Years ago I started using a composition book as a day planner. The reason was because the Franklin planners that I’d used in the corporate world were too expensive. The company had always paid for them, but when I had to buy them myself they weren’t worth it. They were also a little bit intense for my needs when I no longer had meetings, employees, and a million other details of corporate BS to keep track of. Composition books, on the other hand, were cheap, especially around back-to-school time when I could stock up, so I adapted.
To compensate for the fact that it was not a binder like the Franklin planner, I numbered the pages and put a table of contents up front. If I allocated space for something and it needed more room, I’d continue on the next available page. It bugged me for a bit, then I realized that’s how long articles in newspapers and magazines get laid out and stopped caring. As long as I could find information, it was good enough.
I took manila envelopes and electrical tape and created slash pockets on the inside back covers. I had a page called “future stuff”, for things that happened beyond the scope of the journal that would be transferred to a new journal when the time came. I had a page for the current month, and the current week. I’d create a page for the current day if I needed it, but only if I needed it. I kept task lists, divided by projects. When I came to Finland, where composition books are not a thing (get away from me with the flimsy A4 and A5 blue books, I need a study cover!) I switched to cheap journals.
Someone pointed bullet journals out to me recently, a party I am apparently late to. They do similar things to what I do, so I watched a couple of tutorial videos that were recommended to me. I’m always looking for tips and tricks, and I came away with a few ideas that I’m incorporating into my own journals.
I’ve also been left with the notion that bullet journals are a bit of an obsessive/compulsive disorder for some people. After the recommended videos finished, YouTube kept playing more bullet journal flop-throughs, top hacks, and general tutorials. Apparently, nearly every person on the planet keeps a bullet journal and makes videos about it. Most of these videos are ungodly boring in their sameness. Everyone is doing the same thing, but occasionally someone will have an interesting tip on an easier or better way to do something, and that’s useful.
Most videos seem to be about how pretty they’ve made their books. I need a day planner and data capture system. These people are essentially scrapbooking. Seriously, there’s calligraphy and watercolors, special rulers so their lines are straight, stencils for drawing boxes and banners, and something called washi tape. I just need blank paper to write on and a pen that works. Yes, I have been known to go a little wild with stickers, and I use markers and gel pens to color code things and doodle, but yeesh. These folks are creating memory books and time capsules.
So while I respect the efforts, because everyone needs a creative outlet, I will not be calling mine a bullet journal. I certainly won’t be calling it a BuJo, because no. There will be no videos. I may talk about my journal, but probably in relation to how I’m using it for project management or something specific. When your productivity system becomes a lot of work, even if it’s fun, it’s really just a distraction. All you’ve created is an excuse to procrastinate. That’s time and energy that should be going into the things you’re supposed to be using the journal to plan and keep track of.