Bullet Journaling, Personal Development, Tools

Back To Basics: Getting Over the Unnecessary Burden Placed on Bullet Journaling

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It’s halfway through January—how are your resolutions holding up?  The previous two posts discussed the use of mantras in helping you stick to your resolutions; this post is focused on the second of two amazing tools for personal development that I use all the time: journaling.

While journaling in general is a fantastic tool, one specific iteration of it is the best when it comes to keeping track of everything we have to do and want to do: bullet journaling.  Many of us are delighted that there has been such a surge of attention to the practice in the last couple of years—but I have to admit that I am also a little concerned.

Bullet Journaling Is Simpler Than Social Media’s Version

I feel that, like so much around us, bullet journaling has gone from a simple tool that anyone can pick up to something that can demand way too much attention and talent.  It has basically gone from giving us more time, to consuming too much of our time.

Now in some cases, the user’s lifestyle gives them the time to delve into the move complex and complicated versions of bullet journaling, which makes way for some amazing, Pinterest-worthy shots (I have collected some of my personal favourites here.)  The results are visually stunning, to say the least, and well worth the time to browse.

But in many cases, it has made bullet journaling an unusable tool, one too demanding and overwhelming to pick up.  And so, I decided to remind anyone who is looking into bullet journaling but is overwhelmed by what it seems to have become, about what it really is: a very simple tool that will give you more time.

Step 1: Grab a Notebook

While those beautiful journals make for great shots and are a lot of fun to use (heck, check out some of the ones I prefer here!), they are not needed.  Actually, you don’t even need a notebook; you need a stack of papers that are bound together.  A friend of mine has been using a binder for the last five years, and it works brilliantly.

Step 2: Make a list of the lists you’ll need

List-ception, much?  But seriously, write down, on the first page of whatever you are using, a list of the lists you need, such as: groceries; work to-do; housework to-do; shopping; health objectives; eating objectives; exercise objectives; etc.  You can also choose to only have one big list.

Step 3: Develop a code

It should be simple.  My basic, personal code is:

  • √ (checkmark): tasks that have been completed.
  • X: deleting this task because I no long have to complete it. I also strike-through the task description.
  • F: forwarding this task to the next page
  • O: tasks that I have started working on but have not completed. If a task is a quarter, half, or three-quarters done, the circle is, respectively, a quarter, half, or three quarters full.
  • *: tasks that need immediate attention.

I suggest starting with those, and then, as you use your journal, adapt them to your work-style.

Step 4: Start Bullet Journaling

Because you basically have everything you need.  Yup; no need for fancy journals, washi tape, decorative stamps, pretty stickers, amazing drawing talents, or fancy calligraphy skills; all you need is paper and one pen.  Go figure.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get caught in the glitz and glamour of what bullet journaling is being often shown as; at its core, it’s a sophisticated list.  If you want to decorate yours and go nuts, more power to you (and send me pictures so that I can geek out!)  But don’t deprive yourself of this amazing tool because you are not artistic or don’t have the time to make your Pinterest-worthy.

Do you use a bullet journal?  Are you the type to have a simple one like I do, or are you more artistic in yours?  If you haven’t started a bullet journal yet, why haven’t you?

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12 thoughts on “Back To Basics: Getting Over the Unnecessary Burden Placed on Bullet Journaling

  1. I’m obsessed with my Bullet Journal and when I have the time, I love doodling, decorating, colouring – it’s therapeutic and unleashes my creativity.

    However, I don’t feel like I NEED to do that all the time. There are some weeks where I don’t have the time so I just stick to the basics because it is a very powerful tool that can help you stay organized but can also help with things like building a habit or writing down good memories.

    My biggest rule for bullet journaling is to make it your own – use it the way YOU want because otherwise, you wont stick to it!

  2. This was written for me! I’ve often felt overwhelmed by needing my bullet journal to be some artistic masterpiece and I’m not artistic in that way. I actually gave up on it because of this. I might need to get back to the basics because I do LOVE my lists!

  3. This is a great reminder that we don’t have to live up to “Pinterest” standards, haha! Bullet journaling is for you, so no need to make it super fancy or pretty unless you want to!

  4. Great post! I look at some of the bullet journal post out there and am like “You have got to be kidding me!”. Nothing about them looks simple or easy, or any of the other things bullet journals are supposed to be.

    Funny enough, my husband and I already kinda do this. and we have been doing it since before it had an official name. lol.

  5. Yes! I feel like creatives and typographers got ahold of bullet journals and unleashed themselves (rightfully so) but it created this idea that a bullet journal needs to be ultra-gorgeous and refined.

    Mine is like you say, a sophisticated list. I have it sectioned for my needs and use colors and symbols to keep track of everything. The funny thing is, the less creative obligation I put on myself, the more creative I actually end up being with it.

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