Pencilling it in: Bullet Journalling 101 Is the trendy personal planner right for you?

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By: Jackie McNeil

I’m a student who prides myself on my organization skills, so when I first heard of bullet journalling I couldn’t tear myself away from the many videos, blogs, and Pintrest boards devoted to it.

Bullet journalling was created by a New York-based digital product designer to serve as a “customizable and forgiving organization system,” according to its website. Branded “the analog system for the digital age,” the original bullet journal uses specific symbols to keep track of tasks completed, migrated and scheduled as well as events, notes and much more.

I used this method for about a week before I found it to be ridiculously overwhelming. If you’re a naturally organized person and think that you can keep track of the many different symbols, lists, and indexes the bullet journal suggests you use, it certainly doesn’t hurt to give their system a try.

For most of us it’s much easier to choose a few specific aspects to focus on. I simplified it to two basic symbols to signify tasks to be done, and miscellaneous notes that accompany them.

Despite trying to find creative new ways to print or handwrite, all I see reflected in the journal are my own shabby printing skills.

The bullet journal creators also suggest a log-style overview of your year, then individual months, and finally weekly layouts to function as your planner.

My friend and bullet journal novice Larissa Oke, had never heard of the original bullet journal. She based her layouts only on the content created by her friends or examples found on Pintrest. She found that you don’t need to stick to the original bullet journal’s structure to successfully use it; one of the best aspects of a bullet journal is the ability to make it entirely your own. This is how some of the most fun page layouts have been created, from mood trackers to a designated space for doodling.

“Bullet journalling is a way for me to combine the sketchbook I’d started with my personal journal and an organization system that improves on my old planner that I was tired of,” explained Oke.

She began her bullet journal late last year after seeing encouragement from a roommate who had fallen in love with her own journal.

Now she enjoys devoting time at the start of each week to plan out a balanced social life with schoolwork, as well as relieving stress with the less structured pages for sketching or tic-tac-toe.

Although it may seem trivial, the aesthetically pleasing aspect of bullet journalling relies almost entirely on your own abilities to write neatly and find artistic ways to decorate pages.

I may not have illegible handwriting, but it’s also not something I enjoy looking at. Despite trying to find creative new ways to print or handwrite, all I see reflected in the journal are my own shabby printing skills.

Bullet journaling is a way for me to combine the sketchbook I’d started with my personal journal and an organization system that improves on my old planner that I was tired of.


Larissa Oke
Bullet Journal Novice

It’s easy to get intimidated by the countless examples of gorgeous writing and perfectly centered titles found online, but if you can learn to accept the hard work you put into your journal, it could be worthwhile to try out a fun new style of planning.

Your bullet journal can be decorated using all kinds of artsy doodles or stickers, and it almost always ends up looking great. However, you need to decide if it’s worth the time it takes to completely design your own planner, sketchbook and journal. One basic weekly layout took me almost a half an hour to complete, without adding any colours or drawings.

A popular method is to create your layout over a weekend or a school break from the day you’re making it all the way until the next foreseeable break you’ll have, whether that’s the next weekend or the February reading week. It’s important to find a time frame that works best for you, because if you don’t have enough weeks in your journal, you might be frustrated with the lack of foresight in your schedule.

But if you make too many weeks at once, the monotony may make the bullet journalling process overwhelming and boring.

The bullet journal has not made a successful convert out of me, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re looking for a planner and a planner only, I would steer clear. There are a variety of reasonably priced planners out there that are likely to have a structure that covers all your bases.

If, however, you think you could benefit from the creativity it allows, give bullet journaling a try. It may not be meant for everyone, but bullet journals have the flexibility to become the perfect planner made just for you, by you.

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