My New Thing: Bullet Journals

I think I remember hearing about bullet journaling quite awhile ago, but when I looked it up it seemed like it was just…journaling with bulleted lists. And I already do that, so I didn’t look into it any further.

Last week it came up in my Twitter feed as a list of format examples. Wow! Apparently it started really simple but it got taken over by the artsy crowd and now there are all these beautiful ideas that are quite a bit out of my league right now, but very inspiring.

Generally, people use dotted journals for these. I know these used to be in stores everywhere. In fact, there have been several occasions where I saw a really cool-looking journal but then opened it and realized it was dotted, so I put it back. Journals have lines, not dots! Who would want a dotted journal!? The chaos!!!!

It turns out dotted journals give users a lot of freedom to create their own layouts, make drawings without the lines getting in the way, and generally do things their way. They don’t have to be chaotic, rather they can let you determine your own order! Those things had not occurred to me before, because I tend to be very straight-forward and think in lists. And now that I want one, of course I can’t find any either in my house or in the stores nearby.

Instead, I’m using graph paper. It’s…okay. It still lets me draw in my own lines and boxes so that I’ve been able to use it for several different purposes. I do the monthly, weekly, and daily pages as well as project plans and diet info. Adding drawings and other cool details doesn’t fit as well, but I have started playing around with ribbon banners for the titles.

I like that the layouts can be changed so easily. It’s all open-ended and if I find something isn’t as useful to me I can just drop it and try something new the next time. For example, I have a separate “goals” box on my daily layouts because I saw others doing it, but they just wind up being things that go on the to-do list anyway and I don’t actually look at the goals box. And on the other hand, I was thinking today that I could use a schedule box so I could plan to do my top priority items at specific times. So for tomorrow I’ll be swapping out the goals for the schedule and I’ll see how that works.

It has helped me to be more productive. I like checking things off the list and creating new pages. And every day when I go to make the next one, I have to do something with everything on my to-do list. That helps to reinforce the things I want to do or re-think the ones that aren’t getting done.

This has become my primary way of keeping track of my projects and lists, but I also use apps to help. I put trackers in my bullet journal to see how I’m doing with things including meds, but Mango Health makes my phone buzz when I need to take them so I can remember more easily and don’t have to doubt my memory (which has led me to skip doses before because I didn’t trust that I was taking them at the right time or thought I might have taken the dose already and forgot).

I use Keep for a lot of things. Some of those might gradually make their way over to the bullet journal, but I’ll definitely still use it for shopping lists and short to-do lists. Sometimes the to-do list in the journal gets a little too full to see what I’m doing. I could just start a new page for them, but that seems a bit silly and wasteful to me. So I’ll sometimes start a list in Keep that just lays out my process for a single project or a short period of time.

Bullet journaling works well with my need for structure and also encourages me to be more creative, changing my approach if I find something that doesn’t work. It forms a core I can use to branch out and create sub-projects.

Have you tried bullet journaling? What did/do you think of it? How do you organize your life?

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