Notebook Therapy’s Bullet Journal Stencils
Bullet Journal Stencils improve my visuals
One of my teachers in elementary school told me once, “for all of your smarts, you can’t draw stick men straight!” She was right, and refused to accept it as a permanent condition. She did manage to get me to try enough that I didn’t look like I wrote with a broken hand, at least.
I’d like to be able to say, I took that teacher’s determination to heart and now can draw straight lines, but I can’t. After all, freehand drawing is a skill, a gift. One I never possessed. So, when I scrolled by a set of “Bullet Journal Stencils,” I scrolled back.
Straight line assistance
Stencils by Notebook Therapy
Oh, sure, I can grab a number of improvisational straight edge guides, most notably the top of my Prismacolor pencil set. However, a smaller, way thinner straightedge tempted me. At a minimum, this was a justification to look further. Not only do the templates have straight edges, each stencil has a wavy/curvy side. Those sides enable creativity in terms of headlines.
I first employed a stencil of this size in 1971. Back at Brother Martin High, Brother Neal Golden, SC, invited a few of us eighth graders to beta-test his textbook on the BASIC programming. While the book was designed to be a text for 11-12 graders, Brother wanted to see how kids a few years younger worked with the material. We had a blast, of course. One of the chapters in the book was on Flowcharting. We were told to go over to the school’s bookstore and buy a stencil that included the various flowchart symbols: statement, decision, etc. So, it’s fair to say I’ve been preparing for bullet journal stencils for fifty years.
That’s the company who sells the stencil pack. They also sell a wide range of notebooks and accessories. I’ll be buying more as Hanukkah approaches.
Bujo = Bullet Journal, and I use a journal customized by WindowTree Stationary.
Weekly view from February
BuJo with WindowTree
Aly gets me 🙂
I’ve been keeping my daily task list/diary/journal using the “Bullet Journal” style, “BuJo” for short. I’ve discussed BuJo and my general struggles to get the right format for a daily task list before. Unlike my more creative friends, my BuJo looked like a grocery list tacked up on the side of the fridge with a magnet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if the job gets done, but the aesthetics make even me cringe.
Thing is, I’m just don’t have the skill to add pretty things to my BuJo. I followed the InstaBook pages and creators in this sphere. I finally adopted a grid layout my friend Grey uses. Prismacolor pencils kept things interesting, as each month was a bit different. That kept me going for a full two years.
In the Fall of 2021, my editor, the lovely and talented Dara Rochlin, told me her daughter, Alyson, my beta-reader for the Dragons novels, started selling customized journals and notebooks. Alyson’s got the imagination and the skills for this. So, I ordered a few Leuchturm 1917 notebooks and sent them to her. The blanks were payment for her making me a WindowTree journal.
And was I ever rewarded! This notebook is exactly what I need. While it’s a less-flexible format than just the very-forgiving BuJo, I feel like that’s a good thing for me right now. I always felt like I wasted the money on pre-printed inserts for my Franklin-Covey binders. Even if I miss a day with my WindowTree notebook, I still get the smiles Alyson’s creativity generates.
Using my Journal
On the technical side, I pair up my WindowTree BuJo with Trello. While I consider the paper notebook my primary task manager, I still double-enter online. I’ll do a full update on how I’ve adapted Trello into a daily manager, but, suffice to say, the combination works.
Notebooks fountain pens and updating my Bujo strategy
My most expensive pen, a hundred-dollar Waterman, on top of my current BuJo notebook.
Notebooks, fountain pens
I was in Manhattan back in the spring, teaching a class for Hitachi Global Learning. When I’m on the road, I prefer taking my backpack rather than the messenger bag I take to coffee shops when I’m home. When packing for the trip, this desire adds a step, shifting stuff from the “home” bag to the “travel” bag. I’m usually pretty good about this, but this particular trip, I forgot something. I left my current Bullet Journal notebook (BuJo) in the messenger bag! Not to worry, there’s a Staples on 5th Avenue around 38th or 39th. So, I picked up a Moleskine and kept on going.
My “around town” messenger bag.
I filled up that notebook this week. Therefore, I’m going back to the one I left at home. So, now I’m back to a Leuchturm1917 brand notebook. I forgot that I really like the quality of the Leuchturm1917 when compared to the Moleskine. Now, please understand, I’m not saying the Moleskine is bad, just that the Leuchturm1917 feels better.
Cheap vs. Pricey
There’s another complication/issue with the German notebooks. While the paper is good quality, it’s thinner than the Moleskine. My love of notebooks, fountain pens is the complication. Most of the inexpensive fountain pens I use have medium-point nibs. The ink flow is a bit heavy. This was more of an issue when all I used to write in the BuJo were the pens. Now that I make my weekly planner page and daily headers with my “adult coloring” set of Prismacolor pencils, all I write in ink is the detail stuff.
So, that means I have to do something I haven’t done regularly. I carry my most expensive fountain pen with me. It’s a Waterman I bought for about a hundred bucks a few years back. My other pens are under-$10 items I buy off eBay. If I wear them out or lose one, well, I don’t shed many tears. I still may leave the Waterman home when I travel and just let notebooks, fountain pens bleed in Ohio.
How I use my BuJo Weekly Layout (Part 2 of Bullet Journaling)
BuJo: my weekly layout format
BuJo Weekly Layout
In Part 1, y’all learned how I came to BuJo as a time management/organization system. “Minimalist” characterizes my approach. At first, I started the ABC/123 of Franklin-Covey, but gave up on it quickly. I wanted a to-do list. I wanted to prioritize it. If I didn’t sit down and set it up one day, I didn’t want my planner to shame me. BuJo gets me.
A comfortable place for a daily to-do was a great start. Then I followed some of the BuJo groups on the Book of Zucker. Many members of these groups possess much more artistic ability than I. Their work challenged me to “do more” with my BuJo. I’m not the type to embellish my BuJo with drawings in the margins, etc. I do like color, though. So, I looked at layouts and spreads and templates.
Then my friend Grey posted a pic of her weekly template. I fell in love with it immediately. It offered structure and coordination beyond a daily list. Here’s the breakdown.
I start the week on Monday, in the BuJo and on Gcal. I like to indicate the week of the year, because my European colleagues regularly refer to “Week X” or “Week Y” when discussing projects and milestones.
Color appeared in my monthly calendar early. I usually have four pens in my bag, with blue, black, purple, and red ink. Sometimes the blue gets switched out for green. The calendar contained up to four colors: current month dates (black), current week dates (red), previous month (blue or green), next month (purple). This was before the Prismacolor set.
Essentially traditional, Monday to Sunday. The idea here is to force me to sync up Gcal with the BuJo on a Monday morning. BuJo notes transform into Gcal events/appointments. The engagement starts on the BuJo, since it’s easy to jot something down. Note on daily becomes item on next week becomes Gcal.
Master Task List
One of the features of the Franklin-Covey system I’ve always appreciated is the “Master Task List.” The F-C idea is, you put down all your tasks/to-dos. Then you designate them A-B-C, and prioritize within those larger designations.
We kick tasks down the road. When we do, they fall to “C”, and low in that pecking order. F-C recognizes this. After kicking the can a few days, the task moves to the “master task list.” When you have fewer tasks on a particular day, pick up something from the master list.
The sections at the bottom of the weekly layout are a take on the Master Task List. Some of the items are time-sensitive (podcast production, for example). They receive a “M” or other day notation. Others are flexible. I might not right something for a particular project on Monday. Then Tuesday becomes a hot mess. The writing moves to Wednesday. Maybe. Things move to next week if they’re not done. I should expand this to a master task list at some point.
Daily page from my BuJo
As mentioned earlier, the early BuJo presented in monochrome. I wrote a day/date in black, then to-dos kept going. Red joined in as emphasis for scheduled items and important tasks. Then tasks morphed into purple, notes later in the day in black.
Enter my Prismacolor pencil set. I occasionally color, part of the “adult coloring” fad. I extended that to the BuJo. Color is pure whimsy. Date numbers for the current week still appear in a shade of read, for the most part. Otherwise, it’s whatever mood strikes me!
Is BuJo right for you?
Give it a try for a week. Buy the book, if you’re inspired. Check out some of the Zuckerd00d groups. Let’s talk about it all!
Staying flexible with bullet journaling
Ryder Carroll’s book
I make attempts to keep organized. For the last couple of years, those attempts revolve around using a “bullet journal.” Bullet Journaling got its name and start from a blogger, Ryder Carroll. Carroll turned the concept into a book, The Bullet Journal Method.
How I came to BuJo
I’ve used a number of different systems, programs, websites, and apps for task and time management over the years. The one thing I got very serious (and consistent in its use) was the Franklin-Covey Method, using their Day Planners. Back in the late 1980s, I had the privilege of doing contract work at a local office of an oil/gas company. Their HR department brought in a Franklin Institute trainer to do a couple of professional development seminars. I was invited to attend. I bought into the Franklin Day Planner hook, line, and sinker, and used it for about fifteen years.
Reconciling paper and electronic
This was a huge challenge for me. I liked my Franklin Day Planner, but the company focused most of their electronic offerings and effort on add-ins for Microsoft Outlook. Since I use Linux more than I do Windows, this presented problems. I needed something to work on my Linux desktop. A number of companies offer open source planning/scheduling/task applications. Franklin-Covey created the “ABC/123” and combined it with the “7 Habits” philosophy. These are proprietary. So, using something that wasn’t Franklin-Covey created gaps.
Locked into the system
I’m not as organized as I could be. My day planner often had blanks for a week at a time. The Franklin-Covey systems offer the pre-printed packs, six months or a year at a time. But what if you need two or three pages for a single day? They offer blank pages, some even matching the pretty theme (I loved “Monticello”) you used in your binder.All that added up to some righteous dollars.
Something more flexible
Between the cost of “filler” packs, “expansion” pages, and subscriptions to on-line services, using Franklin-Covey becomes a commitment. That’s all fine and dandy, until you look at your binder and all those empty pages for the last two weeks. So, I drifted away from the company. Other apps offered to-do list function. Some even had web-based and mobile versions. This was good, right up until the app company got bought out by somebody bigger.
Enter Bullet Journaling (BuJo)
“Minimalist” in a basic notebook
That’s where Bullet Journaling (BuJo) came in. I learned of the concept from the lovely and talented Lady Duchess of the Red Pen, Dara Rochlin. Dara is a list-maker. When we’re in the midst of a writing project (she edits my books), I’m on multiple lists. Bullet Journaling offered Dara a method to organize her prolific lists. It didn’t do all that much for me, at first. I mourned the loss of my “ABC/123” structure.
I discovered that BuJo isn’t a “system” like Franklin-Covey, or Outlook, or any other commercial product. The primary principle of BuJo is that you can use any sort of notebook. You’ve sunk money into a Franklin-Covey binder? Buy blank pages that fit it and BuJo on them. You like basic, student, spiral notebooks? Do that. I like the Moleskine style notebooks. I use them for writing projects. An excuse to buy another notebook? I’m there.
So, I dedicated a Moleskine as a replacement for my day planner. At first, I didn’t do anything fancy, just put the date/day on the top of a page, list to-dos, then add notes on how things worked out. Phone call? Text? Note it below the to-do. Need more space? Keep going to the next page. Writing snippet? put it in the BuJo. Sometimes I’ll just take a pic of the snippet and post it to Instagram.
Expanding the concept
Dara found a number of Facebook groups where people share BuJo ideas. I looked into them. The “minimalist” concepts and designs offered me what I wanted. When my friend Grey posted a photo of her weekly planner layout, I was hooked. We’ll go into that layout in Part 2.