photo by simson petrolIt’s August. And here in the South, that means it’s back-to-school time.

There is a certain joy in starting the school year (for parents, at least): new beginnings, healthy routines, and the promise of fall right around the corner. And if you’re into calendars, planners, and journals, you might choose this time of year to start a new one. I’ve always loved planning and journaling — even as a child. It’s not so much that I’m super-organized; I just really like the idea of planning. And, I like the looking back, you know? Things like what we ate for dinner on the night before my eldest kid started kindergarten (spaghetti) and high school (spaghetti). Or, what TV shows we were into this time last year (Parks & Rec!). Or, exactly how long I’ve had this back pain (too long). I’ll jot down the trivial and the significant — for my own amusement.

The one challenge I always had with planners was my perfectionism. First, I’d scour the office supply section to find the perfect datebook — ensuring it met every requirement. And then I’d wait to write in it until I could devote time to “make it pretty.” The more money I spent on the planner, the less I used it for fear of “ruining it.” Using a planner became a chore for me, and I’d miss recording little life details because I thought I needed to set aside time to write in it.

And then, one glorious day, after falling into a spectacularly deep internet rabbit hole, I discovered bullet journaling. Oh my. The ecstasy! Many of you may already be familiar with the concept of bullet journaling. If you’re not, please allow me to introduce you.

The basic premise of a bullet journal is that you create your own planner using a plain notebook, instead of buying one. Then, you customize the heck out of it. It acts as a calendar, planner, diary, to-do list, thought-catcher, dream journal, personal health log … basically, whatever you want it to be. You can make it colorful or minimal. Add stickers, glitter, doodles, stamps, or don’t. Use gel pens and washi tape or nothing but freshly sharpened pencils. The idea is that you use it. Let it become worn and tattered. Tear out pages. Stuff it with receipts and post-its and mementos.

I use inexpensive notebooks that have a dotted grid. And I have no rules, except to put an index at the beginning for easier reference later. Sometimes, I use colored markers and try to be artistic. Mostly, though, a black, fine-tip Sharpie pen is all I need.

The thing that has surprised me most about using a bullet journal is how therapeutic it is. In our digital world, it’s comforting to draw the lines of a calendar and fill in the days. I didn’t realize how seldom I actually used a writing implement of any sort. Phones and computers enable us to virtually never pick up a pen. And I’m mostly fine with that. But writing lists and thoughts and random things in my journal steadies me. And using a ruler to draw straight lines and colored pens for little doodles makes me feel like a kid again. I highly recommend it.

One especially useful item that I put in my bullet journal is my editorial calendar. This helps tremendously in keeping track of content for myself and my clients. If you’re struggling to create content for your company — website pages, blog posts, newsletters, social media posts — I can help. Get in touch and we’ll brainstorm.