I have an admission to make. My brain consists of precisely 0% short-term professional memory. For example, I can remember bizarre things like Active Directory service account names that I last interacted with a decade ago. Or seemingly trivial decisions made in a previous role. But ask me the names of people I met recently, or what my current to-do list is, and unless it’s written down in front of me the answer will likely be along the lines of ‘things and stuff, oh look, time for a cup of tea’!
Maybe it’s because I am hopeless at getting enough sleep. Or easily distracted by the sheer quantity of information that flows in front of our eyeballs in this day and age. Maybe I drank too much in my twenties or don’t do enough physical activity! Whatever the root cause, I absolutely benefit from writing things down. In my younger years, this would be in the form of a zillion sticky notes covering any available surface from desks to displays, lamps to speakers etc. Not the most elegant, or portable, solution.
Hey, what’s this analogue talk?
It’s a well-known fact how the act of writing helps to lodge things in the mind. Enter the bullet journal. At its core, it’s an extremely simple system that enables you to plan and track tasks, events, and information. You need nothing more than a standard notebook and a pen or pencil. By this system of tracking information through the passage of time in your pages, it’s possible to master all those random thoughts had in the moonlit hours, meeting attendees and actions, notes for reference, coalesce project related information and so on.
Some people go nuts and splash out on luxurious heavyweight paper and custom binding, expensive pens, the most intricate illustrations and beautiful handwriting. But all of that is total fluff. You need none of it, this is about you, how far (or not) you go on the details is entirely personal. I stick to the trusty Leuchtturm 1915 A5 notebook with dotted paper. A5 is a nice size, and dotted paper makes it easy to create custom layouts. A Sukura Pigma Micron 03 pen is a nice width and doesn’t smudge (I hold pens weird). Pro tip: Small letters in CAPS hides all manner of bad handwriting. And then some dinky 15cm metal ruler off Amazon just so I can draw dividing lines, tables or whatever if I need to. This stows away nicely in the little pocket Leuchtturm build into their notebooks.
One foot in, one foot out
The last time I was really diligent with bullet journaling was about a year ago. Then ‘some stuff’ happened and it just petered out naturally. But I have something coming around the corner which presents an opportunity to dive back in. Which is itself an opportunity to start fresh. And this is kind of the point; You can fall in and out of bullet journaling as much as you like. It’s not failing if you stop. You can start again whenever you feel the need, it simply doesn’t matter. It’s just a tool. And you don’t need a new notebook every time you start again either. If you stopped halfway through a notebook, just fold a page and refresh, it’s fine. Personally, I just love the feel of a fresh notebook with all those pages stretching out ahead of you, ready to be filled with the detritus of life!
Styling it up
This time around, after having a crazy colourful green notebook for some time, I’m going monochrome. I was thinking black. And then one of my connections on Twitter suggested the bronze one… Hmmm… Maybe not bronze, but they do a silver one. That could be cool, and still monochrome. With black stickers to keep that monochrome vibe? Sorted 🙂
Now, time to crack out those page templates and grab some stickers. Templates are really just elements I borrow from my enthusiasm for typeface, layout, and visual design. I find the relationship between type, images, and the space on a page fascinating, but it’s not at all required. And one of the nice things about the whole bullet journal system is its natural simplicity. I keep it minimal and actually leave out some of the elements like weekly logs and things. The only thing I add is an additional index for collections. Collections are project-based pages that you link together through the index with the title of the project, followed by a list of pages that the project is referenced.
And that’s really it. Maybe some pages I go wild on from time to time if there’s some need. But generally, it’s just simple handwritten notes and following the process. No need to make it any more complicated than it needs to be.
Stickers are just something I like on notebooks. Some people put them on laptops, and I used to do that, but nowadays I tend to leave my laptop surface clean (at least for now). The notebook is fair game though! This time around, with that silver, I’ve gone for black stickers with transparent backing (not white) to get that monochrome look. Here are some of the ones I’ve used as an example, all from RedBubble: Microsoft logo, Azure logo, Fingerprint, Windows logo, Socials.
If your interest is at all piqued, there’s probably still no better place to start than Ryder Carrolls original How to Bullet Journal video from 2015:
Thanks for reading, and I hope this maybe inspired you to give it a go – it’s good fun!