In high school, at the beginning of the new school year, all of the students would receive a planner. It was spiral bound, red and white with our bulldog mascot on the cover. When it came to the planners, my former U.S. History teacher would say “Learn this shit.” For the first 6 weeks, I was using my planner like a good student–writing down assignments, due dates, general notes. After those 6 weeks I never touched it again and instead commit everything to memory. Probably not the most effective system, but considering that my homework consisted of reading the next chapter for class I survived.
My teacher was right, though, about learning planners. The problem was that I didn’t like them. Not because they were inconvenient, but because they were already manufactured and structured in a way that I couldn’t fully access. The design wasn’t compatible with me. I stopped buying planners because I was wasting money on something I would force myself to use for a few weeks then would never pick up again.
Still, with being a college student and having, at one point, two jobs with two different schedules and a smorgasbord of assignments, club activities and meetings, I couldn’t commit everything to memory.
And then–dun, dun, duuuuuun–I learned about bullet journaling.
I think I first encountered it on Instagram. All of a sudden all kinds of bullet journal-related posts started showing up in my feed. They were colorful, simple, super organized, super messy–there was no real uniting commonality between all of those posts except that it’s for you, by you.
First, some explanations. A bullet journal is less about the aesthetics and more about creating a system of note-taking and planning that works best for you and your needs. Along with having page markers, an index, page numbers, and so on, it’s about creating the system to take the notes. My key looks like this:
Having been bullet journaling for a year now, I’ve learned a great deal about myself in relation to this little book. I learned my dos and don’ts, how much design I need, and what pages or spreads are most compatible with me. For example, I have big handwriting so I prefer designs that will make it easy for me to write as opposed to force myself to write smaller. It’s the little wins in life.
There were a few spreads way back when that weren’t functional for me because they were so over-the-top. Sure, they were pretty to look at, but using them was a struggle and a half. I realized that I fell into the trap of aesthetics and was so concerned with creating something to show off as opposed to making it convenient.
Another lesson I learned is that I’m not that good at keeping a journal. My creative writing professors’ favorite mantra is to write every day, keep a journal. I tried for a bit, and while I do write to release frustrations or anxieties I can’t do it every day. I write when I feel compelled. Even then, finding a space to write down my little mental notes or small thoughts was important to me and so I made layouts based off of that.
I don’t intend to ramble on and on for much longer, but I do believe that bullet journaling is inherently better than using a store-bought planner. It teaches responsibility and you get to organize yourself in a way that works best for you, not the other way around. The designs aren’t necessary; the markers and fancy pens aren’t necessary; you don’t even need a particular kind of journal either. What’s most important is the system you create for yourself and sticking to it.
Tools I use:
- Crayola SuperTips
- Tombow Dual Brush pens (I have 3)
- Leuchtturm1917 with dotted pages in the color purple
- MUJI pens
- Washi tape
Now enjoy some spam of previous designs