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6 Tips to Make Your Journal More Functional AKA Lessons Gleaned from My Bullet Journaling Experiment

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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.

6. Keep What Works, Ditch The Rest

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have to make your journal work for you. When I first started incorporating Bullet Journaling techniques into my practice, I added monthly future logs as they recommend. I quickly realized that these pages remained largely blank and UN-referenced. Rather then continuing the practice, I ditched them. If an approach doesn’t work for you, let it go. And if it does, keep using it. There isn’t one right way to make your journal functional, there’s just the best way for you. Only you know what’s best for you!

What’s helped you make your journal more functional? Share your comments or questions here!

What’s Rosabella Consulting Up To?

We had a great time talking nerdy at the EntrepreNerds hangout yesterday morning. We kept with the theme from previous hangouts and discussed a topic inspired by A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide. We each shared stories about times we changed. It was inspiring to hear others’ experiences and great to see the group step up to support each other, honoring and acknowledging both current and past struggles in a respectful, considerate and engaging way.

We also announced some brand spanking new programming (drum roll please)….later this month we will host the first ever EntrepreNerds Covnersational Catalyst Workshop!! This program is taking the best of the best Conversational Intelligence work I’ve been doing with organizations to make it accessible to individual leaders, entrepreneurs and lifelong learners. 

Can you think of a situation or relationship where you would like to elevate your conversations? The EntrepreNerds Conversational Catalyst Workshop will provide the spark for you to do just that and hurry, the Super Early Bird Discount ends this Friday, 8/4.

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