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*This is part two of a two part series. Part one can be found here.
And this is how I fixed my BUJO…
1. Long-term vs Day-to-Day Function and Set-up.
There were two main things I wanted from my BUJO:
- A place to keep track of my day-to-day – what needed to be done, what happened, and any notes or ideas.
- The capacity for long-term planning, goal planning, and reference.
But I wanted to keep the two separate somehow.
This actually ended up being the easiest problem to solve when I discovered the travel journal. These are notebook covers that you put multiple slim notebooks called inserts into. There’s also the similar Midori notebook and jackets, which also look cool but I haven’t used. I decided to have an insert for my long term stuff, which would have the index system, and an insert for my day to day entry that would be changed out regularly since the inserts aren’t that thick and would be filled up fairly quickly with daily use. I picked the larger A5 inserts for a little more room than the smaller standard ones.
Then inspiration hit… I could add a third insert with blank paper instead of dotted grid for a sketchbook! I hadn’t done much sketching in years, although I wanted to. I loved the idea of having a sketchbook with me all the time and hoped it would help get me out of my creative funk.
Using small notebook inserts in one cover instead of one thick journal also lessened my fear of “messing it up.” Part of the reason I sometimes hesitated to use my BUJO was I didn’t want to mess it up. A fresh, new, hardcover notebook that I wanted to last a year had a much higher intimidation factor than a 60 page softcover insert. If I messed up an insert to the point I couldn’t bring myself to open it again, I could recycle it or turn it into scratch paper.
The funny thing is, I’ve never actually messed something up so bad that I’ve scrapped an insert, but giving myself the permission and an easy way out made all the difference in how much I actually used it!
2. Fixing the contents. Basic problem: TOO. MUCH. STUFF.
My “long range” insert needed to be pared down to the basics. For me this included:
- Future planner
- Breakdown of my “big 3” goals (yearly/quarterly/monthly)
- Bare minimum of collections – a half dozen tops.
- A limit of two trackers. The savings tracker had to stay I gave myself permission to have one more big-payoff habit tracker.
There was plenty of space left over for additional items if and when I needed them. I made myself a promise (that I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping) that I would only add something if it added real value to my life – not simply because I saw a “good idea.” I needed to break my addiction to “good ideas” when it came to my BUJO.
Minimizing the “stuff” fixed my index page problem for the most part. Between not having a ton of things in my long-term insert and not indexing my day to day insert at all, my index was much simpler to use. The only other thing I did was edge it with pretty washi tape to make it easier to see and turn to.
To fix my unused monthly spread problem I picked up my washi tape again. I used it on the edges of main month pages so they would get my attention and be easy to thumb through and hoped for the best.
Honestly I still struggle with using my monthly spread. I always set one up at the beginning of the month but don’t reference it later in the month. I do believe that even the practice of setting it up is beneficial though. It gives me a time and place to reflect, and to gather my events and thoughts for the month. This helps curb my tendency to over-commit time and energy so I can focus on what’s important. So I’ll keep making my monthly pages and one day I might even start looking at them later in the month.
So in a nutshell, this is how my BUJO setup ended up, and has been for the last year or so:
In my first insert I have the standard index that I edge with washi, followed by the future planning pages. On the future planning pages I use month stickers because scribing calendars for each month is not fun for me. After that are two-page spreads for each of my “big goals” for the year. I also have two-page spreads for “Books to Read” and “Books Read with Major Takeaways” collections. I did end up adding a few reference collections for random items I wanted to transfer from my day to day notebook like contact info and “fun facts” like the size of my furnace’s air filter.
In my second insert are two-page monthly spreads and all my day to day notes and scribbles. This is also where I keep my short term goals and to-do’s so they are rotated out before they get old and judgemental. When a day-to-day insert is full, before I replace it I leaf through to see if there are any items I want to transfer to my long term insert for reference.
My third insert is plain paper instead of dotted grid and functions as a sketchbook. This is a total game changer for me!
As a result, I have a BUJO tailor-made to what I want and need… which to me is the whole idea of creating a bullet journal. What I need is a lean, mean, multipurpose planner/journal/sketchbook that has just enough to make it functional but not so much that I avoid using it because it’s overwhelming.
Maybe your brain doesn’t go into overload as easily as mine so you can add more info and/or inserts making it even more valuable to you. I’ve seen chubby traveler notebooks with six or seven inserts and all sorts of doodads. I think they are beautiful, but my brain would short circuit with one of those and it would be a beautiful paperweight. (both the notebook and my brain)
Which brings me to my favorite thing about bullet journaling…
The best thing for me, is if kept to the basics, bullet journals actually are ideal for the highly distracted. I don’t use the term ADHD for myself since I’m not diagnosed as such, but my brain is highly distractable and loves to think of a dozen random ideas all at once, usually when I’m trying to focus on something important. If I’m trying to focus on say, planning my week, and my brain decides to kick off a circus of random ideas, I can just jot them down on the next page. The ideas are out of my head and safely written down so I can process them at a more appropriate time. Because sometimes some of those annoying random ideas are really good!
Actually, I recently started adding a two-page spread after my main monthly spread that I call my “squirrel cage’ just for random ideas. If a distracting thought starts bouncing around in my head, I capture in my “squirrel cage” to deal with later.
I plan on writing a post that goes into detail about my setup so if you’re interested in that or any of my other future posts, please sign up for my email list. I keep list emails to once a week to respect your time and digital space.
- “How to Create a Bullet Journal Plus my top 10 tips” by How to ADHD. (My favorite tip is 5 – Mess it Up!)
- The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll
- Bullet journal app
- Original video by Ryder Carroll on setting up and using a BUJO
Supplies to set up your own BUJO
- Travel notebook (A5) – This is the notebook cover I use. I love the weathered leather and it only looks better with use.
- Dotted grid notebook inserts – The insert I use for my long term and daily sections.
- Plain paper inserts – What I use for my sketchbook.
- Washi tape! – I love this stuff!!!
- Leuchtturm 1917 dotted journal – The “classic” Bullet Journal. Many people love them!