I love journaling. I have kept a journal since I was 7 or 8 years old. When I was much younger, I would write in it religiously. As I got older, I did not write as consistently, but I still wrote – particularly during times of extreme emotion, stress, or worry (which means that when I reread those old journals I’m instantly transported to moments of angst … I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing!).

Even though I do not write as frequently, I still love journaling. I used to write in my journal just before going to bed, but nowadays I write whenever I get a chance. Perhaps it would do me some good to set aside an allocated time to write.

my olive leather journal for daily thoughts and reflections

When I journal, I just free write. I write about whatever is on my mind and whatever is happening in my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly. A few months ago, however, I started playing with Bullet Journaling – which happened to be the topic of the Whole Life Challenge’s podcast a few days ago. I’ll be honest, when I saw the name Kara Benz, I didn’t know who it was. However, when I saw the words Bullet Journaling, I immediately thought of Boho Berry — and of course, Boho Berry is Kara Benz! I love her Bullet Journal layouts and sketches!

When I first started bullet journaling, many of her sample pages inspired me. However, as appealing as bullet journaling is, I found that it wasn’t something I could maintain without (1) it taking up too much of my time and (2) me getting caught up in structure and design (not to mention ‘perfect’ pages). What I did enjoy, however, was the element of creativity that bullet journaling tapped in to. I am not an artist – I can’t even doodle – however, I liked the different forms of creative expression that you could put on a page. From banners to text styles to small sketches, I found that the idea of bullet journaling released a creative side to me that needed to be expressed. This transcended into other areas of my writing. For example, in my academy research writing notebooks, I started including small sketches. I loved it. I felt like it brought my writing to life or at least gave it another dimension. Okay, they were still very, very amateur, but in the end, the writing is for me so it wasn’t really going to put out there to be judged.

sketches in an article I was writing about jiu-jitsu uniforms

The other issue with bullet journaling, and this was discussed at length in the podcast, was the fear of making a mistake. What if I spell something incorrectly? What if I draw a line and it’s not straight or I start to make a banner but mess up? All these paranoid questions forced me to take a step back and ask myself – Ya, what if? What’s the worst thing that could happen by a line not being straight? Asking myself these questions almost forced me to get my priorities straight. It’s like I’m either going to do this thing or I’m not. I’m either going to let a 1/2 cm line throw me off track or I’m just going to forge ahead … and of course that concept can be expanded to relate to any aspect of my life. I missed a day at the gym – do I just give up? My delivery didn’t arrive on time, am I going to ruin my whole day by obsessing over it or just accept that these things happen and get over it? It taught me to let go of the minutia and just move on with life.

bullet journal calendar – the main thing I see is the April error

I love my packing list, but again, what stands out most to me is the line I had to white-out on my suitcase sketch — big deal? no. does it bug me? a little. 

That being said, the awesome plans I had for my bullet journal did not come to fruition. I made the mistake of trying to plan too much too soon (also discussed in the podcast). I spent so much time planning and counting pages in anticipation of what I might write in the future that I did not write anything in the present — resulting in lots of blank pages and a sense of disappointment that I couldn’t even get it off the ground. Still, I didn’t want to give up on the idea entirely. I just had to take a step back and think of how it would best suit me.

Having already developed a system for planning and note-taking, I realized that I couldn’t take someone else’s system and apply it to me. I had to do what suited me best.

I already had my personal journal for free writing and reflecting on my life (the green journal pictured above).

I also had my Moleskine diary in which I wrote down my specific appointments.

One of the things that Kara mentioned in the podcast was about writing things on post-its and having notes and reminders all over the place instead of in one specific notebook. I am so guilty of that! It took me some time to figure out how to consolidate all those notes. My main focus was to make sure I organize my notes in such a way that I don’t have to frantically look for them when I need them. While it would have been great if I could have made the bullet journal system work for me, I went old school and pulled out my file-o-fax. I got blank dividers and customized my labels to represent the most important areas in my life (WLC, She is Fierce, jiu-jitsu, academia etc.). Now if I need to write something down, I just go to the relevant section and jot my notes down there.

my personalized dividers

you can see I have 2 post-its on my computer screen!

they’re there for a specific purpose though 😉 

Finally … well, maybe not finally. I might have a few other notebooks for different purposes. So, finally (for this post), I have my modified bullet journal. Instead of trying to make my bullet journal into something that wouldn’t serve me well, I modified it to fill a purpose that I didn’t have a notebook for. I use it as a list for my long-term tasks/goals. It contains a list of things that I’d like to do, though not necessarily right now – and perhaps not necessarily at all! Streamlining my use for a bullet journal to something specific was great. This way, I took the burden off myself to make it something that wasn’t realistically possible for me. Now, I keep it simple. I play around with a few graphics whenever I have the chance. Most importantly, I have made it into something that serves a purpose in my life.

making that sketch of books is as good as it’s going to get!

my list of blog post ideas

a tracker specifically for my jiu-jitsu training notes

So, a lot of what I’ve written corresponds with points Kara discussed in the podcast. The three main points that resonated with me:

  1. If you really want to do something, you will make the time to do it.
  2. Find what works for you and don’t worry about what others are doing.
  3. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Make them and learn from them.

Want to journal but are not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas of topics you can consider:

  • Introduce yourself. How would you introduce yourself to someone new? What points would you choose to include or exclude – why? What kind of impression do you hope others would have of you? What are things you do to give off that kind of impression?
  • What do you hope for yourself for your future (immediate or long-term)? Do you have goals in place to help you reach them? Do you have a plan? Brainstorm a little.
  • How would you evaluate your current state of health and fitness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)? What are the good things you have going for you? What are the things you’d like to change?
  • Write down the things (people, places, songs, circumstances) that make you happiest. Do you make an effort to interact with those people or listen to those songs etc. on a daily basis? What could you do to bring more brightness into your day?
  • Write down things/situations that you hate or really annoy you. Do you encounter those situations regularly? Is there a way to avoid them if you do? Have you ever explored why you have such strong emotions about those situations?
  • What has influenced your life direction the most? Was it something you read? Something you were told? Was it a teacher or mentor? How has it influenced you? What kind of impact would you like to make on others (if any at all)?
  • What inspires you most? Is it a person? Is it a goal? Is it motivational quotes? Why do they inspire you? What do you do when inspired?
  • Write about a noise or silence that won’t go away. Why does it haunt you/stay with you? How does it make you feel? Is it something you want to get rid of or has it become a part of you?
  • What’s your routine like? Do you like it? Does it excite you? Is there anything you want to change about it? If money, time, and life circumstance weren’t an issue, would you change your daily routine? If so, in what way? If not, describe what it is you love about your day.
  • What memories evoke the most emotion from you? Happiness? Sadness? Anger? Are there issues you feel are unresolved? Do you have a plan on how to resolve them?
  • How do you deal with your emotions? What do you do when you’re happy? Sad? Frustrated? Angry? Jealous? Annoyed? Do you think your coping strategies are good ones? Could they be improved?
  • What/who brings you the most comfort? Why? How? How do you provide comfort to others?

Those were my questions. Now here are a few compiled from different sources on the web:

  • If you could have dinner with anyone currently alive, who would it be?
  • If you could go back in time and change one thing from your past, what would it be?
  • What’s your most favorite personal/family/holiday tradition?
  • What’s the most fun you’ve ever had?
  • What’s the most disappointed you’ve ever been?
  • Nobody knows that I …
  • What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done?
  • Who are the people you most admire? Why?
  • Do you have a philosophy of life? If so, what is it? If not, what is your method for making important decisions?
  • Where do you most want to travel?

Journaling is the first lifestyle practice for this round of the Whole Life Challenge. To read more about the parameters and for more suggested journal prompts, read this post.