I don’t get along with routines, never have. When I went to college, I was told I should organize my days so they look roughly the same every day. I was told: try to arrange your work time into the hours of 9-5 so that your body is prepared for the world after school. After 3 weeks of trying that during my first semester, I had already realized that when I graduated from high school, I also graduated from a life of routine. I am a spontaneous person—I like to keep plans to the minimum so I have the flexibility to decide what to do with my time.
We’ve all seen Instagram spreads of bullet journals from people who are definitely God’s favorite, because only that could mean that you have the ability to manage a notebook like that. When I was trying to create a routine for my life, I also thought it would be a good idea to set up a bullet journal. I had wanted to be that person for a while, so I bought an expensive journal and expensive pens, and started to write down everything I had to do. But it didn’t take long to realize that along with routine, the process of creating said routine didn’t suit me either.
I quickly realized, however, that on top of spontaneous, I’m also forgetful. And take it from me, that’s not a good combination. Transitioning to a digital calendar made sure that I got to the places I needed to get to on time. But I found that with 16 different things going on every day, I would forget what I had done with my time. At the end of the week, it was hard to reflect on how many hours I’d spent studying, watching Netflix, hanging out with my friends, or even eating.
Out of this need came my personal style of journaling that I still subscribe to years later, but the process was full of lessons that needed to be learned. Here are a few of the most important tips I picked up along the way:
1. It doesn’t have to look pretty
The tricky thing about journaling is that it is by its nature a highly personal act. Keeping that in mind, however, the social media flood around journaling, and bullet journaling specifically, is frankly misleading. It creates goals in the minds of viewers of what their notebooks are supposed to look like. In my case, not being able to achieve those goals deterred me from having a journal at all. When my forgetfulness became harder and harder to deal with, I came up with a style of journaling that was, in all honesty, pretty ugly. I would come home at the end of the day and write down everything I had done that day in a bulleted list. Over time, each bulleted item got longer. But to this day, I’m a huge proponent of listing in journals.
2. No one else will read it
I follow a few Twitter accounts that post excerpts from the journals of accomplished writers like Susan Sontag and Sylvia Plath. Naturally, when you peek into the journals of published writers, they sound like published writers. For a long time, I put a lot of pressure on myself to write in pretty words so that in the future if someone read my journals they’d find me interesting. Then, one day, I realized that that thought was only holding me back. Writing what I need to write without worrying about how it sounds is the key to making the most out of your journaling practice.
3. You are your own best friend
Before I started journaling every day, I used to rely on my friends to process the emotions related to the events in my life. Saying things out loud to my friends was the way for me to understand and work through my reactions. When I started journaling, however, I was able to process everything on my own. This improved my relationship with my friends because I could spend more intentional time with them, but it also significantly improved my relationship with myself. For the first time in my life, I started viewing myself as my own friend, someone I could share things with. It gave me a newfound respect for myself because I started keeping things to myself not because they were secrets, but because I wanted to keep them between me and my new best friend.
Do you have a journaling routine? What does it look like? Please tell me in the comments below!
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