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One journalist’s journey into bullet journaling

If scrapbooking and grown-up coloring books had a baby, it would be the bullet journal.

That was my happy thought when I first learned about bullet journals, thanks to the Internet.

The idea immediately appealed. I like the coloring trend, have explored it for The News, and acquired hundreds of crayons in the process. And though I’ve never scrapbooked – it’s too fussy for me – I admire the idea of celebrating the details of your life while working with fine papers and inks.

On a practical level, too, the bullet journal seemed as if it would do me good.

I have a million lists kicking around, on Post-It notes, in reporter’s notebooks, on various apps. I was always misplacing them and forgetting things – birthdays, appointments, phone calls. I was really a basket case. What if I consolidated everything into one book? It wouldn’t hurt to try. It might even be fun.

Looking through my clutter, I located seven blank journals. I have since learned that as a bullet journaler, I am a textbook case. Not only do I keep a million lists, I hoard journals – plus pens, markers, all those crayons, you name it. I like this stuff, always have.

I settled on a ruled book I’d found at a garage sale. Following the suggestion of Ryder Carroll, the bullet journal’s inventor, I left a few pages for the table of contents. It was the middle of June so I began with that month. I wrote “June” at the top of the page, and then listed the days.

Next I took two pages and created a weekly spread. I added a tracker, a place where I could keep track of things I wanted to do every day: play the piano, say the Rosary, work on a book project, get to the gym (or get in 10,000 steps). Tweet. Facebook. Instagram. It made me feel calmer, writing things down.

I help run my church coffee hour, and I’m always making lists of recipes I want to make for it. So the next page was “Church Coffee Hour.” I also drew up a “Summer Slimdown” page, like a board game, inspired by other people’s pages I’d seen on Instagram. I drew cupcakes on the coffee hour page. On the diet page, I drew vegetables, and an ice cream cone with the international “no” symbol. Ha, ha!

The artistry of the bullet journal has been an adventure.

At UB, I’d taken art classes. Now, it distressed me how hesitant I was. I would have to fix that. Studying other people’s journals on Instagram, I found one of those monthly doodle challenges that are going around. For July the theme was the ocean. Every day you draw a different ocean thing. I found a cheap practice sketchbook and practiced doodling in those stray shards of time we all have – when you’re stuck on the phone, waiting for the kettle to boil, whatever. I was particularly proud of the dolphin, which took three pages of work. And the shark. At the suggestion of Howard, the guy I married, I drew “Shark Girl.”

Wait ... wasn’t the point of the bullet journal to get better organized?

A month (and 35 pages) into the project, it’s time to take stock. And it has worked, in a number of ways.

For starters, it has made me more aware of how I am going through life. The experts call this “mindfulness.” It feels good to start a new week, to map it out beforehand, wondering what it will bring.

The tracker is great. I’ve been better than I was before with every single thing on my daily list. Like some of the other journalers I spoke with (see accompanying story), I like how the journal is nonjudgmental. It doesn’t care if you played one minute of Chopin or four hours of Beethoven. It just wants a simple yes or no.

My housekeeping has improved. I’m a little neater. And even if the BuJo hasn’t solved all my problems, it has become a helpful companion, sort of like a portable life coach. Things that tended to overwhelm me or get away from me seem more manageable. Some days I’ve dropped the ball, sure, but I’m not as vexed by that as I was. I believe I can get better at things. I have a plan.

I have a planner.

Which reminds me, now I have to draw an orca.

Because it’s today.