Decluttering my Brain with my Bullet Journal and the Bullet Journal Method

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The Bullet Journal Method Book by Ryder Carroll, has changed how I look at not only my planning method, which is what I thought a bullet journal was–but nope, it’s a journal, but it has also changed how I look at my journaling. It feels more like a hybrid between a journal, common place journal, and an agenda, but we’ll talk about that later. For now, I want to concentrate on how much it’s actually helped me declutter my life, including my planning, and journals. 

I’ve been practicing a form of bullet journaling on and off for a couple of years now. It has been an important tool for organization and productivity for me, as well as an outlet for a busy mind, but until I read Carroll’s book I was more busy than productive, overwhelmed, and no matter what I tried things just didn’t work–I would be productive for a bit, less overwhelmed and stressed out, but before long I’d end up frustrated because the bullet journal system didn’t seem to work as well for me as it did for so many others. Then I started reading the book The Bullet Journal Method.

If you’re not familiar with the bullet journal here’s a quote from the book written by the founder of the Bullet Journal system, Ryder Carroll:

Whether you’re an experienced Bullet Journalist or a newcomer, The Bullet Journal Method is for anyone struggling to find their place in a digital age. It will help you get organized by providing simple tools and techniques that can inject clarity, direction, and focus into your days. (p. 11)

And if you’re still not sure, check out his website and video here.


**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission,which helps me purchase items to review, at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.**

First, let me just say I’m a creative person at heart. I am a content creator: I create videos on Youtube and on Patreon; I am a writer, an artist, a DIYer, but I’ve always thought of myself as a journaler, not a planner. I plan to make my life easier, to help me get and stay organized and productive, so when the bullet journal seemed to be more about pretty spreads, fancy to-do lists and trackers, and/or a hell of a lot of work to keep it neat and organized (for some, not all) I all but gave up. I tried going back to the system again and again, in various ways… and then I had this big A-HA moment when reading the book.

The start of today’s page…

Bullet Journaling is so much more than just pretty spreads, fancy to-do lists and trackers. It takes mindfulness, adds a plan, and takes mindfulness and a strategy to maximize your time, energy, and potential, and can help you cut out the extra and allows you to focus on the important tasks, the steps to complete projects, and reach your goals.

The Bullet Journal consists of 5 parts: Index, Future Log, Monthly Log, Daily Log, and Collections. The Index assists you in locating things in your notebook–like a map. The Future Log is a brief glance at the coming months and things that you need to keep note of in the future. The Monthly Log is a timeline of the month and a list of tasks, and is the “bird’s eye view” of things. The Daily Log is the workhorse of the system–it is “designed to capture your daily tasks, events, and/or notes. Collections are considered to be the building blocks that allow you to dig deeper into things, whether it is a specific project, planning a trip, or even researching a topic of interest.

The day to day activities and events are chronicled with a simple bullet point or other key symbols that help keep things simple, and helps remove distractions and allows you to focus on the things that are most relevant. You can keep your pages as simple and minimal as your want, or decorate and be as creative as you want. The bullet journal method is simple and flexible, and he recommends using the simple backbone of the method for about 3 months before modifying it–however, if you look up “bullet journal” in Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube… you’ll find pages that are really simple in design to pages that are extremely creative and artistic. Don’t be scared… There are hacks a plenty if you’d like to add art without actually drawing, and great resources if you’d rather keep your pages simple and minimalistic.

I’m going to be upfront… I’m not great at some of the aspects of the system. Like rapid logging. I’m learning it, and I’m getting better at it, but I’m a wordy, rambly, chatty person (unless I’m in a crowd) so rapid logging is not second nature to me because for it to really work efficiently you need to break things down to the bare necessities (did anyone hear the Jungle Book song, the one from the Disney movie for kids, in their head just then? well, I did).  So I’m working on the “bare necessities” and what that means to me. And that’s the whole thing with any kind of journal or planner system… that you work things out for yourself–what works for you. …”I mean the bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife… mother nature’s recipes that bring the bare necessities of life…where ever I wonder or where ever I roam…the bare necessities of life will come to you…” 

Okay, okay…enough with the bare necessities, but since I’ve been made to “rest and get well” lately because of the sinus infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia that I had to get at the same time… I have been able to rest at ease lately because…well, I’ve had to because I’m sick, and my husband has put his Taurus foot down and won’t budge about how much I can do… but it’s actually given me some real time for reflection. And that reflection time has come in handy. I’ve spent a lot of time reading, or I should say re-reading various sections of the book so I can get better at things like rapid logging.

I feel like I’m almost on Pause, but that’s not been a bad thing, at least not recently because having slowed down has actually made me re-think my priorities, how I do things, the time I waste, how I could really work smarter not harder, but it’s more than that… If the majority of my journaling, planning, art, etc is more about what I’m doing as a content creator  then I’m missing out… I’ve taken more time the past few months to do things in my journal, planner, etc for myself, without filming… and it’s helped, but I realized while on this “Pause” that part of the issue for me isn’t about that at all, it’s actually the opposite now… I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do, but not enough me or time to do them all. I definitely don’t have enough time to do them, film doing them, edit said videos, write random blog posts (hoping that I can get back into the habit of writing a post or two a week at least), and still live a life outside of content creation.

So I slowed my over active brain down by doing a brain spill. I spilled all those thoughts, ideas, questions, doubts, and a-ha moments I’ve been having lately… Then I started dividing them up into categories: Priority: yes or no. Can do: yes or no. Will actually do: yes or no. Requires buying things: Yes or no. And then I broke what was left down into sub-categories like How long will it take? A week? Month? Quarter? Year? And that left me with what things are actually important to me, the priority things; what things I will do but also can be done; and how long a project might take. Immediately after putting pen to paper and spilling all those words onto the page I felt better.

The next thing I realized is that no matter how well Ryder Carroll has explained the Bullet Journal System and how it can be individualized,  there are people like me who are creative and need or want to be a bit creative with it, thus the pretty, fancy bullet journals. I’ve simplified mine… to little bits of art here and there, but it’s much more functional now. And I’ve been modifying how I do things in my Hobonichi, the journal/planner that is Grand Central Station…I have stopped limiting myself. Stopped thinking in terms of “I should do this here…and this there…” I’ve decided to truly follow my intuition and that means sticking with my creative journey, which encompasses art, journals, writing, and the bullet journal system.

So here’s what I’ve taken away from the Bullet Journal Method in a nut shell. 
Ryder calls it a  “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” and that is definitely what it feels like now that I understand the system more. It feels a bit like having an extra part in my brain to help me deal with my life, and all that my life entails–including the creative bits. And I can include as much or as little creative bits as I want to. Eventually, I am going to merge the creative journal and the bullet journal together. I can feel it coming. But for now I’m going to stick to being a bit creative here and there in my bullet journal. Work in it this way for the next 3 months like he suggests.
The whole Rapid logging thing is really about capturing key words, abbreviating…short hand really. When I think of rapid logging I think of “short hand.” Old school I know but that’s what I think of. So rapid logging is really highlighting the important bits… or capturing the important bits with key words and short hand like abbreviations, symbols, underlining, bold, etc… 

And if you really think about what you’re doing, what you’ve done, what you still need to do (what you’ve migrated and why you’ve migrated it)… is it important? Vital? Necessary? Why does it matter? And as you “check in” or reflect on things, the mental inventory, that’s when it clicks… instead of working on auto pilot I’m actually being intentional and mindful of how I use my time and energy, of what is and isn’t working, what I’m doing… Ryder Carroll designed the Bullet Journal to “House whatever your thoughts look like,” which included his notes, schedule, sketches, etc… and to be FLEXIBLE. As I delve more and more into the bullet journal, or the “mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system, ” I find myself understanding much more about the how’s, why’s, what’s, and when’s of my own system and what works for me. 

If you’d like to find out more about my journey with the bullet journal check out my video on Youtube:

Listening to your Inner Compass

Snapshot 1 (9-4-2017 6-34 PM)

I woke up the other morning with every intention of filming a plan with me video for Youtube. I made my coffee. Set everything up. My checklist of things to do before I filmed was done, but it felt like I was missing something. I went over my list and everything looked in order. However, I still felt like something was missing. So I thought maybe I’d film a journal with me instead. Nope. Still felt like something was missing only this time I got the sneaky suspicion that what was missing had nothing to do with my list, but was in fact an internal issue. (This has been going on, on and off, for the past few months.)

Your inner knowing is your only true compass. ~Joy Page

I took a mental inventory of what I needed to do and everything was in order with my “to-do” list. I then proceeded to do a bit of journaling, a brain dump so I could clear my mind. About halfway into clearing my mind via pen to paper I realized: 1. I was tired of the same old same old plan with me’s. 2. I didn’t want to do a plan with me to just do one. 3. Nor did I want to do a journal with me–I was behind with my journal pages in my “art” journal and it felt like the blank pages were mocking me. And, 4. I felt stuck in a rut with the type of videos I was doing–perhaps it’s because deep down inside I knew that I didn’t want to do a plan with me or a journal with me because of said rut.

I opened the fountain pen, I think I was using one of my TWSBI Eco’s, and put pen to paper again, this time to figure out why I was in a rut–what the rut was really about. Two pages into journaling about why I wasn’t journaling (sounds like a real conundrum doesn’t it, lol), or planning, and why I didn’t want to film a plan with me or a journal with me these sentences I’d just wrote stood out:

I feel like a hypocrite–this isn’t working. My planning system isn’t helping me get organized, and if I can’t get organized how am I supposed to stay organized? If I’m only planning so that I can create the video then it’s fake. If it’s fake then I’m not being authentic. If I’m not being authentic then I’m a hypocrite. And if I haven’t been documenting my day for the past few days then creating pages simply to film a video doesn’t feel like “documenting my life,” it feels like…well, it feels like I’m a big fake. 

I stopped filming the plan with me’s for Youtube, and instead filmed some of the attempts to find my method of planning. I shared some of those on Patreon, where I felt like I could freely share that I was having some issues. However, I didn’t outright say, “Hey y’all, I feel like a big fake, a hypocrite.” But I did talk about some of my issues. I talked, and talked about them–probably to the point that I was just going in circles, but that’s how I felt and it felt like sharing about the rut I was in, the struggle I was having with my planning, especially, was cathartic. I’m sure my Patrons were really tired of hearing about it, but they have no idea of how much that helped me figure things out. 😀 I truly have a wonderful tribe of Patrons, YT subs, friends and followers.

“Something deep in the human soul awakens as things fall apart. Something in the soul knows that everything in this world can become lost. And something in the soul knows how to survive periods of devastation, disorientation and loss. Descent and falling is the way of the soul from its beginning. We each fell from the womb of life when the waters of the inner sea broke and it came time for us to breathe on our own.”
― Michael Meade, Why the World Doesn’t End: Tales of Renewal in Times of Loss

After quite a few “brain dumps,” I started creating pages in my “art” journal again. Documenting my day once again felt natural. I mixed things up. Flip flopped back and forth between journals, between illustrating my day, and documenting my day using ephemera, pictures, and a bit of art here and there. After a lot of flip flopping back and forth between the Hobonichi and my DIY hybrid Bullet Journal/Omni Journal, I started doing things differently–finding my own way. And that’s when things started to fall into place.

The more I followed my inner compass, my conscience and/or intuition, the more excited I was, the happier I was, and the more creative I felt. Did it all come together overnight? No. I have had to work at it. I’ve had to figure things out as I go. It’s trial and error. But over the past few years, but especially this past year, I’ve delved into my “Why’s,” as well as my “Why Not’s.” The more I know about my own self, the better I take care of myself, the happier I am, the more creative I am.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. ~James Dean