Discovering the Perfect Planner for Creatives: The Bullet Journal Journey Part 1
I was veeerrrrryyyyy late to the bullet journal trend.
Like later than late kind of late. And it's funny, because it's exactly the kind of system I spent years looking for.
I spent all of uni wishing I had a way of keeping track of things that I could customise to what I actually needed. Everything was half what I wanted and half not. And then when I left uni and started working as a photographer, I found myself struggling with the same issues. I needed room for to-do lists, schedules and tasks due, and a space to just dump all the random things I needed to remember to do. Room to track my workouts and food so I didn't have to have a completely different notebook for it. Room to tweak things to have enough room for what I needed and code it how I needed it to be, and for it to be flexible and changeable (becuase I would grow sick of things very quickly).
And then bullet journals happened... and 3 years or so after that became a thing, they happened for me.
About 6 months ago I got into the idea, and then spent 2 months trying to find a bloody dot grid notebook.
When I finally had my hands on the thing, I didn't know where to start. I just looked at these blank pages and said to myself 'I don't even know what I want out of this'.
So I browsed pinterest and Instagram for ideas and quickly realised what I didn't want, which was a lot of complicated decoration or lists for the sake of lists. I put my 'movies to watch' and Bucket List things in notes on my computer so I have them everywhere I go (like when you actually need the 'books to read' list because you're at a bookstore unsure what to buy). I didn't want that stuff to clutter this notebook, it was meant to be a day to day book to get. shit. done.
No, what I needed was clean and functional, with a layout that was aesthetically pleasing and I enjoyed using from both a practical and visual stand point. It took me months to even get near that point, and anyone who is starting a bullet journal will probably find the same thing.
I spent a long time playing around with things and am finally now starting to get my bearings. I learnt very quickly that the best way to figure out what works for you is to try stuff and tweak it week by week to make it better. Let it grow with you, and let you learn week by week what you like and what you don't. To be honest, my first week was incredibly rough and the second not much better, but only through starting did I realise what I wanted/needed (and through a lot of research still - sometimes you have to let others do the hard work).
So let me walk you through where I started, where I am now, and why I am doing things the way I am.
I started out knowing I wanted to have some monthly goals to make sure I hit some important targets and have somewhere to write down the big picture aims I have. I also wanted to have a rough calendar with some of my more major events throughout the month - birthdays, friend events, physio appointments, etc.
This evolved slowly. It still inlcudes a monthly goals section as well as a calendar, just a bit more spread out and more thoughtfully placed. I also have a monthly habit tracker for a few things, inlcuding personal things like drinking enough water and having my vitamins in the morning, and more work related ones like posting on instagram. You can see i've not been off to a good start this month...
For weeklies, I wanted a workout tracker, instagram tracker and water tracker, as they were the main things I thought I wanted to keep tabs on. I also had a brain dump page broken down into the 4 main areas of my life for things that needed to be done during the week sometime, and would then be put into my daily pages where appropriate. I can't remember but I think this idea came from Coley (@bonjourcoley on instagram) who bascially helped walk me through develiping my bullet journal in general. I never realised I needed a dedicated space so something like this, but it has been one of the best additions.
This layout stays pretty similar throughout, except I narrow it down to just a brain dump page, workout tracker and meal tracker. I also tidied up the layout week by week and now pretty much have it mastered. This section may get some updating over time but right now it works really well for me.
The workout tracker, as you will notice, now has a lot more room to write what i've been doing, but also has a mood tracker on the side. This is the mood tracker for my back rather than a mental health tracker (either would work for me though tbh). I've spent the last 18 months dealing with RSI, as well as some nasty back issues and as a result have not really been able to work out much. Coley suggested having a tracker so I can help keep note of what workouts might be too much for my current state. It's actually really been helping and i'm slowly getting more aware whilst actually improving my fitness. Before I wouold push myself too much and then have to stop for a week.
Now for the day to day spreads! To begin with I adamantly didn't want time slots because I did not want to use it for appointment planning - it was meant to be a goals and get shit done kind of planner. I've never used the time slots in planners, it's one of the reasons traditional planners bug me so much. As a photographer working for yourself, or any creative with clients, its pretty silly to not use a digital calendar to keep track of meetings and work. You need to set up reminders to ensure you keep on top of everything. I don't forget anything important because of this, and I can also check my schedule wherever I am.
Eventually I do actually add in a time tracker (to my own surprise), but not to keep track of when my shoots are. This is basically to just track how much time each day I'm spending working on different things so I can get a better sense of what days during the week will be good 'get the to-do list done' days.
The other thing I started out doing and changed is using only a double spread for the whole week. It just wasn't enough room most days. I changed to a vertical layout with 2 days per page and a dashboard on the left at the beginning of the week. This meant more room for to do lists, the lists were all in a line, and the whole thing looked a lot more tidy in general.
The dashboard also gave me the space to write down the shoots that needed to be edited that week so I could be sure to get them done, and have a separated list to cross off.
So there you have it! My awkward beginnings with my bullet journal through to where I am now (which is a pretty content place).
Have you given the bullet journal trend a try? If you have, let me know the one feature you can't live without! Mine is probably the brain dump sections- life changing!