Last June, I stumbled across something that would change my life: the bullet journal system. I still don’t really know how it happened (Did I see something posted on Facebook? Was it on Instagram? Who knows!), but I soon fell deep into a well filled with spreads, stationary and notebooks.
Don’t know what a bullet journal is?
My post The Bullet Journal – Why I Use It & Why It Works will explain everything!
A year later, I’m still rocking the system and I’ve learned a few things along the way… Let me share them with you!
1. My Mind is Free(ish)
I admit it, I get overwhelmed easily. I always have so many things to do, whether it be at school, at home or in my personal life, that there’s always something going on in my brain. The hamster on its wheel, you know? When my mind is too full, I start to panic and lose all capacity to be effective, running around like a wild woman, starting a million things and finishing none.
Every night (almost), I now sit and take five to ten minutes to write down everything that’s going through my head. All those to-do lists and stuff I don’t want to forget. Taking that short amount of time daily allows me to get out of my head and make sure I’ll get things done when they need to get done. And if it’s not something time sensitive, it still helps to see it written on paper. My memory knows that it can let go of it and focus on something else.
2. Short Lists Are Best
I know this, but still I don’t apply it. Even though I know that seeing a mile-long list of things to do gets me completely overwhelmed (see previous point) I have a tendency to write neverending to-do log. I’m clearly overestimating my capacities. And when I can’t cross out everything I wrote down, I don’t feel good about myself.
I really need to get better at this. Right now, I’m trying to let myself off the hook when I need to migrate tasks and celebrate little victories.
3. It Doesn’t Have to Take Hours
When I show my bujo to people I sometimes get reactions like: “Whoa! How long do you spend on that?! I certainly don’t have the time to do something like it!”
I then reply that it actually takes me only 5 to 10 minutes each night before bed, around 30 minutes on a Sunday to plan my week and about an hour at the end of the month to set the upcoming one. And that, yes, it’s also a hobby to me so I enjoy spending time making it beautiful and colorful.
Bullet journaling does NOT have to be a hour-long thing, though. It can be if YOU want and if it fits in your schedule. But, honestly, jotting down a to-do list with a date can be done very quickly.
4. I Listen To My Needs
The beauty of the bullet journal is that you can customize it indefinitely. You can make it exactly as you want and need. I know it’s tempting to add collections because you’ve seen the spreads on Pinterest and “they’re sooooo pretty!” I know, I know. I’ve been tempted too.
What I’ve realized over the last year is that whenever I create a spread that’s not really suited to my needs, I end up not using it. What’s the point, then, I ask you? Now, I’m better at figuring out what is essential to me and what is just something I can look at on my phone and drool. And related to this…
5. Trends Are Not Always For Me
Strange but yes, even in the planning community, there are trends. A few people are considered ‘bullet journal experts’. I love and follow many of them. But sometimes, one of them will come up with a new spread, a new idea, a new kind of tracker, etc., and then, all of a sudden you’ll see everyone adding it to their bujos.
I’ve realized over the months that while some of the trends I saw did fit my style and answered a need, some of them I had absolutely no use for. That doesn’t mean they’re not great. There just not for me and so, I skip them.
6. I’ve Stopped Comparing
Ah! This one! We allllll do it! We start our bujo and we spend hours on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook looking at ALL THE BEAUTIFUL SPREADS, the headers, the brush lettering, the doodling… And then we either want to copy all of those, or we feel like our bullet journal is ugly and a piece of crap.
I’m telling you, don’t do it. That’s not what the bullet journal is about. It’s great if you want to make yours pretty if that makes you happy and you have the time to do so. But the important thing is that your bujo keeps you organized. That’s it. You do you and stick to what you like and what works.
7. Finding My Style Took Time
At first, I wasn’t sure how to organize my notebook. I tried different things. Some worked, some didn’t. Some I’ve been using since the beginning and some were a one time fling. As you fill the pages of your notebook of choice, you’ll develop your style and that’s perfect.
That’s what happened to me and my style is still evolving as we speak. Don’t be afraid to branch out and to try different stuff until you stumble on something that makes you go ‘ha-ha!’. Most of all, you don’t have to copy what others do to be a bullet journalist. Trust yourself!
8. My Creativity Improved Drastically
Because I consider my bujo as much a hobby as a planning system, it’s important to me to have fun with it and make it pretty. It makes me happy to look at it because I’ve put effort into it and it’s cute.
I never thought I could have so much fun with calligraphy and lettering. I never imagined I could be good at it, or at drawing or doodling. But here I am. A year later, I’m sketching things I never would’ve thought possible. I’m ecstatic! I want to take it even further! Next step: brush lettering 😉
9. Mistakes Are Okay
If you’re a perfectionist like me, you hate making mistakes. I used to get so pissed off when I wrote the wrong thing, when I mispelled a word of when I didn’t wait long enough for the ink to dry and got smudges all over the page.
I’m much more zen about it now. Don’t get me wrong. Mistakes are not my favorite thing. But they happen! I just have to deal with it and move on. I try to do the best I can. That’s all I can do. Also, it’s important not to focus on the small two millimeters smear and realize that the rest of the page looks great.
10. Breaks Are Allowed
It’s okay if for a few days, weeks or even months, you want to try something else. Or stop planning completely. It happened to me. After four months in my first bullet journal, I saw The Happy Planner (from Me and My Big Ideas) and thought it looked so nice I bought one. But after using it for two months, I realized I liked my bujo better and came back to it. I just flipped the page and continued!
I also occasionally don’t do weekly spreads or even daily logs. Hey, life can get busy! It’s perfectly fine to skip a few days if you feel like it. This system is suppose to help you, not become a burden. Your bullet journal will be there for you when you decide to return 😉
Are you a bullet journalist? If so, how long have you been using this system and what’s your favorite thing about it? If not, what’s your planning style? Let me know in the comments below, on Facebook or on Instagram!
Until next time,