I am a big list person. I always have been. Recently, when going through my old journals from when I was a kid, I found several notebooks which were filled with nothing but to-do lists. These were the notebooks I kept during my bedroom decluttering, because while they were to-do lists, they were also journals, with little notes about how my life was going and what I felt about what I had to do written in as subtasks for each bullet point. It was an interesting look back into who I was as a teenager.
I kept with the journalistic to-do list planning style until college kicked my butt and proved to me that writing random to-do lists in whatever notebook was closest wouldn’t cut it. I had found this planner, one from Shinola Detroit, at the Johns Hopkins Barnes and Noble in February of 2016, out of sheer luck apparently. It was an awesome planner. I liked the large blocks of space for each day, but I still felt like something wasn’t perfect about it. So, when I went to go order a new one online and got smacked with the reality that there was a four-month waiting list, I couldn’t be bothered to reorder something that I didn’t fully love.
Seriously. Four months! For a planner! By the time I got it, it would be April. Not worth it.
In the search to find a planner to replace the one I didn't feel like waiting for, I found the bullet journal method. This method of organization was designed for me. Part of the reason for that is because you quite literally design your planner yourself.
This isn't a method for people who don't have patience, or for people who don't want planning to take extra time. But, if you're feeling creative, and often find that planners don't give you exactly everything you want, this might be for you. This isn't just a planner for me. It's a journal, a log of memories, a way to track progress for different habits I am trying to implement in my life, a place to figure out what I want to cook for dinner. It's everything and more.
My first bullet journal was very structured. I drew my spreads (bullet journal speak for a two-page section for weekly planning, monthly planning, list-making, etc.) at the beginning of every month to save time, but I still was missing that feeling that I was maximizing my use of this journal. I had to remind myself to use my planner, which was the opposite of what I wanted. Granted, I was also abroad while I was doing this, so maybe it wasn’t the perfect time to try a new organizational system. But even after abroad, something still wasn’t clicking. This was the best system I had used in a while, but something was still off.
When I got my current journal in January of this year, I actually sat down and planned out how I wanted my planner to work for me, not against me. I sketched out how I wanted spreads to look. I thought about stuff like what spreads did I want to include at the beginning to reference later? How did I want my monthly layouts to look? What kinds of pages did I want to include to help keep myself organized and productive? All the important questions.
I wanted this new journal to be more usable, but also not super boring. That was the problem I identified. My last journal had been very monochrome and monotonous. This time, I took each month and added a theme and changed how the spreads looked to make each month a new experience. And instead of copying a spread that I had seen online, I designed my spreads myself using inspiration from others’ journals. This made the journal easier to use. Because of the ease of use, I want to use it every day, exactly how it was made to be used.
Finally, this planner was working for me. It makes figuring out my life much easier, and it helps me track things about my life and write down my memories to look back on someday, but it also lets me be creative and stretch that muscle. That was what I was missing. I was creating a bullet journal that didn’t fit my life. Now that I am, this journal is my most useful tool in being a productive and organized person.
In Part Two of this series, I'll show different spreads that I use and I'll describe how I use them. I hope that this helps if you are considering using a bullet journal!