In this month’s installment of “Boho Berry Guests“, I have the immense pleasure of welcoming Austin Miller to the blog. Austin first caught my eye over on Instagram for 1. Being a guy (we need more of you guys!), and 2. for his lovely minimalist style.
One thing I love about this “little” community of ours is how diverse we all are. We comprise all ages, genders, and walks of life. While I love sharing my Bullet Journal system with the world, I’ve come to realize that I don’t always have all of the answers for all of you out there.
On that note, I’ve decided to start inviting guest bloggers to come on and share how they are adapting the Bullet Journal system to meet their needs.
Please join me in giving him a super warm welcome today. Take it away, Austin!
I almost didn’t start my bullet journal because I didn’t think my journal could look nice enough.
Here’s why: my personality is the perfect storm of perfectionism and mild-to-moderate undiagnosed OCD tendencies with a butt-load of procrastination flung into the productivity-killing mixture. I need everything in my life to look “just right,” or else I won’t attempt something.
So there I was, looking at everyone’s amazing journals on Instagram, lamenting my lack of cursive-writing ability, fountain pen ownership, and creativity (my favorite color is white, after all). I didn’t think I could measure up, so I dismissed Bullet Journaling as only for those artsy-fartsy types.
One month and no planning system later, my life was crumbling into pieces.
My 20 credit hour semester left me wrecked, exhausted, and so far behind that during finals week, I attempted to complete a semester’s worth of work for an online business law class in three days. (Still don’t know what tort law is, but hey—I somehow passed with a B and I didn’t even have to bribe the professor.)
But then, on Tuesday of finals week, I had an epiphany: “You’re really, really dumb. A bullet journal is about getting crap done, not making your crap look good.”
Embarrassingly, my first thought was: “Hey, this would make a really good Instagram tagline.” My second thought was: “Start that freaking journal and be productive for the first time in your life.”
I immediately pulled out an unused Moleskine from my desk and planned the rest of finals week out. By the next day, I — the one who had never planned a day in my life — was somehow hooked on planning.
Out of this experience, and with a little inspiration from The Minimalists, I decided to start a minimal Bullet Journal — a type of journal I didn’t see much of at the time.
Recently I’ve seen a large interest in minimal bullet journals like mine. But how exactly do you go about minimal bullet journaling? Each person’s definition of minimal will be different, so a minimal bullet journal isn’t going to look the same for each person. Here are some of the guidelines I use to keep my journal minimal and functional.
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF
With the prevalence of social media, the urge to compare yourself with others is so easy. Mix that with my perfectionism, and I want my journal to be amazing and beautiful all the time. Unfortunately, that’s not possible.
Forget everyone else and their expensive fountain pens (dang, those things can be pricey!), and just do you. Bullet Journaling is about being productive, even if your handwriting is ugly as crap.
SET GOALS FOR YOUR JOURNAL
When I started my journal, I wrote down what I needed to get out of my journal. I wish I still had that paper, but my goals looked something like this: 1) Help me turn assignments in on time. 2) Help me to budget my sparse free time. 3) Don’t die this semester. (Okay, I had more goals, but you get the idea.)
It’s easy to get lost in all the amazing possibilities of what a bullet journal is capable of, so decide what functions your journal needs to accomplish and design each element in your journal to fit those needs specifically.
Confession time: I haven’t changed my journal much since mid-February, so this is as much for myself as it is for you.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over, but look at your spreads regularly and ask yourself: “Did this work?” If the answer is yes, then congrats — keep doing it. But if the answer is no, refer to the next point.
This is the biggest piece of advice I can offer: only do what works for you.
This may sound heretical, but I pretty much only have dailies and a few notes in my journal. When I started, I saw all the cool collections and created a coffee log. I never used it. (RIP, coffee log.) I used to make monthly spreads, but then I realized I did all my long-term planning on my iPhone and fragmenting long-term planning with two planning methods made me crazier than 2007 made Britney. So I stopped. (I did try out a monthly page for June and I haven’t looked at it since I created it. Oops.)
If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to trash it and move on to something that does work.
After six months of Bullet Journaling, I discovered my original fears about starting a journal were irrelevant. I didn’t need to know cursive. I didn’t need to own a fountain pen. And I didn’t even have to have any artistic ability.
If being artsy fits you, do it. And if minimalism fits you and your favorite color is white, then run with it. Your Bullet Journal can be as unique as you are — or as un-unique as you are, if you’re anything like me.
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Austin Miller is a photographer, coffee lover, NPR addict, and recently-graduated “young professional” (he doesn’t know what that means either). Desk job worker by day, Instagrammer by slightly later in the day (have to catch that perfect evening light), Miller shares his Bullet Journal (mis)adventures at @minimaljournal and his personal life at @amillerphoto.