Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore

Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore

So here’s the thing the Internet doesn’t want you to know: bullet journaling was created to be a *~*~*~productivity tool~*~*~*. It’s sole purpose was to help people get more shit done during the day in the simplest way possible. Of course, as soon as it became “mainstream”, it also became commoditized, and now bullet journaling is one of the most popular and seemingly most expensive hobbies to jump into (yes, I said hobby). If you hop on to any of the bullet journal Facebook groups, you’ll see one hundred and one posts from people who are new to the system saying, “I finally got all my supplies in! Now I’m scared to start because I don’t want to mess it up!”

They’ve got four $20 Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, a 300 pack of Staedtlers, every color brush marker under the sun, watercolor palettes, three dozen mildliners, a gel pen in every color known to man, stencils, stamps, stickers, markers… the list goes on and on.

And they’ve got no idea where to start, because they look at all those things and think, “How is this supposed to make me MORE productive?!” And other people look at it thinking they couldn’t ever start a bullet journal because they don’t have $300 to spend on supplies!

(Disclaimer: not saying there’s anything wrong if this is your planning style. Just saying this is not the ONLY way to bullet journal, because I couldn’t do it if my life depended on it and I bet there’s other people out there like me, too.)

A page from my first ever bullet journal

I started out with the same kind of mindset. I went out and bought a Moleskine square-grid notebook ($20), a fountain pen and ink cartridges ($20), a calligraphy pen and ink cartridges ($15), a 4-pack of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners ($10), a pack of Papermate InkJoy gel pens ($8), and a ton of washi tape (probably between $20-$30 total). I thought those things were essential to having a bullet journal, because that’s all I saw on the internet.

When I was still trying to figure out that damn calligraphy pen

It took me maybe about six months to realize that I am just not a creative planner. I had been hunting for a productivity system for so long that I was glad to have found something that worked (rapid-logging), but I was still fighting with myself internally about the need to make it ~*~*~*~decorative~*~*~*~.

Still with the calligraphy pen

I obviously had no clue how to write with a calligraphy pen, but I kept at it thinking this was how I had to make my headers to be a true bullet journalist. I was constantly comparing my pages to others’ pages and coming up short, thinking I was doing something wrong and trying to figure out how to be more creative to be “competitive” with other bullet journalers!

Finally gave up the calligraphy pen

Towards the end of my first bullet journal, I finally realized that what worked for other people didn’t necessarily have to work for me. As someone with a full-time job who’s also enrolled in grad school three-quarters time, I simply didn’t have the time to sit down for 30-45 minutes every day working on my bullet journal (yes, that’s how long it took for me to do those sad, simple little pages). This is why I get frustrated when I see people who say they get “too busy” to work on their bullet journal. That’s a sign you need to make a change to your system!

In my magenta Leuchtturm1917 dot-grid notebook, the HOLY GRAIL of bullet journals

I filled up the Moleskine in November 2016 and moved right in to the Leuchtturm1917 I had bought. Everyone knows this is THE notebook to have for a bullet journal, and I thought for sure that it was going to revolutionize my bullet journaling style (spoiler: it didn’t).

Still trying to be creative drawing out my weekly spreads

The problem was that I was still spending too much time doing monthly and weekly spreads. I hated having to sit down with a ruler and a bunch of different pens and draw a bunch of straight lines that were never perfectly straight, and I was still trying to do decorative headers on those pages and I am just not a decorative person, and the washi tape was still making an appearance for no damn good reason. I kept thinking to myself, “There has got to be a way to make this more productive for myself!”

Dailies from my no8 Foxy Fix

That was when I found out about the Bullet Journal in a Traveler’s Notebook community. It seemed like the perfect hack! I could have pre-printed inserts for monthly and weekly spreads, and still be able to do my daily rapid-logging, as well! By this point, I had finally got hold of my dailies so that they made sense to me and utilized as much of each page as possible (see above). Any semblance of fancy headers are gone, replaced with my simply writing the day, date, and a little two-second drawing of the weather, and then highlighting it as a page break.

While I was still on the fence about making the switch from my LT1917 into a TN system, The Foxy Fix had one of their famous mystery sales! I thought, “This is it! A sign from the gods! Make the switch!” So, I snagged a no.8/A5 FN, bought a bunch of inserts for it, and went to town. I made the mistake (for me) that so many people make when switching from a single notebook into a TN system, and wanted to stick with the same size (A5). I had originally intended to keep my LT in the TN and have other inserts for other things, but quickly realized that was just too bulky and not practical for taking to work with me every day. Then I realized that I just wasn’t a fan of the A5 size in general for a TN. Having four or five inserts in it just made it really heavy. If it weren’t something I had to tote back and forth to work, it probably would have been fine, but I just wasn’t in love with it.

Ahhhhhh… planner peace in the B6 Foxy Fix

The bujo gods heard my laments, though, and offered me redemption in the form of a no.5/B6 FN. As soon as I got that size in my hot little hands, I knew I had found it: the elusive planner peace. I have finally got everything set up in a way that works for me. I no longer feel like I’ve got to be a creative bullet journalist. You’ll never see watercolors or tombows as part of my planning style. I have a four fountain pens that I switch out on a daily basis. My ink color is never the same from day-to-day. The most creative I get is still with the mildliner swipe across the date. I’ve got undated monthly and weekly inserts for future-planning and assignments – the undated bit is a great feature, because if I don’t need to use a week I can just skip it and not even feel bad about wasting pages.

The point of this whole spiel is to emphasize that you shouldn’t feel pressured to make your bullet journal fancy or pretty or artistic (unless that’s what you got it for in the first place). All you really need to start a bullet journal is a notebook (any notebook will do) and a pen (or a pencil, if that’s your thing). My best recommendation is going to be to start simple. If you want to add the fancy stuff later, do it! But odds are, you’ll get burned out on the system quick if you try to incorporate every single feature you see on Pinterest within your first month of bullet journaling, and then you’ll get discouraged when you have a bunch of half-empty spreads because you realized you really didn’t need a TV show tracker because netflix does that for you just fine (guilty). Be kind to yourself and to your planning style! Let it grow into something that works for you, instead of trying to force your style to be something it’s not (guilty again).

4 Replies to “Bullet Journaling Shouldn’t be a Chore”

  1. I ran across you on Instagram because you use fountain pens and I love fountain pens. The one that got my attention was the use of fountain pens and Mead Cambridge Business Notebook so you enabled me to buy 5…LOL!!! To make a long story short, you are so dead on with this article on bullet journaling. To each their own and I love to see pretty pages, but simple and minimal pages are for me….a beginner!!

    1. Sharon, I’m so glad you found my blog, and that I enabled you to buy five of those notebooks! 😀 They are so worth the money – I bought five when I first found them as well and I double or triple them up for classes, so I’ve got one completely blank one left and two that are less than half-filled! I’ve been bullet journaling for over a year now, so I wouldn’t say I’m still a beginner, but simple and minimal are still just key for me – thank you so much for your comment! Let me know your IG handle so I can give you a follow!

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