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A Quick Intro into Bullet Journaling

I came across bullet journaling while binge pinning on Pinterest (we’ve all been there, right?). My goal was to find a planner system. I have had multiple day planners in the past. Some were professional binders with tabbed sections and business card holders while others were cute spiral pocket sized calendars with inspirational daily quotes on each page. I tried my best, but felt unmotivated, uninspired, and a failure for the many blanks pages from where I didn’t use it for stretches of time. Not useful for someone already questioning their worth on a daily basis.

Before you run off to Pinterest to search bullet journals (and get completely overwhelmed), learn more about the original Bullet Journal system created by Ryder Carroll.

His concept is simplistic and genius. There is no waste with bullet journaling. You start where you are. Use it only when you want/need to. And after establishing the basic framework, you have the flexibility to make it anything you want – planner, diary, to-do list. For me, this reduces pressure and encourages me to be creative – which is so refreshing for my mental health.

So now that you know what bullet journaling is, lets talk about how it can help you with anxiety and depression.

1. Bullet Journaling Can Help You Stay Organized

Whether you’re too anxious to stay focused or too depressed to get motivated, writing things down on paper can help you see more clearly. The structures you choose also help break tasks into more manageable steps. Your customized set up can show you a year at a glance, monthly overviews, weekly schedules, or daily tasks.

If you don’t have much going on in June, just create a monthly overview and move on. Got a busy week before an event? Figure out what needs to be done and then break it into smaller, specific daily tasks. I find this type of planning helpful for anxiety because it helps me focus. Breaking things down into smaller tasks helps me during my more depressed days where everything can seem like a huge undertaking.

2. Bullet Journaling is Awesome for Self-Care

Your bullet journal can become a portable self-care toolbox. This is where the diary component kicks in. The possibilities are endless, really. Feeling down and lonely? Flip to your next page and fill it with things that you’re grateful for. Found an inspiring quote in the book you’re reading? Add it to your page of quotes you started last month. You now have these items to look back on anytime you want to. All in your bullet journal.

I have a page devoted to specific things to do when I’m feeling anxious or depressed. Writing them down helps me remember them. Having them accessible allows me to review and add on. If you’re not in a writing mood, color! Use different colored pencils or markers to create images, comics, or doodles. Are bullet journals possibly the new happy place?

3. Bullet Journaling Celebrates Accomplishments and Inspires Goals

Do you love making lists as much as I do? List making for me is a way to show what I’ve done or show me where I’m going. You can list the books you have been reading, or want to read. Do you love to travel? Make a list of places you want to go. Or if you’re artistic, draw a map and color in the places instead.

Having a visual of your passions and dreams is great for your mental health. Pat yourself on the back for what you’ve done. Be hopeful for what’s to come.

Want to get started right away? Here’s what you need:

The short answer is paper and a pencil. Some people use three ring binders so they can move pages around. Some people invest in leather bound journals with clasps. Others use spiral notebooks. You may need to try out a couple different options to see whats right for you.

I recommend starting simple. Purchasing a $50 designer notebook might make you feel intimidated and cause burnout. A $1.00 notebook from the Target clearance rack might be just what you need to jump into bullet journaling.

The features that I personally like are:

  • pages that can lay flat. It’s easier for writing.
  • dotted or grid pages rather then lined. This is handy for spacing and creating charts.
  • a journal that is small enough for travel, but large enough for certain page spreads. I’m currently using this. Popular journals in the bullet journal community include the hardcover Leuchtturm1917 or the softcover Moleskine.

For writing I like:

  • mechanically pencils. Nothing fancy. They don’t go dull and seem to erase easy.
  • Stabilo fineliner markers. They add color and are easy to write with.
  • ballpoint pens for the same reasons as the markers, but also helpful for journals with thinner pages where markers might bleed through.
  • A mini ruler. It can travel with me and helps tremendously when created charts.

Other fun items include:

  • washi tape. It’s a great way to add color and interest for those of us that aren’t particularly artistic. You can also use it on the edge of a page to bookmark a section.
  • Post-it tabs for marking the current month or day.
  • There are so many other items to include: stickers, stamps, stencils…the list goes on. I would recommend starting with the basics and adding on to your collection as you learn more about what works for you.

Warning Before You Start!

Did I mention that my first attempt at bullet journaling was a fail? Yep. I was SO excited. Pinned SO many ideas. Spent SO much time trying to make it look perfect. Hand lettering? Yes please! Detailed illustrated pages? Yes please!

Yeah, that didn’t last very long. What’s the saying? “Perfection is the enemy of creation.” I wasn’t having fun. I was trying to make my bullet journal look like all of those amazing examples I pinned. The reason I started in the first place was getting lost in the need to impress (who?, I have no idea). Remember why YOU want a bullet journal. Do it for you and no one else. If you’re frustrated or not having fun, change it in any way to make it work for you. You got this.

Now go and create 🙂