As a bona fide stationery nerd, I knew I would not be able to resist the new trend of creating wonderful & whimsical bullet journals.
What’s a bullet journal, I hear you cry? Well, it’s really just posh for diary/journal-notebook. It is also a wonderfully analogue way of keeping track of your time and the stuff that you need to do. You could have used an app, sure, but why not use pen and paper instead and create a journal that truly meets your needs. A video, which explains the genesis of the bullet journal and the basic way to set one up, can be found here: http://bulletjournal.com/.
The basic ingredients of a bullet journal are: an index (so that you can find stuff again), a monthly planner, a weekly/daily planner, and room to write ideas down, doodle, imagine the future, or write down what you want to remember in days to come. It’s up to you.
So what’s the difference between a diary and a bullet journal? This is where you need to determine what you want out of the journal. I have both a diary (mainly for events, i.e. meetings, classes, birthdays – although increasingly Facebook remembers friends’ birthdays for me – etc.). I created the journal to be able to keep track of processes, of ongoing activities. I also wanted a visual representation of the several different things I need or want to keep track of on the same page.
But I admit, hand on heart, mostly I wanted an excuse to buy another Moleskine notebook. Oops, and I bought new pens, too…
Creating a bullet journal isn’t exactly new to me. I just called them ‘notebooks’ in the past. But they fulfilled much the same purpose. I got to get creative, define my own categories and write down anything that I liked. I think bullet journals work best when they are used as a tool to bring out one’s creativity. You can use anything to merely write down lists of stuff to do. A bullet journal is the book that accompanies you every day, that you carry around with you, that you doodle in, that grows with you – so don’t worry if you don’t already know all the categories you want right at the beginning. It will probably look less perfect than pre-printed journals: but this is totally you. Pinterest is full of good examples of what bullet journals can look like…
People are tracking different things: some people want to keep an eye on how many blog posts they’re publishing (erm, that should be one for me…). Some want to keep track of where their money is disappearing to. Some people want to make sure they drink enough water. Others want an excuse to set themselves life goals and write down wise quotations from the land of self help. Whatever floats your boat. It’s your journal.
I dutifully set up an index for my bullet journal and a monthly planner, although I don’t plan to use it for anything other than deadlines…
The right hand side of the monthly planner is to jot down things I need to do during that month. Dog vaccinations. MOT. That sort of thing.
The heart of my bullet journal is the weekly planner, though. I wanted to keep four ‘workflows’ in view every day: stuff that I need/want to do for my job, stuff that I need/want to do for my research, stuff that I need/want to do for my translation projects, and stuff that I most definitely want to do for my craft projects. In this way, I have brought these diverse strands of my life, notably work and play, into one journal. That pleases me.
I divided the page up into three days and the four categories I mentioned:
One pristine half-week, and one filled in and doodled over. I don’t expect that I’ll fill something into all categories every day, of course. Some days I simply don’t do any translations, nor do I have any plans for doing any. But I still want to keep translations in view as something that I do.
The two pages of my week are followed by two mostly empty pages that are currently devoted to a space for ideas, for a money tracker, for a yoga & meditation tracker (partly to motivate myself to continue with both), and for plans for getting in touch with people. These are open categories, though, and they will probably change over time.
One other feature of bullet points is that people have developed fiendishly clever and difficult notations for their journals, thus requiring a key, which is usually found at the back of the notebook. I have copied some of the main notations, notably ‘thing/project begun’, ‘thing/project finished’, ‘thing/project moved to another day’, ‘important thing/project’ and one that denotes ‘just a thought – maybe follow up’. It is very satisfying to cross things off our lists, and this is no exception. I’d just say: take care not to overcomplicate matters. If you need to use your own key, you’re making things way too complicated.
So there we are, my diary and my bullet journal, separate but equal:
I love the idea of the bullet journal. Time will tell whether I have the stamina to continue with it. But I do totally buy the idea that the journal itself is an expression of creativity, and creating it yourself is a really important part of the process of owning a bullet journal. I’ll just live with the fact that my page numbers are wonky and that my doodles look less good than something that is professionally produced. So what. It’s all about process and self-expression and the bullet journal is a living example of what that means.