6 Tips to Make Your Journal More Functional AKA Lessons Gleaned from My Bullet Journaling Experiment
courtesy of bulletjournalcollection.com
Just over a year ago, I returned from my second solo writing retreat. I felt refreshed, rejuvenated and recommitted to my journaling practice. But I had a nagging question I couldn’t answer for the life of me, how can I take my journal to the next level?
Also nagging me was my good friend, Kristen. “Why don’t you try Bullet Journaling already!” She asked me for the n-tenth time.
I had to admit, it was because my ego was in the way. I was jealous that this Ryder guy who invented Bullet Journaling could turn his practice into a new fad that has given Trapper Keepers a run for their money. Bullet Journaling has adorned Pinterest boards, Instagram Feeds and BuzzFeed articles like it’s the second coming of Christ. And I’m stubborn…but only so stubborn.
There was no denying that Ryder’s Bullet Journaling techniques had some valuable tidbits I could glean from despite its popularity (as a Misfit I’m skeptical of anything that’s popular). Besides that, I’m seasoned enough to know I don’t need to follow the Bullet Journaling approach to the T in order to get something out of it. Indeed, one of the beauties of Bullet Journaling, or your BuJo as it’s so affectionately called, is that you can make it your own
And so, I began my Bullet Journaling experiment. Even with that decision, there were a lot of things I had to work through to actually get to implementation. The first decision I had to make…that I was going to use my current journal instead of buying a brand new one. My second decision, which I arrived at after writing a page and a half stream of consciousness on the subject, was to keep it simple and forgo the picture perfect Pinterest worthy Bullet Journal in favor of it actually being practical to me. My third decision was to incorporate my existing weekly planning template into my journal rather then follow the daily/future log approach.
1. Just Add Page Numbers
The blank Moleskine journals I buy are completely blank….as in they don’t even have page numbers. This was one of those forehead slapping, DUH, moments for me. Adding page numbers is really helpful! And if you’re working in a blank journal like me, I’ve learned that it’s fastest to label the odd numbered pages, then go back and label the even numbered pages. It’s a seemingly small but noticeably faster hack.
2. Indexing Doesn’t Have to be Alphabetical
While popularized by the Bullet Journaling craze, indexing your journal is definitely not a completely original idea there. But it does make things more functional. And you can only index if you have page numbers to reference. I put my index on the first page of my journal. A page I used to leave blank because I didn’t like how it laid, suddenly had a function – yippee! I index my weekly plan pages, stream of consciousness, project pages, etc etc etc. The trick is to take time to update the index with some regularity and continue to add items you might want to quickly reference.
3. Incorporate Structured Pages Into Your Practice
One of the greatest AHA’s I had from my Bullet Journaling experiment was the value of having structured pages. For the last year, I’ve been using the same weekly planning page in my journal and it has greatly helped me to stay organized and focused on the important tasks at hand. In addition to using structure planning pages, I’ve also experimented with tracking and logging pages. In both instances, these are pages in my journal that I sketch as an outline first and fill in the details later. This was a significant deviation from my, all pages are blank slates approach of the past.
4. Start with Pencil
This is especially true when you’re looking to develop spreads, aka planning pages or tracking/logging pages. Sketching your ideas out in pencil first enables you to live and learn from your mistakes without being overly concerned with making it perfect. While most of the beautiful spreads you will see online are in pen and marker, they probably didn’t start out that way. I bought a few different kinds of mechanical pencils to find the one that I like best and always keep at least one with my journal.
5. Always Try New Things
One of the beauties of the Bullet Journaling craze is that there’s a huge swath of fans developing and sharing new ideas and techniques for your journal. While, it’s easy to get stuck in a routine it is very valuable to always try new things and continue to embrace the role of being an experimenter. One of the new ideas I’ve been experimenting with are structured project pages, that will allow me to consistently develop plans for the various bigger efforts I am embarking on. Once I get the structure down, it’s just a matter of regularly utilizing the template in my practice.