Almost two years ago, I discovered bullet journaling. I quickly fell in love with it and I use my journal every single day. It is one of my most treasured possessions. I carry it with me everywhere, and I use it for all kinds of things. In addition to being useful for organizing my life, it has also helped me with my personal wellness goals, and it’s just plain fun.
Too often I see or hear comments that are similar to “I want to start bullet journaling, but…[insert reason]” and that reason stems from one of the many misconceptions about bullet journaling. It’s frustrating to see people not even try out this tool that I have found incredibly helpful because they don’t think they have enough time or enough skill.
A lot of the misconceptions come from the abundant gorgeous postings from talented journalers on a variety of social media platforms. A wide variety of spreads such as habit trackers, cleaning schedules, tv episode trackers and health goals...to name a small fraction of the options...make bullet journals seem like mysterious, overwhelmingly complicated and time consuming things that only incredibly organized, as well as highly artistic people, do. But the beauty of bullet journaling is that you don’t need to do all those things, you can pick and choose what you like and customize specifically for you. And most importantly you don’t need to choose which spreads you do right now. You can add and subtract new spreads and trackers at anytime. In fact, your journal should be constantly changing and evolving to suit your needs in that moment.
In this post, I will share with you some of the misconceptions about bullet journaling that I’ve run across. I’m also very interested in doing a step-by-step series that starts with the most basic, no frills bullet journal and gradually gets more involved. A series that readers could follow along with slowly over time. If you think you might be interested, leave a comment below!
It is too time-consuming: Do you use to-do lists? Even if you keep your lists in your brain, you probably need to pause and think occasionally. Well, if you do, you are mostly on your way to a basic bullet journal already. Here’s an exercise: make a to-do list. Add bullet points in front of each task. Put a star next to those you think are important or urgent. Ta-da, you have the basics of a bullet journal! You could easily have a fully functioning bullet journal in less than 10 minutes a day.
Setting one up will take too much time: This one is similar to the above, but people are concerned about setting one up. Well, you could get the essence done in 10 minutes or so, 20 minutes to add in some of the extra bits. I’m not exaggerating here. Bullet journaling is simply a system of collecting to-do lists and a calendar in one place. The technique that’s used in the daily spread (page) is called “rapid logging”. Why? Because it’s meant to be quick!
It requires artistic talent: A tradition bullet journal contains nothing pretty or fancy, not even any color. You most certainly can add anything you’d like to jazz it up, but it isn’t necessary. Also, a bullet journal is for you...not others. If you want to doodle, go for it. No one else needs to see it. Also, if you are like me and you like doodling but have no artistic talent- bullet journals are a great way to practice and learn. Doodling can also be therapeutic. However, at its core, a bullet journal can be done in your regular handwriting, with a regular pen and zero artistic flourishes.
It’s too complicated: Nope, it’s pretty simple which is why the creator can explain the whole thing in a four minute video. It’s a really simple and easy-to-learn technique. Don’t get me wrong, I love those extra pages you find examples of everywhere. In fact, my bullet journal is loaded with habit trackers, doodle-a-day calendars and to-read lists. However, you don’t START there. You start with Ryder’s video. Start with the basics, and then grow your system slowly. You review your bullet journal periodically to make sure you are actually using all those extra pages, lists, trackers and graphs. If you don’t use it, don’t make it again. You can spend as much as little time with your journal as you’d like.
I need an expensive notebook: While, it’s true you might eventually want an expensive notebook. Initially, you shouldn’t have one. Why? You may decide not to continue. You may want to restart at some point. You may want to do some research and experiment with different notebooks. In fact, I started with a notebook that was partially used that I found at home. After a few days, I upgraded to a normal notebook I got at the nearby pharmacy. Eventually, I upgraded to a very nice, but pricey, notebook, only after I knew what I wanted.
I need fancy pens, washi tape, highlighters, stickers, etc…: Nope again. Seriously, you just need a regular pen (or pencil) and a notebook. You don’t even need a ruler. You will figure out what you might want to try for decoration at your own pace. If you want to make pen collecting your new hobby (I did!) great, but you can also just keep using whatever you have on hand.It will be just as efficient.
I don’t like journaling: Maybe, but maybe not in this sense. Do you mean like writing in a diary? Journaling about your feelings and what you did? Yeah, neither do I. This has nothing to do with that. You certainly *can* add that sort of stuff in, and I have been trying to because journaling in that sense is supposed to be good for personal growth. However, you have to create a place for it in the bullet journal. A basic one isn’t going to have that...it’s to-do list + calendar + “notes to self”.
I’m not organized enough: Bullet journaling is super helpful in getting people organized, managing personal projects and personal growth. You don’t need to already be organized to start a basic one. Keep it simple. Focus on just your daily to-do list. Overtime, you will likely become more organized.
That won’t help me: Are you sure? The best part of the bullet journal is how incredibly flexible it is. It can fit with anyone’s personal style, hobbies, business, personality, goals and values. You can take a minimalist, efficient approach; or a complicated, gorgeous approach. You can have one for your work, or one for a specific hobby. I have one for work, one for personal life, and one for the Pathfinder game I run. Some months or days, I have themes with colored pens, washi tape and stickers. Other times, everything is in black pen and it’s a straight-forward no-nonsense list. Most of the time it varies in between. Current habit tracker not working? Turn to a clean page and start a new one. Can’t bother keeping up with that index? Skip it! Trying to get healthy? Make a spread for that. Trying to save money? Track your spending! It can help you accomplish your goals, whatever that might be.
A bullet journal is a reflection of its owner. It can be anything you want. It can take as much or as little time as you want. That’s the beauty of the system. You don’t have to work within the constraints of a premade planner. You can have one day per page; or 7 days per page. It’s not something you need to setup, but something you do on the fly as your day is progressing.
Watch Ryder’s video. Start with the basics. Add a bit more, if you think it’ll help.
As I said, I’m very interested in doing a series of posts where I go back to basics and I start with a very simple bullet journal, and we continue to improve upon it over the course of the series. I could take requests for things to track and record. We can make a fictional character up and give her a story. It’d be fun. If you think you’d want to play along with that comment below so I know there’s some interest!