What I Learned From My First Month of Bullet Journaling
It all began when I started to feel frustrated with my Panda Planner. I had sung its praises for years. I loved the gratitude tracker, the daily check-ins, and the goal-oriented approach.
However, I started to grow weary of the daily documentation of my gratitude for the same few things, especially as I entered a rough period of my life and felt more anxious than thankful. The Panda Planner gave no place to document my feelings. It forced me to focus on the positive, but doing that felt inauthentic. My productivity was being affected by my anxieties — surely that was worth recording?
I switched to the Clever Fox planner because it had sections for both weekly and daily planning, plus a better format for goal-mapping and vision-boarding. I was surprised to find an enormous section of dotted pages in the back of the planner. Not wanting those pages to go to waste, I decided to revisit my approach to journal-planning.
I’d read a lot about bullet journaling (BuJo): the approach, the artifacts, the whole subculture. And yet it seemed too much work to set up. I’m a busy person: I don’t have time to format and decorate a journal by hand! Nor did I want to spend time recording every little thing that popped into my head.
But on the day I started using the Clever Fox planner, I was feeling overwhelmed. I decided to give BuJo a try. I did a bit more reading on the core approach to task management, since Clever Fox already had goal-mapping, annual, monthly, and weekly sections, and I started to document every task, note, event, and thought in the same place. In addition, I started a worry log as well as a gratitude log.
What quickly became clear was that I hadn’t been acknowledging or processing a lot of my thoughts, and that mental buildup was driving me crazy. BuJo gave me a place to really look at my life in writing. Initially, I experienced a period of depression: seeing how my worries greatly exceeded my happy thoughts was humbling, but distressing. I also found myself even more overwhelmed once I saw my whole life on the page. Damn, I had so much on my plate!
The Basics of BuJo
- Create an index. You’ll use this to quickly access the page you need.
- Write down your yearly goals. Feel free to organize this however you like, whether by month, focus area, or feasibility.
- Write down your monthly goals. Think about reasonable, actionable items, e.g. “Publish 30 articles on Medium.”
- Create your “collections.” These can include your weekly planner, daily logs, trackers for workouts, gratitude, worry, fertility, whatever.
- Use a key to indicate what each thing you write down is. A quick Google search will reveal plenty of options, but you can always use symbols that make sense to you.
- Use your BuJo every damn day!
Within a week, though, BuJo began to help me feel more in control of my life. It gave me a means of processing my stress rather than forcing a candy-coated “everything is fine” filter on it by logging only my tasks and wins. By noting my worries and losses, I was able to acknowledge them and move forward with my life.
I’ll admit, my gratitude log slipped. Now that’ve completed my first month of BuJo, I retroactively filled out the log and found some new things for which I am grateful. By dumping the contents of my over-full brain and organizing them, I made room for joy in my life again. Yes, some people call BuJo the KonMari method for personal productivity.
Damn, I had so much on my plate!
The lesson that BuJo taught me is that it’s important to acknowledge what worries you as well as what inspires you. It’s crucial to document your anxiety as well as your gratitude. And time spent in personal reflection is not time wasted.
Have you tried out bullet journaling? What was your experience?
Great BuJo Resources:
Rachel Wayne is a writer and artist based in Orlando, FL. She earned her master’s in visual anthropology from the University of Florida and runs the production company DreamQuilt. She is an avid aerial dancer and performance artist, and also dabbles in mixed-media. She writes nonfiction stories about herself and other awesome people, as well as essays on feminism, societal violence, mental health, politics, entrepreneurship, and whatever cultural topic strikes her fancy.