10 things a month of bullet journaling taught me (…and a bulletproof cookie recipe)

Have you heard of bullet journals being the new buzz? I must say even though I see myself as a digital native there are still a lot of things I do with pen and paper. When it comes down to scribble something, cross off things from to do lists or to writerecipe notes, NOTHING beats pen and paper. I doodle mindlessly, I am somewhat into handlettering, I have a thing for stationery and I hate pages full of meaningless words. So bullet journaling seemed to be the perfect buzz for me.

Let me sum up for those of you who haven’t heard about it yet: A bullet journal is a mix of a journal and a planner, to give all your  doodles, to do lists, events, notes or simply your thoughts a home, whatever you want to put in there you are free to do so. The only things that are advised to be in there is the key (your legend to categorise the things you put in there, like to do’s, dates, events, …) and an index (I know this sounds annoying but it helps you to find where you put things). You can customise the rest to fit to your needs. There is a nice video on bulletjournal.com that explains how the system itself works. After using mine for a month, I have some learnings and I am very eager to share them with you.

1. Bulletjournaling doesn’t help you to get more shit done

I initially started because I felt a bit lost with all my to do’s. Besides a work and a private calendar I have several to do list’s and boards in various apps, on random pieces of paper for work, private stuff, blog, household etc. I kept forgetting things, from family birthdays to appointments or things to do. I thought when I consolidate at least the private part and put it all together in one bullet journal, I would finally be able to plan better and get more shit done. It may take you by surprise but:

2. Visualising to do’s doesn’t mean you actually complete them

I noticed in the first week already that something was off with my planning. I found it hard to complete my daily dose of tasks, it felt like 24 hours a day just weren’t enough. I simply had too much on my plate and not enough time/energy/motivation to get through with everything. I remember leaving the kitchen a complete mess after decorating a cake at 2 o’clock, just to get up at 6 to clean the mess and take pictures of the cake for the blog in daylight. I simply understimated the time I would need to complete the cake and after the first cake-attempt didn’t turn out okay, I had to redo unplanned. Things don’t always go according to plan and even though I now plan less into my freetime, I still find myself with a lot of open tasks at the end of the day. Which brings me to the next learning:

3. Prioritisation is hard, but it happens automatically

I find it hard to prioritise my private life. Sure it is important to have clean underwear, but if a friend is in need I won’t turn them down. There is no general rule for prioritisation and I find it especially hard to do those things I don’t like. In the end prioritisation happens automatically. So I either find myself making cake until 2 in the morning because I really want to do it or I postpone to some other day in the vague future to give my body the rest it needs.

4. A bullet journal makes it easier to rememeber things

There might be something about the saying that things go directly from hand to mind. I find it easier to remember things and dates without looking them up in the journal. I was tempted to use it as an external memory, to dump everything in there to get it off my mind. Actually the opposite happened which I am very grateful for: It does train my mind, my memory did get better. But still I battle with „out of sight, out of mind“ since it strikes on me all the time. Leftover to do’s hardly make it to my longterm list, which is also a form of prioritisation.

5. Habit trackers are actually helpful

My first bullet journal | schabakery.comAs a part of your bullet journal, you can make a short list of things you want to keep track of for a certain period of time to make them become a habit. I for instance already set a goal for last year to bring a lunchbox to work at least 3 times a week. I also want to make sure I change my bedsheets every x weeks, exercise x times per week and wash my car regularly. You get the concept. For those things I have different habit trackers that look like a spreadsheet with a box for every day/month/period I want to track and a line for every habit/task. I fill out the day-/month-box every time I completed a task in the given time. It gives an easy overview on how often I instagramed, worked out, had a lunchbox, called my Mum, cleaned something, did laundry and so on.

6. But habit trackers require clear goals and objectives…

The habit trackers help to visualise your goals and habits you want to track. As much as filling out the box at the end of the day satisfies me, it doesn’t really help me to stay on track if I don’t punish or reward myself. That requires clear and measurable goals with rewards or punishment. It sure is nice to see how many times per month I have exercised, but I have to set myself a measurable goal to actually make things a habit. „I want to exercise as often as possible so I feel better“ is nice, but it is a poor goal as it is not measurable. „I want to exercise at least 3 times a week to be able to do 10 full pushups by the end of next month“ is good. A reward (a trip to the icecream parlour) or a punishment (50 extra pushups) added and here we go with goal setting.

7. A Bullet journal gets messy & unorganised very quickly

I saw all those neat and organised bullet journals. Colourful, artistic, bestrewn with beatuiful handlettering and inspirational quotes, I wanted the same. Truth is, it get’s messy very quickly. Paper is patient but also limited. If you use a filofax or something, you might be able to rearrange, but in a regular journal, you can’t just shift and move pages as you want. You start on something on a page, then a new thing comes and in the end you notice you didn’t leave enough space to finish up on the things… Then you have a colleciton of ideas interrupted by last weeks grocery list and I find that rather annoying. But that is just the way it is…

8. Size matters…

I got this cute little lined journal for my birthday from a friend. I found it very cute, with the cupcake design and also very handy since it is not too big and not too heavy to carry it around all the time. As I know my endurance is usually not that high and I give up things that cost time after a first phase of euphoria I figured I shouldn’t spend money on a nice journal but rather start with what I have and see where it takes me. My Bujo (short for Bullet Journal) is cute and handy, but I feel I need more space. I like to have everything at a glance and the DIN A6 book is just too tiny and my handwriting too big to come together. I think that the lined design of my current book paired with my large handwriting makes everything look even messier, cause leaving a whole line free in between is just such a waste of space. I already was gifted the original bullet journal by a thoughtful friend, so I can’t wait to start with it after the current one is full. I definitely have to work on my pushups and my shoulders to gain enough strength to carry it around in my Mary Poppins-like very heavy handbag 😉

9. It needs time, dedication, iteration and trial & error

I have read a lot of blogs, watched a shitload of youtube tutorials, went through what feels like a million inspirational pictures on Pinterest to start with the bullet journaling. I put a lot of time and effort in the first pages and compared to the beautiful things I have seen there , I felt mine wasn’t pretty enough. The first thing I noticed is how much time it needs. I started a few days into the month, set up an index, a key and a future log, a monthly planner, a habit tracker and so on. The monthly planner was rather empty at first but got filled very quickly. I started to break it down into a weekly planner so I can have more details filled in, added a section for my lunchbox-dish of the day, a colour scheme for events and appointments, added expenses and so on. Not all of it worked for me, I had to adapt. It is important to work in iterations, follow inspect & adapt pattern and go easy on yourself. I looked for further inspiration and felt bad about mine again. But in the end:

10. There is not one form of bullet journal that works for everyone!!!

The best thing about the bullet journal is: it’s yours. You can do whatever you want with it, you are the creator. It sure is good to look how others use it and try it out, but in the end it has to fit YOUR needs, therefor nobody can tell you how to use it. It is not about how pretty the other’s journals are, how lame your notes or thoughts are, it is about YOU and what works for you. If you want picture-perfect bullet journal porn everyday, invest the time and do it, but it’s perfectly fine if you don’t. Even after 1 month I have tried out a few things with my bujo, some things work, some things don’t. It is on me to decide what to keep and what to ditch, how to jazz it up and to make it work for me. All you need is a journal and a pen, a ruler and pagemarkers come in handy from times and everything else is up to you. Whether you like it fancy, colourful or plain, have it any way you want it!

I have problems with the journaling part, I use it more as a brain dump for all those things on my mind and to avoid the random pieces of paper. But that’s okay. It might not be as pretty and fancy as those I saw on Pinterest or Instagram. But that’s okay. It helps me to feel more organised, makes me realise all the things I would have totally forgotten about and it makes me feel less guilty about taking time for myself. I usually do a bit more fancy planning whenever I have time, during the week I just take notes and tasks together, sometimes doodling around it or highlighting afterwards to jazz it up. It has taken up a place in my weekend routine to plan my lunchmeals, grocery shopping and my weekly to do’s. And how can planning the week be done better than with a nice cup of coffee and some cookies?!Bullet journal & Peanutbutter Cookies | schabakery.com

Peanutbutter Cookies

  • 125 g butter at room temperature
  • 100 g crunchy peanutbutter
  • 100 g light brown sugar
  • 75 g Muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 200 g flour
  • 1/2 spoon baking powder & a pinch of salt
  • 100 g dark chocolate chips
  • 100 g Reese’s Peanutbutter chips (or 100g chopped roasted peanuts)

Preheat the oven to 175° without fan and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. Mix Butter and Peanutbutter until smoothly combined, then add the sugars and let come together. Add the egg and combine before sifting in flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Fold in gently, then add the chocolate and peanutbutter chips. If you want some more crunch you can replace the peanutbutter chips with the same amount of coarsley chopped roasted peanuts. You can as well take salted peanuts, if you like it salty-sweet.

Form walnut-sized balls of cookie dough and place them on the lined baking sheet with about 4 fingers wide space in between. I use an icecream scoop to measure and put out the dough to the sheet. Bake each sheet for 10-12 minutes until the cookies get golden on the edges. Remove from the oven, carefully pull the parchment sheets onto a wire rack and let cool completely. While the cookies are still warm, they should not be touched or moved around too much because they are still very soft in that stage. But they should be off the hot baking sheet to prevent overbaking.

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