A Simple Bullet Journal – An Update

Remember back here in this post where I talked about creating a simple bullet journal? I have a confession to make. I failed with that journal.  I stand by the 3 simple steps I outlined; they totally got me started and will work if you try them.  The problem was, I gave up on the journal. I stopped using it.  I left it in places I shouldn’t have.  I didn’t like the actual journal itself.  In summary, my first simple bullet journal was a complete failure. ***This post contains affiliate links. If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you!***

But, I’m not one to give up after one small failure.  I really believe in the power of the bullet journal.  My blogging buddy, Rachel from Planning Mindfully will tell you how it has changed her life.  And I don’t just believe her, I know she’s right. If I could just stick with a bullet journal, my life would most definitely improve.

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***Check out Rachel at Planning Mindfully if you’re ready for a less simple approach than mine!  She’s a doodling wonder!  And she’s got excellent advice for planning when you’re not really a planner!***

So, I’m giving the simple bullet journal another go.  I’ve bought the real deal journal, the Leuchtturm 1917 with the dots and I’m starting over.  I’m starting over with serious baby steps.

Simple Bullet Journal Baby Steps

An interesting thing happened a couple of months ago that inspired me to pick up the journal again.  I started a new job.  I had a lot to learn at the new job.  I also had a spiral notebook and a pen.  I looked at the notebook and something clicked. I knew that I was about to do a lot training, get a ton of passwords for a ton of sites and talk to a LOT of new people.  I’m crap at organizing all of that stuff.  BUT, my short foray into the bullet journal world had armed me with a new skill.  Or, a new tool, really.  The index. The humble index kept me organized in those first couple of months.

The Power of the Humble Index

Here’s how I used the notebook and the index.  I left the first 3 or so pages blank so that I could use it as my index.  Then, I started taking notes.  Just each day, as I was learning new things, I would write them down in the notebook.  Simple.  No particular method to my madness, just jotting things down that I knew I wanted to remember.  Then, at the end of the day I would number the pages I had written on and go back to the index and record the page numbers and a couple of notes about what was on each page.

This system worked brilliantly!  Why?  It was insanely easy, for one thing.  But, it also got me going back to my notes at the end of every day which was a great refresher.  AND, in addition to all of that, I have since used the index several times to find notes that I took.  We had another new person start recently and even though I’m still fairly new myself, if she asks a question, I can say, “Hang on, let me check my indexed notebook. I have that written down”.  And have the information for her in seconds!  If I didn’t have that index, I would be searching through an entire notebook of notes, looking like a disorganized mess.

So it worked at work.  But would it work in my personal life where I don’t have a boss that I am accountable to?  Where if I forget to do something I won’t get fired?  As much as my husband would like to fire me at times, he doesn’t have the authority. I’m the CEO of this family and I make all hire/fire decisions.

I decided to try the planner again at perhaps the most stressful time of year, the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.  If it helped me even a tiny bit through that marathon of cooking/cleaning/buying/decorating then I knew it would win a place in my heart forever.  And that I would never again leave it at the bottom of a pile of junk mail for 6 days straight.

I literally started this time with one pencil with an eraser and the Leuchtterm 1917.  I do believe that that particular notebook is key in finding success with the simple bullet journal.  It already has an index for you and all of the pages are numbered.  I highly suggest you get the one with the dotted grid because it helps you keep your handwriting under control.  And I’m assuming if you’re reading this particular post about bullet journaling, then your hand writing is probably a hot mess like mine!

I skipped past the index pages and started jotting down notes, just like I did with the one at work.  I didn’t put a calendar in, I didn’t set up habit trackers and I didn’t make any cutesy drawings.  (I wish I could, but I suck at drawing).  I just wrote down things that I knew I would need to remember later. In no particular order.  Sometimes I dated my lists before I started them, sometimes I didn’t.  Why?  Because I knew it wouldn’t really matter if I dated it, as long as I filled in my index at the end of the day with what was on the particular page (or pages) I worked on that day.

I put in lists of things I needed to do to prepare for Thanksgiving. I wrote a very minimal menu plan for that day.  I made a list of all of the people I needed to buy presents for and what I wanted to get them. I made lists of things that needed to be cleaned before we had company.  That way if anyone asked to help I could say, sure, can you do… and check my list and give them something to do!  (Just kidding, no one ever asks to help me.  Or, if they do, they make a face when I tell them what I need help with and I say “FORGET IT! I’LL DO IT MYSELF!”.  It’s a fun game we play that I like to call “no one appreciates Mother”).

Guys, you might not believe it, but this WORKED!  Thanksgiving was relaxing for the first time ever!  Seriously, for the 13 years I’ve hosted Thanksgiving, I’ve been a near tears, unshowered disaster as people were arriving at my house to eat.  It made me start to hate my favorite holiday.  And Christmas?  I didn’t forget to get a present for ANYONE this year.  I’m talking I even had presents in the trunk of my car in case someone gave me a present and I hadn’t thought of them… I had a back up present in the trunk, people!  That is some next level Christmas organization right there.

So, now the holidays are just past as I’m writing this and I’m keeping the bullet journal close by.  I haven’t graduated to using it as a date book, or making fancy doodles, but I’m still putting my lists in it and I’m still referring back to it when I need to.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of brainstorming for the blog in it and the other day I started writing down little snippets and quotes that have motivated or moved me recently.  An interesting thing about blogging is that it is very solitary and sometimes the only feedback you get is looking at how many people have looked at your website that day.  If my views are up, I’m thrilled.  If they are down, I’m bummed.  But, every now and then someone shares a word of encouragement and I write those down.  So that when I am bummed, I can go back and look at them.  I definitely think this is an important addition to my bullet journal that anyone can implement.

Let’s take a closer look at why my first Bullet Journal failed.  As I look back, I found three things that contributed to my failure.

Reason #1 My Bullet Journal Failed

I didn’t like the notebook I was using.  Everything I read on-line said “You don’t need a fancy notebook!”. I couldn’t disagree more.  Yes, the Leuchtterm 1917  is more expensive than a regular old notebook.  But it’s less than $25.  If that’s above your budget, make do with something else, but if you’re just trying to cheapskate your way out of spending the money, don’t.  It’s worth  it.  I love the look of this journal.  The cover is sturdy and comes in many different colors.  You can get it with a dotted grid or blank pages.  I went for the dotted grid because my handwriting is horrendous and the grid keeps my letters virtually all in a line.  Pretty much.

But, the best thing about it is that it already has the two most important features built in.  An index and numbered pages.  If you can commit yourself to filling in your index and writing important things down in the notebook, then you will succeed with this journal.  If you want to then start doing the super cool, super fancy “spreads” that you see on Instagram, then you are already in the right journal for doing that.

Reason #2 My Bullet Journal Failed

I made it too complicated. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that putting a calendar in my journal made it too complicated. How disorganized must a person be if they can’t use a CALENDAR?  I get it.  But I can’t be the only person out there who has calendar issues.  We’ve just started a new year and someone at work ordered me a 2018 desk calendar, you know those giant ones that go on your desk?  I have never used one of those.  I stick it under my laptop everyday and I scribble doodles all around the laptop while I’m talking on the phone and when I finally remember to turn to the next month (usually two months later), I have a big blank calendar with a laptop shaped frame of doodles.  Damn, I wish I had a picture of that for you!  So, I just didn’t even bother trying to put one in my bullet journal.  I literally (sometimes) write the date where ever I happen to be on the page and make some notes under the date.  Then at the end of the day, I go to the index and write down a note about what I did on the page or pages I wrote on that day.  That’s it. Oh, and sometimes I cross things off my lists!  That’s my favorite part!

Now, will I never add a calendar to my bullet journal? Maybe, maybe not.  For right now, I’m doing what feels comfortable and attainable.  I know me and I know that as I continue to use the journal, I will tweak things and I may come up with a way to do a calendar that feels doable for me.  I just know that right now, I don’t have the right way to do a calendar yet, so I’m not going to.  In my first post I sort of said that printing out things and pasting them into your calendar ruins the purpose of the calendar.  I would like to retract that.  Sort of.  It’s awesome if you are hand writing your calendar into your journal, but if that’s not working for you, try printing one out. I might.  I’m not ready to commit to that yet, but it’s in the back of my mind.

Reason #3 My Bullet Journal Failed

I didn’t keep essential information in my journal which in turn didn’t make me want to keep it near me at all times.  When I wrote things in my bullet journal this time, they were mostly task related.  I had things that had to get done (Thanksgiving dinner for 13) and I wrote down the steps I needed to take to get there.  That kept me from feeling overwhelmed.  AND, it made me keep that journal close at hand!  I don’t like to feel overwhelmed.  Writing down lists in the journal helped me feel not overwhelmed.  See the simplicity of that?  Find the thing that you hate more than being disorganized and use that to your advantage.  Similarly, use it to write down things that make you feel good.  Make a note in your Index where you wrote those things down and refer back to them when you’re feeling like you’re not good enough, smart enough and no one likes you.  Those little notes will help, I promise!

So, in summary of this post.  I failed.  I lost one battle against the angry dictator that is getting organized.  But I’m battling back and this time I’m doing it my way.  A bit of a sneak attack.  The angry organization dictator might look at my journal and laugh because it doesn’t have a calendar.  But I’m gathering my troops (looking at you index!) and this sentence is probably the strangest thing I’ve ever written, so I’m going to leave it at that!  The point is, don’t give up on the bullet journal just because yours might not look like the beautiful ones on Instagram!  Yours can be just as beautiful for the function it serves instead of the form it takes!

If You Liked It Then You Shoulda  Put a Pin It!

Simple Bullet Journal - Baby Step Your Way to a Simple Bullet Journal


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