Try as I may, a beautiful bullet journal was never in the cards for me…
It wasn’t until I followed my chaotic heart that I actually found organization in my unorganized life!
You know the dream: glamorous, Pinterest-worthy bullet journal spreads, updated daily and perfectly handcrafted with top-of-the-line markers, pens, and stickers.
I spent years striving for my bullet journals to look like the ones I saw online.
I’ve never been one to scroll through Instagram for hours and compare my physical appearance – my height, weight, hair, body size – to those of the glorious photo-shopped influencers that fill my feed…
But, I am the person to sit and compare my work – knitting projects, paintings, bullet journal spreads – to those online.
Literal hours of my life spent working on pages in old bullet journals that seem nothing but mediocre in comparison to those I saw.
My pages were filled with slight indentations and faint lines from old pencil marks, and scribbles from words I accidentally misspelled.
Whenever I didn’t have the chance to spend a fortnight on two pages, I’d write whatever I had to say on a sticky note and post it on a page.
Slowly, but surely, my bullet journal became more of a graveyard of forgotten sticky notes than an actual planner.
The tool that was supposed to help me organize my life with ease quickly became one of my biggest stressors.
No matter what I did, I wasn’t happy with the results.
And then… the day came when I didn’t have a sticky note.
I don’t remember what I had to write, but I distinctly remember the pure – and let’s face it, overexaggerated – frustration. I felt that I’d “ruin” my bullet journal, that was already practically ruined, by being filled with “perfect” pages that were yet to be made.
The day I “ruined” my bullet journal was the day I actually got my life organized (at least a little bit haha).
It seems counterintuitive… I know…
But the day I stopped striving for perfection and used my bullet journal the way I wanted to was the day I actually found success in it.
Instead of painstakingly crafting each page while striving, but nothing but perfection and using only the best materials…
I used my student’s gel pens and wrote in my worst handwriting.
AND YOU KNOW WHAT?!
My bullet journal didn’t burst into flames.
An influencer didn’t jump out of my phone and tell me I was doing it all wrong.
AND I STILL GOT WHAT I NEEDED TO DO DONE!
Not only that, but I saved hours of my time, that I would have otherwise spent mimicking other people’s Pinterest-worthy bullet journals.
So how do I write in my bullet journal?
(Organized-Ish) Chaotic Bullet Journal
Step One: Affirmations and Gratitudes
Start every day with a new page.
And, yes, I do mean every day!
For me, that means sitting down when I first get into my classroom – before students arrive – and writing my plans for the day.
I start every morning by picking a pen that suits my fancy and writing the date on the top of the page.
Lately I’ve been ~obsessed~ with PILOT FriXion Clicker Erasable pens!
I then write three affirmations. I’ve been practicing keeping my cool in the classroom. So, the affirmations “I am calm. I am patient. I can set clear expectations for myself and others.” have been on repeat in my journals.
When I first started college, my affirmations were more geared toward time management and I often wrote things like “I can set and abide by my priorities.”
I don’t always, but I do try to write things I am grateful for, especially on days that I know will be particularly stressful.
Step Two: Setting Goals
There are days (let’s face it…most days) where my goals are just in a list with check boxes.
There are days where I am feeling particularly more creative and I put my goals in flower petals or snowmen.
The goal here is not to judge the page.
Just do what feels right!
I always break down my goals by category and not in order of importance! However, super important goals get stars or are highlighted.
My goal categories are work, grad school, writing, and self-care.
I’d like to say I never go to bed without crossing things off my list, but that would be A BIG FAT LIE!
To avoid it, I try to write my goals like “work on project x for 15 minutes” or “draft two positive emails to student families.” These goals I know I’ll have the ability to complete in a day’s time.
I write one self-care goal every day and this is typically one of the last goals I finish each day.
Last year, a lot of my self-care goals were oriented toward my New Year’s Resolution: reading more.
This year, my goals are more centered around luxury personal hygiene like getting my nails done, using face masks, or investing in and using salon-quality hair care products.
Carelessly Journaling Your Life Together
Step Three: Decorating Your Bullet Journal With Your Heart
Use those stickers you’ve been stashing for five years…
Glue in that picture of your dog…
Tape down the flyer for the musical you saw and loved…
IT’S YOUR JOURNAL!
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine showed me her journal and I loved how she included everything within its pages.
From pressed flowers to parking tickets, she included any memory she could!
Since seeing hers, I’ve tried to fill my pages with book quotes I love or crazy things my students say.
I know someday I’ll look back on these pages with more admiration than I would if they were perfect and Pinterest-worthy because they are filled with love and memories.
At the end of the day, your bullet journal can be anything you want it to be, just give yourself a grain of salt and trust the process!
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Kayden Hamlin is a full-time preschool teacher and graduate student. She is passionate about saving money, self-care and mindfulness, and child development! When not in a classroom, you’d most likely find her reading with a cup of tea in hand or knitting projects for her family and friends.