My Bullet Journal Just Stresses Me Out

image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp @mightymooseart

image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp @mightymooseart

The key to this obsessive compulsive’s heart is organization.

(Just kidding, it’s Zoloft.)

Cleaning, cataloging, alphabetizing, making lists, making notes — all of these things are totally useful and productive coping mechanisms for me (well, sometimes).

The written list is my lover.

Remember the Day Runner of the 90s?

This is actually the same model I had: burgundy faux-leather with Velcro (because maybe no one had realized that Velcro was for nerd’s shoes and nothing else?). For a more realistic feel, this model is pictured in a wicker basket that is also probably from 1993.

If you’re committed to this paper process, you can actually buy this EXACT Day Runner on ebay RIGHT NOW. And it is OMG ONLY $12.99.

(Though probably gone now after all of you rushed to get it.)

Anyway, I lived and died by my Day Planner, as many of us making our first attempts at being Very Professional in the early '90s did.

Alas, as it happens, the Day Runner gave way to a snazzier, electronic-type thing called the Palm Pilot.

We are all replaced eventually. Grim. 

I had one of those too.

Yes, there was a time before Smart Phones. And yes, it was as horrible as you think.

Over the course of the '90s, I think I had three "Palms" (as the early adopters called them). All three of which ended up in the back of a desk drawer, covered in paper clips, gum wrappers, and stray .05mm pencil lead. The electronic nature of it never worked for me.

So while everyone in Very Important Business Meetings About Commercial Real Estate were taking Very Important Notes about cost-benefit-risk analysis price per square foot inflation cost of living increases on their Palm, I was scribbling madly into my burgundy faux-leather velcro'ed Day Runner with a gold-toned Tweety Bird pen from the Disney Store.

This pen (not THIS pen, but its cousin):

(Man this trip down memory lane is getting costly. That set right there is A DOLLAR +$4.03 shipping.)

At some point you just couldn’t have a Day Runner without looking like a complete dolt, and paper planning all but disappeared.

Until bullet journaling.

Bullet journaling came on the scene right about the time that I was getting sick and GD tired of trying to navigate my iPhone calendar.


Bullet journaling is like the Day Runner only BETTER because you can customize it to your own needs. Need a place to record that weird-ass dream you had about your ex-husband and you having to share a disheveled house with a thousand empty drawers that only you can see?

Bullet Journal.

Place to record all of the fabulous places you have been but are not in right now?

Bullet Journal.

Need a place to track all of the books you’d like to read in 2017 — but never will because your kids won’t leave you alone long enough to get through even ONE PAGE of The Handmaid's Tale which you are only trying to re-read because you realize that we might actually be living in The Handmaid’s Tale right now?

Bullet Journal.

Keep track of every episode of every TV show you watch?

You guessed it! BULLET JOURNAL!

This is a real page from a REAL PERSON’S REAL BULLET JOURNAL.

If I had time to make a bullet journal page of all the TV I watch, I'd be WATCHING TV.

There are just SO many fun activities you can do in your bullet journal. You can even make a list of 101 things you want to accomplish in 1001 days. For example: actually write in your bullet journal.


I ran right out and bought my Leuchtturm1917 Notebook Medium (A5) Hardcover, 249 Numbered Pages, Dotted, Emerald immediately — plus whatever 17 sets of colored pens, pencils, markers, calligraphy markers, washi-tape, correction tape, tabs, ballpoint pens, fountain pens, every one of the countless blog posts I read recommended.

First, create your “key.”

As shown here:

The only thing missing here is *&#@! — which is key for “another thing I forgot to do.”

There are about a thousand people who have devoted entire blogs to the creation and maintenance of a bullet journal — so finding a “beginner’s guide” wasn’t hard.

Megan at Page Flutter is just one of the one million awesome journalers. And boy, is she an exceptionally awesome bullet journaler. Her landing page right now features a “Screen-Free Summer” page, and if I didn’t already feel completely inadequate in every way, Megan has pushed me right over the adequacy edge.

Case in point:

I don’t hate Megan for being the perfectly artistic and organized parent with amazing penmanship and the ability to draw people that aren’t just sticks.

I just can’t decide what “Family/Friends Outdoor Theater Production” to doooo. Midsummer’s Night Dream seems most appropriate given the season, but I’m leaning toward Macbeth, well, because Macbeth.  

Seriously, these people are so good at this. Tiny Ray of Sunshine, for example.

What the fuck even IS THIS?

It’s like a circular representation of me FREAKING OUT.

Here, Kim visualizes her Mountain of Time:

I have a Time Mountain too.

It's just all uphill. 

Things Kim has accomplished this year:

OH YEAH. Well I ran a WHOLE website.

Yeah, that sounds really stupid compared to a feature in Vogue.

In theory, I love this whole thing — colored pens, stickers, cute tiny hand drawn images, organization, list-keeping, artistic depiction of tasks — it’s all just magic.

In reality? I SUCK AT IT.

When I say suck at it, what I mean — aside from I actually literally suck at it — is that it stresses me out SO HARD.

It stresses me out because I can’t seem to get it organized so that nothing gets lost.

For every task that I complete, I arrow one to the next day, and the next day, and so on.

This is not “task migration.” This is just avoidance.

Which, of course, Megan knows I’m doing.


It stresses me out because the extent of my artistic ability is a sun that is almost round, a bunting that is intentionally messy looking, and a stick figure under a tree.

It wasn’t even CLOUDY. I just made a cloud because it’s one of the, like, 11 things I can draw.

I know you’re going to say that this looks good. I KNOW.

But when your point of comparison is “Family/Friends Outdoor Theater Production,” stick figure looks pretty kindergarten.

The BJ (I just gave it that acronym myself. I realize no one else calls them "BJs" because in most circles that actually means BLOW JOB [my features editor just told me the common term is "Bujo," which is somehow even worse so we're going to stick with BJ]) below belongs to Michelle Baxter of Quirkyheart.

She drew a DRAGON

This isn't art she's going to frame and keep in her hall until she dies and her children fight over who gets to keep this journal page vs who gets the stupid 6th generation bone china.

This is literally ONE WEEK IN APRIL. 

And here is another week, this one in May. Looks like Michelle had a migraine on Thursday and yet still managed to make a bullet journal that is basically the Sistine Chapel. 

I feel just a smidge better than she didn't finish those lunches on Saturday OR make the broth on Sunday. That's right Michelle, RELAX. Just be a lazy loser like the rest of us who write things on sticky notes and crumpled Walmart receipts and buys Lunchables and broth in a can. 

What's that Dr. Dentist Person? You say I had a dentist appointment on Monday? Oh, I would have remembered except I wrote it down on the corner of a paper takeout bag from McDonald's. 

It's not just Michelle. It's pandemic.


After my first really terribly failed attempt, I gave up the BJ and went back to just writing stuff randomly in a spiral notebook. The problem with writing stuff randomly in a spiral notebook is that, well, it's a spiral notebook.

But I picked the BJ back up recently because of the whole "forgetting what I'm supposed to be doing" thing. 

The good news is I can remember who has a dentist appointment when. The bad news is it's still freaking me out. 

I see you, Tiny Ray of Sunshine. You're so cute with your adorable freckles and your cat-eyeliner on point. Why does your apparent gift make me feel so inadequate?

The answer is: I feel inadequate in most situations. So my bullet journaling failures are just one more thing to add to the list. 

I'm not artistic enough. I'm not organized enough. I can't draw. My penmanship is mediocre at best. The whole thing is really just a shitshow.

It's unfortunate, because if I could chill the hell out about how I can't draw Business Cat in glasses, I'd probably enjoy the act of the list making. But the cat, he eludes me. 

I wonder if I can still get a Day Runner?

Whoa that's right — I totally can.

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