You may have noticed that I’m a creature of obsessions. What can I say, it’s my auxiliary Ne that throws these wonderful spanners in the works. 🙂 Anyway, my latest obsession came from nowhere and ripped through my life like a tornado. I’ve mentioned that Facebook targeted me with a relevant ad for once: Little Coffee Fox. I was so inspired by her blog, and if all her tips and tricks and cheering on weren’t enough, she started a watercolour planner at about the time I started following her.
Now, I didn’t think I liked watercolours. I have trouble maneuvering with a brush, and I didn’t like the finality of it: that you need to know what you’re doing before you start. But Little Coffee Fox’s Month in Color showed me that you didn’t really need to know! You could just doodle and add linework and white gel pen highlights and basically do what you liked. So that’s why my November cover page turned out a riot of mixed media!
So I dug out my old watercolour pencils and rediscovered a childhood passion. They’re the perfect compromise: the nib of a pen that gives you some control, and then the water soluble colour that blends and makes beautiful gradients.
And as I continued working with a lot of watercolour on my spreads, I discovered that they were an excellent way of entering diary elements as well – like this little doodle of hubby playing the piano late one night after we watched a movie.
And as if she’s read my mind, Little Coffee Fox has a giveaway this week: a watercolour kit with a Moleskine Watercolor Album, a Finetec gold palette, a set of three Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens and a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. Wow… I mean, just those metallic colours has me all itching to start a new weekly spread! Or imagine painting a January cover page with silver and black…
Yes, you get it. You need this thing. Follow this link to enter the giveaway too! And while you’re at it, if you like bullet journalling, you need to follow her. 🙂 It’s a veritable rabbit hole, but so prettily decorated that you won’t notice when your life goes up in flames. 😀
I think this is a work in progress, because it probably needs some added linework in ink, but I’m too cowardly to go ahead and do it! At least now I’ve documented how it looked before I ruined it, haha!
While I was drawing it, so many thoughts went through my head. It began as a doodle to plan a photo I’m taking tomorrow for Halloween (so this is a teaser). Then I really got into it and started feeling like the picture meant something. The weariness of the girl seems like a representation of my hypothyroidism, and the way she leans in for support from the skeleton seems fitting, like the “sleep of death” so longed for by Hamlet.
But then I also felt like the drawing represented trying to connect with dead loved ones – which is fitting for All Hallow’s Eve. Remembering and honouring the dead, lighting candles on their graves… it’s a kind of connection, isn’t it? Dipping a hand into the warm nothingness where they once were.
I’m trying to move into proper bujo photograpy, and today was sunny so I thought I’d give it a shot. Problem is, it was too sunny. But even if that meant looong shadows where I didn’t want them, it also meant lace opportunities. 🙂
That’s not the mistake, though. I’ve been pimping the cover of my bullet journal today, and I added some decorations which will certainly come off in my bag, but I just couldn’t stop myself.
Still, that’s not the mistake I’m talking about either. So can you spot it? It’s tiny, and in a way it makes sense in my case. Maybe it’s a metaphor for how I live and make my choices compared to the norm… 🙂
Yesterday I made the cover page for November, and if October was all about butterflies, November will be about candles and lights.
It’s the darkest month, the deep, inky black before the snow comes. It needs a flame to brighten it.
This monthly overview is just a start, but I know I want those lights to be a recurring feature, both on paper and in my home.
I’m also trying out a food, music, and movie tracker. I’ve written those things on my dailies so far, but I think I want it all in one place (plus I need more space on my dailies!).
Same with this: I’ve doodled these symbols on my dailies to signify something distressing that happened, something I learned, something I did well, and something good that happened. Now I’ll list it all on one spread, which means I’ll have to write really tiny letters!
Ta-daa! I’ve been devouring these speed drawing videos for so long, and tonight I had hours to myself and a new month around the corner, so I thought “Why not?” and went ahead and made one. I’m so pleased with the colours, but please don’t look too closely at the wolf, I think it’s got rickets… 😀
I really should start taking proper pictures of my bullet journal spreads with good lighting, instead of snapping a shaky, dark photo at night and then trying to make it look slightly less depressing in the editing software. But sadly I’m not there yet. Anyway, maybe a year from now it’ll be fun to look back at how dismal my bujo posts were this autumn, and I can feel smug about how pretty my photos have become by then!
Anyway. I tried a new thingy this week: the dutch door. I won’t waste time explaining something that others have explained/shown better here and here. Instead I’ll just tentatively say that I’m loving it!
I’m using the top strip for a weekly overview with anything that needs to be done at a certain time, like meetings and such. On the row below it, I put dinners, music I’ve listened to, and any movie or TV show we watch.
On the bottom left I have my work related tasks, divided by context (read, Uni, computer), and to the right I have things to do at home plus a square I meant to track my moods in but I lost the motivation so I’m saving it for something else – a better idea, hopefully!
As you can see below, I’ve put the names of the weekdays on my dutch door pages plus four symbols that stand for “pain in the ass”, “something I learned”, “well done” and “today’s bonus”, because these are things I always want to write down.
And these pages are my favourite, because one thing I really enjoy with my bullet journal is the diary part of it. I tend to use it both for remembering fun things that happened, funny quotes, lightbulb moments, etc, but also for pictures. When a day is done and the page doesn’t have to look structured anymore because I don’t need to be able to quickly check my tasks, I like to wind down and reward myself/debrief by drawing or painting something, like I’ve done below.
And so a grey, depressing day with no sun becomes something beautiful because charcoal is beautiful! That’s one point of art, isn’t it? To make the drudgery beautiful?
Why did I start bullet journalling? To get more organized and productive, of course, just like everyone else. I wanted some help in following through on my commitments. Avoid forgetting stuff. And I’m loving it, I really am, but not for the reasons I thought. Because you know what bullet journalling doesn’t help with? Not wanting to be productive. Not wanting to do the tasks you put in it.
I mean, today’s ideal is to work yourself to death. Fine, if that’s your kink. I won’t shame it. But it most certainly isn’t mine. I recently turned 42, but I’m going on ten and no mistake. When I was preparing to receive my guests on the big day, I considered trying to do something about the mess in our dining room, and then I thought, “Fuck it. Exactly who are we celebrating here? Yeah, that’s right: ME. And what am I like? I’m messy and quirky and charming as fuck in my inability to keep things together.”
So I didn’t clean. Shock horror. But you know what else? My guests probably didn’t notice, because even when I do clean, the house looks absolutely filthy compared to other people’s homes. Clutter, clutter everywhere, and so be it, you know? I’ve come about halfway in this game called life. Time to stop beating myself up for being a typical creative.
Still, I do want to achieve a level of non-ickyness where I live, and I do want to tick off my most important tasks, and maybe even publish another book soonish. So that’s where the bullet journal should come in, and perhaps does in an oblique sort of way. (I’m killing this blog post, btw. Totally rocking the structure part of it.)
Anywayyyyyy. How does the bullet journal help? It keeps me on the straight and narrow when it comes to absolutely essential stuff I need to do. Everything is gathered in one place, and I get visual confirmation when I achieve my projects.
But the best part is the way it doubles as a diary, and some side effects of this that I’ll describe below. Now, I haven’t kept a diary in twenty-five years (because I’m lazy), but this system actually functions as one. When I plan, I jot down what I mustn’t forget, but afterwards comes the fun part: as I wind down and digest the stuff I’ve achieved, I doodle on the planning pages and make them pretty, and so I get a memento. Two birds with one stone!
Before I started bullet journalling, I would plan on scraps of paper and then throw them away, but now I keep it all. This way, I can look back on fun stuff and hard stuff and all those tiny things you tend to forget – you know, the “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” thing John Lennon was talking about in Beautiful Boy. If I keep my notes and mull over them after it’s all over, it becomes a record of my life, and maybe the act of manually and visually digesting it will help my brain retain some of it all on its own, too?
So instead of making me productive – quick, quick, get it done, hurry up to beat everyone else to the grave – my bullet journal makes me slow down and appreciate things, digest them, and put them in pretty writing and colours. I haven’t drawn properly in years either, but the bullet journal offers me a place to do that too. And I mean serious drawing, not just a face on the back of a print-out that I then throw away. It forces me to draw with a purpose, and to make it as good as I can. It reconnects me with a person I used to be – a person I prefer to the one who tries to be like everyone else and scamper around with a pocket watch like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. It helps me realize what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. It shows me where I stumble and where I shine.
Take yesterday. I absolutely had to do two kinds of tasks: one was creative and clearly delineated. The other was a socially confrontational and difficult exercise of authority, but vague, nebulous even, with no limit on how much work I could put in. Not only that: finishing the task was almost guaranteed to earn me not recognition and gratitude, but more problems and questions and complaints and pleas for help.
So which task did I rock and which one had me whimpering in a corner?
But the story doesn’t end with gnashing of teeth and despair. Because since I use my bullet journal to analyze what I’m doing, I decided to change the way I approach the second type of task: since I know I dread it, I now know I need to divide it into smaller parts and do a little at a time. I know how exhausting they are, so I can’t expect myself to do it all in one sitting. And so I can plan for that. Adapt the way I work to the type of task. I needn’t worry about the creative things. I can dash off a couple of pages on food sociology or go through a colleague’s grant application with a red pen in a quarter of an hour, but I need to set aside an hour each day to tackle tiny parts of the more daunting stuff.
Which is what I’ll do next week. And since that week isn’t put on paper yet – it’s still a blank page in my bullet journal – it’ll genuinely feel like starting from scratch when I draw my weekly spread and figure out how to accomodate its visual structure to my new insight.
So, the big question then: does this new insight and the way I apply it make me more productive? Does it mean I’ll get more things accomplished in the coming week?
To that I say: Who cares? So far in life I haven’t screwed up too badly, so obviously I’m already doing something right. And if I find a way of doing the same things in a way that’s kinder to my health and the sort of person I am, that’s result enough for me. I don’t want to be more productive. I want to experience life, to savour every day, and for that the bullet journal is perfect.
And in the end, perhaps the real question is: how do we want to define ‘productive’?
So I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately (grief, cloudy weather, incessant car problems, broken mobile, thyroid issues, and back pain can do that to a girl), and I almost felt like my post the other day was a total lie. It sounds like the bullet journal means I’ve got everything figured out. I don’t, but it does help. I think that without it, I would have been completely under the weather, but with it, I’ve managed to take one step at a time and accomplished a few things.
Like today! Today I had a brightish idea. I’ve been devouring images of other people’s pretty mood trackers, and their creative ways of ticking off each day prompted me to try something new with my “task boxes”.
To begin with, they looked like this:
Simple and plain. Tick each box as I do the task. But it wasn’t very motivating, just demoralizing when I didn’t fill them in and the row of empty boxes stared at me accusingly at the end of the day.
Today I didn’t allow myself to really decorate my daily spread until I’d done my tasks. I decided that one task (student assignments I had to grade) would be a purple garland – purple is my colour code for the course in question, and the garland felt like a nice addition to the “g” in the Swedish word for Wednesday in my planner. And the brightish idea I mentioned above was that I couldn’t add my garland until I graded the assignments!
To begin with, I drew each leaf as I opened a new student document and then filled it in once I’d posted my feedback. I could have drawn them all first and then filled them in as I went, but seeing all my unfinished tasks felt too stressful, so I concentrated on one at a time. Towards the end, when I realized I would have the energy to complete them all, I drew the final five leaves in one sitting.
So the natural response to something like this is “Good god, girl! This way everything you do takes five times as long to complete. How does that help your productivity?”
And the answer is, well, the alternative is I don’t do it at all but sit in a corner and whimper, okay? 😀 Some things in life you have to do even though you hate them, and one of those things for me is to tell others how to write correct references according to the APA system. I hate writing references myself, and I hate telling others what to do, so when you combine these two… you get the picture. So really, having a system like this where I get a silly little reward for each time I point out that someone missed a comma here or should have italicized that, it really helps!
Oh, and I also completely drowned my October cover spread in Too Much Stuff, so it went from this