WAIT STOP – BEFORE YOU BUY YOUR 2017 PLANNER, LISTEN!
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I have used all the planners that are trendy and lovely. The Erin Condren 12 month LifePlanner was fun for a few months but then proved to be too big and bulky. On the reverse side, I adored Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner until I found that I was constantly shoving lists, Post-Its and receipts into the back, which kept falling out.
I went digital for a while, with Google Calendar, Evernote, Wunderlist and all the fancy apps. But I was clicking and dinging so much I got dizzy, I couldn’t remember where I put things, and I was easily distracted once on my phone.
So I started eyeballing all the Bullet Journal posts, including my friend’s at Zealous Mom, and pinning away. But I was intimidated: all the layouts were so pretty! I didn’t want something else to fail at. I wanted something to help me feel successful.
Finally, though, in the thick of the gap between 2016-2017, a Ninja Birthday Party to plan, Christmas shopping to conduct, a Disney vacation offered to us that needed some organization, and my freelance articles and billing, I couldn’t hack all the separate lists. When my friend started a Bullet Journal and texted me the one piece of art she had tried to create, which was a really sad-looking Christmas tree, we laughed together and she gave me the courage to get started. I didn’t need to be perfect.
I have terrible handwriting and my spreads aren’t winning awards, but Bullet Journaling has made my life more organized.
You should probably start by watching Ryder Carroll’s video on How to Bullet Journal. Watch it, feel overwhelmed by it, then forget it. Because you are going to have to just get started and jump right in. Don’t let the different symbols, ticks and methods intimidate you. Go in.
To get started with, understand that the Bullet Journal community loves to talk about supplies. But, truthfully, you don’t need much. Nor should you invest in much if you aren’t sure the system is going to “stick.”
Any old journal will do, one that you love, but it is best to go with something more high quality (the pages will stand up to more wear and tear). I also found that dotted pages are much more flexible than lined pages.
A word really quick: I have used Moleskine notebooks for years to house my writing ideas and drafts. They are good notebooks and readily available at your local Barnes & Noble. But for a Bullet Journal that is constantly turned and opened, the Leuchttrum is a much sturdier quality. Plus, page numbers and an index are already in them, which makes things much simpler for getting started. But both have pockets and an elastic band to keep them shut with the contents contained (two very important things to consider).
So I have confessed my love for the Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Dotted notebook. Look at all the pretty colors (and there are even more available)-
I also bought one nice set of pens, a small set, that is off limits to the kids. I picked up the Staedtler (apparently all good Bullet Journal supplies must be impossible to spell) Fineliners –
I only purchased the pack of 12, in an easy carrying case, for under $11. But if you know you are committed and want more, the Staedtler come in larger sizes –
The key to picking pens is to offer yourself a few color variations as it can help with organization, even if you don’t choose to include doodles or designs in your journal. But get pens that DO NOT BLEED through the paper. People love Poppin, which I don’t get – those go right through most of my papers.
Many Bullet Journalers use Micro-Line pens (which my architecture school college roommate had me addicted to) and colored pencils, as such –
They buy special rulers, Washi tapes and pencil pouches. They get arrows, flags and stamps.
But all I use are my Leuchtturm and 12-pen set. (Well, I am currently having a love affair with my Christmas smencils (on Amazon as the Holiday Smencils Set) but that will end abruptly as most overly-passionate obsessions do, I am sure.) I used my kids’ colored pencils once but didn’t go back a second time. Ultimately, it really depends on what is inspirational and useful to you, how you organize your thoughts. If, ultimately, the Bullet Journal is a way to help you simplify your life, then for heaven’s sake don’t get so carried away with craft supplies and layouts that you create stress.
From there, getting started requires a deep breath and two things: 1) putting ink to your pretty journal for the first time and 2) making your first mistake and realizing that it doesn’t kill anyone.
I sit down every Sunday and I work 2-weeks in advance because that is what I need for scheduling my interviews. So far, every week has looked different in layout because, in real life, every week IS different. This is why this Bullet Journal system works so well for the modern lifestyle.
My very first week I did flags and a vertical layout, but I didn’t like it, so I didn’t really use it (plus, I started on Friday). But I found the open format far too confusing. I operate best with boxes. Lots of boxes. All of the boxes. Whatever I have going on that week, I create a different box to contain it.
Boxes I usually include in my weekly spread: each day, habit tracker, To Dos, meal plan, and then miscellaneous tasks I need to capture that week such as a major work project, a kid’s activity preparation, Christmas tasks, birthday party tasks, etc.
I will confess: I do NOT use the Carroll system with all the symbols and migrating tasks. Which means I am not a Bullet Journal purist. I just don’t need it.
I understand the idea behind the system: as you have to rewrite the tasks each day to move them if you don’t complete them, you become more mindful and conscious of them. Which means you either decide to just get them done already or that it isn’t as important as you thought.
I don’t need that conscious task management. I have far too much to do every week and usually it doesn’t matter WHICH day I do it on, as long as it gets done. If it’s an appointment or something that has to be delivered that day, then it goes on the appropriate day’s box. Otherwise, it goes in a corresponding task box. I mean, look at my weeklies – I can’t get anything else on those days! And this isn’t a lie, these are all things to do within that week.
The other thing I really love about Bullet Journaling is the future planning. Despite loving boxes, I find the monthly system with everything in a vertical line much more palatable for my brain.
I also like that I can have a page to capture anything coming up in the future even if I haven’t started a monthly for it yet. And I can create it ALL in a system that works FOR ME.
Plus, I can change my mind at any moment.
As a busy mom, a busy woman, there is a lot in my mind and head. I usually feel overwhelmed trying to balance it all. Being intentional with my Bullet Journal and having one place in the whole world that has everything, and can accommodate anything new, has helped me feel more in control, and be more in control.
Did you wonder why I suddenly came back to this website, to this space? Because with my Bullet Journal and new system, I was able to figure out how and when (well, and other reasons, but the time management’s a big one).
I have a page for 2017 goals, places I want to eat, vacations I want to take, phone numbers, house projects, sewing projects, articles due, contacts for articles, and more. Instead of things swirling around in my mind late at night or being lost to some organizing system I created on my phone but can’t navigate, it is all here. In one spot.
You can make a page for anything. My rule is that if it rattles around in my head, I put it on a page. Don’t create pages because someone on the Internet tells you to, create pages for what you actually need.
And it allows for growth, too. I can change and develop new systems and layouts. I like that freedom, much better than spending $50+ on a planner that may not suit my life in six months and changes therein.
I decided that I actually like adding some doodles and color, something to make it feel a little personalized and fancy. Sometimes I Google quotes to write. I have a whole Pinterest board of doodles I can mimic and learn from. My youngest sits down next to me to draw the art with me. I guess you could say the Bullet Journal is a family affair.
Also, I have realized that Bullet Journals that are really used and loved are going to be messy. They will have bent pages and smeared ink and mistakes. So embrace that.
Overall, I am so glad I took the plunge and didn’t let the Pinternet scare me off from trying my hand at Bullet Journaling. I am much more organized and in control of my time. I get stuff done and no more forgetting or losing receipts or going off-budget.
Now, I just have to make sure I don’t ever EVER lose it.