It is beautiful to see the incredibly artistic records of life bullet journalers have created. I celebrate them and the joy they bring to the creators and the viewers like me. But it is also sometimes disheartening to see how the bullet journal method, invented by Ryder Carroll and customized and built upon by many users and authors, became a performance art on social media. Bullet journaling is not a performance. Functional spreads are an art form in and of itself because they tell a story. Their ability to help you record, track, and design your life is beautiful.
I’m surprised when I talk to people with goals and aspirations and hear them say they can’t bullet journal because it’s just another thing to be good at, or they’re trying to subtract, not add, or they’re too busy, or they’re not artistic.
That’s not what bullet journaling is for.
It’s about your journey–becoming the person you want to become, aligning your actions and habits with your values.
The bullet journal method takes the power of making lists and turns it into a way to organize chaos, track what you care about, and move slowly in the direction of your dreams, rather than unintentionally wandering around in different directions.
So here are 3 different ways to use the daily spread. They are really simple. They have their own beauty. And you don’t have to be an artist or really even a human with nice handwriting to benefit from them. Because of that, I’ve left it a little intentionally messy.
The stream of consciousness rapid-logging functional daily layout
Some people like to write in a stream of consciousness, putting an icon next to certain lines that represent things like: an idea, something to be grateful for, a task, an event. That’s it. That’s all bullet journaling a daily spread has to be. Simple, functional, helpful to you. (Read more about Carroll’s iconography, as well as some of mine).
The slightly compartmentalized rapid logging functional daily layout.
And while this works well for some people, I have found my notes easier to find if I draw a really simple grid (hence the grid boxes), in the morning with my coffee and gratitude practice. It’s a habit I relish, and it sets the tone for the day.
It makes it easier to see what I wrote later.
Plus, I have found that dividing my day into three sections (the day, gratitude, reflection), is a powerful reminder of my micro-habits. This is my most frequently used style of simple, functional daily layouts. While I sip my hot coffee, I remember to write three things for which I am grateful. At night, or the next morning, I remember to write 1-3 things that I want to remember about that day, or sometimes I just write a reflection.
I also have a song I heard in a coffee shop. This is a reminder of that moment in the coffee shop and I get to find the song later.
And finally, I wrote the triangle, Ryder Carroll’s symbol for an event, below “the day” with the date, because I don’t want to flip to April 27th, because true story, I will forget why I’m there when I get there. So now it’s there. Written. And I can flip back and see it when I later go to pen it in on April 27th.
To-dos will pop into my head, and I’ll write them down quickly on the left. It doesn’t matter that I’m in the middle of a gratitude practice, it’s called rapid logging for a reason. And there’s a reason ADHD or creative people like me love it once we discover it.
Forgetting makes us anxious.
I can’t tell you the number of important things I’ve forgotten just while flipping a page.
But what if you just really like to use stickers and calligraphy pens and washi tape?
Then go for it!
The slightly to very artistic functional daily layout.
This is the third way to use the daily pages in the your bullet journal.
Now below is not a particularly artistic spread, because I am a functional bullet journaler. There are many more beautiful spreads to be inspired by. I’m just saying a few doodles, stickers, and washi tape are fun and anyone can do them. I like spreads like this, and I pepper them throughout my bullet journal. I just don’t do them every day. Because I, like many of my readers, are juggling work and dreams, family and self-care. When I flip through my bullet journal, I see a chronicle of sick days, happy days, days when I got a few moments by my window to put some touches in my bullet journal, and days when days when all I could do was check enough boxes for us all to live another day. That’s my story. That’s what makes it beautiful.