The start of March marks my 1 year anniversary with my bullet journal. While I’ve been using a planner in some capacity for over half my life, I always struggled to make each planning system work just right for me. Bullet Journaling was a whole new ball game. I took a risk, spending $20 on a Leuchtturm1917 A5 Dotted Hardcover notebook, which really wasn’t any more or less than I would have spent on a regular planner, and decided to give this interesting system a try.
I’ll be honest, the first few weeks I used it I wasn’t sure it was going to work out for me. I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities. I felt torn in different directions by the decor and layout choices I was inspired by in the instagram community. It seemed like a lot of work for not enough payoff.
Looking back though, my daily entries were overly complicated and it simply took time for me to find my rhythm. As I worked out the kinks, my style started to develop and my process became much more streamlined to my needs and wants. It didn’t happen overnight, and I clearly didn’t have it perfect on my first attempt. It’s one of the things that I always like to stress for anyone interested in starting: You won’t get it right on the first try. But that is also the beauty of this system. You can adapt it to your needs and change as your situation changes.
My journal is a perfect example of this. When I started my bullet journal last year I was working a pretty high stress job. The complexity of my daily entries was overwhelming my already full schedule. I had to figure out how to reign it in pretty fast. Not long after, I left that job because my partner and I decided we were making the move from Southern California to Portland, Oregon.
Suddenly I didn’t have work taking up most of my time. I had more freedom for creativity! But I also had a lot more information to keep track of. Between planning a 1000 mile move and being in charge of my own day, my bullet journal came in pretty handy. All the while, I was still trying new things because there were so many cool ideas floating around on the interweb.
Fast-forward another month or so, and we’ve made it to Portland! In some much needed time off between jobs, my bullet journal helped me keep track of my day to day errands on top of a rekindling of old hobbies and passions, bringing my blog back from neglect, and exploring my brand new city.
This was the time my journal really began to be a daily resource for me, a full 3 to 4 months into this whole bullet journaling journey. It’s also around the time that I realized that I really loved this system, and decided to open up an instagram account dedicated to it (check me out @plananotherday). I was excited to help contribute to the bullet journal community instead of just taking inspiration from it.
I kept a pretty steady pace with my journal for the next few months. I added things that I found interesting, dropped things that weren’t useful, and tried out new styles and formats just to see how I liked them. All in all, though, the same information always made it into my dailies, the bread and butter of my bullet journal.
In November, things changed again for me as I started a new job. I once again found myself with less time and less control over my day. The therapeutic hour I spent in my bullet journal each morning was cut down to 15 minutes tops. I couldn’t keep up with the way I had things set up anymore. It got to a point where I didn’t even pick up my journal for most of the month of December, between the job, holidays, and travel.
Not bullet journaling, I quickly found out, was not going to be an option for me. I needed to figure out how to once again adapt it to my needs, because I missed the community, I missed the structure, and I really wanted that creative outlet back.
I had already been playing around with some new layouts that had to be updated weekly instead of daily. I didn’t like them pre-job because they didn’t give me the space I needed. Revisiting them with my reduced task lists (since I could only get so much done in the hours between work and bedtime anyway) ended up being a perfect fit.
I’ve now been using the same weekly/daily layout all of 2017 and it’s been working out great. But the thing to remember is, things may change which means my bullet journal may have the opportunity to change as well. It’s part of the reason I started with a fresh notebook this year. Not only to capture the changes in my weekly and daily entry habits, but also to realign the auxiliary trackers, future logs, etc. to my current needs. But I think I’ll leave an exploration of those changes for another post.
A year is a long time to stick with something. I know a regular planner wouldn’t have been able to last through all the changes I’ve faced in the last 12 months, which makes me appreciate discovering and plunging into bullet journaling so much more. I hope if you are new to this system, you can take some comfort from my journey so far and know that you don’t have to get it right the first try. Even if you get it right, it may not be right forever!
So now I hope to hear from you! Have you had to adapt your journaling methods to life changes? Have you stuck with a system you like even though it wasn’t the right fit? How did making changes help or hurt your efforts on keeping your life organized? Let me know in the comments down below!