Love Me, Love My Bullet Journal

Remember when I used to hate-watch Bullet Journal videos last year?

Part of the reason why I was so mean to the people in the BuJo community was because they seemed to be way too pre-occupied with making their planners as pretty as possible, without even considering the point of being functional. I was sick and tired of the endless prattling and peacocking over Leuchtturms and fountain pens because I didn’t think that sort of thing was my bag.

While all of this was happening, however, I was getting frustrated with the planning system that I had been using all year. I thought I was happy with my generic week-in-two-pages spread, but it wasn’t enough for me to hold the non-writing ideas that were running through my head.

Then I came across Ryder Carroll’s TEDx talk on YouTube, and it finally hit me: at the heart of it all, the purpose of a Bullet Journal was about living life with intention.

That explained why, at the end of November, I had purchased two Muji-style notebooks for BuJo-ing. That explained why I spent the last few weeks of December planning the heck out of my life for January.

It was an experiment, I told myself. If it worked, it worked, but if it didn’t I could go back to my usual week-in-two pages (as evidenced by the backup Moleskine planner that I bought at Fully Booked) and go on my merry way.

Then January arrived, and guess who didn’t touch her week-in-two-pages planner for the whole month? This person.

I’m not saying that I’ve joined the pen-hoarding crowd; in fact, I don’t like sharing my BuJo spreads because they’re full of erasures. But what I do like is that I can do my own thing and plan my own way, so that I can use my remaining brain space for other important things.

Here are the things that worked for me in my Bullet Journaling journey:

  • Flexibility in scheduling. For my schedules, I chose a future log, a monthly log, a to-do list, and my usual week-in-two-pages layout. The to-do list contains all the things that I need to do for the month, which I can plug into my weeklies. The only downside that I saw with this was that I could only plan my days one month at a time, which explains why I kept my Moleskine weekly planner for longer-term planning.
  • Habit trackers. BuJo fiends will tell you that Ryder Carroll didn’t include habit trackers in the original system, but this was one of the ideas that I adopted immediately. Mine is basically a graph with a list of habits on the vertical axis and the days in the month at the horizontal; every time I finish a task, I fill in a dot-grid square corresponding to the current date with my colored pen. Some of the habits stuck with me every day (e.g. skincare, toothbrushing, and medication) and some didn’t (hello, reading every day) but it did get to the point that my day wasn’t complete without me filling in a square for the day. I also had a mood tracker with me, but I decided that the one I had for January wasn’t working so I decided to do a simpler color-coded one for next month.
  • Lists. When I set up my January BuJo layout in December, I started taking down all the things that I needed to do in January–not just in my master To-Do list but also on separate blank pages. I had my Teaser Thursday packing list, plus a master plan for my no-sugar challenge and my skincare routine for the month. Not only did it help me clear out headspace, but it also kept me accountable for a good part of the month in terms of my self-care.
  • Gratitude Log/Lessons Learned. I’ll admit that I’m not much for journaling these days (no thanks to twenty-five years’ worth of lovesick torture that have been rightfully lost to time) but I find that keeping a list of things that I was grateful for was a great way to share the things that had made me happy along the way. Once I’d set up a gratitude log, however, I figured that I needed to write down a Lessons Learned page to remind me of the things that needed improvement in my life, from maintaining my habits to eating too much cheese.

All of this applies mostly to my personal BuJo, because I like to keep this separate from the rest of my writing projects. (I use Google Calendars for home management; if I do end up joining the work force I may be able to use my other planner after all.) But all of this has helped me to become a more organized person, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me for the next few months.

Now I turn this over to you: Have you used the Bullet Journal system for yourself? What kind of planning system has worked for you? Hit me up in the comments, or send me a tweet (@TheStellaTorres) and let’s chat!

Love, Stella

2 Responses

  1. I have a love-hate relationship with bullet journal posts too. I tried using the bujo method maybe 4 years ago. I didn’t understand the system so the notebook ended up being a catch all for notes and stuff. I tried using normal planners, but I was intimidated by the days and weeks. This year, I decided to give it a try again. I still like to try and make it look pretty for myself, but I likely won’t post it when I’ve got things written on it.

    I find the downside much like you. The system is really great for note taking and current things, but future planning is limited. There’s the future log, but on a daily basis, we’re pretty much blank.

    1. Yes this! I’ve given up on making it pretty because I know I won’t have enough space for my notes and planning. I’m also a big sticky note addict so I still find myself using them in my journal, though I find myself saving the pretty ones for the BuJo.

      While I haven’t really touched my Moleskine that much, I don’t want to let it go because I’ve listed some of my important advance appointments in that book. For example, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist that was scheduled for February, but I could only put it in the future log of my BuJo because I plan week-by-week and I didn’t want to set up another month that far into the future, so it went into the Moleskine. When I go to my next appointment I’ll need to bring the Moleskine in case I don’t see my doctor again for more than a month in advance.

      Someday I’ll have a beautiful minimalist spread that I can show off on the Internet…but not now. 🙂

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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