Bullet journaling has been all over the internet for the last few years. I mean, I feel like at least once a week, I see a new listicle of satisfying bullet journal layouts. Like the one here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Can’t turn a digital corner without seeing beautiful aesthetic layouts and flawless handwriting.
And these had me intimidated as hell. How could I start a bullet journal if I couldn’t do the perfect layouts featured online? I like my handwriting, but I’m no calligrapher! I’m a huge sucker for a good planner, but it just seemed like too big of a challenge to have to create my own.
Enter Andy Brandt’s Messy Bullet Journal blog posts. Reading his thoughts on bullet journaling felt like my thoughts had been pulled from my brain:
I was impressed by examples of gorgeous bullet journals on the web (especially on Pinterest) by people with obvious artistic talent who create beautiful bullet journals. I was a little bit jealous.
I now think they’ve got it all wrong.
A Bullet Journal (frequently shortened to BuJo) is about getting thoughts on paper and getting organized. This is a messy process. Journals should be messy!! They are about life. Some people appear to make their journal a work of art and get upset if they make a mistake. This is backwards. You don’t want to orbit your life around your journal, the journal is to organize and think about your life.
At the end of 2017, I finally decided to lean into the messiness. Ok, at least a little bit. I still did a lot of research when planning what spreads I wanted to use. I still bought a 12 pack of stencils to help me create the designs I wanted. I definitely invested in a few new pens.
What’s that phrase I’ve seen on tumblr? Oh right, “buying office supplies gives the illusion of productivity.” That certainly describes my relationship with office supplies.
In order to finally kick myself into starting a bullet journal, I decided to do the following four things:
- Buy the office supplies. I decided to let myself invest a little into this, since I really want to make it work. I bought a few new pens, a new pencil case, some washi tape, and a pack of bullet journaling stencils.
I spent a long time looking for the right notebook. Most notebooks are too thin for my taste. I want something that will last me the whole year. I finally found one that was almost perfect at my local Barnes and Noble. Chunky, but not too big, with grid pages. The soft cover would have been perfect, but it was low quality leather. So I bought it anyway, for $10 and made myself a beautiful deerskin slip cover for it, thanks to the help of my fantastic partner who let me use all of their leather working tools.
- Make at least a little bit of time every day to use my journal. I can’t get more organized if I don’t use the book! I try and spend a little bit of time every night planning for the week or day ahead. This is fun for me – it gives me a chance to try out the new supplies I bought and to keep ahead of my busy schedule.
- Give myself the freedom to change! The thing I love most about a bullet journal is that my planner isn’t stuck in one layout. If something isn’t working, I can easily change it on the next spread that I draw. I’ve already changed from my original idea, and frankly, I’m about to fully change again. There’s nothing wrong with testing and playing with different layouts and doodles and organization strategies.
This has been super difficult for me – I’m very much a person who likes a system. But, it’s also been freeing for me to realize that I have the power to change the things that aren’t working! And make them better! (Hello, life lesson reminder!)
- Embrace the mess. I really only like to use pens when I write. There’s just something satisfying about the way a good pen feels when you write with it.
BUT my spreads don’t usually look like the ones I see on Buzzfeed. And that’s ok! They’re useful to me and that’s the most important thing to me. I cross things off, I move things around, I scribble and cover things in stickers. I’m leaning into it, and it’s working for me.