Advice From the Most “Organized” Disorganized Girl In The World AKA: How to keep your shit together when you’re not really a “planner person”
Original post made August 24th, 2017 & reuploaded after the blog reboot.
Hi, I’m Kitty. And I’m one of those losers that carries around a notebook everywhere I go. Which honestly, is kind of hard to believe if you know anything about me. But….while I was texting my BFF earlier yesterday and mulling over blog ideas (Hi, Doob!) – she word for word sent me “You should do a blog post about how fucking organized you are, tell people your secrets for that because people are going back to school and might need help knowing how to write shit down or that even just having a planner helps!” So I guess….that’s what I’m gunna dig in to here! (But buckle the fuck up, this is about 2.5k words and I go off in like five different directions – I’ve got examples of my own planning, AND a top five list of helpful shit!)
As a generally right brained person I haven’t always been the most organized person. (And I’m still not!) To the point that when I was in sixth grade – my teachers sent me to the schools “organization specialist” to figure out why I wasn’t filling out my planner the way I was supposed to, and sit through a woman digging through and scrutinizing my planner for at least an hour after school once a week. Through middle and high school my planner was mostly a combination of doodles and MAYBE a reminder about a math assignment or a friends birthday. (So I mean, essentially useless)
What I DID do though, was keep a composition book with days and weeks that I’d written out myself, either writing down things to do or recapping what I got done. I stopped doing it shortly after high school (cuz why the hell WOULD I) but between trying to keep track of my doctor visits (and med schedule) and my business (Patreon, FB & IG posts, actual sales & shipping, reminders to update my hosting….I could go on) along with personal things and the fact that I have some pretty ridiculous memory problems because of my health…I realized I kind of had to get back into it, regardless of how dorky I thought it was.
I saw a post go around about “bullet journaling” and my immediate thought was “Holy shit, I used to do that?” (Under a slightly different system of course – the original BuJo system wouldn’t be fully functional for me, but you can check it out here – along with some resources at the bottom of this post) I poked around some more and found a giant community of people buying $50 planners and $35 Moleskines to match their fancy pens. I ordered a $7 spiral bound (my favorite) dot grid journal for myself almost a year ago, dug out some of the markers I use to line my art, and got to work.
Digging through Pinterest & Facebook groups about bullet journaling (Linked at the end! If you want to skip to that, feel free!) there was a lot of stuff that was absolutely useless to me as a small business owner that lives with their parents (“Bills due!” and “Meal planning!” stickers are essentially useless to me – I gave most of mine to my mom to use in her Happy Planner) but I DID find a couple layouts that I could alter to my own needs, which is exactly the point of keeping an agenda, in my opinion.
Cuz why didn’t they ever work for me in school? Because I didn’t like them, they didn’t make sense to me (“Write this assignment down! No, don’t write that!”) and there were too many rules. Same with traditional planners I’d bought for myself as an adult (Happy Planner for example – like the one I set up for my mom cuz she doesn’t have the time to write out a BuJo) they just….didn’t have what I needed. And if you don’t like it, and it doesn’t make sense, there’s no way in hell it’s going to work – same as it won’t work if you just leave it at home and ignore it save for one day a week. (Which is why even though all of the resources I find for BuJo are #soccermomaf or targeted towards students – not spooky creative folks – it works for me. No one said I HAVE to use beige and pastels! Lots of customization is necessary!)
Here’s some examples from mine, proving that you don’t have to have a bland aesthetic or track every damn thing you do to have a functional organizational tool.
- Here’s my average “weekly” layout (two weeks side by side) I keep a running to-do list on the side for things I need to remember but don’t have to do on any specific day (just before the week is over) and put daily to-dos to things I finished/need to remember in the daily slots. Cuz I don’t really “track” anything (some people track weather, meals, water intake, medication) I use the extra space at the bottom to keep track of my #DailyDraws. (Which has been really cool to look back on! I’ve had them in my planner for about three months now) I also like keeping the weeks side by side (some people do two pages for one week, or a page for each day, etc) because I can look ahead and either place reminders (I have an appointment Tuesday! Patreon billing is next week!) instead of having to go back and forth.
- This is probably the 5th “edition” of my ever-changing BuJo layout, I’ve finally gotten it to the point where it’s just the right amount of useful for me. It’s not fancy, but it works – and hey that’s the point, right?
- And here’s a shot of something that absolutely, positively didn’t work for me. I set out bigger days (I was prepping for an art event) thinking I needed the space, but mostly I got confused by not being able to see the entire week at once – or the NEXT week past the vague “next week” box. I will say the pixel Boo was a good choice, along with the medication tracker right above him – though!
- One of the only other things I consistently keep track of is my income/spending log. Yes I know online banking exists, but between waiting for Paypal/Patreon transfers & Amazon withdrawals that don’t show up for days it’s super helpful for me to have a hard copy of what’s up with my funds – especially when I don’t want to check three different sites to tell if I can buy myself a new set of brushes or not. (This also has really helped me with my impulsive spending because I can see exactly WHERE things are going – that’s what the “what” column is for)
I keep my BuJo fairly simple, so sorry I don’t really have any “Pinterest worthy” ideas or spreads – but if you’re just starting out, let’s be real you don’t need that shit. But anyways! Now that you’ve taken a peek at mine – here’s the top five most helpful things that I’ve learned about bullet journals during my constant need for decent organization in the past year. Hopefully it helps you as well!
Bring that bitch everywhere
Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. My notebook is 7×5 which is just big enough to get what I need written down, and just small enough to fit in my purse without getting squished. I write down errands, and shopping lists – along with a running tab of craft store sales marked in advance, reminders that I have coupons, and a spending log to make sure I don’t accidentally overdraw myself while I’m at said craft store. Another thing that works is to take pictures on your phone of important pages, the same way I used to take pictures of the grocery list on the fridge just in case I forgot to grab it (I usually did…) Have I had friends think I’m keeping like, a teenage girl style diary? Yeah. Have I impressed just as many friends that realize I occasionally have my shit together and could help them as well? Ya damn right.
You don’t have to go overboard with decoration if you don’t want to, but you also don’t have to have it only be a “functional” thing. Plenty of people have “collections” in their bullet journals of stuff like books they’d like to read, or TV shows they keep up with (with checkboxes next to each episode!) or even just quotes they like. I don’t do any of that because I have to force myself to keep it as functional as possible, but a BuJo is kinda like a scrapbook. Anything goes. Want to glue in comic clippings? Pin in a Polaroid? Write some inspiring nonsense on the bottom of every page? Be my guest, dude. Cuz odds are, if you have fun with it (and take the time to make all those fancy pages!) it’s more likely that you’ll keep using it. (A lot of spreads and designs etc I find I always have to tweak to my own tastes cuz the planning/BuJo community as a whole is pretty soccer mom-y though I’ve seen men and eccentric ladies without kids and mini vans use them as well!)
Keep it S I M P L E.
You heard me. SIMPLE. I know I just said have fun, but if its your first go at a “build your own planner” type situation it’s super easy to get overwhelmed with ideas you think you “need” (I had a water tracker for a few weeks. Why? I literally don’t care about that?) and thinking that you HAVE to have something super decorative, or expensive journals/pens/sticker sets. (I’ll link my favorite affordable ones at the end, too!) My biggest suggestion for a first time BuJo is finding one or two pens you like, a cheap notebook with whatever binding you like (#spiralboundordietrying) a ruler, and a plan – be it to have a “weekly” spread, “dailies” or even just drawing a calendar and some to-do lists. Try it for a couple weeks, try and stick with it, and if it works THEN you can worry about making it pretty. (I say the same thing about grimoires, it doesn’t HAVE to be pretty – it just has to work for you!)
Don’t worry about what other people are doing
When I was more active in BuJo groups (Hello, 3am scrolling looking for a specific tape recommendation!) there were posts DAILY of people comparing their own notebooks to ones they’d see on Instagram or Pinterest with perfect lines and no bleed through, fancy stickers and incredible handwriting. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting something to look nice, but you do you. Comparing your notebook to someone else will only make you less productive, cuz you’ll focus on making it perfect as opposed to making it work. Life’s not perfect. I use a shitload of White Out. I leave HUGE spelling errors in because I think it’s funny. Your BuJo is for YOU, not for anyone else – unless you WANT to share it.
Don’t get discouraged!
Tying into well…most of these is the underlying “don’t give up!” of it all. Don’t get discouraged cuz it’s not as pretty as you’d like or because you can’t draw straight lines, don’t give up bringing it everywhere cuz you feel like a jerk, don’t drop it just because you can’t find a spread that works for you (I went through MONTHS of spreads before I found the sweetspot of one that I liked!) and don’t give up just cuz you think it’s silly and it’s “not working”. For MONTHS I couldn’t tell if it was actually helping me stay organized or not until I realized I stopped having to ask my mom what was going on literally always, or when I’d wake up knowing exactly what I had to get done that day instead of wracking my brain (and a pile of sticky notes) for the days most important stuff. There’s a learning curve, for sure – but stick with it and you’ll find your groove.
But also…don’t beat yourself up if you take a break from it. I have a couple weeks where I would draw everything out (I go month by month with weeklies) and then the week would come and I’d….write down maybe one thing. I have entirely blank weeks where I was too out of it or depressed or swamped to bother to write a damn thing. (BuJos are also great for mental health tracking IMO – I can see dips in my mood depending on how much/what I’m writing that I don’t notice until I look back on them)
If you made it this far…thank you! I hope at least SOME of that was helpful, and now I’ll give ya the dirt on some communities and pages you can check out if you’re looking for some more inspiration – and the simplest supplies ever that I rely on every damn day.
- Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group – seemingly ENDLESS photos, ideas, and people bragging about new markers! A great resource if you know how to use the search feature properly – it’s a huge group so it can be kind of messy sometimes but this is where I started.
- Pinterest – Don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed here! I have good luck searching for more specific terms like “bujo weekly” or “bujo collection ideas” because there’s SUCH a huge amount of resources there.
- The Original Bullet Journal Site (and video!) – The bare bones of it all! Also great if you can’t really visualize what the hell I’m saying here.
- Bullet Journalling 101 by Kayln Brooke
- “12 Things I Learned In My First Year of Bullet Journaling” by TinyRayOfSunshine
My Favorite Supplies:
- Ghost Grid dot journal! Under $10, minimal “ghosting” and bleed through on pages, plus I’m a sucker for spiral bound. I’m such a nut about this notebook that I keep another as my working grimoire. (Which I’ll post about…eventually)
- Papermate Inkjoy gel pens! I started with just pink green aqua and black, but upgraded to the “rainbow” set has made keeping track of stuff more fun. (They also sell office friendly black/blue/red sets if you like…hate fun.)
- Sharpie pens! These don’t ghost or bleed, I use them for dates and headers
- Pigma Sakura (1mm) marker. I use this one for the framework and lines, no bleeding/ghosting and I still manage to use this one to line artwork though I’ve been using it for my notebook as well for this long
- Good ol handy dandy metal rulers. I keep a small one in my pencil case, and a bigger one with my lapdesk (cuz I can never find one when I need one)
- The only eraser that matters. These are my favorite for art, and my favorite for not ripping my journal in half.
Do you keep a planner? Have you used a bullet journal before? Do ya wanna now? Am I just a huge fuckin nerd for this? Let me know how it goes!
Places to keep up with me:
- www.facebook.com/glittergore art