My wife has been using a bullet journal for years now. At first, I thought she just found a new manifestation for her list-making obsession. Eventually, though, I realized that it was a little more complex than that. Around the time she started blogging, she asked me to proofread one of her first posts on how to start a bullet journal. I did my husbandly duties and scoured the post looking for mistakes, but I didn’t absorb any of the information. Soon enough, her blog got popular and I had to stop and ask: Why exactly do people like her journal? She told me all about Ryder Carroll, Boho Berry, Page Flutter, and many more blogs about the bullet journal, so she clearly wasn’t the first to write about this subject. So I went back and read that post again, but this time I saw something new.
I realized this system could be perfect for me. After reading her post and watching the original bullet journal video, it hit me that this system could do wonders for someone as disorganized as myself. Did I think the bullet journal would solve all of my problems? No. But I knew it could help put a dent in those problems.
So about three months ago, I told Shelby I was going to start a basic bullet journal. Needless to say, she was thrilled. I hopped on Amazon ready to buy a journal and get started. But then I chickened out. I simply could not do it. A Leuchtturm1917 sat in my cart ready to go, but the self-doubt crept into my head.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve seen my wife’s bullet journal. If you haven’t, go check out her monthly set up. It’s beautiful and that is a problem for me. I just knew that no matter how hard I tried I could never create a page as nice as that. I am severely dyslexic, so my handwriting has always ranged somewhere from chicken scratch to a hyper 8th grader. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by it. But facing my embarrassment brought me to a big aha moment.
Just Do It Already
Two weeks ago, with my second year of law school around the corner, I made the decision to get organized and improve my handwriting. I pulled up that beginner bullet journal post and ordered a Leuchtturm B5, some good felt tip pens, and a ruler to help me create some order. I choose the B5 instead of the A5 because I like how large it is and I feel like it can take a beating in my backpack. After all, I want is a minimalist bullet journal, so I’m not too worried about the journal getting too scuffed up. I typically use Uniball pens for my daily writing, but I wanted a felt tip pen because I hoped that the thick black line would slightly mask the deficiencies in my handwriting.
When the package arrived, I was ready to start, but I was nervous. Lots of people get nervous when they start their first bullet journal, and I am no different. Like any good student, I procrastinated. Another week passed before I finally sucked it up and put pen to paper. I opened up my new journal, grabbed my ruler and pen, and immediately screwed up.
I almost quit right then and there. I knew no one was looking, but it felt like the world just let out one loud collective HA. Not knowing how to move forward, I posted online and asked for help. There was no single piece of revolutionary advice, but the words of encouragement helped me remember that this was a minimalist bullet journal and mistakes were allowed. This bullet journal isn’t going to hang in an art gallery, so I can ease off some of the self-imposed pressure.
Keep It Simple
I figured I would start with the easiest thing I could think of: the daily entry. I didn’t really use any guide for this. Instead, I just did what felt right. So I pulled out my little ruler, wrote out a header, and made a personal section and a business section. Three mistakes later, I had myself a daily entry. I decided that I would use dots for basic tasks, circles for somewhat important tasks, and triangles for very important tasks. Later I also decided to use squares to indicate an event, such as a meeting or appointment.
I’ve always struggled with eating a good breakfast (by which I mean I just skip it) so I decided to steal an idea from my wife’s dailies post and started tracking my meals each day. I figured seeing my failure staring me in the face every day would make me finally change it. So far, it’s actually helped. I’ve been eating breakfast more often since I started tracking it, which was exactly what I was hoping for.
The Fabled Monthly Spread
My “monthly spread” isn’t much of a month or a spread. Instead, it’s just several weeks pushed together. I was terrified of creating a monthly spread. Every picture I’ve seen shows the calendar or goals stretching across at least two pages, which is so intimidating. Instead of just skipping the monthly spread, I changed it to the simplest version I could imagine. I tend to think in week-long blocks, so I ignored the month layout and opted for three weeks with room for one more. It works for me, so I’m happy. We’ll see how it changes as I get more comfortable with my system.
I always forget everything- important, unimportant- it does not matter. I decided to do something about it, or at least give it a try. What I wanted was a place where I could go in a hurry to write something down without having to make a new spread. I decided to make a simple “Remember This” section for these loose notes. It is pretty similar to a brain dump, and for me, it is just a good place to store notes and goals that are too far in advance for my monthly spread.
I also decided to add in a basic textbook tracker (another idea stolen from my wife). Actually, decided is a strong word for what happened. Classes were starting in less than a week and I didn’t have books yet. Necessity made me do it.
It Was Terrifying, But Worth It
Starting my minimalist bullet journal was nerve-wracking, but I’m glad I did it. Am I more organized and productive then I was before? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to say at this point. But at least I am more conscious of my disorganization, which is important for fixing it. I have a long way to go before I am Mr. Organized. I’ve made lots of mistakes already: I missed days, I marked some tasks done that were only halfway finished, and some tasks I avoided altogether.
After a little over a week, I’m not sure that what I have is even a “real” bullet journal. Then again, I’m not sure there really is a true bullet journal; I guess that’s kinda the beauty of it. I have big plans for my minimalist bullet journal – I want to add a habit tracker and a finance spread, among other things. The only reason I haven’t already added these is my fear of screwing it up.
In fact, my fear is one of the main reasons I decided to share my experiences with you. Even with all of my wife’s bullet journal experience and help, I am not immune from the paralyzing fear that tells me how badly I will fail. The big lesson I have learned through my struggles and the thing that keeps me trying is the knowledge that it does not matter if your journal is beautiful, it just needs to be productive. It doesn’t even need to be very productive. Progress is progress, and we just have to keep on moving forward despite everything.