Getting Organized: Bullet Journal Inspired

There’s something so promising about the purchase of a new planner—and yet something so daunting about choosing the right system. At least that’s how it feels to me. Every year or so, I find myself looking for a more efficient way to keep all of my notes and plans in one place. There are digital systems that people rave about—Evernote seems incredible—but I just can’t stop myself from jotting things down on scraps of paper. I was always the copious note-taker in class. Writing things down is a way for me to commit things to memory.

So I fell quickly down the Bullet Journal (BuJo, colloquially) rabbit hole when I was given an introduction last fall. It’s been a bumpy start…

Admittedly I’m late to the party, but in case you are too: A bullet journal is basically a customizable organization system that you create in a dotted notebook. There’s a nice introductory video on the bullet journal website. Most seem to include a mix of long-term and short term calendars and diaries; tasks and to-do lists; tracking notes of things like diets and habits; and collections of things like “books to read” or “movies to watch,” or maybe simply a shopping list and go-to meals. None of this has to happen in any particular order and you just create it as you go, because there’s an Index that you create at the start to help you easily find your entries.

In other words, you just leave the first couple pages of your notebook blank and give them the topic of “Index.” As you start to use your book, add the topics of your entries and their page numbers to the Index, so you can quickly find them again.

After that, it’s up to you.

Of course the other thing that bullet journals seem to have in common is nice handwriting. Seeing all of the different examples can be really overwhelming. I don’t have time to make pretty headings and worry about perfect handwriting. But I do love the idea of keeping all of my to-do lists and notes and weekly plans in one place.

So I got started: I bought this book—which got high marks for the thickness of the pages—and Le Pen, and I got to work. I pulled all of those scraps of paper out of the bottom of purses and desk drawers and made them into lists; I started tracking my diet and water consumption alongside my goals; and I created a calendar. It was pretty awesome to think of all of that stuff coming together in one place! But that last part has been tricky. I like writing things down, but I don’t need to take the extra time required to make a calendar grid. Drawing straight lines with a ruler when there are so many beautiful paper products with this already done for you seems like a waste of time for me.

I jumped ship. I went back to the Appointed website to look at their notebooks and planners, and actually ordered myself a weekly binder—thinking it would let me bridge the two (a pre-made calendar and a grid system for customizable notes). I started using it instead. But it’s so big! And I can tell already that it’s not something I’m going to be willing to tote around, and thus it will eventually become obsolete as I return to scraps of highly portable paper.

And so I’m back to the bullet journal I started in the fall—because I realized I missed it. After only a few weeks with it, it’s changed what I’ll be looking for in any future system: priorities now include size/portability and ample room for notes. I do think I’ll be going back, eventually, to something with pre-made monthly calendars in it, but I love the flexibility of the dot grids. I haven’t been precious about the pages and simply start a new one when I need to—it seems best while I’m still figuring out what works for me. I also still use Google Calendar for our family appointments.

One of my favorite parts so far is getting more practiced at what they call “rapid logging,” which “relies on the use of short-form bulleted notation. The idea is to use short, objective statements and break tasks into more digestible pieces. You can add in events as well, and it becomes something like a diary.

It’s a bit complicated to explain. Others have done a better job. Some of my favorite examples have been @Honeyrozes (shown above), Whoorl’s video, Tiny Ray of Sunshine, and the original Bullet Journal website‘s blog.

But this is all to say that there are, at the least, elements of this which have changed my outlook on planners and getting organized. So far, having just started, and having gone back and forth a bit, I’ve spent more time setting it up than anything, but for those of us who do like to the pen to paper and make physical lists (and have a million floating around) it’s a great approach to keeping it all in one place. No more notes on receipts!

Have you tried it? How are you getting organized for the new year? Any favorite planners?

P.S. Happy New Year! And more on getting organized: A Calendar Wall, being productive when working remotely, and how to conquer your chore list.

[Photos: Appointed, Bullet Journal/@feebujond, and @HoneyRozes]


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