and around your journal (again, thanks to the index, you can just put them wherever!) where you can keep lists. I have lists of blog post ideas, things I want to get done in my office, vacation planning, and ideas for holiday gifting. Eventually, I might also include some goal tracking, or maybe shows I want to catch up on. See? This way I don’t have to actively remember, or keep emails flagged, or worry that my notes app might disappear into the ether.


habits- do I even lift??

Another type of tracking I’ve been playing with is habit tracking- you list the things you want to keep an eye on, and then fill in square on the date you completed it. This has made me realize that while I tell myself I lift 2-3 times a week, I actually lift like once usually. Honesty is hard sometimes, guys.

If you do some poking around online on Bullet Journaling, you will quickly find that yes! People are crazy here too! A lot of Pinterest-worthy Bullet Journals have beautiful calligraphy, layouts that look like a graphic designer created them, stickers, drawings, and pages of shit that I don’t need. The beauty of a Bullet Journal, right at it’s core, is that it can, and should be, incredibly simple. It is a place to put your brain, so when you find yourself with an hour of free time and loading up YouTube, you can say “wait, is there something I can check off my list?”. I’m still a newie bullet-er, but so far, it has really helped me get my shit together. And really, isn’t that what we’re all chasing after in this crazy life??

How do you plan your life? What should I plan next??

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