Here’s my journal the first day I began.
Guess what? I’ve started bullet journaling! I know. I didn’t know what it was either. I was at a retreat and the presenter, Rachel Wilkerson Miller, introduced the idea of bullet journaling for better mental health. See her article under the same name here.
Let me say this before I explain what bullet journaling is. I do not keep a regular journal (I used to). I do not keep a calendar, or to-do list. And there, ladies and gentleman, lies the problem. Everything is in my mind. If you’re like me, you start a new journal every year. You write consistently for a little while and then let it go. I’ve grown fond of the “notes” section of my iPhone for quick ideas and reminders. But the act of physically jotting down details of my life has not captured my attention. Also if you’re like me, you believe in spending daily time with Jesus. I always have my journal handy, but only to jot down questions or notes as I’m led. Sometimes I write directly in my Bible. Other times, I type on my laptop to easily share notes with others. Then there are times when I don’t write at all. Nothing. Just read and listen. Because, if I’m honest, writing is a chore for me. Awkward coming from a writer, right? Well, it’s true. The Holy Spirit is the only One that can motivate me to write. Otherwise, forget about it.
Maybe that’s not your story at all. This blog is still applicable for you because there may be a more effective way to go about your writing routine. Bullet journaling isn’t for everyone. This post is not intended to make a case that you should start this practice. It is also not a post from an expert. I’m just a girl who desires to simplify her life and be my best self as I show up in the world. Any tools that are helpful in that process, I’m willing to try (for the most part). Allow me to also mention that I struggle with the term “self-care” even though I love the concept. Not to sound super deep, but I trust God to take care of me. I yield my schedule to Him, and understand that whatever doesn’t happen in the day wasn’t meant to happen. Now. There are ways in which humans complicate life, make messes and cause unnecessary pressure/stress when there’s a better way. That’s the spirit of this post. It’s not meant to be whimsical, magical or a fix to deep-rooted mental health issues. Okay, let’s begin.
If you’ve searched the hashtag #bulletjournaling on Instagram, you MAY feel under qualified to create such gorgeous and intricate designs. I do not recommend searching if you’re not ready to weep at your inability to be so masterful (unless that’s your thing, in which case it’ll be a great source of inspiration). Either way, don’t worry! I’m not very artistic, and resolved in my mind to create a journal/diary/to-do list/planner that allows me to centralize my life in a healthy and meaningful way. Here’s why! I’M BUSY. We all are. I have a full-time career, operate in ministry with iNgage Church, am ALWAYS considering new community projects, have a mentee that deserves more than my “leftover” time, am running a business and praying for new ways to empower women through writing, storytelling, oration and any other method The Lord places on my heart (slight plug for my new devotional to be announced soon). On top of that, I find no greater joy than having impacting connections with women, which requires time, attention and finding the right lipstick shade. Needless to say, I choose not to create time for regular diary keeping. Back to this concept of time. I’ve learned that time management is a sham. You cannot “manage” time. You can only manage yourself. What bullet journaling has allowed me to do is manage myself, and to see where/what I place value in, then make adjustments accordingly.
Bullet journaling is a trifecta of to-do list + diary + planner. You can arrange it any way you like as long as its consistent (once you find a style you’re comfortable with).
Here’s what worked for me. Not considering anyone else’s journal and keeping it simple. I purchased a plain, blue notebook form Marshall’s with lines on the pages. Without thinking, I traced a line from the left to the right side of the page to separate the sections. I then wrote the sections I thought were important. They are:
- Gratitude list (limit to one bullet per day)
- Prayer list (limit to one bullet per day)
- To-do tomorrow (must be 7 bullets or less)
- Breakfast With My King (where I record reactions to my daily devotional)
- Weekly calendar
- Habit tracker (I only record if there’s something to record i.e. waking up with a headache)
This layout took about 5 minutes to construct. The beauty here is that everything is in one place. Many folks may not like their diary being directly next to their calendar sitting on the office desk. I get that. For me, it’s more about streamlining and centralization. What I noticed is that there’s no such thing as work/life balance. I work hard at the office, call my cell phone company to pay the data bill, text encouragement to my grieving friend, order groceries online, reserve a conference room for midday prayer, go for lunch walks to talk with my pastor, and plan out my meals all from my office chair. It doesn’t really make sense to have a professional and personal planner. My life intersects quite often. And I like it that way. If I find a cool resource/quote, I input that in my bullet journal too on a blank page. Mostly, my interactions with my journal have been positive. I’ve noticed that my reminders are mainly personal (call Kimberly and check on the status of her graduate school essays, order that pillow for neck pain, finish eating the leftovers before they go bad, pray for Candice, send Nicole a birthday gift, etc.). These are specific things I can do in a few minutes that are important to me and to my relationships. I enjoy learning what I value most, and how I track my time. It’s allowed me, in just two weeks, to make adjustments accordingly. Maybe you’re not very relational. That’s fine. I spend about 2 minutes every night in my bullet journal before bed, mainly creating my to-do list for the following day. Some people write full journal entries. I do not. Also, this method ensures that any person/thing I’ve been meaning to pray for gets immediate prayer. In the future, I’ll insert a memory verse each week to help with Scripture memorization. For now, I’m keeping it simple as I get in the habit of journaling. Oh! I almost forgot that I do not carry it with me. I leave it at home and take a photo of my to-do list for the next day. May not work for everyone, but it works for me and my already overcrowded work bag.
Last thing regarding the calendar, I only input what is confirmed or standing. I also try to limit it to the current month. If I make plans for the next few months (travel, for example), I include them. Otherwise, any long-term plans go in my Google calendar, which I consult monthly.
You may find bullet journaling to be therapeutic, relaxing, helpful or not useful at all. That’s totally fine. Remember:
- There are no rules
- Establish why you’re creating a bullet journal
- Stop if it’s not serving its purpose
- Keep it simple
- Be consistent
- You will make mistakes
Have fun. Stay healthy. Trust God. Live boldly. That’s all I got. Let me know if you’ve started bullet journaling, been doing it for a while and have any tips, or have gotten stuck trying to figure it out. I want to hear from you!
Remember, God loves you and so do I,
PS. Courageous Conversations picks back up next month. It’s going to be good y’all!