March 31, 2018

The Bullet Journal

Trying That Bullet Journal Thing

There is no question that we live in a time when having a handwritten planner is not the norm. In fact, for a long time, I thought my mother was simply wasting her time and money on a yearly planner, going through the process of keeping a physical planner is tedious and the cost of a planner is certainly more than the to-do app on your phone. These things are quicker and easier on a phone, computer, or tablet. Certainly, there is some merit to that argument, but after finding myself interested in fountain pens, I discovered something a bit different: the bullet journal. And this, I decided, was much more interesting than my mom’s big old planner. So, I tried one!

First things first, maybe we should go over what exactly a bullet journal is. You may have heard the term before. Put simply, a bullet journal is a written planner that follows just a few simple rules in order to be quick to read, write, and organize. It’s become a bit of a trend these days, and the idea even has it’s own website. There are quite a few guides out there at this point for how to organize a bullet journal, but I really think that everyone will, to some degree, have their own system. I’ll be going over my own system, but it’s definitely worth looking into what others do, to help you develop your own system and style.

small notebook with Kaweco Sport fountain pen

I’ve been keeping my journal in a very small pocket notebook, so I keep mine very, very simple. It’s more of a glorified to-do list with a few other additions. First, I add a key at the very front of the notebook. Then, I leave a couple of blank pages to act as a sort of index. Basically, if I write a note on a page that I think I might need to refer to on a later date, I’ll write the page number and a quick note about what the note is about. Then, I can quickly refer to writing ideas, thoughts about a day, etc.

inside my bullet journal

But let’s go back to that key. Mine consists of a few things. I try to keep it pretty simple, and use some of the symbols I found others using. Each symbol corresponds to a type of note. A · denotes a task that needs to be done. Once the task is completed, I simply put an X through the ·. A > is a task that, for some reason or another, needs to get pushed to the next day-either because it didn’t get done, or I’m not planning on doing it today and don’t want to forget about it tomorrow. Then, a < refers to a task that was forwarded from the day before. Those last two symbols often get added to other symbols, so I may have certain symbols overlapping each other (ie. a task that got forwarded < get’s pushed forward again >). This type of system can almost seem like more work than using a phone, but give it a week or two and things will start to click.

Here is my key to give you an idea of how I do things. Keep in mind this is my first journal, so I’m sure it will become more refined over time.

bullet journal key

So what is day-to-day use like with a journal like this? Well, it’s actually been great! I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical starting out, especially being someone who’s never used a journal or planner before. It only took me a few days to realize that I could use the journal in a way that would actually enrich my life, and not feel like a chore. keeping a bullet journal has made me more productive, motivated, and mindful with my time. If I think of something I need (or want) to do, I simply write it down. Using a pocket notebook means that it’s with me wherever I go. As convenient as smart-phones are, I rarely actually put small tasks and notes in mine, and when I did, it almost felt like more work. Something about having them written down, also has made more likely to actually do those things. Writing things down is also, I’ve found, enjoyable and a bit therapeutic.

Now, I do use a mix of digital and analog task keeping. Because I use such a small notebook for my journal, I don’t have room for a monthly, or even weekly, schedule. So, most events and things that involve a schedule go into my phone. It’s just better at that with reminders and such. Bur for small tasks, where I just need to remind myself to do or look at something I might forget, the bullet journal has been perfect. This may change, as I’ve got my eye’s on a more significant planner to try after this notebook is full. It’s also just enjoyable to do. Each morning (or sometimes evening) I open my journal and look over the day. If a task needs to be carried over, I carry it over. I add notes to my index if something requires it. I might even add a “Bible verse of the day.” It serves as a time for me to put aside all the distractions of the day and center myself for a moment. It’s become one of the times I look forward to most each day.

I’ve found that a bullet journal is a great addition to my daily routine. Maybe it’s something that could be a positive addition for you too. Or maybe not! It’s definitely something you need to try before you really know, but I’m glad I did.

© Chris Colvin 2019