Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Evolution Of My Bullet Journal: After 1 Year

About a year ago, I took up this little thing called Bullet Journaling.  I am a big list-maker in my life.  When I got planners in the past, I made sure that there were big boxes so I would have a lot of space to create to-do lists.  And I would put everything in those lists from things I needed to do to school, for work, for wherever I was living... the number of things that could be on that list was endless.

Then one of my favorite YouTubers created a video where she was setting up her first bullet journal.  It was artistic, it was organized, there was an order and a system... I liked it a lot.  And the best part was that it was a planner system that was completely customizable to the user.  There were a lot of factors that got me interested.  One year later and I'm on my third bullet journal!  With this post, I want to go through how my personal bullet journaling style has changed and also talk about why I love this system for organization.

If I had used the bullet journals like the ones to the right in the picture above, I would have been finishing up my second journal, at the rate I'm going.  The reason why I have three bullet journals right now is because my first one, the teal one on the left, was my experiment.  Really, you can bullet journal with any notebook you have.  The popular choice is the Leuchtterm 1917 (yellow and orange notebooks) with a dot grid inside, but I'll just be upfront... they're not exactly cheap notebooks.  I didn't want to start bullet journaling after buying this rather spendy notebook and then hate it or not have it work for me.  So I just bought a really cheap notebook at Target to start.  When I started out, my journal looked a little something like this:

I borrowed pretty heavily from a blogger called Boho Berry on YouTube.  When I started, she had a monthly plan, a weekly plan, and then dailies.  She only created a day and a week at a time.  She included decoration like the weather and temperature of where she lived (or wherever she was if she was traveling), some kind of a decorative date covering, and then listed her to-dos for the day.  She also had a time tracker, which isn't pictured here but it was something that I tried.

At the time, this was an effective spread for me to use.  The Notebook was big enough, it was easy to write in and easy to carry with me wherever I went, I loved the look of the book inside and out... What didn't work for me about this notebook was that the more I used this notebook, the more it fell apart.  Whereas with my current journals, I can fit 5-6 months worth of to-dos and lists and even some journaling, in this cheap notebook, I was only able to get through two months before too many pages were falling out and had to be taped back into the book.  The binding was terrible.  It couldn't hold up against the way I wanted to use this journal.  So I decided to take the plunge and get a more expensive notebook.  

I chose the Leuchtturm 1917 for a few reasons.  
  1. The binding was strong.  No matter how often I transported it and how much I stuffed into that journal, it didn't fall apart.  The book was stretchd and it got wider when I added stickers and pictures and things like that, but no pages fell out unless I tore them out on purpose.  This was major for me.
  2. It was slightly bigger than my first notebook.  Hey, more space is always a plus, right?
  3. The dot grid.  I didn't realize just how distracted having solid lines running across the page was, so when I had a dot grid, suddenly my bullet journal felt cleaner.  And that was nice.
So I moved onto my second bullet journal.  After two months of experimenting, my style of bullet journaling was already changing.

It was in this bullet journal that I feel like I truly fell in love with bullet journaling.  My style changed even within this notebook.  This was generally the layout that dominated my weekly and daily spreads.  The time log is now pictured above, just without color and there is tracking for taking my medication and for how much water I was drinking.  My bullet journaling became much more personalized.  This particular spread is from the summer when I didn't have too much going on.  It was fine for me to put down one day at a time and then create the next day after the present day was finished.  I liked that I could easily see what my entire week would look like in advance and then I could get more specific in my dailies.  This is something that has remained similar.

In this bullet journal, something that went away that was in my first experimental bullet journaling was the presence of actual journaling.  I didn't stop and use my bullet journal like a diary like I had been doing prior to this notebook.  Instead, I kept notes in here from events I went to and I did more journaling when I went on trips.

In this second notebook, I also experimented a lot creatively.  I added pictures, drew more pictures.  Got creative with my writing.  Suddenly my notebook had personality.  I loved that.  My notebook was changing with me.

The summer went by and my second bullet journal filled up soon after and so suddenly, it was time to start my third bullet journal, which is the orange journal pictured above (and it's also the one I'm using at the time I'm writing this).  And still, my bullet journal changed some more because my needs changed.  In June, I was hired to my first teaching position and in August I started training and my students arrived.  After stumbling through my first few weeks in my job, trying to continue my bullet journal, something needed to change.  My lists were getting ridiculously long because I was putting work, personal, and other responsibilities altogether in one big list... it got confusing.  That resulted in a spread that looked like this (and it's a spread I continue to use to this day):

I separated the things I needed to get done at school and things I needed to finish at home that was more personal or related to my chores.  I kept the weekly spread with the boxes at the beginning of the week (in the picture above, it's on the page before).  As the weeks went on, I realized I needed a little more separation in my weekend.  I would make one big list to be accomplished over the weekend, but that was leaving way too many things left undone (nevermind if they were critical to complete or not).  So I separate my Saturday and Sunday and then created a short list of things that I absolutely needed to do (my Must Dos) and things that I wanted to do (my May Dos) that I thought I could also get done that day, but it wasn't a big deal if they didn't happen or if I did them the next day.  That way I was able to prioritize the things that needed to get done.  I think that I became more productive with this new system.  I like it a lot and right now, I don't see this spread changing for quite a while.

Another change to this notebook was that I was looking for ways to add more color and more artwork.

This mandala started out as a mood tracker, but when I failed to actually keep up on that tracker, it turned into an art piece that added color to my book.  I did this a couple different times and I love the balance between personal pieces, art pieces, and the utilitarian features.  

The other thing that I did with this piece was I used it to plan for a project.  I did National Novel Writing Month this past November and I did all of my planning in my Bullet Journal as well as my tracking.

This was another way to add color (I colored in a square for every milestone I met) and it was a good way to have all of my planning and notes in one place and in a place that I carried with me every day and everywhere I went.  This system worked out better than I could have hoped.  I loved having easy access to research that I had done on topics related to my story and easy access to the character descriptions and family trees I had created for the characters of my novel.

The most important way I've been using my bullet journal is to keep track of my goals for the year.  I don't think I would have done nearly as well at accomplishing my goals with my bullet journal.  A lot of it comes down to being able to turn to my goals whenever I want to, since I carry my bullet journal with me everywhere I go.  This next year, I'm trying something a little different where I have a focus word.  All of the goals I have planned for 2018 are related in some way to finding balance in my life between my personal goals and my professional life.

Spreads like this one are creative, but it's also a good reminder that this is my mantra this year.  I am seeking balance and that is something I have to strive for in every area of my life.  Bullet Journals are good for keeping your goals at the forefront of your mind at all times.  It's also a good way to track things that are important to you (and things that aren't specifically important to your well-being but are nevertheless interesting to know).

Even in just a short year, my bullet journal has changed so much and it's changed because I've been changing.  I've needed different things at different points in the year.  I love that flexibility that a regular planner I can buy at Target just can't afford me.  

There are so many great reasons to keep a bullet journal.  I can see myself using the bullet journal system for many years to come since I can keep it so personal to me.  

If you have any questions about bullet journaling, please don't hesitate to ask!  This is very much an overview.  In the future, I might go into how I use this system for my job and even more specifically about keeping track of my goals.  

Thanks for Reading!


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