Growing up, my vocabulary seriously lacked the word “organize.” My mother came into my bedroom, see the piles of clothes on the floor, the disarray of papers on the night stand, on the desk, and scream my first and middle name until I came running. I needed to clean my room if I had a prayer of going out with my friends. It used to drive her crazy. Over the years, I have gradually become more organized, thanks in part to living with a roommate and having to be on my best living behavior in college. However, true organization remained aloof to me. I tried looking for ideas on Pinterest, bought countless containers and invested in a good labeler. Still, my system seemed fractured.
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Enter Bullet Journal
One day, I’m scrolling through my Pinterest feed and I see it–a beacon of intriguing light–a pin on the board of one of the most organized people I know. My first thought was, a bullet journal? What in the world is that and why is a JOURNAL under her organization board? My curiosity got the better of me and I am so glad it did. The pin brought me to Kara Benz at Boho Berry. Her post on bullet journaling spoke of everything I had been looking for to improve my life through planning and organization.
Bullet journaling is a flexible organizing and planning system created by Ryder Carroll. Not sure how it works? Watch this quick video to get an idea of how it works.
For me, this was planning FREEDOM. Before I felt hindered by the tiny spaces in a calendar, or the bulky nature of a planner that I couldn’t change. The fact that this simple system was customizable to my priorities and personality changed everything.
When I first started bullet journaling, it was a hot mess. My very first page I ended up covering with a coloring page of an elephant after the sixth mistake (up until then I was too stubborn to start over, but six was my mistake tipping point). I took a deep breath, turned the page, and began again. After all, that is the beauty of the bullet journal. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
My first monthly (back in February) remained pretty scarce. I found I was really good at adding things to it, but not so great at returning to that page to see the monthly overview. In fact, I’m still tweaking my system (and making mistakes). My monthly spread evolved into a snapshot of something notable for the day instead of planning appointments. After all, I’m an avid Google Calendar user, so I don’t need to duplicate appointments that far in advance. I usually just add them to my weekly spread instead so I have a glimpse of the week. Appointments and Chores take up the first column in my weekly spread, which you can see below.
I used to spend tons of money on planners, only to find frustration and annoyance with their unchanging formats. Daily, weekly, and monthly planners all failed me because of their inflexibility. Sticky notes became a temporary lifesaver, but when I started bullet journaling, I found planning freedom. Not only does my bullet journal help me focus what I work on for the day (see my example daily to the right), but it is also fascinating to look over the course of a month and see a detailed record of my priorities, experiences, and goals.
Outside of the weekly and daily planning, I loved the spreads I saw that helped people track their habits and improve their organization through thoughtful personalizations. My Habit Tracker proved to be one of my most useful pages each month. I refer to it often throughout the day to see if I’ve done all the things I need to do (like take my vitamins, which I am notorious for forgetting). It also reminds me of my priorities for the month, like working on my blog every day. A few times throughout the day, I take breaks to track my progress so I can stay on track with my priorities.
Collections bring the fun into bullet journaling. Many people make collections to track their progress on T.V. Shows, Books they are reading, progress on saving money, and other productive collections. I have lots of collections, but my two favorites are my gratitude log and my memories collections. Each month, I leave a page dedicated to each of these collections.
I keep a gratitude log because I am trying to be more mindful of the things I do have instead of focusing on the things I don’t have or haven’t done yet. I’ve tried a few different versions of a gratitude log, but I am loving my current version. It was actually the only spread I maintained while I was packing and moving last week. This pushes me to think of something (or many things) I’m grateful for each day. They aren’t always full sentences. Most of them are just quick snippets, but I find I always sleep better if this is one of the last things I think about before going to bed.
I can’t help but smile every time I look at this spread. It’s one of the spreads I get to be creative with. It helps me see a snapshot of the things I’m proud of, important moments, and things I want to remember for years to come.
You can see in my May spread that it was a bit of an emotional month. I attended an amazing wedding for one of my close teacher friends, was in a lib dub called “Redstorm” during my last full month at work, and lost a wonderful friend and sorority sister. While some of these moments aren’t the happiest or biggest moments of my life, they are moments that matter and I want to remember them when I go through my bullet journals at the end of the year to see just what I’ve been up to all this time. Even more than that, I will be able to remember these moments years from now as the most important moments of May 2016.
While I will write a more detailed version of what I use and a breakdown of different spreads and their purposes, I did want to give a quick overview of the materials I use every day to bullet journal.
I jumped on the Leucchturm 1917 train right from the start. While I hope to try out some comparable notebooks, I don’t think I could ever do without the dot grid. I actually use two of these notebooks simultaneously, one as my bullet journal and another as a brainstorm journal for my novel. My current notebook is the Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook A5 Hardcover Dotted Medium Black. It was the one I could get the quickest to start bullet journaling. I already have my next journal, since I’m only about 80 pages from the end of this one, which is purple (my favorite color)!
My favorite pens to use as I’m bullet journaling are my Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens and my Pilot Metropolitan Collection Fountain Pen. I use my fountain pen for most of my bullet journaling. I love that it’s a little heavier than your average bic pen, but still light and agile. It feels so comfortable and natural in my hands. The fineliners are what I use to add pops of color to my spreads. I have been really happy with how my fineliners have lasted these past few months. I use them every day and none of them have dried out yet and I have had them since February!
Are you a bullet journaler like me? If so, please comment below with your favorite spreads, materials, and tips! Also, never miss a bullet journal post! Subscribe for updates in the sidebar to the right and don’t forget to connect with me on social media. I would love to hear from you!
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