Bullet Journaling

Let’s talk about to-do lists.

So, in the past few years, bullet journaling has seen some ebbs and flows in popularity.

For anyone who has somehow not heard about this trend, it’s basically a simpler way of keeping a journal. You make bulleted points rather than long, deeply explained entries. Like a journal, it can be absolutely anything you want, from what you’ve done any given day, to feelings, to to-do tasks.

And I was doing it before it was cool – that’s right, I’m a bullet journal hipster.

I started this journaling in March of 2015, when I was in my last semester of university.

At the time, I was finding it really hard to keep up with my schoolwork and social obligations. I had an incessant feeling that I was always forgetting something.

At first, I just wrote lists and reminders on scraps of paper, but eventually I realized that I needed to use something more consistent and organized.

So, the next time I was at Meijer (that’s our supermarket, kind of like an upscale Walmart, for all you non-midwesterners), I picked up this little notebook so I could start writing my lists in it.

So far, I’m on my 8th notebook and counting.

Part of the bullet journaling trend has been to make these journals gorgeous. A simple Google image search of bullet journals gets you stuff like this:

Or this:

And I’ll come right out and say – that is NOT how I bullet journal.

If you have that kind of creativity, artistic skill, and/or time to make it that pretty, good for you. Someday your grandkids are going to find it stunning and fascinating.

My journals look more like this:

My journals are basically scratch paper, I use them for everything.

I try to do at least one entry every day. This entry consists of a list of anything from appointments, to household tasks that need to be done, to the number of chapters of a book I want to finish that day. Each of these gets crossed off, which makes it harder to read later, but not impossible, and gives me a deep sense of satisfaction.

Even on the days that I don’t remember to write something, I’ll usually go back and write in a few of the tasks that I accomplished that day, or events or interactions that I participated in.

I’ve found this habit to be incredibly therapeutic, for a number of reasons.

First of all, it gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m able to cross off tasks that I completed. It also gives me peace of mind so that I don’t feel like I’m forgetting anything.

One of the most significant benefits, though, is that it helps me accomplish things that my anxiety makes difficult.

I’ve mentioned before that I have anxiety, but it’s often hard for people to understand how my social anxiety impacts my daily life. It makes small tasks, like calling to make a doctor’s appointment, going to a club meeting, or other basic interactions, extremely challenging for me.

By writing down a task, like calling the doctor, and giving myself the “reward” of being able to cross it off, I’m able to muster the motivation to do the sorts of things that most people don’t think twice about accomplishing.

Now, I said that I use my notebooks like scrap paper, but so far I’ve only described the daily lists I make. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though.

I use my notebooks to make grocery and meal lists, for brainstorming story ideas, to make note of a knitting pattern idea, to keep track of my knitting projects, to take down information and reminders when people tell me things, to make my budgets, as scrap when I need to remember a series of numbers for some reason – the list goes on.

And the thing is, if I made my notebook fancy and colorful and creative, it wouldn’t be nearly as useful to me.

So, needless to say, if you’ve been considering getting into bullet journaling but are intimidated by the time and creativity it will take, don’t be. You can make bullet journaling anything you want it to be, as long as you’re getting something down on the page.

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