Not your average planner

Featured Sliders / HER Community / Lifestyle / Stories / March 16, 2021

Bullet journaling elevates organization, provides space to recenter

Story by Nina Todea
Photos by Liv Paggiarino

When nobody in the office quite knew how to approach bullet journaling, it sort of fell into her lap. But with a little research, and a commitment to giving it a try, Cathryn Vilbig was hooked.

Cathryn Vilbig is a graphic designer at 1canoe2 Paperie in Fulton.

Vilbig, a graphic designer with 1canoe2 Paperie in Fulton, describes bullet journaling as “hand-done design work” where you work with layouts, colors and fonts.

It may seem similar, but the process of bullet journaling is different from a daily planner.

An agenda with set boxes, dates and a page-full of lines may work for some. However, it’s the “million-times-more” flexibility of a bullet journal and the ability to track habits that Vilbig touts. While a daily planner can be a place to create lists, a bullet journal combines more things into one — if you want to focus on health and wellness, you can structure your bullet journal in such a way, but if you want to create a gratitude journal, it can easily be amended halfway through.

“You’re drawing and adding to a blank notebook as you go,” Vilbig said.

It’s also a way to destress and reorganize, two things that go hand in hand, she said. A set schedule and a handle on thoughts and ideas in one place will declutter not only the papers but also the mind.

“It has a similar vibe to yoga to me, where it creates that space to be calm and to recenter,” she said. “It gives you space for self-improvement and self-reflection as you come up with the different content you want to do and as you’re physically sitting there and drawing.”

And after a day of interacting at work (in person or online), bullet journaling provides a “purposeful and intentional way to be able to introvert,” she said.

A bullet journal will allow you to create lists, set goals, record achievements, or simply introvert and let the creativity flow in a variety of colors and styles, Vilbig said. But most importantly, what you do with it, and what you choose to get out of it, is up to you.

Want to start bullet journaling but don’t quite know how? Here are some tips to making your experience a success:

Step 1: Go in with the right mentality

Graphic designer Cathryn Vilbig shows some bullet journaling techniques and ideas.

Vilbig acknowledges a blank page can be super intimidating, and that’s one of the main reasons the online classes at 1canoe2 were started. From the outside, Vilbig said, it can seem like a complicated system — even she was confused at first.

But what’s important to keep in mind is bullet journaling is a process, and the “end product isn’t perfection.”

“You have to embrace your mistakes along the way. Yes, you’re going to learn from them but also celebrate them,” she said. None of this is that serious. You can have some fun with it, and keep in mind that you can always change it up for yourself.

Once you’ve established the right mentality, that creates a foundation for everything else to work smoothly.

After all, Vilbig added, the whole thing is a “learning process to find out what works for you.”

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the basics

Bullet journaling doesn’t have a lot of rules, but there are a few guidelines to successful bullet journaling. Though you don’t have to use the systems everyone else does, create a consistent system key for yourself. If you’re a fan of making lists outside of bullet journaling, this could be your forte.

Bullet journaling uses “rapid logging,” a style of shorthand used to capture the same thing that could be written out or explained in a traditional planner. In bullet journaling, tasks are often denoted by a solid dot, notes by a dash and events by an open circle. There is, of course, a variety of ways to create your own journal keys. What’s most important is you create a consistent system that works for you.

Graphic designer Cathryn Vilbig shows some bullet journaling techniques and ideas.

Step 3: Select the right tools for you

It can be daunting — and tempting — to purchase a variety of pens, markers, stamps, paints or anything else for your bullet journal in the beginning, but Vilbig is the first to encourage a minimalist approach. All you need, she said, is a journal, a pen and a 6-inch ruler.

“I truly don’t think that you need to get extra supplies,” she said. “Once you start working on it, you’ll be excited about supplies and you’ll get more, but you don’t need it. It’s definitely not a requirement.”

Think of the tools in the sense of training wheels. You don’t have to dive right in. Familiarizing yourself first with pens will help you gain confidence when it comes to using other mediums. Once you’re settled in, you’ll come across a variety of tools and approaches within the bullet journaling community, often found on Instagram. Staying in touch with the community or following a bullet journaling hashtag will also help you gain inspiration in terms of style so you can find your own.

“It’s interesting, too, to see how different it can be. Some people take a very journal/scrapbooking approach to it, and other people want to paint,” Vilbig said. “I think (keeping in touch with the community) really helps you ease into that huge hill — it seems — that you have to climb to get into bullet journaling.” 


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Molly Morris




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