A Case Against Pretty Bullet Journals

Not poetry but something I’ve wanted to write about for a while. If you enjoy bullet journalling, keep doing that; if not, maybe read on.

When bullet journalling became a trend, I felt wary. The pictures and videos were so pretty, so perfect. So much effort of drawing perfect boxes, practising handwritten names of months and days to perfection, so much pressure to make the lists of potential failures presentable for keeping them all year.
Nice handwriting is a noble art, a beneficial practise in patience, but it can be daunting for the less talented (or patient).

I had a long, hard, and honest look both at the whole concept and at my life, then went by the trusty rule I learned from a Stargate story (which in itself is probably telling) long ago: What do I have, what do I need?

I have a lot of different and unpredictable categories of things I want to keep track of, a brain that is way faster than my hands, and rather mediocre handwriting talents that clash with my sense for aesthetics. I already have a normal agenda in nice paper for scheduling appointments and events, which I want to keep as a separate entity.

I need something simple that doesn’t need a lot of time and effort to prepare, something flexible, and something that doesn’t involve lugging around pages upon ugly pages of poorly shaped words and unfinished tasks. I need something that doesn’t require opening a file or book but rather something out in the open. Something that comes without artistic pressure.

From that it became clear the best way to avoid dread of imperfection is — at least for me — to simply forgo the idea of a pretty tracking journal altogether and use lists which get thrown out once their job is done.

After some experimentation it’s currently still a rather mixed system of loose pieces of paper and a spiral notepad, but the notepad is slowly winning for private lists. If I have a list for the following day, I simply flip the notepad to that page and put it on my bedside cabinet or on my desk. There are lists with creative ideas, lists with things I want to reorganise in the flat, lists of gift ideas, lists of tasks I want to get done within a specific month, lists of things to try/learn …

… and when I’m done with an item, I draw a bold, ugly line through it. Or two lines or three, if I’m particularly glad the thing is over and done. It’s a very satisfying action, as is tearing out a list and scrunching it up into a ball once most or even all items have been taken care off. Some things get carried over to new lists or become irrelevant. Some things don’t get done and the record of such a failure will be shredded and pulped and become new paper in the near future, instead of living on as an eye-sore amidst watercolour flowers for months to come.

I never imaged I’d grow up to be a list person, but it’s growing on me.
There’s something liberating in knowing all the things to do and try and think of are in a safe place outside my brain while they don’t have to adhere to a predetermined format. Sitting down once a day or every few days to put ideas into categories has become a habit and in the end it saves time, without any need for special art supplies or ambition towards picture perfect planning.