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I Tried Bullet Journalling For A Year, And Here's What I Learned

You might not be able to do it every day, BUT THAT IS OKAY.

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So, I've always wanted to be an organized person.

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When I was younger, I always got jealous of the people who managed (or seemed to manage) to keep their lives completely in order. I got by, but it was not my forté. After finishing school and finally starting my professional life, I've become generally able to meet deadlines and personal goals thanks to to-do lists on sticky notes, apps, and random notebooks.

Still, about a year ago, I realized that I could do better, and that's when the bullet journal became an appealing solution to my main problem: having everything important scattered in a thousand different places.

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And now, one year later, here's what I learned:

1. When it comes to taking care of myself, I'm actually able to stay pretty disciplined.

Before I began tracking my quality of my sleep in my journal, I'd never managed to be disciplined about my sleep schedule, which meant that nights where I got more than eight hours were few and far between.  Now that I had to track how many hours of sleep I was getting every night, I became used to going to bed earlier. Of course, this kind of personal challenge is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but by trying to make these kinds of improvements, I at least stopped complaining about being tired all the time. Plus, this chart method can also work for tracking medication or drinking water.
Pierre d'Almeida / BuzzFeed France

Before I began tracking my quality of my sleep in my journal, I'd never managed to be disciplined about my sleep schedule, which meant that nights where I got more than eight hours were few and far between.

Now that I had to track how many hours of sleep I was getting every night, I became used to going to bed earlier. Of course, this kind of personal challenge is not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but by trying to make these kinds of improvements, I at least stopped complaining about being tired all the time. Plus, this chart method can also work for tracking medication or drinking water.

2. Being organized is a gift that I give to myself...

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One of the fundamental principles of having a bullet journal is putting down on paper the tasks that are weighing on your mind. Because if you think about it, it doesn't really make sense to try and force yourself to remember every appointment you made for the next few months, or the name of a TV show you want to watch one day when you have the time, or your to-do list for your move next month.

By jotting these thoughts down in my notebook instead of letting them float around in my head, I freed up a lot of space in my brain. I used to get stressed out over the same things, but now, the stress had a place to go, and I could literally ~close the book on it~ when I need to.

3. And others in my life!

TF1 / Réalité à la française / Via melty.fr

Everyone has that one friend who always forgets when you're supposed to meet up and inevitably bails. You know, the one who RSVPs to three different events for one night and forgets to show up entirely? Well, that friend isn't me. At least, not anymore.

By tracking my to-do list religiously and keeping a list of who I'm seeing and when I'm seeing them, I've developed a clear idea of what my engagements and availability are from month to month and day to day. By using a bullet journal, I'm not just better at sticking to my commitments but also freeing myself up for more. By knowing when I'd be busy, I also had a better idea of when I was available.

4. All kinds of projects, both big and small, all feel within reach.

All those dreams and goals and vacation ideas and bucket list things suddenly become quite accessible when you use a bullet journal to parse out your time. It's a trick I learned thanks to Get Your Shit Together, a book by Sarah Knight, which works great with bullet journalling.For example, let's say that you're dying to move apartments, but don't know where to start. So you'd then go and write down in your notebook a list of all the things you have to do to make this work: Cleaning your current apartment, hunting for a new one, getting paperwork together, buying furniture, touring properties, dealing with real estate agencies, etc. You can then assign each of these tasks a reasonable time frame to get it done. What's great about breaking your big goals down into smaller, bite-size tasks is that it works for just about anything. After realizing that I was reading less than I used, I started a resolution to read more. But instead of setting vague and probably overly ambitious goals, I simply added a "reading" box to my monthly list of tasks. The result: I now read almost every day.
Quercus Books / Amazon / Via amazon.fr

All those dreams and goals and vacation ideas and bucket list things suddenly become quite accessible when you use a bullet journal to parse out your time. It's a trick I learned thanks to Get Your Shit Together, a book by Sarah Knight, which works great with bullet journalling.

For example, let's say that you're dying to move apartments, but don't know where to start. So you'd then go and write down in your notebook a list of all the things you have to do to make this work: Cleaning your current apartment, hunting for a new one, getting paperwork together, buying furniture, touring properties, dealing with real estate agencies, etc. You can then assign each of these tasks a reasonable time frame to get it done.

What's great about breaking your big goals down into smaller, bite-size tasks is that it works for just about anything. After realizing that I was reading less than I used, I started a resolution to read more. But instead of setting vague and probably overly ambitious goals, I simply added a "reading" box to my monthly list of tasks. The result: I now read almost every day.

5. Following a bullet journal has forced me to take time for myself and only myself.

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And by that, I don't necessarily mean hanging out in my bed watching YouTube (though that is a regular habit). I mean that bullet journalling is also a way to analyze your wants and needs, your goals and ambitions.

By writing down somewhere what you want to accomplish in a month, you can focus on those specific things. By extension, you get to know yourself a little more. And even if sometimes you don't always see immediate progress (i.e. realizing that you didn't make it to the gym this month at all), it's still useful.

6. It's also helped me better keep track of things like bills, health insurance, and other unglamorous but important stuff.

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No one is born with an innate understanding of how things like health insurance, student loans, and bills in general work. But having a bullet journal helped me keep track of all of the super important deadlines and info involved to better understand my finances and health.

It basically forces you to be organized. For example, if one of my monthly goals was to get glasses, I know that that involves updating my insurance information, finding an eye doctor, and budgeting out what I'll probably spend on a pair of glasses. All of which, **say it with me now** can be tracked in my bullet journal.

7. And speaking of finances, it's also great for making (and trying to stick to) a budget.

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Once I began recording my daily expenses in my notebook, I realized things like just how much money I was spending every month on things like, well...fruit juice. After having to write down (namely: face) my daily juice expense all the time, I realized that this just was a money suck that I could easily avoid.

8. To-do lists don't **have** to get done, tbh.

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One of the bullet journalling "rules" is that you are allowed to postpone tasks that you can't finish, and even move goals between different months. It's not an ideal situation, but it's totally normal and very fine.

For example, I keep lists of books and movies I want to get to every month, but the list always somehow gets dangerously long. After a while, it feels overwhelming. But that's when I remind myself that the only function of these lists is to free up my brain — no one's making me actually check off every box!

9. Still, I'm sorry to tell you, a bullet journal will probably not solve all of your problems.

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Thanks to my bullet journal, I was able to find a new apartment, get a new pair of glasses, and even get my Christmas shopping done before December. But that doesn't mean that this little notebook is the solution to ALL of my problems. And sometimes, it can even be tiny stressor in itself.

For example, a lot of the tasks I have to do often depend on other people Say, for instance, I write in my little notebook that I have to go try on a pair of glasses one day. It is possible that the glasses in question are not available in stores that day, and that my entire plan is out of whack.

So, stuff like that can be annoying, and dealing with the unexpected is not everyone's cup of tea, but it's something you should not lose sight of. The bullet journal is not a magical tool that will make the mail arrive faster, or that helps other people in your life to get their shit together.

10. And, let's be honest, the bullet journal can also make you feel guilty.

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I'll be the first to admit that some Instagrammers are a little bit too intense with their bullet journals. Personally, I have neither the time nor the desire to draw beautiful flowers on my notebook at the beginning of each month, or to transform it into a full-out sketchbook. My journal is pretty basic, and it suits me just fine.

However, it is still hard to stick to it. I frequently skip days in my tracker, I regularly forget to note whether I slept well or not, and I still tend to blame myself when I am unable to maintain it for a few days in a row . (As an example, using my bullet journal while on vacation is impossible for me.) In those ways, the bullet journal may well be a source of guilt rather than freedom. So, it's easier said than done, but try to keep in mind that at the end of the day, it's here to serve you, not the other way around!

This post was translated from French.

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