On Simplifying

 Hello there,

About a month ago I noticed an air of exasperation among the Bullet Journal community. A desire for simplifying and trying out an approach to less: getting back to the basics and refocusing.

It's alluring to see photos of layouts, designs, notebooks, and planners that others are using. They collect stickers, stamps, washi tape, and every color pen under the sun. But these items disguise themselves as an alluring distraction. Sure, they make the pages more decorative, but are they being useful or at least making us happy? These types of products mislead us into thinking that just because they are an office supply product they will make us more productive when really they just add a layer of complexity. There is complexity when we have to figure out how to use and incorporate them into our system or else feel the pressure and guilt that comes when they're not used. The complication they add is counter-intuitive to a system that is meant to free us and give us the strength and authority to command our lives. The whole point of the Bullet Journal is to have a simple system where you can get things done.

I think that we can all get caught up in a web of comparing our pages from time to time. Other times we just aren’t happy with what we’re doing in our Bullet Journals. Sometimes going back to the basics and stripping away all of the unnecessary is exactly what we need to do.

I felt that desire to simplify my system as well. But for me, the distraction wasn’t decoration, it was using too many notebooks.

I haven't really talked about how I plan or use my Bullet Journal here, but I have a little confession...the Bullet Journal isn't the only notebook in my life. I know, I can hear your gasps over the screen. The Bullet Journal is a coveted form of having everything in one place, and yet I've been using other notebooks, as well. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that I have a two Bullet Journal system. I use one as a planner which holds all of my goals for the year, monthly spreads, and weekly spreads (Update Mar 2016: this is no longer the case, making spreads like this ahead of time did not work for me, it was a huge waste of time and paper. It's better to create as you go along, as per awesome Bullet Journal guidelines - they work people! :)). 

I also have a bunch of lists and collections related to my blog and personal life such as books to read, etc. I think you get the idea; it's meant to last me the whole year. The other is my current Bullet Journal where I keep my dailies, notes, lists that don't need to be kept long-term (same with collections) and month spreads (because rewriting helps me remember aaaannd, well, you know how much I love making layouts).

Anyways, what I don't really mention anywhere is that I actually have a bunch of other notebooks in my life that I use regularly. How many? Let me see...17 total, including both Bullet Journal notebooks. “Yeesh,” right?

Well, what can I say other than I'm a notebook addict. I love notebooks. I go straight to the office supply section in stores every time and if I see a new notebook that I like, you bet I'm going to take that sucker home.

Alright, to satisfy your curiosity, what was I using the other 15  notebooks for? Let's see..

  • Morning Pages
  • Regular Journal/diary
  • Sketchbook
  • Scrapbook
  • Experimental layouts
  • Blog post ideas
  • Master to do
  • Design ideas
  • Designs created
  • Sweet things people have said to me (This is excellent for when I'm feeling down, you guys are the best! <3)
  • Personal project
  • Gratitude journal
  • Fun book with prompts to fill out
  • Gardening notebook
  • Pocket notebook while out and about

I've been getting this burning desire in the back of my mind to simplify and to pare down some of my notebooks. Sometimes I'm in my Bullet Journal when suddenly a thought pops up that would have to go into another notebook. For example, I could be scribbling away in my Bullet Journal and then all of a sudden I think about things I'm thankful for. Then I proceed to think, "Well, I should get up and grab my gratitude notebook. Come on, it's only a couple feet away, just get up. Mmmm...Okay, but I'm writing something down...what did I want to write down? Oh yeah, what I'm grateful for. Argghhhh!" and the cycle goes on like that. My brain is both trying to convince me to reach for the specified notebook, but at the same time I kinda want to hang out with my Bullet Journal even more. The same thing happens when I want to journal. Or I'm in bed and I want to write in my Morning Pages notebook. Or when I think of blog post ideas. With all of these thoughts popping up, and the right notebook just out of reach, I tense up and gridlock myself. Yep, my brain implodes several times a day thinking about this.

I looked at my Bullet Journal and considered the possibility of placing everything into it. I thought about it for a while and thought about all of the Bullet Journal enthusiasts that say to put everything in the Bullet Journal and have only one notebook. So after thinking about it for a couple of days, I decided to try it out and go all in with my Bullet Journal. Use it for everything!

The reason I had each of these journals was because I like having the right tool for the task at hand, and in the case of thoughts, the right journal. But see, the thing is, the Bullet Journal is the right tool for pretty much all of those thoughts that I store in the various journals up above. It holds true to its quip, “An analog solution that will help you track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.”

So, I decided that in honor of the updated Bullet Journal system and website, I would go back to the basics and try going all in with the Bullet Journal. I would forgo many of my daily notebooks and instead reach only for my Bullet Journal when a thought or idea occurs that I'd normally place into a specific notebook. To keep the thoughts I’d usually place in each of those notebooks, I’d create relevant lists, collections, and spreads in my Bullet Journal.

Simplifying is good.

It's okay to step back and away from the lures of perfectly staged photos. It’d beautiful even, to listen to ourselves and what our hearts are telling us.

Simplifying is beautiful.

Let yourself plan as you truly do. Give yourself permission to be and stop comparing your pages to those of others. Stay true to yourself and do what makes you happy! Using all of those notebooks made me really happy for a few months, and then it became to be too much. For now, I'm enjoying using only my Bullet Journal and it feels so freeing to have everything in one main place. It's brought me to a whole new level of happiness and has lowered my anxiety :) Limiting yourself to using one notebook is surprisingly freeing. If you ever feel like your system has gotten out of hand, just take a breath and think about what you liked about it in the first place. Go back and revisit the Bullet Journal videos here (original) and here (updated) and get going. Trust the system and it will work wonders for you.

Have you simplified your system in any way?


I initially wrote this about a month ago when I first decided to go all in with my Bullet Journal and now that it’s been a month, I can let you know that it’s been going really well. So well, in fact, that when I ran out of pages in my yellow Bullet Journal I felt like I was driven mad…I had to wait a week to receive my next Bullet Journal and in that time I had to return to my multiple notebook strategy. I had notebooks everywhere and I can’t say that I cared too much for it anymore, it was too much switching around between notebooks. Of course, this may change in time, but for now I’m relishing flipping to the next available page to write down my thoughts and indexing them away to find later in my Bullet Journal. :)

I did say that I’ve gone all in with the Bullet Journal, but I still use a few of those notebooks since they’re either projects, fun books, or logs. I don’t need to reach for them all of the time though, so I don’t get that feeling of agony in my mind. Also for some tasks, such as the blog post ideas and master to do list, I like to have all of my ideas and backlog tasks in one place rather than looking for them in all of my previous Bullet Journals. Some of my other notebooks work as logs. To refrain from feeling internal agony about reaching over for another notebook, I create relevant lists, collections, and spreads in my current Bullet Journal. Once I’m done with my current Bullet Journal, I’ll move those lists into the designated notebook, this way they are all in one place. I find this to be working quite well. I use my other Bullet Journal more as a reference tool and review it as needed or at least once a week. I guess it’s not really a second Bullet Journal so much as it is a goals tracker, calendar and list collector of sorts.

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