I've been seeing a trend in blog posts and vlogs telling stories of bujo break-ups — people talking about their attempt to create a bullet journal and failure to find it helpful. I've also recognized a trend in why they are failing, and it isn't the bujo's fault!
In my years of using the bullet journal method to organize my life, I've seen a whole online community form around this highly-customizable planner system. I've also seen people try to join this community and quickly pull out. The reason? Overwhelm.
The irony is that overwhelm should be the last thing a bujo newbie feels.
The bujo community online is doing newbies a disservice by focusing on customizations and decorations. Of course a newbie would face overwhelm looking at this page full of color-coding, hand-written headers, and complicated layouts! I'm overwhelmed by it! But here's the thing: all of these overwhelming things are add ons and aren't technically a part of the bullet journal method at all!
The bullet journal method is highly customizable, so for people who want to add color and complication, it's the perfect "blank page" to do so. I've done a bit of that myself. But ultimately, the method itself is much simpler.
How to have a good relationship with your bullet journal:
1. Forget everything you've seen on Instagram and Pinterest and watch this video created by Ryder Carroll.
You can also find it on the bullet journal homepage. As shown in the video, there are three main pillars of this method, and if you remember nothing else, remember these:
- If you can rapid log, you can bullet journal.
- Collections help rapid logs from getting out of hand.
- Any notebook will do.
2. When you do want to add customization, add a little at a time.
The beauty of the bullet journal is its flexibiity. If you like to color-code or doodle, the bullet journal provides a great canvas. This is where the bujo community that has sprung up on Instagram and Pinterest comes in. It provides a wealth of inspiration that can be quite useful, when taken in small doses, so my advice is this: only add up to three customization or changes at any one time. If the change is a big one — say a weekly layout or a new tracker — focus on that one change. If they are small, like making your headers pretty or working on your handwriting, up to three are managable.
If you scroll through my Instagram feed you will see how I've made my bullet journal my own. I didn't do any of it all at once, though. I've been using the bujo method for years now, and have tried all kinds of layouts, collections, trackers, etc... Looking through my current bullet journal would probably overwhelm a newbie, but that's because I've spent years experimenting to create a custom system that works well for me. Which brings me to my final bit of advice.
3. Do what works for you.
Experiment. Play. Try new things. But only keep what makes your life better.
I started out using a pocket-sized notebook that I already had, then I experimented with different sizes, ruled or gridded with lines or dots, and ultimately decided that Baron Fig's Charcoal Confidant is the perfect notebook for me. But that was only after I'd determined what things were important to me in a bullet journal — and I did that through the process of using the basic method day after day, month after month.