What I Learned in my First Year of Bullet Journaling

Late last year, I was reading a lot about this new trend: bullet journaling. After a month or so of scouring Pinterest and the interwebs (yup, I’m an über-researcher), I decided to give it a try. I’m a crafty, creative individual who’s been jotting notes down on scrap paper for way too long and wanted a new solution for remembering things and planning, especially our half marathon training plans, like this one:

Enter the bullet journal: a minimalist shorthand way to organize yourself and your life. I’ve learned a lot in the past 12 months, not only about what style works best for me, but also what I can realistically handle month-to-month. Here’s my “First Year of Bullet Journaling Top 10” split in two: my 5 favorite things about bullet journaling and 5 things I wish I knew before I started.

My 5 Favorite Things About the BuJo:

  1. It’s completely customizable: from colors to layouts to washi tape, your BuJo is what you make of it and completely yours to customize as you so choose.
  2. A year of memories: the purpose of my bullet journal was mostly for meal planning, weekly to-do lists, running training plans, and workout tracking (basically all non-work aspects of my life). After a few months I realized it was so much more than that! I started adding random stickers and movie stubs, inspirational quotes, little musings of my own, etc and now have an awesome memory book of 2017.
  3. Meal planning: having a game plan of our meals for the week has truly been a lifesaver for us (and our wallets). It’s saved so much time on morning lunch prep (we’re total lunch-bringers pretty much every day, despite working in NYC) and dinners in the evening. With both of us commuting, having a healthy, hearty dinner that just needs to be reheated is key. Runners gotta eat!
  4. Habit tracking: it’s been interesting to see some of my habits evolve over the year and I’ll be intrigued to see how the whole year measures up. I’m not terribly regimented about habit tracking; having flexibility and not feeling like you have to track every little thing took some getting used to (this is supposed to be a fun activity, after all). I’ve used this more as a general guide for how many days in a month I read a book, took a walk at lunch, did yoga, didn’t have alcohol, ate a meatless meal, did my PT exercises etc.
  5. It’s 100% Mine: this kind of goes with #1, but it’s probably my favorite thing about my first year BuJo adventure. My book doesn’t look like anyone else’s; it’s 100% mine and I can’t screw it up (and if I do, I put some washi tape over it).

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a BuJo:

  1. It doesn’t have to be perfect: it took me a few months to come to this realization. Your BuJo is perfectly imperfect; it’s yours and no one else’s. Spend too much time worrying that your BuJo should look or be a certain way and you won’t reap the benefits of having one.
  2. You do not need all the washi tape: Seriously. I bought one 3-pack of washi tape from Michaels (with a coupon!) and I’ve used it all year…and still have plenty left. Don’t feel that you need #AllTheWashiTape to do bullet journaling.
  3. You also don’t need all the tchotchkes: There are so many things out there to put in your BuJo that cost money and really aren’t necessary. Don’t let it suck you in! All you need is a good notebook (I splurged on a Leuchtturm1917), some pens that don’t bleed too much (like these Staedtler Triplus Fineliners…which I also splurged on), and your imaginitive creativity.
  4. Lines and boxes look nice but can be tedious: The weekly spreads of my first few months of bullet journaling are very boxy. I quickly realized that this was not the best layout for me in terms of look and time to do. It takes some trial and error to discover what works best for you…just beware of boxing yourself in with too many boxy layouts.
  5. It takes more time than you think, but it’s worth it: It’s true. Bullet Journaling does take time. But in the long run, it will save you time and when you find out what layouts work for you, it’s really a breeze.

Coming soon: how I use my bullet journal for running training plans. Stay tuned!

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