Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bullet Journaling for the Imperfect

Nobody in the history of ever has accused me of being a perfectionist.

Is it because I'm the baby of the family?

Is it because I'm lazy?

Is it because I'm enlightened?

Is it because I realized early on that "done, but sloppy" often is preferable to "not done, but would have been perfect?"

Probably all of these.  Still, part of not being driven in this way means recognizing that there are projects that are not well suited to my personality.  I paint the walls, but my husband does the edges.  I run a blog, but post when I feel like it.

So when I first heard about Bullet Journaling a year or so ago, I thought--well, isn't that cute.  Look at those hyper-organized types getting all creative.

It looked like fun, sure.  I like writing, and I like lists, and I have an enormous stash of journals I filled in my tweens, teens, and twenties.  But between the regimentation of the official process, complete with complicated nomenclature, and the aggressively instagrammed hand lettering and decorating that seemed involved, I knew it was a trend to admire from a distance.

But then I went to a BuJo workshop at a EdTech conference, mostly because I knew the presenter and wanted to be supportive, and she taught us how to draw banners.

I stopped on the way home and bought a Leuchtterm journal and an extra fine ink pen.

And I have used that thing nearly every damn day in the past three months.  So enamored am I that I made this graphic to pull together what I love and what I've learned about this process.

It helps me with organization.  Making a weekly plan and tracking what I get done daily has done wonders for my scraps of paper and lost to-do lists.  I am able to look over my week and see what's happening, and I get the thrill of checking things off as they get done.  Sure, there are calendars that do the same thing, but I've never been organized enough to follow through on maintaining any kind of day book.  Bullet journals make it fun, which makes it easier to be consistent.  

You can see my habit tracking on these too.  It helps me get motivated for some habits I'd like to build, but not for others, so I play around with it from week to week to find things that work.  Mostly I just like coloring in the boxes when I actually do something.

I keep notes in the journal, and yes, this sometimes means I take scrawled notes in the moment, then boil them down and tidy them up for the journal.  It sounds nutty, but it certainly helps solidify new information in my mind.

It encourages me to play around with different types of creativity, from the mindless to the experimental.


One way you can tell that it's not the journal of a perfectionist is that I mess up and don't really care.  I also have many pages where I was just experimenting, and it didn't really work out, but oh well.

Like this day when I was looking at a friend's doodle book, and my rain page went great but my stars were all a disaster.

Or when I wrote the heading weird, then doodled random shapes around it, the "fixed" it by going for a stained glass effect, then went ahead and scrawled the rest of my notes without paying any attention to design or even neatness.

And then there was the 30 Day Minimalism Challenge that I gave up after doing about 10 items in 20 days and realizing that I was only doing the things that took fewer than five minutes.

Or--this is a good one--when I tried to track my commenting on other blogs, and quickly realized it was way too cumbersome of a system.  So I used the space to try out something I'd seen where you write the same word in cursive and printing, layered over itself, and I SPELLED MY SON'S NAME WRONG.  Nice one.

Mistakes are okay.  Failures are fine.  I've tried several things that didn't work for me, and that's okay--I don't have to do it any one way.  If something wasn't working for me, I abandoned it.

It's just fun.  And I think that growing up in a family of artists I kind of struggle with this sense that creativity has to be "real art," and that anything derivative or mass-produced is bad.  So when I see the same types of sketches on dozens of Instagram BuJo posts, or notice people using stencils or stickers, I have this knee-jerk "not okay" reaction.  Which is bullshit.  In the same way that my blog is a venue for my creative expression even though the world hardly needs another book blog, my bullet journal lets me use my hands to create, even if mine looks pretty much like everyone else's, but messier.  It's okay to tinker around or to try the latest craft; you don't have to create Serious Art in order to be creative.

Final note: when I first heard "BuJo" as an abbreviation, I thought it was way too cutesy and ridiculous.  But here's the thing--it gets weird to keep repeated the entire phrase "bullet journal," and it turns out BJ is already taken.  So BuJo it is.


  1. I started a bullet journal this year but mine has absolutely zero arty details. No banners, no doodles, nothing. However, I do love it. For once, all my lists and plans and schedules are in one place instead of scattered across five million notebooks and planners. I must admit, it is kind of ugly. Maybe I should do something about that....

  2. I started a bullet journal this year, before learning there were special journals for it. So I'm making due with my lined journal for now. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Love this post! I started my bullet journal in February but it's mostly lists and my trackers. I've slowly started getting more creative with it and am having fun! Like you, I'd rather have messy & done than never started.

    Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such...


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