Monday 18 December 2017

Biting the Bullet

Being someone who loves all things stationery I've come across bullet journals before. I always thought they sounded like a good idea but never really got round to coming up with one of my own. Recent changes in my personal circumstances mean that I need to start getting organised and whilst out Christmas shopping I spotted this so decided to take the plunge. Luckily my colleagues at the Engineering Library in Cambridge were offering a class on using bullet journals to become more organised so I attended and picked up some valuable tips.

Bullet journaling is a system for creating your own bespoke diary/notebook/calendar system. Pre-printed planners are great but they don't always work for everyone. People find that they never use some of the sections but run out of space in others. Using a blank notebook, the bullet system allows people to record their plans and to-do lists in a way that suits them. Bullet journals can be created from any type of notebook and customized to suit the individual. They can be as simple or as complicated as you like (if you want to get sucked down a rabbit hole look on either YouTube for inspiration or on Amazon for stencilsstickers or washi tape).

Tasks are recorded using a basic range of symbols:

The beauty of these symbols is that they all start with a dot and can be changed as needed. Once a task has been completed you can put a cross through the dot, when a task is migrated to a new day it can be turned into a greater than symbol and so on. Entries onto these lists are short and to the point (although you can have a longer diary-like section). The idea is that you can glance at the journal and see exactly what you've already done and what you still need to do.

When setting up your bullet journal one of the first things to do is set up an index. This comes at the start of the book and is essentially a content page. Whereas a traditional planner will be divided into sections where calendars sit together, to-do lists in another section and notes in yet another section, a bullet journal lets you start new sections wherever you like. There is no worrying about leaving a certain amount of pages free, you just fill up the notebook as you go along. Therefore having an index helps you to keep track of everything - for example everything referring to January might be on pages 7-11, 25-31 and 45. Although it might seem like a counterintuitive way to work it actually helps to keep things sitting side by side. For example the notes from work meetings can be found near the calendar entry for the meeting which helps to keep things fresh.

There are many different spreads or lists you can choose to put into your journal depending on what you need to plan. You can have calendars to show you the next two, four or six months ahead as well as weekly and daily diary entries. You can include one long to-do list or different lists for every aspect of your life. You can track your fitness levels and plan your meals. Whatever you feel you need.

Putting together the journal takes some time at the beginning but everyone is keen to stress that the system is adaptable. If you try something and it doesn't work then move on. If having a meal planning list becomes more of a chore than a help then ditch it. If you find that having a monthly to-do list is too much then have a weekly one. Bullet journals can be used for both work and home to let you see your life at a glance although you can have separate ones if you feel the need. If you want to be artistic or include extra elements you can but the advice I received was to start simple and work your way up to more complex layouts.

I'm hoping to get started with bullet journaling in the new year but one thing my colleagues pointed out was that there is a community out there around this form of organisation. A quick Google gives lots of interesting ideas for layouts and spreads (I'm getting the lingo!). People are happy to share their designs and you can be inspired, no matter how much you might struggle on your own. I've already been out and bought some coloured pens and washi tape - the only thing left to do now is get started!

Credit for all of these tips goes to Emma Etteridge and Kirsten Lamb at the Engineering Library, Cambridge, Michelle Bond, Coventry University Library and How to bullet plan: a practical guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller.