I’ve talked about bullet journalling before, but it’s been a while, so I thought I’d talk about it again in this post on the basics and another post on tracking.
My Journalling History
I’ve journalled off and on for most of my life. When I was going to university, I mostly did themed pages devoted to specific things rather than free-writing. After I finished school, I switched to more of a narrative style. Occasionally, I would go back and read older entries, but generally avoided that because they sounded dorky (there’s more on this topic in the post How Do You Feel Looking Back at Old Journal Entries?).
I kept my collection of old journals for years, and then eventually threw them away at one point when I was suicidal and didn’t want anyone finding them if I died. I kind of wish that I’d kept the journals from university, but oh well, what can you do?
Journalling has also been important when I’ve been in hospital. I didn’t keep the free-writing part, but I kept the notes I took about what was happening with my treatment, which was good, because otherwise, I would never have remembered.
I used to travel a lot, and I always kept a travel journal. That journalling was mostly point-form, with lists of favourite foods, favourite places to chill out, and things like that. I’ve kept all of those, and they’re cool to take a look back through.
It was shortly after I started blogging that I first discovered bullet journalling. At the time, I was using a few different apps (Symple, Flo, and Pacifico, which is now Sanvello) to track various things related to my mental health and health activities. A three-app system wasn’t the best, and moving between pages is more involved on an app than on paper, so bullet journalling seemed like it would be a good replacement system.
My bullet journalling style
I’m very non-artistic, so no fancy Pinterest-style bullet journal spreads for me. Coloured pens and stickers is about as fancy as it gets. The stickers I have right now are from Erin Condren and they’re rather fancy; I had an Amazon gift card, so I decided to splurge.
My system has a few different components:
- monthly overview
- mood tracker
- symptom and habit tracker
- gratitude log
- weekly overview
- pages to keep track of health stuff, meds, writing plans, etc.
- pages for reflection
My current journal has dot grid pages, which is quite a bit easier than lined pages when it comes to setting up my tracker grids. I use colour codes and symbols so I can fit a lot of stuff into a small area (I’ll talk about my tracking system next week).
It works well, because my memory is total crap. I can quickly and easily see patterns of all things health-related. I’ve been using pretty much the same system for the last couple years, so I know exactly where to look for which bits of information.
I do a lot less reflective journalling than I used to, and almost no narrative journalling. Partly that’s because I use the blog to work through things that are going on in my head, and partly it’s because I don’t do much on any given day, so there’s not a lot of stuff happening to think about.
My other journals
So much for one journal replacing a 3-app system… My bullet journal is the main one that I make notes in every day. I also have a therapy journal, which is like a toolbox of therapy skills/exercises/concepts that I find helpful.
I also have two mini-notebooks to keep track of my health history—one is for psych and the other is for physical health. In the past, I was able to remember that stuff reasonably well, but depression has poked more and more holes in my memory as time has gone on, plus there’s more to keep track of the longer I’ve lived with this illness, so writing it down is useful. I started this system a couple of years ago with one notebook, but it got too disorganized for my head to be able to keep track of, so I recently reorganized and divided it up into two notebooks.
I know some bloggers use their blog much like a journal. That was never really the direction I wanted to go with my blog, but also, I find it more useful to blog about things after the fact rather than during. In general, I’ve always tended to like having a chance to chew over things in my head before releasing them out into the open. I’m a pretty introspective person, and reflection is a process that’s important to me.
These days, my life is pretty slow, which is how I want it, and that means that there isn’t a lot to work through on a day-to-day basis. In that case, the combination of what I can do in my head plus bullet journalling plus blogging is enough. When more is going on, I’m more likely to return to reflection-oriented journalling. I do it in my bullet journal, and I tend to organize that part by topic rather than by date.
When I journal, I tend to start from a place of confusion and then see what develops as I write. Sometimes I stay confused, while other times, as I write, it’s like a lightbulb goes on and I realize how I want to approach whatever the issue is. Those times when I stay confused, I’ll usually keep coming back to the topic and building on the confused ideas to try to find some clarity.
So, that’s the basics of my journalling system. Do you journal? If so, do you have any kind of system that you use?