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A Passionate Half A$$’s Guide to Bullet Journaling

I’ve been bullet journaling on and off since this past summer when I lived alone for the first time and had an ungodly amount of time on my hands and approximately zero friends living in my vicinity. Hmm, sound familiar?

I am the poster child for starting a project and kinda-sorta finishing it. I just get really excited about a boatload of things, okay?! To any future potential employers out there—I promise I get things done and do them well when the situation calls for it!! But, when it comes to creative matters, I’ll steal Elizabeth Gilbert’s phrase and call myself a “Deeply disciplined [and passionate] half ass.”

I am willing to try just about anything that has to do with making something. And bullet journaling? It’s perfect for people who have an urge to create, but also might identify as more left-brained or simply too busy for that artsy stuff. My friend’s responses to seeing my journal is almost 99.9999% of the time something along the lines of, “See, I really want to do that. I’m just not creative like you.” Hot take: if you want to be creative, create something.

I’m not trained trained in drawing, I don’t follow half the rules dictated by the founder of Bullet Journaling, and I forget to fill my journal out some nights….or months. But I have fun doing it, it relaxes me, and there’s too much shit in the world to worry if someone else is going to think my lines are straight enough. Enough about me, though. Onward and upward to the meat of it all:

What is Bullet Journaling?

A guy named Ryder Carroll created what he calls “The Analog Method for the Digital Age” and he has a whole book about it that tells you how and why to do it. He uses what he calls “rapid notation” which is just using different types of bullets ( -, •, >, x) to symbolize task incomplete, complete, pushed off to tmrw, etc. The website is so in-depth, and covers practically any question you may have about the practice, but these are a few quotes that encompass Bullet Journaling for me, pulled straight from the site:

“It’s a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.”

“You can’t make time, you can only take time.”

“Achievement is empty without appreciation.”

My Bullet Journal

I’m old fashioned; I like the physical feeling of a book in my hands, I handwrite all my class notes, and there’s just something so satisfying about the action of flipping a page. God knows, as a generation, we spend too much time in front of screens, and I’m prone to headaches so having something in between binging Brooklyn Nine Nine and attempting sleep is important to me.


A “BuJo” purist would probably shudder if they took a look at my so-called Bullet Journal. I don’t follow all the guidelines because a big part of it is drawing up your own planner/calendar. I said “No thank you sir,” to that. I don’t have that kind of time, plus I really love the planner I already have. No one out me, but I don’t do the actual bullet part of the bullet journal. I only do the things he calls trackers and collections.

Trackers

Trackers are pretty self-explanatory: I use them to keep track of medicines, vitamins, exercise habits, and my mood. The analyst in me appreciates these varieties of trackers because I can look back and see if there might be correlation or causation. Did I forget to take my allergy medicine the night before I woke up stuffy? Maybe I marked my mood as stressed each day until the day I started regularly going to barre again. Regardless of the habit, it helps me hold myself accountable.

I also added my own two trackers that are sort a hybrid between trackers and collections. 1) I put one thing I’m grateful for each day and 2) I write down my “gem” of the day. A “gem” to me is one way I served myself artistically or soul-wise that day. (Sometimes that just means I write down that I cried when I got home because I needed to let the chemicals out).

Collections

There’s a lot of freedom when it comes to collections and I use mine to make lists that I plan to add to over time. People use their collections as vision boards, to-do lists, meal planners, and just about any compilation of things in list form you can imagine. Some of my collections are Books to Read, Books I’ve Read (a couple suggestions, a few more), Quotes to Live By, Women Who Inspire Me, and my Bloomington, IN Bucket List.

Your Bullet Journal

It doesn’t have to be some grandiose tome filled with calligraphy and the deepest thoughts ever thunk*. It’s just a simple way to organize thoughts and taking a millisecond to breathe. If nothing else, bullet journaling helps me actually be conscious of what I did with my day. Even before this crazy time, I felt like most nights if someone called and asked what I did that day, I wouldn’t even know because it just all blends together. And now that I’m home it’s nice to acknowledge that I’m getting something done or taking care of myself even if that’s literally just taking my vitamin D.

Please share if you have or are going to start bullet journaling! There are infinite possibilities which is the beauty of the craft.  Maybe your style is the polar opposite of mine and focuses on minimalism and tasks, maybe it’s even more chaotic, er, dynamic than mine, whatever it is, it’s yours and that’s that.

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