starting a bullet journal? read this first.


It’s a new year, and LOTS of people are excited about trying a new bullet journal! That’s so cool, and I love to see everyone doing this planning system for the first time. However, I think there are a few things we need to remember.

  1. It’s not all about how pretty it looks. This is it! I’m starting off this list with the single most important thing! I rant about this all the time. New bullet journal-ers are SO excited to start, but they often start for the wrong reason. Instead of telling you what it is supposed to be, I’m going to tell you what it isn’t. The purpose of a notebook is not to compare your art or handwriting to another person’s notebook. It’s not to be the perfect planner or a gorgeous container of paper that’s supposed to get you thousands of followers on Instagram. It’s not for anybody else to enjoy. It’s not fluffy or stupid, either. It’s not a shallow thing. So what is it? It’s for you. What do you want it to be?
  2. You don’t need special stationery. Look, I love pens and pretty stationery as much as the next fanatic, but a true bullet journal sticks to two basic objects: a black pen and a notebook. That’s it. Not a tombow dual brush pen, not a mildliner, not a crayola supertip marker, not sparkly washi tape… It relies on only a notebook and a pen. Hey, I know someone who uses a binder and notebook paper for easy removal of pages, so I guess you don’t even really need a notebook. For the most part, I just use a black pen and my trusty hardcover dotted notebook. I’m not going to link it because I don’t think you need to copy what works for me to get good use out of your notebook. (However, if you truly want to know, go to my YouTube channel, Rachel Ellynn M.) Just use what you think you need.
  3. Keep it simple at first. So, basically, the original Ryder Carroll format isn’t what I stick to. However, it’s the method that was designed to work for ADHD and he wants it to be universal — until you find something that works better for you. I found a system that I altered, and it worked more and more the more I allowed it to show itself to me. I couldn’t have found that system unless I tried the bare bones and decided other things were going to work better. For example, I started using daily rapid logging like the original method. Then, I switched to weekly spreads (this was a mistake because I saw how pretty the ones on Pinterest were and wanted to make them like this). After that definitely didn’t work, I went back to daily rapid logging and found that it was best for my running mind. I guess my point is, don’t get too excited about all the crazy trackers and collections you can implement until you know for sure what basic pieces work for you.
  4. Do a mental inventory before anything else. This is the most therapeutic part, and I love it so much because it dumps out your mind! Seriously. There are three sections: what I’m working on, what I should be working on, and what I want to work on. Sounds kind of easy, but you really have to sit down and think about it. Some people do it in sections of their lives, like school, work, personal, family, spiritual… I like to dump it all into one. Just make three columns, label them, and start writing. Now, look at the things on all the lists in one. Which items are non-negotiable? Circle them. Which items can you not care less about? Cross them out. If you don’t absolutely need to do something, and you don’t want to do it, then here’s a simple revelation. Only put priority items on your plate. The mental inventory can help you weed those out.
  5. Carry it everywhere. I’m sure people will dispute about this, but I treat my bullet journal much like car keys, a wallet, or a cell phone… I take it everywhere. In 2020, my new one is Pepper, and she is going to get extremely acquainted with the way I live my life. If this sounds silly, I don’t care, but I think my notebook can learn about me and serve me better if I take it along for the ride. Plus, at the end of the notebook’s use, you can smile and notice all the places where you dropped it or the bookmark frayed. You can watch it age. Your journal is a piece of history. Take it and make note of anything and everything.
  6. Claim it as yours. Listen, this journal is only for you. Only you have to see it, use it, keep it up. So make it yours! Much like a blank canvas or empty house, design it the way you see fit. Keep it minimalistic and only add the bare details, or plaster it with artwork and make it crazy colorful. Mine is somewhere in between. I myself enjoy a collage or quote page every once in a while, but then again I also enjoy a quiet page for simple lists. Whatever makes you feel at home in this notebook that you’ll call home for however long it takes to fill it up. (Also, I usually start over for the new year, but I never finish the notebook, so I’m using a shorter one this year.) Let yourself take creative space in the journal that keeps your life together. It’s gonna be in your possession for a while.

So those are just six little reminders before you truly break into that notebook. I wish the best to you and your little companion.

-ellynn

re-blog: stop comparing your efforts to others.


“Hello. Ima get real with you all.

Being a bullet journalist, it’s often a struggle to be confident about my own skills. There are so many people out there who can do it better, easier, prettier, faster, more elaborate… You get the point. Eventually, the insecurity I have about my art skills becomes all-encompassing, and it actually does worse than damages my motivation to make art… It deprecates my self-esteem.

Now, I see this happen all the time in my daily life. I see my whole world as how successful I can be, how impressive I can be, how ___________ I can be. Just fill in the blank. It’s so easy to slip into these modes of ultimate depression and self-hatred with any competitive activity; it doesn’t have to be art.

There’s just one thing that keeps me sane. Just one thought. You are here to create art; the art does not create you. Yes, you should never compare yourself to others in order to shame yourself. No, you shouldn’t hate yourself because you don’t think you stack up. But when all hope is lost, when you just can’t find a reason to stay positive about how your work is, just say to yourself, “I’m here to invent/create/do this thing, but this thing is not me.”

Boom, over. done with. Automatically you realize that what ever you’re able to do, it doesn’t define you as a person. You are disconnected from that thing. You can now start to fill it with things that do define you.

Are you smart? Beautiful? A good listener? Do you have a good taste in music? Whatever it is, go after it with all your heart and put that idea in place of the thing you think you’re not good at.

So on this lovely Sunday morning, I ask that you take advantage of this mini mind shift. I honestly use this daily, and if helps me. Try it throughout the week and let me know if you notice any differences!

Happy succeeding.

love,

-rachel ❤”

bullet journal facts.


TheBuJoFacts

Future Log

Weekly Spread

Monthly Spread

I recently embarked on a project to teach more people about the Bullet Journal Method, so I gave a presentation complete with an infographic, article, and three templates. The article is below, and the infographic/printables are above. Enjoy!


This is a step-by-step process of how to start your own BuJo practice from scratch! Just follow the steps, and you’re golden.

 

  • What’s so great about it? A New York University article titled “Time Management” provided thirteen examples of how to manage time effectively, and eleven of those examples applied to the bullet journal. They are: spend time planning and organizing, set goals, prioritize, use a to-do list, be flexible, eliminate the urgent, practice the art of intelligent neglect, avoid being a perfectionist, conquer procrastination, learn to say ‘no,’ and reward yourself. That’s more than most Google Calendars do.
  • Finding the right notebook for you. The notebook world can be a vast and terrifying place, especially if you’ve never explored the various options before. If you want cheap, I recommend the Artist’s Loft Dot Journals ($7). If you’d like to splurge on a little better quality, my first choice is always the Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Dotted notebook ($20). Both options have several colors available and can be found online.
  • Pens…? If you search “bullet journal” in Google or Pinterest, you’re sure to find thousands of notebooks filled with multicolored pages; however, I continuously adopt the philosophy that all you need is a black pen. Excellent choices include the Pentel RSVP, the Pentel Energel, and the Pilot Juice pen. Still wanting some extra color? A nice set of Muji gel ink pens or Staedtler Triplus Fineliners can come in handy, but fancy pens are not needed. Read that again. Brush pens are also common in the BuJo world.
  • Embellishments. Yes, it’s fun to decorate our notebooks! Just remember. You don’t need a fancy notebook. The most valuable decoration tools for me are the pastel Zebra Mildliners (highlighters), which are fairly cheap and come in packs of five. They do smudge, so if you’re looking for a smudge-free highlighter, the Sharpie highlighters work wonders. Others might like to use colored pencils, markers, watercolors, washi tape, stickers… Some are more practical than others, so it depends on your personal style and preference.
  • Do I need any other tools? Well, no. You could have stopped at the notebook and black pen. From experience, however, I recommend a pencil and clean eraser to make practice lines, a ruler (unless you can draw straight with the dot guides), and some whiteout (because mistakes are sometimes terribly frustrating). I also found the purchase of a protractor helpful, but this is unnecessary for many.
  • Getting clarity. Often, beginners don’t know where to start or what collections to add. Set up a “mental inventory” (a phrase coined by Ryder Carroll, creator of the BuJo) that lists what you’re currently working on, what you should be working on, and what you want to be working on. From there, cross out anything you don’t think is useful or a valuable use of your time. These are the projects, habits, and goals you should add to your notebook. Really think about what matters here.
  • Setting up. Perusing the bulletjournal.com website will be helpful here, but you’ll want to put in place the bare bones of the system: an index, a future log, a monthly log, and your daily or weekly log. The last item(s) on the list come(s) from a long-disputed question: daily or weekly? Ryder Carroll recommends the daily log, but others find it more helpful to have a structured week ahead. Pick your favorite. From there, you can add your top collections from the “mental inventory” page.
  • Using it daily. Make time for 5 minutes of morning reflection and 5 minutes of evening reflection; this is to make sure you didn’t miss any tasks, events, or notes. Fill out any habit tracker you might have, update any collections, and migrate what you didn’t get done to the next day (or a new month in the future log). Take it with you everywhere: take it to your morning coffee, your meeting at 10:15, and Wednesday night yoga class. When an idea hits or an event is added, you’ll have the means to remember it. It’s an “external brain,” Daniel Levitin’s term.
  • Remember why the system works. The bullet journal is a way to keep contained every interest, idea, to-do list, grocery list, birthday party, packing list, dream board, post-it note… This tool helps even multipotentialities (as Emilie Wapnick calls people with multiple interests) and those who struggle with ADD (Ryder Carroll himself). In the words of Jan Eppingstall from @plannerphile on Instagram, the BuJo system is effective because “we’re able to write anything down in a single notebook and use a simple, but effective page numbering and index system so we can find information again quickly.”

 

getting more out of bullet journaling.


Suppose you identify as a bullet journalist. If you don’t, try this resource to understand better, then continue reading. But let’s just say you do. Like me, you probably admire the bullet journal (or BuJo) system because of its expeditious and analog features. The BuJo denotes versatility, simplicity, speed, reliability and… creativity? Record scratch. Some BuJo-ers don’t recognize the last bit.

On the web, one can find any number of articles: how to repair a sink, when the next Spider-Man movie comes out, or even the moon’s phase on January 26th in 2040. However, the most invaluable resource I have found on the internet remains an impeccable community of imaginative planners, just like me (and maybe you).

Outside of the year-and-a-half I’ve spent bullet journaling, six months of it passed in solitude. The only person I knew who followed the planning method (apart from Ryder Carroll, who created the BuJo)? Myself. The possibility of a population of others with similar ideas existing never occurred to me… until I stumbled upon it one day.

My social media accounts amassed negative messages of toxic, hyper-materialism before discovering the genuine magic of the bullet journal community. Now as I scroll through my feed, my mind eases. I smile because of pretty planner spreads among political gobbledygook, selfies, and memes.* I save useful ideas with screenshots or the save tool on Instagram. Additionally, I have a playlist on Youtube related to journaling which I can quickly reference if needed.

By scrolling through Instagram feeds and watching Youtube planning videos, I discovered this community, which began contributing to viewable examples long before I even started using a notebook. Sharing personal ideas (on Youtube or Instagram) provides positive, valuable new skills to partakers. At least, it helped me learn a few pointers.

I discovered, primarily, that anyone from any background at any age from ANY country can give to the community. Also, the aesthetics don’t matter; skill levels certainly do not discount you as an artist or planner. The BuJo community, in general, presents itself as a group of vibrantly creative individuals who seek a practical approach to organizing such artsy energy we all carry with fervor.

Then vs. Now

Above, my very first weekly spread compared to a more recent spread. Notice the change in color, the different bullet system, and the little quote I added after gaining inspiration from others.

Now after describing the community, you might want to know, “How does this apply to me?” Often, people lose their excitement about BuJo because it gets boring; they don’t think the format works for them (even though you can make it whatever you want), or they “don’t have enough time” to make aesthetically pleasing spreads.

Seeing other’s posts online shows BuJo users that 1. Anyone can do it and 2. Its customizability goes beyond simple functionality. For this reason, I encourage anyone and everyone to share their creations online. Including anyone reading this who just discovered the flexible planning system five minutes ago when they opened up this article. Yes, you, my friend.

Perhaps you stumbled here and you have no idea what on earth this thing is and you’re starting from square one. Good news! You’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through exactly what a bullet journal is, where it came from, and what it can do for you.”

-Shelby from littlecoffeefox.com

Reading something like the above quote can comfort many new BuJo users. People like Shelby, who created Little Coffee Fox, inhabit in every part of the internet, and their brand thrives on the need for creative inspiration. If you want the kind of audience who constantly seeks out unique innovations, I highly recommend applying yourself to this community.

Prefer Instagram? Using the stories feature helps add little blips of information, polls, or even mini showcases of your work. Adding photos to your feed (particularly if said photos relate to planning or art) not only looks neat but helps and inspires others. People viewing your work and enjoying it might encourage you to post more for the mollification of your audience. In turn, you can continue growing your talents, of course making some online friends along the way.

Should you gravitate toward Youtube, recording explanatory videos can benefit new bullet-journalists who have a desire to learn. Showing viewers your ideas will help with planner’s block.** Videos such as plan-with-mes, flip-throughs, or topic-specific spread ideas (such as spreads for students or a holiday prep collection) help me the most.***

The above video helpfully answers questions new bullet-journalists might have… a quick tool you can keep in your pocket for later reference or find online easily. The creator, who speaks in the video, provides his personal insight to viewers curious about the BuJo method. We can take his ideas, utilize them, and discard what doesn’t serve us.

Both of these platforms, regardless of personal preference, benefit artists/planners in a multitude of ways, but they can also build your personal audience. Furthermore, if you aspire to have a group of followers who enjoy the same activities you do, social media gives you a place to shine. Of course, more platforms exist than just Instagram and Youtube; I just happen to use these sites. Feel free to explore this community anywhere, either online or in person.

Not quite sold? Planting our own inventive works out there can challenge us, a step of intrepidity many people fear. When you achieve that, when you put out your ideas and art, you automatically show you have more certainty regarding your output than previous occasions. Creativity has the power to make others braver, but you must initiate it yourself. I wish you luck.

*A spread means a page set-up in your bullet journal! An umbrella term that wears many hats.

**Planner’s block: that moment when you don’t know how you want to set up your next day, week, month or year. Or when you just get bored with how your bullet journal looks.

***A collection means a sort of module you can use in your bullet journal to house multiple pages of related ideas. Thus, a holiday prep collection could house a shopping list, recipes, decoration designs, a wintry playlist, or a budget tracker.

mini mind shift from the unconfident art-maker.


Hello. Ima get real with you all.

Being a bullet journalist, it’s often a struggle to be confident about my own skills. There are so many people out there who can do it better, easier, prettier, faster, more elaborate… You get the point. Eventually, the insecurity I have about my art skills becomes all-encompassing, and it actually does worse than damages my motivation to make art… It deprecates my self-esteem.

Now, I see this happen all the time in my daily life. I see my whole world as how successful I can be, how impressive I can be, how ___________ I can be. Just fill in the blank. It’s so easy to slip into these modes of ultimate depression and self-hatred with any competitive activity; it doesn’t have to be art.

There’s just one thing that keeps me sane. Just one thought. You are here to create art; the art does not create you. Yes, you should never compare yourself to others in order to shame yourself. No, you shouldn’t hate yourself because you don’t think you stack up. But when all hope is lost, when you just can’t find a reason to stay positive about how your work is, just say to yourself, “I’m here to invent/create/do this thing, but this thing is not me.”

Boom, over. done with. Automatically you realize that what ever you’re able to do, it doesn’t define you as a person. You are disconnected from that thing. You can now start to fill it with things that do define you.

Are you smart? Beautiful? A good listener? Do you have a good taste in music? Whatever it is, go after it with all your heart and put that idea in place of the thing you think you’re not good at.

So on this lovely Sunday morning, I ask that you take advantage of this mini mind shift. I honestly use this daily, and if helps me. Try it throughout the week and let me know if you notice any differences!

Happy succeeding.

love,

-rachel ❤