If you saw the words ‘bullet journal’ in the title and sighed, I can sympathise; for the longest time, I was no fan of bullet journaling myself. It felt far too complicated and energy-sapping like I was spending so much time planning what I wanted to do that I had no spoons or motivation left to actually Do The Things. And it’s very easy for one to be put off by seeing rafts of Instagram posts and YouTube videos showcasing glitzy, spectacularly artistic spreads slathered across the pages of Leuchtturm dotted journals using fancy Tombow pens.
That is until I made a very simple realisation.
Ultimately, a bullet journal is for one person and one person only.
Yeah, statement of the obvious, I know. But it can be very easy to forget that, especially when looking at other people’s immaculate journals on social media. There’s an innate pressure, a feeling that you ‘aren’t doing it properly’ if you don’t have the right fineliner pens and spread designs. And perhaps most pervasive at all is the sense of ‘what if I mess this up?’ – something that several people have mentioned to me as a reason they avoid bullet journaling Putting all that effort in only to ruin an entire page or more of your carefully crafted journal and throw everything off course.
In the end though, what is the main purpose of a bullet journal?
To look pretty? Maybe, if you want it to.
But above all else? To work for you.
A bullet journal can be whatever you want it and need it to be. And for me, it’s my personal inventory screen and quest log.
In a game, an inventory screen is an easy way to lay out all the items you have and can utilise. Weapons, tools, healing items, keys, crafting pieces, consumables, buffs, clothing, you name it. Trying to remember all of that on its own would be quite stressful, no? So the inventory screen is there so you can sort through it all – and in some games, inventory management is quite the satisfying challenge in itself. Especially when it comes to crafting – laying out the ingredients needed to complete a recipe makes it all so much easier, and sometimes things appear in front of you that you may not have spotted the first time.
Alongside that is the humble quest log. In the same way an inventory lays out all your important kit for the missions ahead, what does a quest log do? Keeps track of your objectives, the quests in need of tackling and the objectives to be completed, often in order or prioritised. Keeps things organised out in the field, doesn’t it?
Now, when playing a game and checking your inventory and quest menus, do you worry about how aesthetically pleasing it looks? Maybe it does look good, especially if it’s clean and ties with the game’s art style. But mainly, all you need it to do is be simple, clear and help you keep track of what needs doing and what tools you have for those jobs.
Now, doesn’t that sound familiar.
This is exactly how I’ve been using my bullet journal since restarting journaling last October at the insistence of a great friend of mine who preached this DIY message to me. And very quickly, it stopped being about aesthetics or the ‘right’ equipment and started being about pouring thoughts and objectives into a notebook and cacheting them all in whatever designs I fancied doing that weren’t overly complicated.
I even set myself a challenge not to spend more than £20 on equipment for my journaling, just so I could prove to myself – and anyone who I talked to about it! – that bullet journaling really is what you make it. No matter if you’re using a traditional Leuchtturm dot journal or, as I am, a lined project book from ASDA that cost £3. Both serve the exact same purpose.
Watch the video above to see exactly what I bought.
And guess what? That £20 limit was more than enough to get going. Pens for writing, pens for colouring in, rulers for drawing, pencils for sketching. Washi tape? Completed it, mate.
Anything from postcards to tube maps have been cut out and stuck in to form improvised artwork for spreads. And remember earlier when I said about people being nervous of making a mistake and ruining their spreads? Easy – nothing that an eraser, correction tape and some adhesive labels can’t fix. In fact, more than once I have simply cut a sheet of card or paper to size and used double-sided tape to stick it down over an entire page, blanking it all out and allowing me to start again from scratch.
A really simple mood-tracker from editor Jess’ bullet journal
The mere act of bullet journaling has become one of immense satisfaction for me – and should you wish to give it a go, that’s how it should feel for you. Getting excited to add in a new month of spreads, filling in checklists and ticking them off when things get completed. A journaling session isn’t time wasted that could be spent actually doing things; it’s time used to help you get into a good, clear headspace to tackle your to-do list in the best frame of mind possible, no matter how daunting. It’s amazing how much more real and fully formed words are when they’re written on a page rather than rattling around in your head.
So if I have one top tip for bullet journaling, it’s this; it’s YOUR bullet journal, and the only right way to journal is whatever works for you.
Because ultimately, we all need to take a look at our inventory screen sometimes. And ticking off completed quests is one of the most satisfying feelings ever.