Bullet Journaling

Some of you may know from instagram that I keep a bullet journal. I don’t rigidly follow The Official Bullet Journalling System, but I do love finding ways to structure ideas and to keep track of projects in a notebook. When I was much younger, I used to keep amazing, elaborate sketchpads which documented all my artistic ideas; as I took on more complex projects, sketchpads gave way to notebooks with long “to-do” lists in them. I am a very practical person – you simply cannot get creative ideas off the ground if you are not – and I heartily love a good list. But my imagination, sense of play, mischief and fun also really benefit from my having a colourful and expressive space in which to record and test out my ideas. The bullet-journal is a perfect amalgamation of practical task-management space and flexible play-space. Today I thought I’d ramble through some of my bullet-journals with you, sharing some of the pages, and reflecting on the different ways in which I use bullet journals to organise myself.

I really love using the Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks best of all. I like that the blankish pages provide just enough structure for me to organise my thoughts. I can use the dots to support the creation of knitting charts formed in a grid system, or lists written out in a more linear way.

The dots are faint enough that I can also sketch freely on the pages if required. I like that if I don’t do anything in the book for a few days, I have not – unlike with a monthly planner that allocates space to specific days and dates – wasted any paper. There will be a lack of continuity in the dates, but I just pick up exactly where I left off. I like that there is an index so that when I need to know where my recipes for deodorant or face cream or Brenda’s rice salad are, I can easily find the appropriate pages. I use washi-tape tags atop the relevant pages too, so they can be immediately and visually identified by their tag, as well as by the page number.

This is just one of the fun/practical ways in which I really enjoy adorning my bullet-journals with all manner of washi-tape and stickers – indeed some of you may have seen my efforts to get #maximumwashitapeandstickers trending on instagram whenever I share pages from my bullet journals there!

I manage projects, chores and healthcare alongside each other in my bullet journal, and because it has everything in it, it’s always with me. This total life/work conflation really suits how I work and think, and it gives me a space in which to see ALL THE THINGS moving along together.

However, for me, the Bullet Journal is not just about getting things done: it’s also become the self-care tool par excellence. As long term readers will have gathered, my psoriatic arthritis got much, much worse in 2017. I marked the change with a renewed commitment to my own health. Every month from March 2017 onwards begins with a bullet journal tracker full of daily health reminders. Across the top of each self-care tracker I put the days of the month, and down the side I put things like “go to bed at a reasonable time” “drink enough water” “walk at least 6,000 steps” etc. I review and modify the list of self-care things at the end of every month and each night I sit down to colour in the squares corresponding to the self-care things I managed that day; if I didn’t do the thing, I don’t colour in the square. I love these abstract records of self-care. Sorry the photos are a bit blurry, these are really personal and I wanted to share the gist of what I do without sharing the actual details of my self care with The Internet!!! I love that these visual records look a bit like knitting charts, and that they are a sort of homemade lofi data visualisation. I like how the practice of colouring in each square has given me pause each night – for over a year and a half now – to think about ways in which to better help myself and to care for my body with psoriatic arthritis.

I love that these trackers make visible the invisible work of self-care.

Each tracker is beautifully decorated with stickers and washi-tape from Japan – from the amazing Honeymoon Mark and I took there at the start of 2017 – framing my intentions in love and happy memories…

…and these wondrous stickers poking out of the top of the tracker pages help me to find them instantly when I pick up the journal. Over time, friends have come to know of my stationery love, and so stickers and washi tape from them have made their ways into my pages. I love this Sakura washi tape from my friend Kate, and these beautiful autumn leaves from my friend Yumi.

I really, really like using my bullet journal in this way as a tool for managing all the things I do connected with disability and wellbeing. If any of you have long term health conditions you will know it’s like an unpaid part-time job to keep up with things like monthly blood-tests, weekly injections, managing fatigue and side-effects, keeping on top of supplements and prescription medication, lining up appointments with the appropriate professionals, and making sure the basics – sleep, diet, exercise – are properly in place. My bullet journal has become a place to manage this stuff in an incredibly fun and colourful way. The trackers have really helped me to develop good habits, but they are also a joyous visual reminder of resilience and how creativity can be used as a practical tool for uplift and self-management. For me, they are also about one of the most important aspects of having a disability, which is about authoring and managing your condition in your own way, in your own terms, in your own flavour. My disability management style is #maximumwashitapeandstickers.

It is hard to express just how much joy I got out of a gradient pen that enabled me to make gorgeously graded self-care trackers throughout this summer – what an endless surprise to see the colours mixing and shifting across the pages of my self-care.

In March 2017 I taught at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Shetland Wool Week, and at Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam; I worked on a sound-map for the Museum of English Rural Life, exploring Reading’s town/country identity through its soundscapes; and I continued work on the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook. Charts and pattern notes, yarn-weights and book-production to-do lists dominate the pages of my bullet journals around the times of those projects.

With the help of friends and guest contributors, and under the wise guidance of my amazing comrade in Wool, Louise Scollay, we produced Wovember 2017 with a focus on woolness: where wellness meets wool. I also began a new project with the MERL combining knitting and sound to explore some of the objects in their collection that relate to shepherding. I love looking back and seeing how each project begins life in my bullet journals, and I love how adaptive the pages are to what each project required.

As I turn towards a busy and exciting winter full of projects, I am experimenting with new systems for managing my projects; with new ways of playing with plans and lists and of recording processes and progress… it’s a really exciting time both in my work and in my bullet journal, and looking back at my stack of books so far has given me loads of ideas for new pages and practices to try. I hope you have enjoyed this short tour of my bullet journalling practice, too.

The KNITSONIK System is about celebrating the everyday through creativity in our knitting and, to me, it makes loads of sense to see the weeks, months and to-do-lists of life happening next to charts and notes on chapters. I really dislike the notion that art is some sort of rare process that happens in a hallowed and mysterious place and prefer to see it all jumbled up next to shopping lists, addresses for posting wholesale orders, and reminders to go to bed at a sensible time. To me, those connections between our creativity and our daily lives are the very things that make creativity so special and I love how the Bullet Journal provides a context in which to play with those ideas.

In coming weeks I’d like to share more about Bullet Journalling, and how daily life/creativity and KNITSONIK knitting can be managed in the pages of your very own Bullet Journal, and here’s where I’d really like your input; is there anything you struggle with when it comes to planning and managing your knitting or your life, or anything you’d especially like me to cover in forthcoming weeks? I’d love to hear your thoughts on planning and managing knitting in the context of All The Things that all need doing in all our lives, and whether there are things – like the self-care trackers – that I do in my Bullet Journalling practice that may be of use to you.

Let me know in the comments!

7 thoughts on “Bullet Journaling

  1. Hello – this post has inspired me to start my own Bullet Journal (and thank you – I just scrolled through the MT On-line shop with my mouth hanging open!) I am very interested in the Self Care portion of your journal. I hope some day you will share more about those sections – what you decided to monitor and how this impacts your life. I live with the residue of a major illness. I find I can have all the health apps on my phone and create “data” of water in take and steps walked that day and so on – but no means of reflecting on my entire “self”; the total state of my well being. I hope this helps and I don’t break the bank with tape purchases…….

  2. I found this really inspiring for a new period in my life and using the way of recording self care. Beautiful and that’s something I can really learn from you – making recording and noting and keeping up with things a pleasure through using glorious colours and images and stuff that gives me joy. Thanks.

    1. Hey there, you! I remember you from back in Knitaluscious.blogspot.com days! I hope you are well, how lovely to see your name pop up in the comments here. Full power to this new period in your life, I send all the rainbows to your self-care <3

  3. This is lovely – I’ve just started trying using a bullet journal and it’s awesome to see a ‘real’ and long term journal! Your pages look so pretty but also essentially useful. BUT I showed your gradient pen pages to my friend and now we’re completely obsessed, can you please tell us where they came from or the brand name for searching online? We’ve tried lots of search terms and can’t find ones that write gradient (just look gradient on the outside) 😀

    1. It’s a Paper Poetry neon rainbow gel pen. I got mine in a shop in Berlin, I’m not sure where in the world you are but they have quite good distribution 🙂

  4. I had the same thought as Lauren. It’s so interesting the patterns and shapes that emerged in your wellness charts- they really are suited to knitting.
    I like the idea of a welllness chart so much that I’m going to try bullet journaling again. I had a hard time getting into the habit the first time I tried it. But I love the idea, so practical tips on the doing of it would be most helpful for me.
    Thanks you as always for sharing of yourself so generously.

  5. Thank you for sharing! Your journals are so inspiring…and I love how you’ve flexibly adopted the bullet journal format. I was struck by three things: your tenacity in using the journal and making it a joyful rather than obligational endeavor; those gradient pens!; and how very much your journal looks like a fair isle chart…have you ever considered knitting up your year? It would be fascinating to use these as a Knitsonik springboard!

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