Pretty Productive
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Pretty Productive

I Quit Bullet Journaling

And my life hasn’t fallen apart… yet

A birds-eye view of a white tabletop. In the upper right-hand corner sits a white mug, empty. To the left, a black and white journal is open to blank pages, pinned with a binder clip and weighted down by a pencil, a paintbrush, and three loose thumbtacks.
Photo by Ann Nekr from Pexels

There was a time in my life when I carried my Staedtler Fineliners with me everywhere I went. I always had a ruler handy and you never would have caught me without at least three full-size erasers. Be it a Moleskine, a Leuchtturm, or something from the bargain bin at Micheals, I always had a journal on me, outlining my life by the day, the week, and the year.

Bullet journaling got me through college. It got me through my first apartment, and my first bank account, and a string of shift-work jobs that ate up whatever extra time I had. Something about it just stuck, in a way that no other system had worked for me before. I was the color-coded queen of my own life, basking in the compliments of friends, family, and coworkers who envied my calligraphic coordination.

Photo by marthasjournal from Crazy Laura

And then I stopped.

The reason for this is unclear. In fact, I suspect there are many reasons—motivation, inspiration, and an overall exhaustion regarding Instagram performance culture, to name a few. Sometimes my own brain is a mystery even to me, and I can’t speak on it with any sort of certainty. The only thing I know for certain is this: I didn’t stop on purpose.

I knew I had a proven system. My pretty pink habit trackers and my swirly seasonal spreads were the keys to unlocking every goal, every hope, and every dream I held dear. It worked. I knew it worked. And yet, all of a sudden, I couldn’t keep up with a system that I had been using for years.

These days, my journals are filled with half-written pages and blank calendars.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Each time I sat down to plan out my week, I found myself overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list. My notes no longer fit in the margins of my life, and the pen-and-paper approach was taking away my flexibility. I slowly began stripping away aesthetic elements, going back to the bare and basic Bullet Journal method—just bullet points and slashes. I tried bulk planning, and premade planners, and stand-alone Post-its. I needed it to be simpler. I needed my life to be simpler.

But the more I simplified, the harder everything got.

I need a system to survive. Without intentionality, my mind will wander in a dozen different directions, and none of them will be in the direction that I actually want to go. I found comfort and stability in the bullet journal system for many years and it is jarring to realize that I’ve outgrown it for now.

I’m coming up on a year without touching my Staedtlers. My Leuchtturm has been waiting patiently in a dusty basket. This is the most aimless I’ve been in quite some time, although I don’t think aimlessness is as bad as we make it out to be. The absence of a familiar system motivates me to experiment with new ones. I’ve started to work with more powerful tools that allow me to understand my life in ways I never could have before. I’m learning, just as I always have, and just I always will.

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

And I can’t help but notice that in the time I’ve taken to learn more about myself and my systems, the world has not exploded. My heart hasn’t stopped. My life has gone on, even without the aid of a calendar that tells me when to take my every breath.

Who knows? Maybe impending doom lurks just beyond the corner. Maybe my life is just one bad day away from going completely off the rails, but by the time it does, maybe I’ll have learned enough about myself to do something about it.

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