Tech, Now + Beyond

7 Bullet Journal ideas for normal people that are basically genius

This is the bullet journal guide for the rest of us: those with sloppy handwriting and sloppier lives.

Perhaps you’ve heard of bullet journaling, the latest Pinterest/Instagram/Youtube craze? Scrapbookers, obsessive diary keepers, and general crafters alike have managed to make handwritten calendars cool in the same year we get a seventh iPhone.

But beyond the pretty pages and cutesy stickers, the bullet journal method actually seems to work. If you’re the kind of person who remembers things best when you write them down, or if the great tech minds of San Francisco haven’t yet invented a digital calendar you trust, bullet journaling is a great option. You can customize it to your specific needs, play around with formats as you go, and have a record of your day to day life to keep forever.

But for those of us who are more inclined towards the “get your shit together” aspect than the “stencils and calligraphy!” side, it can seem daunting. Doesn’t anyone use the bullet journal system without drawing elaborate doodles or buying hundreds of dollars worth of fancy colored pens?

This is the bullet journal guide for the rest of us: those with sloppy handwriting and sloppier lives.

1. Don’t bother color-coding

You’ll be really into it for a week, then you’ll forget what the colors mean and you’ll lose half the pens. Don’t worry about it. If looking at color coded schedules really helps, keep the different colors to a minimum and consider using highlighters that you keep only in your desk.

2. Think about the messiest aspects of your life

What do you have trouble remembering? Work tasks? What you need at the store? When was the last time you cleaned your bathroom? Look for layouts and charts specific to your needs, otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed by superhumans who make new doodles after every yoga session.

3. Don’t worry about changing it up

Did the weekly layout not work? Did you still forget what time you were meeting your sister for coffee? Try something new!

4. Don’t worry about how it looks

Can you understand what you’ve written? Yes? Then that’s all that matters. Besides, handwriting that is only legible to you is the kind of security money can’t buy and Apple can’t design.

5. Give yourself time to make the transition

Sure, your post-it-covered-laptop system of organization needs to change, but if you make the jump all at once you won’t trust your new bullet journal. Slowly transition from one to the other. Maybe start by putting only social events in your journal, then after a week, social and work, then social work and some habit tracking, and so one. Give yourself time to adjust before you throw out your random collections of notes.

6. Make it short, sweet, and simple

Remember, you have to draw out all the layouts and notations yourself. Don’t get wrapped up in the novelty of your new organizational system. Pick layouts and charts that won’t take very long to draw out, or you won’t have time to make the habit stick.

7. But maybe try just a little

OK so you don’t have to become an Instagram queen, but maybe try and make your bullet journal a little pretty. Doesn’t have to be fancy! Treat yourself to a pack of goofy stickers or buy some glitter gel pens like you had in middle school. Organization if a form of self care; you deserve to go through your day without the stress and hassle of not knowing what you need to get done, or if you’ve forgotten anything important. Treat yourself to a little fun while you’re at it.

  • Chelsea Ennen

    Chelsea Ennen is a New York City-based writer and recovering academic with an MA in contemporary literature, theory, and culture from King's College London. Her nonfiction writing has been published on The Mary Sue, HelloGiggles and The Female Gaze, and her dissertation on postfeminism versus third wave feminism in contemporary pop culture was accepted for presentation at the 2016 Indiana University of Pennsylvania English Graduate Organization Inter-Disciplinary Conference. She is the fiction editor of the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal and a novelist who would very much like to pet your dog, please.