I’m chuckling to myself right now because originally I thought one bullet journal would last an entire year like an old school planner would. Boy, was I wrong. Once I began using my bullet journal, I realized it’s much more than a planner. It’s basically a lifeline. It includes personal calendars, work assignments, all types of notes, deadlines, quotes, habit trackers, lists for this and that, goals, free writing, blog brainstorming, etc.
My first bullet journal only lasted from January through April. I’ve now moved on to BuJo #2, but my first bullet journal will also be special to me. Over the last four months, I’ve learned several lessons that will hopefully make the next phase of my bullet journal journey even more successful.
1). The Leuchtturm Table of Contents is not long enough for me, or maybe I need to tweak my method:
I absolutely adore the Leuchtturm 1917 medium dot grid notebooks and will continue ordering them from Goulet Pen, but for me, the table of contents section isn’t quite long enough. With bullet journal #1, I documented what each page was used for and I ran out of room because I take notes on a lot of different topics. What I’ve decided to do with my next bullet journal is lump insignifiant pages together. For instance, if I had a string of client meetings over a span of days where I took a lot of notes, I would notate it like “pp. 3-10 (client notes: SMN, LCUMC and WNCP-June ed.)” That way, I’m not taking up 7 lines in my Table of Contents.
2). The habit tracker became too tedious; I need to eliminate or change.
I was gung-ho about the habit tracker for the first two months. I honestly felt like it encouraged me to do certain things that I often put aside, such as getting my clothes out and packing lunches the night before, reading ten minutes before bed, practicing violin with my older son, etc., but then if I didn’t have time to achieve the habit and color in the squares, I would feel backed up and frustrated with myself. By March, I’d lost momentum with the habit tracker. I haven’t totally discounted it though. My life schedule is completely insane right now, so I currently just don’t have time to sit and color in squares, but one day I hope to have that time. I enjoy evaluating current habits and incorporating new, positive habits into my life. I eventually plan to continue with the habit tracker but be VERY strategic about which habits I select and only choose the few that will make my life happier or more efficient.
3). I am much less artsy that I thought I would be.
Before starting my own bullet journal journey, I looked at tons of photos of other people’s bullet journals on Pinterest and Instagram. I had all of these visions that I would be super artsy and creative with a lot of doodles and drawings to make my pages look crafty and whimsical. None of that has happened. In fact, I haven’t even really felt the desire to be artsy. I may draw a little coffee cup here and there or make a banner for my titles, but I am certainly not what one would call an artistic bullet journalist. I do, however, still have goals to be more creative with my handwriting and doodling, though I don’t see myself as ever drawing many pictures. And you know what? That’s totally okay. I feel like people go into bullet journaling thinking they need to be really artsy and creative, but if you are better with words (like me) that’s totally fine. To each their own! I have finally learned how to draw a banner quickly. Below is my hand-drawn tutorial for you.
4). I love my dailies and weeklies; they have truly helped me streamline my days and weeks.
I knew that my bullet journal would help streamline my life in the broader sense, but I didn’t realize how much I would rely on it to plan out my weeks and my days. Each Sunday afternoon, I carve out some time to sit down and plan out my week, then I use these pages religiously for the next seven days to keep track of my life. As a freelance writer and blogger, I have a number of clients and deadlines to keep straight. Before using a bullet journal, my desk was covered in post-it notes and I had a number of different planners, folders and notepads. My brain was constantly racing trying to keep up with everything. It was a nightmare. Below is an example of my weekly and dailies. I’ve tweaked it even more since this photo was taken, but this is still the general system I use.
5). The back pocket of the Leuchtturm 1917 is perfect for receipts.
This isn’t a huge thing for everyone, but it is for me. Being self-employed , it’s imperative I keep up with receipts for travel, client dinners, supplies, etc. Before my Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, I was putting my business receipts in my wallet with personal receipts, and then they would sometimes get lost or thrown away. By having a safe pocket in the back of my bullet journal, I am now separating my two worlds of receipts and it’s helped me in a huge way.
6). I’ve become much more relaxed over time.
In the beginning, I thought I wanted my bullet journal to look neat and beautiful, but I have learned that’s completely impossible. With every page being blank, it’s expected that mistakes will be made. When I first started my BuJo journey, I would have never stuck stickers here and here. I wanted it to all look very formal and efficient. Well, I’ve moved way beyond that. I’ve learned that my bullet journal needs to represent me and my personality. In doing that, it feels much more organic and natural.
7). It helps with consistency to use the same color tabs for my regular sections.
There are certain pages and sections that I need to quickly refer to every day. For these areas of my bullet journal, I simply don’t have time to flip to the table of contents and figure out what page I need. Because of that, I’ve started using tabs for the pages/sections I am continually referring to. I have four of these: My personal calendar, my blog content calendar, my daily and my monthly finance page where I record incoming payments and outgoing invoices. By using the same color of tabs every month, my system feels very fluid and efficient.
8). I’m couldn’t survive without my future planners.
While my bullet journals vary from the original system created by Ryder Carroll, one thing I’ve maintained allegiance to is the future planner, and I have come to rely heavily on this section. Because I only create one monthly calendar at a time, I use my future planner to jot down notes and dates for future months. Then when I create a particular monthly calendar, I record those dates on there. I actually like this much better than a traditional calendar because I can change/edit/tweak things on my future planner so that my monthly calendar looks neat and tidy. Recently, I’ve also created a blog content future planner that goes three months out.
9). Clearly title each page if it’s unclear; this helps when flipping through a grouped section.
I’ve learned that it’s essential to title each page clearly; otherwise, you will spend a lot of time flipping through your bullet journal. Even with a clear table of contents, it’s extremely helpful to title each page. This was especially clear when I began clumping groups of pages together. When I do that, I need the title pages to help me find the client or publication I’m looking for.
10). Utilize supplies (pen loop, tons of pens, small ruler, tabs, Post-its, etc.).
I’m sort of obsessed with office supplies in general but especially when it comes to bullet journaling. Not only do I like using bullet journal supplies, but I need them. My main supplies are a huge selection of pens that do not bleed, a small light-weigh ruler that fits in the back of the journal, tabs and occasionally, Post-it notes.
11). I am as in love with the bullet journal system as I ever have been.
While I think Ryder Carroll would say that his original idea of a bullet journal has been pulled and stretched all over the place, I hope he knows that he set the ball rolling for millions of people to find their own way to streamline their days and lives. I could not function without my bullet journal. In fact, each Sunday I look forward to the 30 minutes where I sit down and plan out my week and days. It’s rather meditative. If you feel frazzled in your personal life and/or professional life and have been in search of a better way to manage everything, I would suggest using this system, if you’re not already. If you are using the bullet journal system, I’m curious to know some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way. All right, guys and gals, let’s continue the journey.
Now, where was I…?