I admit it– I haven’t always lived with my best intention. In fact, in the past few years I worked tirelessly to “find my calling,” even though deep down I always knew. The day I published my first book in kindergarten (an ABC book), I knew. Incidentally, I always gravitated toward writing. I wrote children’s books in elementary school. Short stories and poems poured out of me while I was in middle school. I wrote fan fiction in high school. Choosing a major in college proved easy. Creative Writing was my calling. Yet, I ignored it for years.
My Discovery of Bullet Journaling
In late January, I knew I had big changes coming down the pike. My move to Maryland was only six months away and I still had so much to figure out regarding what I would do when I got there. I had every intention of figuring it out much sooner, but I became increasingly distracted with trying to set my school up to replace me. While that responsibility was certainly important to my transition, I needed to spend some time focusing internally to plan my next move.
I’d tried blogging before, but never with the intention of making it my business or primary income stream. It wasn’t until I discovered bloggers like Kara from Boho Berry and Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog that I began to think it was possible to make blogging my job. Even then, I was intensely afraid of failure. I still am. However, I have a tool in my toolbox that I didn’t have before: my bullet journal.
After reading Kara’s post on mindfulness through bullet journaling, I Googled everything I could find about bullet journaling. After rifling through a ton of blog posts, instagram pictures, and joining some wonderful Facebook groups, I went all in. I splurged on the idolized Leuchtturm 1917 Notebook* and Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.* As I waited for them to arrive, I poured over the beautiful spreads posted daily and took screenshots of spreads I wanted to try. I filled the first 30 pages of my bullet journal in a manner of days. On February 3rd, I wrote, “The scary truth is, I have no idea what to do for a living after I make the move. Am I going to be able to stand on my own writing?” This question still haunts me.
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My Evolution of Planning
In the beginning, I tried way too many things at once and the results told me a great deal about myself. In my February review, I noticed that I had about 8 different spreads of trackers, challenges, and logs that were all taking a nose dive. Due to trying so many things at once, everything suffered. I didn’t prioritize, which was a key lesson in those early months. March proved to be much better in settling into my priorities and discovering that creating and blogging inspired me. I kept returning to blogging in my head and many of the people I admire and aspire to be like are bloggers and writers. This was unbelievably clear by a lot of the goals I created in my bullet journal.
I set out to begin incorporating these goals into my planning. Over the course of the next few months, I used my bullet journal as a medium for building my knowledge around blogging and planning for the future. I took notes on webinars, brainstormed blog posts, and wrote down everything I learned in my bujo. Now, as my first bullet journal reaches its end, I’m going through and deciding what to transpose into the next one and how to utilize everything I learned in the past six months to move forward with both my life planning and my blog.
Streamlining My Planning & Finding Gratitude
In February and March, By April, I’d streamlined my priorities and stuck with only the following spreads for each month:
- Habit & Cleaning Trackers
- Gratitude Log
- Memories Spread
- Plan With Me Challenge Spread
Finally, it seemed as if I was getting some planner peace. I loved writing my gratitude log every day. It helped me feel more appreciative of what I have and remind me that even though I’m going through a pretty intense transition, I have a great deal to be thankful for. The Memories Spread acted as a reminder of all the “big moments” in my month. Some were small victories. Big events like weddings and funerals made appearances, but overall these two spreads really increased my appreciation for the life I’m living, while building a capacity to plan for the life I want.
Learning to Tailor My Planner to Me
I very quickly discovered that my needs differed slightly from a lot of the bullet journal spreads I found. I would try them and always find something missing or that didn’t quite suit me as a planner. The beauty of the bullet journal (that I had not been able to do in any other planning system) is the fine-tuning process. I can start with a beautifully structured spread, test it out for a few days, a week, or a month, and then tweak it for my needs. I tanked at fine-tuning in the beginning and actually let my frustration get the best of me in some cases (monthlies, especially). It wasn’t until I started taking sticky notes at the end of each month, going through every page from that month, and jotting down ideas for improvement for the following month that I started to see some changes.
My Biggest Blogging Mistakes
Boy did I make a ton of mistakes over the course of the past few months. Between missing entire days of planning (hello, life gets in the way occasionally) and playing catch up with my trackers, I have a lot of empty space in this first bujo. Behold, my bullet journal shame!
Ultimately, this always came back to what I learned in the beginning: trying to do too much at once. It also partially stemmed from a lack of dedicated planning time in my daily routine. I kept trying to do things on the fly and then would get frustrated when I didn’t get everything done. July has been the month for dedicating time to planning every morning, which has helped solve this problem initially. I hope as I move into August that I’ll be able to capitalize some quick evening planning time as well to help reflect on the day.
My Monthly Saga
Monthlies became an epic fail fairly quickly. As I looked back at my monthly spreads for this reflection, the same thought popped into my head every time: empty. May proved to be my best month, where I filled the most space, but only because all the things I wrote in there I knew about at the beginning of the month. In true form, I looked at it maybe twice the whole month. In June, I gave up on a monthly altogether. Monthlies, it seemed, were my planning nemesis.
But, I refuse to give up.
For August, I decided to give the Calendex method I’d heard about a few times a try. I set it up early so that I could start using it prior to the beginning of the month. I will keep you posted on my results with my own review of the system, but so far, so good!
I love trackers. I love the idea of them and everything they stand for. The problem with an individual tracker (the ones that only track one thing) is the separation from everything else. They certainly seem to work for some people, but these are by far my emptiest pages. They’re the neglected pages in my bujo, unfortunately. This taught me to integrate my trackers more intentionally. I have incorporated quite a few of them into my weeklies as a reminder. I also have a page filled with blog-specific and personal development trackers that runs opposite of my 6-month calendex for the second half of the year. This means I have to look at both on a consistent basis, at least for the next month. Ultimately, this will bring me more opportunity to succeed with it, right? Let’s hope it doesn’t end up like some of my other trackers.
Learning to Live with Intention
@tinyrayofsunshine @boho.berry @prettyprintsandpaper #planwithmechallenge Day 11 the black notebook is my bullet journal but the turquoise notebook is my planning journal for the novel I'm writing (and hopefully trilogy if I can get it right). I keep these two with me at all times and whenever I get a few minutes I can usually be found scribbling in one of them. #bulletjournal #bujojunkies #planneraddict
When I began bullet journaling, I knew it would help me organize my thoughts and priorities. After all, so many people who blogged about it gave direct testimony of this fact. What I didn’t know was how much of an impact it would have on focusing how I wanted to live my life. For perhaps the first time in my life, I have focus and direction regarding the things I want out of life, instead of the things people began to expect from me. I know that for the first time in my life I am pursuing something that matters. I am getting back on track to the person I aspire to be and a great deal of that I attribute to bullet journaling.
Many people discuss the “right way” to bullet journaling, and whether or not there is even a right way. I think there is only one attribute for doing it right–doing it with intention. If everything you do to plan and reflect is helping you live a better life and be more aware of the life you want to lead, then the bujo is doing its job, and you’re doing yours.
What are some lessons you have learned while bullet journaling? Share them in the comments below. Also, I’d love to talk to you on social media! Say hi on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
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