Every so often I have guests on the blog because I think we all benefit with more ideas and perspectives on how to use your bullet journal – today I’m happy to share words from Katie about how to let go of the perfectionism we hold onto sometimes in our bujos.
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I remember when I first read about the concept of bullet journaling back in about August 2016. The idea instantly resonated with me, as I’ve been a passionate planner since I was about six years old. When I was growing up, my mom would regularly find lists that looked something like this littered all around the house:
I loved making those lists. There’s a feeling I got then and still get today when I dump the contents of my brain out onto paper in an organized fashion that is somewhat akin, I think, to a runner’s high.
Oh, and that’s not even the weirdest list-making practice that I engaged in as a kid. I also kept notebooks (yes, plural) filled to the brim with pages and pages of all of the first names that I knew, catalogued in alphabetical order. I was obsessed with names, and I just loved writing them down. Isn’t it fun to be able to look back on our younger selves and muse at the ways in which we haven’t changed a bit?
But anyway, back to bullet journaling. I knew I wanted to start, and I loved the idea of rapid logging. Then I started looking on Instagram for #bulletjournal and #bujo.
You guys, those Instagram bullet journalers are insane! They’re amazing artists who also have a knack for planning and organization – and, of course, the most flawlessly gorgeous spreads always end up being the most ‘recommended’ by Instagram. I loved looking at these pages because they gave me so many ideas for formats and concepts I could try out in my own journal. There was only one problem: I can’t draw to save my life. I have a very unsteady hand. I don’t particularly enjoy art. And I’m also known among some of my more Type A friends for being laughably un-perfectionist – I’m the kind of person who’ll eschew measuring cups while baking.
But monkey see, monkey do, right? I went out and bought my first bullet journal – a simple black Moleskine – as well as a bunch of colored pens and washi tape. For the first eight months or so that I bullet journaled, I tried so hard to make my pages aesthetically pleasing.
Look at those lopsided Easter eggs! I switched to a new spread about halfway through this week because this spread wasn’t working for me for some reason.
It’s not like I was beating up on myself for not being a good enough artist – not at all! It’s just that I was trying to be someone I wasn’t…in a bullet journal, of all places! I’ve since realized that my bullet journal is the place where I can absolutely be most myself. So why was I censoring or altering myself?
This one makes my eyes hurt just looking at it! It’s way too cluttered for my brain to take in.
Trying to make my bullet journal look too pretty wasn’t just taking up my time, either – it was actually hurting my productivity! These uber-fancy, elaborate pages weren’t set up in a way that would allow me to write out tasks in clear list form (which I’ve found is the way that works best for my brain). Instead, I was cramming all of my tasks into little boxes that were not easy to look at; and, worst of all, I would often quit using a spread halfway through the week (or pepper the page with extra sticky notes) because it wasn’t working for me.
So, this is pretty much what my bullet journal looks like these days. I’ve switched to using a form of rapid logging with a rolling sidebar that shows what I’ve got scheduled that week. For awhile, I tried doing rapid logging on its own, but it always drove me crazy not to be able to see what I had scheduled three days down the road, for example. This way, I can see my week at a glance, then I just write out each individual day’s to-do list and scheduled events either the night before or the morning of. As you can see, I’ll also sometimes do little diary entries of something that happened that day (such as pitching this blog post to Jessica, hehe), but I don’t put any pressure on myself to do those unless I want to.
As a freelance writer and graduate student, I also feel the need to always have kind of a master weekly to-do list at hand so that I can pull tasks from that each day that I feel like doing. For me, this system offers the perfect marriage of flexibility and structure. It may or may not work for you.
Here’s an idea of what my monthlies look like now, too. I forego color, decoration, and washi tape unless I’m feeling inspired. Have you guys ever heard of the philosophy of intuitive eating? Without going into too much detail, it’s basically the idea that honoring your hunger and eating however your body tells you to eat is the healthiest way to live. Well, I think what I now practice is essentially intuitive bullet journaling! Occasionally, I’ll get the inspiration to do a cool little doodle or attempt a funky-looking monthly design, but 95% of the time, my practical side wins out and I end up using a spread that isn’t too pretty, but just plain works…and that makes me happy!
Now, I want to be clear – my ‘pretty’ bullet journal pages might be messier than your most ‘whatever’ spread ever; or, on the other hand, my plainclothes, functional pages might be more elaborate than anything you’d ever dream of sketching out. My point is, I guess, that we’re all different, and we all use our bullet journals for different purposes. And that’s why I love bullet journaling! It can be absolutely anything we want it to be; we set the definition.
Now that I have a less rigid personal definition of what bullet journaling can look like, I don’t hesitate to recommend it to all of my friends – whether their organizational style is type A or more like type Z. I’ve yet to convert anyone, but I won’t stop trying!
Katie is a freelance writer and aspiring school psychologist from Vancouver, Canada. When she’s not writing, studying, or bullet journaling, she can be found running, singing a cappella, or playing with her friends in their wedding band, the I Dudes. You can check out her writer website here.