Note: This is a re-blog from my other site. Used with permission because, well, I wrote it. I said it was cool.
I have a long and weird history with analog organizational products. Starting around age seven, I developed a mild folder fetish, spurred along by gloriously shiny document holders with The Muppets on them. Then there was that year I asked for a Trapper Keeper for Christmas. My mother simply blamed it on my Virgoness and indulged me. I think my father wanted me to see a doctor, or at least a little league baseball coach.
Throughout my working life, I’ve kept and discarded too many systems to count. Just hearing the name Franklin Covey still makes my upper lip sweat in anticipation. Maybe I do need help.
A few years ago, I designed a planner myself. It never really took off, but going through that process led me down the rabbit hole of the latest in planner tech, culminating in my purchase of not one, but three Passion Planners. I was sucked in by the idea of planning my life and the gorgeously embossed covers cinched the deal.
After using them for a while, I started to notice that while I had every moment scheduled and all passions perfectly planned, I still felt a little chaotic. Something was missing. I was still writing notes and making sketches in other books or on printer paper. There wasn’t room in the little pre-designed boxes for my random shower thoughts and weird doodle ideas. I felt a little hemmed in by all those little boxes. I needed a new system.
Then I found out about Bullet Journaling. Jenni was doing it and sent me to the website. I admit that at first I wasn’t sure if it would work for me. I was still in Planner Denial. I decided to try it for a while and see what happened.
Wait. What is a Bullet Journal?
If you don’t already know, a Bullet Journal is a totally individualized system of tracking thoughts, notes, drawings, and yes, your schedule if you want.
A human named Ryder Carroll created the system.
Diagnosed with learning disabilities early in life, he was forced to figure out alternate ways to be focused and productive. Through years of trial and error, he developed a methodology that went far beyond simple organization. – BuJo website
A Bullet Journal (BuJo if you’re nasty), is more than just another glorified to-do list or boring scheduling planner. Yes, it can be that, but what I love about it is how individualized it can be. If you want to catalogue your DVD library or create a meal plan, you can do it here. There’s no end of ways you can use your Bullet Journal. You can track workout progress, keep a list of places you want to visit before you die, or just use pages for a brain dump (my favorite). I love the analog aspect of taking pen to paper, taking time to get all the things out of my head and stored somewhere I can easily find them. Sure, I can do this on my iPhone a lot faster, but it doesn’t have the same effect on my mental state.
In computer terms, Planners are proprietary, Bullet Journal is open source.
Plus, it’s called a journal because it is one. What I love about Bullet Journaling is the ability to look back and see what I’ve been doing over the past months or years, and see if I’m growing or still stuck in the same place. I’m not going to answer that here. Sorry. Another day.
Ryder sells a premade BuJo on his website, but you can pick up any dotted notebook at your favorite stationary store. I got mine at Michaels for under $10. I also picked up some colored pens because I’m a geek about writing instruments.
How do you use it?
There are tons of videos about how people do their BuJo. Seriously, there are endless ideas about cataloguing, listing and brain dumping. On the website, there’s a quick tutorial about getting set up and after that, it’s totally up to you to make it fit your life and your brain.
How Bullet Journaling saved my brain
I feel like I’ve finally found my system. I start every day (before email) by sitting down quietly with my Bullet Journal and planning my day. I’ll create tasks, but I also look back at my year and month to make sure that the things I might do that day are taking me in the right direction.
Throughout the day, I’ll come back to my journal, take some of the buzzing bees in my head and stick them where they belong, on paper. Getting that stuff out of my head frees me up to think other thoughts or just focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s magical.
Do you use a Bullet Journal? If you do, please comment below! I would love to hear about how you use it and what it’s done for you.