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

2020: what you should be doing.


It’s the time of year where all the yadda-yadda about goals and fitness plans get spewed all over the internet. Now, it’s fine to be “working on your summer body,” whatever that means, but there are some things that definitely need to be done. I don’t have to tell you what those things are — they’re up to you — but I can give you an idea of what to think about.

Who are you right now? Who will you be? One of my favorite exercises, as we wind down the year, is drawing my current and future self. I’m not the best at drawing, but I draw a typical outfit, hairstyle, and expression of myself at this very moment. I then list aspects of my life: spirituality, physical health, mental health, relationships, aspirations… I get brutally honest with who I am and what I want at this moment. Then, I move to the next page and draw who I will be in a year. Again, exactly what outfit, hairstyle, and expression I’ll be wearing. What do this person’s spirituality, physical health, mental health, relationships, aspirations… look like? What’s happening one year from now? Notice the wording I use. Not what I want to be. What I will be.

What is your 2020 “theme?” I did a lot of reflection to figure out what my theme will be for next year, but I’ve decided on “discovery.” I’m entering college in the fall of 2020, as some of my more avid readers know, and it’s a chance to figure out who I want to be. I’m sure every naïve college freshman says that, but it’s okay for me to want a fresh start. It’s okay that I plan to make some stupid decisions. I toyed around with “learning” or “change,” but “discovery” makes me feel like I’m uncovering a mystery this upcoming year. Like 2020 will be rare, novel, and fun. That’s what I want my life to feel like. What’s your word? If you’ve settled into the same routine for a few years, that’s alright. But what are you chasing this year? Maybe it’s more money. Maybe your word is “stability.” Or maybe you want to develop your relationships, so your word is “love.” Do some thinking.

What can you do to embody that theme? I love this part because it’s where you have to generate some kind of action! New year goals are so completely useless without action behind them. Like, yes, I can say I want to be an Olympic swimmer, but unless I make a plan to get into the pool, I’m never gonna get there. (I do not, for the record, have any interest in Olympic sports.) So for me, I’m going to create discovery by doing these things:

  • get inspired by following other writers, musicians, and other creators
  • travel to new places
  • absorb more media (podcasts, youtube, books, documentaries…)
  • spend more time in nature
  • journal in the mornings
  • meditate at night — just sit and get quiet

How do you want to feel? If you can’t answer that just yet, think about how you feel now. Go back to your current/future self. Maybe you feel unmotivated, and you want to feel excited. I wrote down that I want to feel joyful, awake, clear, and inspired. If you wanted, you could go even further to consider how you will feel that way. For example: to bring in more joy, I’m doing the 30 Days of Joy challenge by Rebecca Kochenderfer. You can find it here when you join Journaling.com.

What will you let go of? I love this question. We, as people, love to complain. This is a form of constructive complaint. Write down everything you hate and want to go. Crappy interactions with coworkers, road rage, spending too much on not-so-great coffee… Write it all down. You might write: fear, unhealthy eating, overwhelm, feeling stagnant, passive mindset… As you write it, acknowledge that you denounce those things. Throw it in the fireplace if it feels right.

What will you let in? Again, pay attention to my wording here. What are you going to allow to surround your life? What will you let give you hope, joy, inspiration, confidence? This suggests that these things are already knocking at the door of your life. You simply need to open it. When you do, you may be inviting free time, fluidity, love, rest, health… into your life. Take a deep breath and acknowledge that the only barrier (within your control) between you and your desires is your own will. What do you want?

So now, we’ve answered the hard questions. The prompt I have for you now is, will 2020 be a year of action? Or reaction?

-ellynn ❤

P.S. I’ve been using the WordPress free photo library for quite some time, but today, I’ve included an original photo! I’m still not great with photography, but I hope that I’m able to post more original visual content. Enjoy 🙂

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 ❤”

habits don’t just fall in your lap.


Today’s a tough one for many. How many times have we thought about a habit or hobby we’d like to introduce, considered it for a bit, vowed to do it every day, and then forgotten about it completely? Classic promises to ourselves happen all the time, but especially around January 1st. Promising to spend more time with family. Swearing to get better grades. Being absolutely certain that you’re going to start Crossfit.

You see, the issue isn’t the habit you’re choosing. You can do anything! Yes, anything. The issue is the way you’re choosing the habit. If I think to myself, “I’m going to get really good at physics,” but never read a single physics book or take a single physics class or watch a single video about physics, I will undoubtedly fail.

Obviously, you don’t have to take a physics class to begin your first novel, but my point is, the habits are in the action plan. Think of it like an itinerary: you think about what you’d like to do, do some research on how to do it and where, and set a date and time. For everything on your trip.

Except the catch is, you aren’t planning a vacation; you’re planning a new habit. When I started yoga, I didn’t gracefully incorporate it into my life daily and at the same time and in the same place! When I had time, I’d do a few clumsy stretches I only half understood. It didn’t feel like I was doing it right, and I didn’t even have a mat at first! So finally, I resolved to learn yoga the right way. (If you’d like a more detailed post about my yoga practice, I’d be happy to write one.)

I decided that I wanted to devote thirty minutes of yoga in the evenings for four days out of a week. Why not every day? Often, if we fall off the habit track once, it can be discouraging. We may not want to get up and try it again because we’ve already failed. Four days out of a week? It’s more doable and leaves forgiveness for those days we can’t fit in the new habit.

I also inserted an insurance policy of sorts by telling my family and friends about it. When I saw them, they would ask me about my practice, and nobody wants to be asked about something they never really started in the first place . . .

So for that thirty minutes, I didn’t just fumble around anymore. I found instructional videos that showed proper form, breathing, and balance. I went to a class or two to pick up more tools and make certain I was doing the movements properly. I made playlists, finally got a mat (plus a block and strap once I really got into it), and bought leggings designed specifically for stretching. I know, obsessive, right?

But I did that all over the course of a year. Another issue we have when we start habits is expecting them to become second-nature in a two-week period (sometimes less if we’re extra impatient). Starting a business, cooking whole foods, getting straight A’s . . . these are not things that can happen in the blink of an eye. You can’t wingardium leviosa your intentions into existence, although that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

so, let’s recap:

  1. habits are in the action plan
  2. what, where, how, when?
  3. insurance policy
  4. do it properly
  5. things take time

comment below and tell me the habit you’d like to adopt or one you worked very hard to earn.

action breeds motivation.


It has come to my attention that New Year’s Day creates a lot of excitement about accomplishing goals. Perhaps this day is the source of human productivity? The way I’m seeing it is that every person has a multitude of goals to accomplish, but they don’t start them until the first of the year. Why? Because it’s a symbol of new beginnings. That’s absolutely fine; I have no issue with that. It simply doesn’t make sense to use a certain day to propel your motivation forward.

Think about this for a moment. I can watch a video about puppies being rescued, and I can be inspired. I can think, “Wow, what a beautiful thing to do,” and I can believe that saving puppies is something in which I’m interested. There’s nothing wrong with those thoughts, except that there is if we’re trying to be motivated. All of those thoughts of admiration are just fine until I actually do it. Nine times out of ten, I don’t get up and drive to a dog shelter. So what about the people who do?

These motivated people usually have something the average person does not. Experience. I can’t possibly know how exciting it is to work at a dog shelter, seeing the smiling faces of the adopters, until I have worked there. I can’t be pumped to take that yoga class until I have felt the rush it brings me. There are many who might doubt this, so allow me to provide with an alternative example.

So it’s the first of the year, and you’ve decided to work out. Great! But that’s not all you have to do to guarantee that you will. You aren’t motivated simply because of a thought. How will you take action? Call a friend to keep you accountable. Set up an exercise plan. Buy some new gear. And of course, among the most popular, pick up a gym membership. These are all successful actions! They get many a person to their aspirations. Taking these actions allow you to be motivated. You begin to think, “Well, Marty knows I’m doing this. I’ll go for Marty.” “Okay, so today I’ll wear those cute new leggings I bought with the rhinestones!” “I’m not just gonna waste my money on that expensive membership. Let’s go!”

There is a downside to this, in that you may realize that you are less motivated as you continue to take action. This realization is likely just that the treadmill is not for you. The upside? Maybe the track is! Maybe you’ll like Pilates or cycling or weights. Everyone has their niche, but you probably just haven’t found yours yet. So if you’re sitting there, stretch band in hand, thinking, “I’m so bored. This is annoying. Why am I doing this,” you may want to move to the Zhumba class across the hall.

The fact of life is that you can’t knock it ’till you try it. Finding your passion is much easier said than done. I didn’t discover my love for bullet journaling until I picked up the official notebook and started the damn thing. I had admired it before, but my passion for it began when I took the appropriate actions.

I suppose that’s my soapbox for resolutions, and I hope that you succeed in yours, should you make any. Always remember that your goals can be set any time you like, not just on January 1st! Good luck, break a leg, yadda yadda yadda. To our success in life!