We’ve all seen those Pinterest-perfect bullet journal spreads on social media. The handwriting is perfect, the pen lines are even, the highlighter colors are coordinated, and everything just looks so so so cute. We’ve probably even tried to recreate those spreads ourselves, painstakingly writing down month names in our best calligraphy. For some of us, it just hasn’t worked out. We’ve become frustrated by how long it takes just to set up one week’s worth of tasks. We’ve ripped out pages because of our lack of artistic skills. Most importantly, we’ve probably come to the realization that making a cute planner spread is actually making us less productive!
As nice as it would be to have an aesthetically pleasing planner to look at each week, it’s just not realistic for me. However, bullet journals and planners don’t have to be super cute to be super effective. I’ve found ways to use bare-bones bullet journaling methods to my advantage. Want to plan your life out without all of the creative hassle? Follow my lead!
- Find a simple notebook
Simplicity is truly key when it comes to organization. A notebook works best because, in my experience, online tools such as Google Tasks and Notion have taken away from my productivity. I find that I remember things better when I physically write them down instead of typing them out. Additionally, if you’re entranced by the aesthetics of bullet journaling, you will probably become addicted to customizing your Notion platform instead of using it to organize! Online tools can certainly be helpful, but I think that it is way too easy to ignore phone and laptop reminders because we are so used to brushing off text messages, emails, and other unwanted notifications. This can lead to you forgetting important assignments or due dates! You can buy a templated planner as well, but using a simple lined notebook will allow you to have a bit more freedom in terms of what you use your bullet journal for.
- Make checklists
Checklists are your friend. They are the perfect organizational tool. I use them in almost every planning scenario. Packing for a trip? Checklist of items to bring! Daily tasks and homework assignments? Checklist of what to turn in each day! Grocery shopping? Checklist of what snacks to buy! The possibilities are endless. Checklists and to-do lists are so easy to set up and are so satisfying to check off when the task is completed.
- Be consistent
Consistency in your journaling is important because it will help keep you on track. Set aside time each week or day to actually write down what you plan to do or what you need to do. Don’t treat your planning like it’s a chore. If you treat it as an essential part of your day, you will have an easier time remembering your ideas and tasks. It helps to form a relatively consistent pattern in how you format your journal as well. For example, although I’m not strict about what is written on what pages in my notebook, I’m very consistent in how I schedule my academic calendar. Each week I write down what week in the semester it is at the top of a page. On that page, I write down “Monday” and fill in what I need to do by the end of that day. I do this each day until the week is complete. This routine has helped me retain flexibility in my schedule while simultaneously keeping me on track.
- Write whatever is on your mind
The best part about keeping a low-key journal is that you have the freedom to write whatever you want down. Unlike a traditional planner, you don’t have to only use certain pages for certain purposes. I always have my weekly academic planning pages, but in between those pages, I write whatever I want to. If I’m applying to internships, you can bet that I’m writing ideas down. If I’m online shopping, I’m definitely keeping track of brands or pieces I like. I even have a page dedicated to Her Campus article pitch ideas! It’s fun to make these pages and then add to them and refer back to them over time. There is no right or wrong way to journal. Whatever suits your lifestyle is how you should organize your notebook.
At the end of the day, bullet journaling and planning is meant to make your life easier. It is one method of organizing your day-to-day tasks and jotting down things to remember. I love being creative, but I know that mixing art with planning isn’t a good mix for me. If you’re someone like me and just need a simple and effective way to organize your schedule and your thoughts, I hope this guide helps you put a notebook to good use!