It’s the (not so) new thing. Normally I’m not one for trends (I’m too oblivious for that) but I came across the bullet journal online somewhere and decided it was something I had to try. I don’t like starting things at the start of a new year but in this case, the timing was right and I bought myself a journal and off I went.
A lot of people wonder why it’s any different from any other kind of journal. I’ll try to explain why it works for me and, since I am me, how it is helping me stay creative in my knitting and my writing. I’d be really interested to know if any of you use this method and how it’s working for you, too.
What is a bullet journal?
Created by Ryder Carroll, a bullet journal is a very simple system to track behaviours both in the short and the long term. The notebook and materials are unimportant to the method; you could do this with whatever you have on hand. I’d recommend watching the video on the site above if you’ve never heard of it.
The reason it’s so appealing is that it’s adaptable. I don’t use many of the rules that Ryder Carroll created but that’s okay. The point is that it’s a great system to use as a foundation for whatever you want to do.
People use it for all sorts of things and use all sorts of layouts. The fun part is figuring out what works for you and adapting it on a day to day basis until it’s the best tool for your wacky mind. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you want because it’s all for you, and that’s what got me obsessed.
What tools do I use?
As I said, you can use whatever you have on hand. However, I use anything at all as an excuse to buy a decent notebook because I am a stationery FIEND. Seriously, I have a problem.
The Leuchtturm1917 is the most fashionable of bullet journals. They’ve even teamed up to make a specific Bullet Journal, adapted for the system, but I don’t use that. I use a basic Leuchtturm1917 in the ’emerald’ colour. It’s really more of a pale turquoise. It has an index at the start and page numbers which makes it perfect for tracking what you’re doing, and it also has two (two!) ribbons to keep your place.
Since the start I’ve used my Faber Castell artist pens, the sepia set. I’ve used these for doodling for years and now they’re my favourite. They don’t smudge easily and the brown makes me happier than boring old black. I use the Faber Castell in superfine, fine, or medium for almost all of my actual writing in my journal.
Recently I discovered the Crayola marker set. This is a set of 100 markers for about $15 which have more colours than I will ever need and, more importantly, don’t bleed through the page like my more expensive Copic markers. I tend to pick two each month and keep them in my pencil case, then I can pretend to be deliberately coordinated when I make my layouts.
Even more recently I’ve started using a Paper Mate Flair set of felt tip pens. They were on sale when I was buying something else, and I love them. They’re crisp and bright and great for writing out titles and such. Plus there’s a nice range of colours, not just your standard. Again, they don’t bleed through; this is important to me.
My friend who started at the same time as me in his bullet journal gave me a few of his pens that he didn’t want. They’re ‘Artist’s Loft’ pens; weirdly I cannot find anything like them on Amazon, so I assume he summoned them out of thin air. I have a teal, purple, and red one. I don’t think they’re expensive but I use them a lot for trackers and such.
Other things I use include my pencil case and washi tape (which is just decorated masking tape).
I also use literally whatever is laying around because I’m a magpie.
How do I use my bullet journal?
When I started out, I got a bit carried away. I wrote out an entire month of daily spreads. This, as it turns out, does not work for how my mind likes to do things; it’s too constrained and doesn’t let me have the flexibility that I need. Plus it didn’t look as nice as I thought it would.
Halfway through the month I realised I hated it and decided to call those pre-written pages a loss and skip ahead. I started doing a daily spread every day instead, which was inspired by Boho Berry.
This works much better for me. It’s flexible, I can use as much or as little space as I need, and I can change up the decoration whenever I feel like it. As you can see, I do that often.
I’ve also started using dots instead of the squares I used originally, which makes my initial ‘Key’ page entirely moot. That’s okay though, because it’s working really well for me.
On top of the daily pages, I now use a weekly spread to organise my thoughts. I have a monthly thing at the start of each month too, but I haven’t used that much. I like to track on a weekly/daily basis and see what I have in store. I don’t have any kind of future log, despite the fact that’s one of the main features of the bullet journal system. See? You take what you need and leave the rest, it’s adaptable.
As for other spreads, I like to track my mood against my habits. I tried a habit tracker that you colour in each day but that didn’t do it for me; leaving a blank square felt like failure, and made me miss it more often. I can’t be so specific, it bums me out. So I use a graph, again inspired by Boho Berry (she is the queen) and it’s fascinating to see my energy and anxiety levels move around. (I have anaemia right now so it’s all a bit of a mess, and last month’s tracker is hilarious because of it. But it’s also not here. Sorry!)
I also like to track the books I read each month and other distractions to see my habits that way. My running tracker is one of my favourite pages; it’s to keep me running even when I don’t feel like it, though the current spat with anaemia has slowed me down temporarily on that front.
What about the crafty stuff?
Since about 57% of my thoughts are on crafts at any one time, I figured I should use my bullet journal to match up to that. I have my Socktopus which I am going to use to track my sock-knitting through the year; I haven’t finished a pair yet, but mojo has been low. That’s on its way to changing.
I also have a page to track what I’ve made for a potential craft fair table later in the year, but that’s off to a slow start so I’m not sure if it’s going to work. I’ll share at another time if it does.
Since the square-filling-in trackers don’t work well for me, I decided to set out my monthly goals (including creative ones) in a way that will let me see how close to my target I get each month. Then I can work on improving it until I have real consistency. It’s working well for me and I can adapt it as I go.
On top of this, I have a bunch of pages I use for tracking my progress in writing and finances, but that’s not really relevant here.
Flexibility over perfection
Obviously I love using a bullet journal. It’s quick and easy, it’s adaptable, it gives me an excuse to buy all of the stationery. I have a lot of pens now. Like, a lot. Which isn’t actually new but now I use them even more.
The best thing about trying out a bullet journal is that you can figure out how to make it work for you. I use mine to force myself into flexibility when often I can be rigid about my own mistakes. I don’t like failing, so I end up never using things that I’ve done ‘wrong’. With a bullet journal, adapting it on a monthly/daily basis is part of the point, so it makes my mind give up on that perfectionist thing.
Plus if I do something wrong I can just tape over it with washi tape. (I do that a lot.)
Coming up: a post on my favourite bullet journalers to help you get some inspiration.
If you have a bullet journal, what do you like best about it? Do you use it in a similar way to me? Do you have any tips on how to use it for crafty things? Enquiring minds need to know!