Creative Planning the Bullet Journal Way

RachelBeckmanArtistDeskBulletJournal.jpg

Ever since the new year when I shared some of my bullet journal pages on Instagram, I've been getting a lot of questions about my journaling practice: the what, the how, and especially the why. Since I don't have any major project updates to share this week, I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little bit about how I use my bullet journal for creative planning and project tracking. 

Instead of giving you a primer on exactly what a bullet journal is, I'll tell you that a good place to start if you're curious about bullet journals is bulletjournal.com. Which is exactly what I did when my interest was first piqued. The internet is full of other blog posts just like this one from individuals who share how they've adapted bullet journaling for their personal use, and there is a thriving bullet journal community on Instagram so you can scroll those hashtags to your heart's content. Case in point, this recent post from The Office Goth (give it a read, will you? We use the same notebook!).

Do a little bit of research, and your biggest takeaway will be that no two bullet journals are the same. 

I started keeping a journal because I am truly an analog girl at heart. I get mad at my Mac daily, still have no idea how to navigate my Google calendar, and even though I consider myself a pretty adept typist, clicking out lists and reminders on my phone remains no match for my prowess with pen and paper. I'm a visual, hands-on learner, and turns out the same is true for my style of record-keeping.

Other reasons I chose bullet journaling: 

  • I love having a daily record, even if I only manage to write down one thing per day. It can become a very satisfying 'year in review' because I'm actively compiling all of my accomplishments along the way!
  • It's convenient to have one book I can flip through for all of my dates, lists, ideas, notes, etc. instead of having to think, where is that one napkin I wrote that great story outline on? Pro-tip: transfer napkin notes to your bullet journal to never lose a great idea again!
  • It's easy to chart growth and improvements through habit tracking and goal planning. It's a lifesaver for my creative planning when I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head, and only so many hours in a day I can be awake to get it all done. What was that thing I wanted to make again? 
  • The ritual of keeping a bullet journal helps me to manage my anxiety disorder (unexpected bonus round!).

The point I really want to focus on here is how to maximize your bullet journal experience as a creative, and there are a few things I'll share here regarding how I use this process to manage my time in my studio.

The first is actually part me, part the #makenine movement started by Home Row Fiber Co. on Instagram. I've always kept a running list of projects that I want to make across all media, but #makenine takes this idea one step further by challenging yourself to a set number and sharing those goals within a community. The real excitement for me, and I think for a lot of people, is in choosing projects that teach you something new, challenge you technically, and fill some hole in your practice- whether that be a skill you currently lack or a garment you need in your wardrobe (you'll see a lot of my examples are knitting and sewing based). I apply this thinking to all of my creative planning: how can I grow as an artist?

Here are a few examples of what this looks like in my bullet journal. The image on the left is one of my project planning lists from 2017. On the right is the list for my 2018 Make Nine goals (stickers by the fabulous Nastia Sleptsova). 

The partner to these 'to-make' lists is the 'projects completed list.' You can see below my final list from 2017.  I didn't decide to start a list in 2017 until a few months in, when I then had to retroactively remember everything I had made up until that point; this year, the list is indexed near the start of my journal. Looking back, I can hardly believe that I sewed and knit that many things! It seems impossible. I wonder how this year's list will turn out?

 *Extra tip: Sometimes if I have a page in the middle of my book that I need to refer to over and over again throughout the year and I want to be able to access it quickly, I add a sticker tab to the top of the page (that little peek of yellow up top).

*Extra tip: Sometimes if I have a page in the middle of my book that I need to refer to over and over again throughout the year and I want to be able to access it quickly, I add a sticker tab to the top of the page (that little peek of yellow up top).

 I begin every month with some version of this basic layout: Habit tracking, project planning, and and calendar overview with major events and appointments. I refer to this spread throughout the entire month, and at the end of the month transfer any incomplete projects to the spread for the following month. You'll see that in 2017 I used the lined journal from  Leuchttrum1917 , and this year I've switched to the dotted version; I find that the dotted journal is more flexible in terms of layout possibilities, All Leuchttrum1917 notebooks have a built in Index.

I begin every month with some version of this basic layout: Habit tracking, project planning, and and calendar overview with major events and appointments. I refer to this spread throughout the entire month, and at the end of the month transfer any incomplete projects to the spread for the following month. You'll see that in 2017 I used the lined journal from Leuchttrum1917, and this year I've switched to the dotted version; I find that the dotted journal is more flexible in terms of layout possibilities, All Leuchttrum1917 notebooks have a built in Index.

When it comes to the monthly view of my bullet journal (above), I feel like this is where most  of the work gets done. These lists are not static; though I may start off every month with an idea of what I want to get done, I may decide to bump a project to next month, cancel it forever, or add on something new that I'm suddenly excited about. I like the monthly view, because it's more diverse than my yearly project goals, I can break things down into different categories, and I can be specific (Purl Soho Raglan) or really vague (blackwork embroidery).

Side note, but actually relevant: the reason my yearly project goals are limited to knitting and home sewing is because it's much easier to be specific about wanting to make a Tamarack Jacket based on my wardrobe needs and the sewing skills I want to challenge myself with, than it is to say, plan on making x-number of crochet sculptures. The latter is a much bigger, nebulous, ever-changing concept that I can't really plan for. The personal work either comes, or it doesn't; it sets its own pace, demands its own time. It evolves and shifts gives birth to new work that I can't always account for. It's easier for me to look at that work in a more immediate view, so when I sit down at the beginning of each month I think, okay, what is really making my fingers itch right now?

My daily view is what it is. It's a healthy mix of places to go, things to do around the house, and tasks I want to get done in my studio. Surprisingly this daily record is of the least importance to me, but it does help to keep me on track and hold me accountable. It doesn't always reflect the breadth of the work I got done that day, but at the very least it's a simple acknowledgement that says, hey, I did something.

 My daily entries are always different depending on the day and how much I feel like putting down. This is a pretty standard and straight forward view: mostly appointments, to-do lists that I sat down to write at the beginning of the day, and some select notes. Somedays I add meal planning to the mix or doodles or an #ootd. Some days get stickers (oh boy, do I love stickers) and some are just boring. That's real life.

My daily entries are always different depending on the day and how much I feel like putting down. This is a pretty standard and straight forward view: mostly appointments, to-do lists that I sat down to write at the beginning of the day, and some select notes. Somedays I add meal planning to the mix or doodles or an #ootd. Some days get stickers (oh boy, do I love stickers) and some are just boring. That's real life.

I hope this was helpful. I've enabled comments on this post, so if you have any questions or anything to add, please go ahead! I'd love to hear from you.