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A Perfectionist’s Guide to Stress-Free Bullet Journaling

When I was introduced to the concept of bullet journaling, I was unimpressed. It seemed counterproductive to put so much effort into an organizational tool, especially because I, a perfectionist, envisioned myself accidentally sabotaging the endeavor and abandoning it entirely. After a stint with Google Calendar and a quarter using a Passion Planner, though, I realized that I needed more than a timetable and some lists; I needed a place to map out goals, organize my thoughts and order my priorities. I reluctantly returned to the bullet journal, and while early pages were scribbled over, glued together and occasionally torn out altogether, I gradually developed a system that kept me sane and efficient. This is what I do to make my bullet journal work for me, not the other way around.

Consult the experts. 

With a glossary of important terms, a list of recommended materials and descriptions of the most practical, frequently used spreads, Little Coffee Fox’s “Bullet Journal Guide” is a great resource for beginners. I referred to it when I was setting up my own bullet journal, and still revisit her blog from time to time for inspiration. Pinterest and Instagram are also reliable sources for tips, tricks and concepts. Through these three platforms, I developed an idea of what I wanted from my bullet journal and how to move forward.

Plan your planner.

Before I even opened my bullet journal, I drafted spreads, fonts and formats in a separate notebook. This helped me get comfortable with the fonts I was using, gave me a chance to see how an idea looked on paper and get a feel for formatting. Once I began to set up my journal, it was easy to transfer my drafted designs over.

Keep it simple.

    Most popular bullet journalers create new, unique spreads for each month, week and activity. Like anything on social media, though, what looks good on camera may not be what works the best. I find that pressuring myself to constantly come up with new content is stressful and counterproductive, because it makes it more likely that I will create a spread that I do not like. Instead, I rely on a few simple templates that are practical, easy to make and aesthetically pleasing.

    Allow mistakes to happen.

    This one is easier said than done, but accepting imperfection ensures that your bullet journal remains a tool, not a source of stress. Take baby steps out of your comfort zone: I recommend writing in pen, not pencil, crossing out mistakes instead of tearing out pages and transforming little mistakes into motifs or different scripts.

    Do not act on impulse.

    When I find myself frustrated with a spread, I close my journal or move to my next page instead of overthinking it. Approaching a mistake with fresh eyes can help you figure out a simple solution (or you may realize that it is not such a big deal after all).

    While the precise nature of bullet journaling can make it seem like a perfectionist’s nightmare, it is actually a practical, highly customizable organizational tool. I encourage beginners to stay within their comfort level and use their journals for function, not art. Allow yourself some room, let go of your expectations and see where it takes you. 

    Althea is a freshman at UCLA. Her favorite things are fashion, exploring new places, and her dog- in that order. You can follow her insta @althea.zhao!
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