Take a quick look at Pinterest or Instagram and you’re sure to find countless examples of beautifully artist yet wonderfully functional bullet journals – that crossover between scrapbooking, art, planning, scheduling, and journalling. A life planner that is all-encompassing. Something beautiful and bespoke, designed with only you in mind, that can help you maintain a busy schedule and keep you on track with everything. I can do that, I thought to myself. That’ll be fun. I always have had a penchant for diaries, planners, calendars, and so forth.
Well, you can’t say I didn’t try.
In my typical way, I got an idea in my head and immediately jumped on Amazon, ordering a bunch of tools – notebooks, pens, stencils, washi tape (what exactly is it about washi tape that’s so delectable?). I got the lot, and more. My original plan was to design my journal during my downtime whilst mindlessly watching Netflix, combining my zombie moments (which are occassionally vital for any fully functioning brain) with something at least a little more productive, whilst at the same time not being a chore.
Except it didn’t work out that way.
I sat down on Saturday morning, ready to start my editing as I had scheduled, when my new and shiny Leuchtturm1917 notebook squeaked its desire for attention. Then the pens chimed in and the washi tape played along and before I knew it, my manuscript had been pushed to one side and I had all my bullet journal goodies laid out in front of me. Such tempresses.
Skip forward seven hours (yes, seven), and I was still doodling and sketching. Nothing productive, but I was enjoying myself. At least, I was until I noticed the clock and realised just how I had wasted my entire day. My manuscript cried a silent and abandoned cry from the corner of the desk, feeling entirely (and quite rightly) wronged. I slammed the book shut and threw it, rather carelessly, onto the shelf with frustration and annoyance.
Turns out, I decided, bullet journalling is just another tool of my old friend Paranoia. It’s just another way to make me procrastinate. It’s just like Facebook. A time-sucker, except worse because at least Facebook never pretends to be anything else. I spent the rest of the day scowling and ignoring the book’s quiet mewling apologies as it pathetically begged for forgiveness.
I was angry. I’d spent all that time, seemingly fallen down the rabbit hole of bullet journalling, and it wasn’t even any good. I’d made so many mistakes that I ended up crossing half of it out and starting again, my pitiful attempts at drawing were worse than your average three-year-old’s, the notebook that everyone said was perfect for bullet journally allowed the ink from my pens to leak through to the next page, and – absolutely worst of all – it was the exact opposite of productive.
My relationship with bullet journalling was over.
Except, I never could hold a grudge.
The next day, upon waking (or rather, upon finishing work), I carefully retrieved the thing from the shelf and gently, delicately, opened up the first page almost in fear of what I was going to find there. It wasn’t, of course, a case of ‘all is forgiven’, but I was willing to maybe give it another go. After all, it’s not the journal’s fault I spent the whole day procrastinating, and it’s only fair to give something a go for more than one day.
I was pleasantly surprised. Don’t get me wrong, I still accept my serious lack of artist ability, but what I’d done wasn’t half bad. It was okay. My vague attempt at drawing was more six-year-old than three-year-old. Even the pages with the mistakes and crossings out added a little character and besides, that’s me isn’t it? That’s a bit of my personality thrown in – the bit that jumps in head first without bothering to check if it’s right. On top of that, most of what I’d done would only need doing once – or at most, once a week. It’s the bits that come next that are the productive bits.
Then I had a bit of an epiphany. I realised what the true beauty of a bullet journal really is. It’s not the detailed art and decoration, or the fancy calligraphy, or even the planning system. The true beauty of a bullet journal is that it doesn’t need to be anything. Or rather, it can be exactly how you want it to be. I’m not here to make my bullet journal pretty or to compete with anyone else’s (as if I could, anyway), but my bullet journal is here for me. I can make it work for me, in a way that’s best for me, and that doens’t necessarily mean it has to be gorgeous or even error free, and it certainly doesn’t mean I need to feel bad about what I’ve already created.
My first attempt at bullet journalling, even though it’s only been a few days, has already taught me quite a bit. I’m not going to bother with the monthly spread next time – I’ve already got a calendar on the wall for that, and there’s no point in writing all that information down twice – that’s just another of Paranoia’s procrastinatey tricks. I’m not going to let it overtake a whole day again either, unless I really feel the need for a zombie day. I’m not going to concern myself too much with what it looks like – although a little bit of that makes me smile. What I am going to do is work with it, grow with it, keep it simple, and allow it to help me do all those things I want to get done.
Have you got a bullet journal? How’s it working out for you?