Bullet journaling: ‘’I wish I had discovered this system earlier!’’
Bullet journaling has been a huge hype in the US for quite some time now, but today, the bullet fever is spreading to the Netherlands. Still, many don’t have a clue as to what it is, what it’s for and how it can not only make life more structured, but also more fun and creative.
My first trackers
Since I got a Minnie Mouse-diary as a present in early childhood, I have been hooked to (bullet) journaling. What started off with semi-profound texts about visits by grandparents and the day’s sugar revenue, was soon expanded by little drawings and my first attempt to handlettering. I still remember the day I discovered 3D-letters like yesterday.
I started tracking what I had done that day, which book I was reading, which New Kid on the Block-character had my preference (yes, I am old) and how nice/dumb I thought my classmates were. The first trackers were born.
The older I got, the more chaotic I became. As a student, I really struggled making studying schedules and sticking to them. Absorbing information usually didn’t quite work, and so I bragged my way through university without ever feeling like I really finished anything or did something of any value.
What was lacking was overview. I found it almost impossible to stick to a logical train of thought and daily suffered from around fourteen panic attacks because I would lose my phone/keys/train ticket/coat/sock/book and/or I realised I forgot to do something. That is, my whole existence was quite stressful, and not exactly efficient, because I was wasting so much time trying to remember everything. Imagine a laptop with a lot of pop-ups that slow its system down, and you have an impression of the workings of my brain.
All this sounds quite dramatic, I am well aware. Take it with a pinch of salt. It was quite annoying and frustrating at times, but eventually things were alright. I just wish I had discovered this system earlier!
A gradual change
Pinterest is one of the digital wormholes where I like forgetting about everyday issues and can fully satisfy my procrastination needs. It is also the place where I came across the first bullet journal examples about two years ago. Intimidating, almost perfect pages, that at first mainly evoked resistance. Another hype, another senseless senseless phenomenon that would quickly disappear. I was already doing practically the same anyways, wasn’t I? And however much fun it was, it didn’t help solving my lack of organisation and overview.
I don’t quite remember what caused me to delve into it anyways. The moment I surrendered to it and finally managed to organise my days clearly has disappeared in one of the nooks of my memory, but thank God I started! It is difficult to explain what makes bullet journaling so different from keeping a normal agenda and having to do-lists and other reminders in apps on one’s phone. It is not a radical change that one feels immediately, but rather a gradual improvement. Something you teach yourself in a playful manner, not yielding instant satisfaction, but long-term improvement. It’s a lot of small things that together make a big difference.
First of all, it has been proved that working analogically yields better results than saving things digitally. The sole act of writing or drawing makes it easier to remember things effectively. When you then manage to use a system that allows a coherent way of anallogically organizing, there’s a way larger chance you’ll remember things (quite vague, I know, I will clarify).
Filling your bullet journal
What kind of things am I talking about? That’s very personal. Basically you keep an agenda that you design and fill with the things that are important to you. Think about meetings, events, reunions, presentations, things for school, etc. Using several keys, that is, icons, you divide events, tasks, important info, and things like birthdays. This already gives you more clarity. Thanks to using keys, you can keep your notes short, that is, you can keep them to bullets! Bullet is not, as many people think, derived from the bullet-paper used for journaling, but comes from the word bulletin, short message.
You complete this agenda with trackers, lists, and memory pages. All customizable. Do you want to live more healthily when summer comes in order to feel a bit better in swimsuit? Keep a tracker of your food consumption and your workout routine. By tracking it, you become conscious of your current state and your development.
As to lists, the choice is endless. I track the books I read, borrow and lend, which movies I want to watch, which I have seen, and what I thought about them. I also have a list of things that make me happy (very nice to read through on bad days, to remind myself not all is doom and gloom), and one with things that make me feel bad, so that I can avoid, change, or just accept them!
You can decorate this as extensively as you’d like to. With photos, texts, quotes, poems, drawings, doodles, and hand lettering.
The best thing about bullet journaling is that you can start from a well-working base and expand it according to your personal wishes, which not only makes it handy, but also fun and unconstrained.
It’s easy to remember and repeat like a mantra: by continuously comparing yourself, you’ll be unhappy, and practice makes perfect! Your bullet journal will never be perfect, but that’s not the goal anyways. Whenever you do it to receive compliments, you have lost the objective. Take others’ bullet journals as inspiration and use it to create and develop your own work. After a while, you can look back on your own creation – and that’s encouraging and nice to see.
I used to work in the standard bullet journals with dotted paper produced by Leuchtturm, Mus or, more recently, Rhodia. I was positively surprised when I discovered Greenstory and its stone paper bullet journal notebooks. I must admit I still find it sounds somewhat magical…paper made from stone.
Because I try to live sustainably and reduce waste, I loved the concept of not having to cut down one single tree and not use one drop of water. I was very enthusiastic when I could finally try it out!
At first sight, the stone paper notebook looks like the paper that is made from wood-pulp of good quality. It is very smooth, soft, and, most of all, beautifully white. The main difference is the consistency. Paper made from wood-pulp porous and sucks up ink. The stone paper notebooks don’t: the ink remains ‘on’ the paper, not ‘in’ it. As a consequence, the colors are clearer and more intense: a fineliner glides beautifully over its surfaces, but one does have to take into account that some time is needed for everything to dry, so that your work doesn’t smudge. The advantage is that markers made on alcohol basis, of which there are many, can be used on this paper, while on ‘normal’ paper they are a nightmare, leaking through everything.
From the outside, Greenstory’s bullet journals look very chique, with a hardcover in various colors. The straps and the elastic keep everything in its place. Right now, the journal consists of eighty pages, but I’ve understood that bigger journals are in the making for those bullet journal addicts, like me, who practically eat them.
I could go on about it for hours, but, however beautiful the journals are, what primarily attracts me is that they’re ecologically responsible. No trees have died; rather, Greenstory plants one for every journal sold! No water is needed to produce the paper, while for one (!!!) A4-sheet two to thirteen liters of water are spoiled. The paper is naturally white, so it doesn’t need whitener, and the ink is made from natural material! All of this makes me a fan of Greenstory. I can’t wait to continue experimenting!
Lona Aalders works as a photographer and illustrator and is a staunch paper lover. She lives in a tiny house in Braamburgge (Netherlands) surrounded by nature, prefers cake for breakfast, dreams about having an otter as pet, and considers slow living her personal religion. Bullet journaling helps her creating order and focusing on the important things in life.