I approach any trend with a degree of scepticism. I question whether it is right for me, just because it has worked for a seemingly large portion of the population (to give an example, I totally learnt the hard way that I do not suit Instagram eyebrows). That’s why, despite months of gawking at pages of calligraphy and daily tasks organised into immaculately drawn boxes, I procrastinated on starting a bullet journal.
I feared regular journaling would become a waste of time without delivering any tangle benefits – after all, I am not too bad at organisation, and didn’t want to fix something that isn’t broken. I thought my Instagram was enough of an artistic outlet, and my blog – an ideal place to share my thoughts. So, what made me ask for my first bullet journal for Christmas and jump abroad the band wagon? Turns out, as with all occurrences throughout history (yes, I am convinced that Maria getting a bullet journal will be scrutinised by future academics and I am simply trying to facilitate their job), there are several reasons:
a) I want to spend less time on technology: at the moment, I rely on everything from Google Docs to various calendar apps to organise my life. While this gets the job done, I personally benefit from spending less time on digital devices, and find that physically writing stuff down helps cement tasks and intentions in my mind much more than typing.
b) I want to keep things in one place: to explain what I mean, at the moment I track the different aspects of my life in different documents and notebooks. The books I’ve read, the articles I wish to write, how much money I’ve spent… While I will keep this system because it allows me to explore these things in greater detain than an A5 spread, my bullet journal will provide an overview of my life at a glance, a place to jot down things before they escape my head. Plus, we all benefit from being concise on occasion, from focusing on the bigger picture as opposed to the finer details.
c) I want to overcome my fear of tracking thoughts, feelings and emotions: we all know that writing is therapeutic. But up until now, I have been writing as a form of distraction, not acceptance of how I actually feel. For example, if I am angry or upset, I will start doing an outline for an upcoming blog post or write a poem about a completely unrelated topic. I don’t think I have ever kept a diary for more than a couple of days. Honestly, my inhibition is a fear of saying something cheesy, and not having much to write because sometimes I struggle with articulating my emotions in the first place. However, in the absence of deeper sentiments to express, it doesn’t hurt to write an outline of my day before bed, and if being cheesy anywhere is acceptable, it is in a private journal firmly hidden from the public’s eyeshot.
d) Many moments in life are elusive, and with time seeming to move exceptionally fast as of recent, it is easy to forget the little things that happen on a day-to-day basis, the ones which make you smile before dissolving into the monotony of our daily routines. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember anything beyond the most significant of events. In December 2018, however, I want to be able to recall what made each month special and relive the moments I have managed to capture from each day/week.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic to discover this beautiful bullet journal from Leuchtturm 1917 among my Christmas presents and used it to pass the time while my delicious lentil and mushroom pie was baking away. And since then, I have been obsessed, creating a new board on my Pinterest to collect all of the wonderful ideas I want to implement into my pages throughout the year. What I adore the most is just how much you can personalise your journal. We all live vastly different lives, have vastly different aesthetic tastes, and we can tailor our bullet journal spreads to our preferences as much as we like. Thus, if you are new to this as I am, I encourage you to ponder deeply about what exactly you want to derive from journaling: is it organisation, a therapeutic effect, a place to keep track of thoughts and memories? What are the significant components of your life: your fitness journey, your blog, your career? Be flexible, and keep in mind that these may change in accordance with the constant meander of life.
(Just to give an example: I know I am a sensible spender, reserving not much more than a minute corner to track my expenditure, yet if you are someone who wishes to tighten their spending habits, setting up a detailed expense tracker may be beneficial.)
To save me from further rambling, let’s have a look at my bullet journal:
As you can see, I approached January with minimalism in mind, opting for a simple blue colour palette and an uncluttered feel to each page. January, to me, is a month of serenity and reflection after the turmoil of December, a time to refocus for the upcoming year. I’ve decided that I am going to preface each month with a quote or a poem that I found either particularly meaningful or beautiful in the way it is communicated.
Next up, we have a large calendar which provides an overview of my month at a glance and gives me room to write down any significant event/task for each day. This is neighboured by an outline of my main goals for the month, which are split into three categories: personal, career and fitness. Obviously, these are quite broad, but this in itself is beneficial to me as someone who is often enslaved by details. Thinking within a broader framework helps clarify exactly what I wish to achieve by the end of each month, and knowing that I can always refine them keeps my restless soul at peace (lol). I’ve blurred out the goals, because I plan on doing a separate post about these, and my calendar events, because they mention the company I work for.
Gratitude, of course, is an essential component of success because it revitalises our mindset if we are in a slump and helps us live in the now as a species prone to obsessing over the future. One of my aims for 2018 is to invest some time in writing firm gratitude reminders. Instead of putting pressure on myself to do this daily – something I am unlikely to keep up with – I’ve instead decided to allocate a box for monthly reflections, and for whenever I think of something significant. As mentioned above, another box is dedicated to memories and any words that I come to associate with this particular month.
The next page exemplifies the adaptability of bullet journals, the way in which they are shaped by our interests and personality. I like to keep track of the books I read, as well as any interesting podcasts I listen to and movies/series I watch. I like to go beyond the title, constructing a mini review and recording their central message or argument because I believe reading should be done with a purpose. Any book, whether good or bad, can teach us a lesson while revealing something about the world and we must try our best to remember these. For this reason I’ve decided to allocate two pages of my bullet journal to the information I find myself consuming and pondering upon throughout the month. (Once again, pardon the blur but I am saving my monthly readings for a future post, lol)
‘Vocab and quotes’ may seem peculiar, but at times I come across a word or a quotation that I must save from my void of forgetfulness at all costs. Plus, at the end of the year it will be interesting to review which sayings caught my eye at a particular time and what this may have revealed about the fluctuations in my mindset.
Of course, blogging and Instagramming deserve a page of their own. I have a separate notebook detected to content creation and social media, but this spread will come in handy for not only goal setting, but for noting down brief ideas as insurance against blogging slumps (we all have them and they are not to be ashamed of). I recommend creating a reading list box to save yourself from forgetting about the fascinating material you see online/in book stores, and having ‘nothing to read’ whenever the desire to recline with a good book arises.
There’s nothing particularly special about my weekly spreads, and this is intentional. I wanted to keep them simple and straight to the point. A space for my overall aims for that week. Plentiful room to schedule my daily tasks. A window to pre-plan posts for my food Instagram, to keep my feed coherent and know which ingredients to buy. And of course, a plan for upcoming blog posts (Saturday is paired with a question mark because I only post then if I know I’ll have sufficient time to create quality content). I’ve dedicated a space to list anything I need to purchase to save me from clogging up the ‘notes’ app on my phone, as well as the previously-mentioned expenditure tracker. Finally, I’ve left a gap to keep track of my mood, sleep and exercise after each day draws to a close, and to do a brief reflection on each week to stay mindful and grounded.
Last but not least is a page dedicated to January reflections. An uninhibited space to write whatever crosses my mind at the end of the month, to revisit my intentions and analyse my proximity to the goals I’d outlined on the first page.
I am aware that I am not the most artistically competent person in the world and still have a lot to learn about journaling, but I thoroughly believe that there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, and it is our individual responsibility to explore what works for us and what doesn’t. Let us hope that my wholehearted excitement about this little journey does not dissolve into nothingness as the year progresses because I believe it carries many wonderful benefits that I’ve already experienced in a short space of time. Also, do pardon my inability to write anything less than 1500 words – I did intend for this post to be a quick one, but intentions do not always align with outcomes!
Let me know in the comments: do you have a bullet journal? What does a typical weekly spread look like for you?
Lots of love, Maria ♡
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