by Lynn S. Schwebach
I think my friend Chip (her Vietnamese name is Pham Van Anh) and her “bullet journal” will change my life, but first let me explain.
Plain and simple, a bullet journal is a way to get your “to do” list and future goals on paper—in a systematic way. But any kind of “organization framework” typically scares me. I associate any formalized way for getting myself less scattered and more accountable as a surefire way to dampen—annihilate—my creativity.
But wait. WAIT. Artists are also entrepreneurs. If we want to make a living selling our art, we must market. We must sell. We must pay bills, taxes, and send our customers their orders as quickly and professionally as possible. We must start new artworks and experiment, and we must have the time to do that. We have to enter contests and juried shows. We have to update websites and send out promotions. We have so many “have tos” that the overwhelming volume of tasks weighs heavy, seriously affecting our ability to create! WAIT. This system could actually help our creativity.
I met Chip about 6 months ago for coffee, and she sat writing in a journal—with an art marker! She flipped through the book and I mistakenly thought the lettering and artwork on its pages had been printed. But Chip hand drew the beautiful calligraphy and icons. This artistic attempt at a planner immediately interested me. She explained some of the basic bullet concepts to me:
- A daily list or log of things that need to get done
- A monthly list or log of things that need to get done
- A year-at-a-glance list or log of things you want to accomplish
- A big-picture goal or plan for a social good
I glanced at it, commented on her talent, took a few pictures, and then filed it away in my brain. I noted her idea of a accomplishing a big-picture plan for helping people as part of her motivation for bullet journaling.
A few months later Chip arrived at my house for a day of drinking tea, eating muffins, and painting. I told her to bring along that bullet thing with her because I wanted another look at it. With the Christmas season approaching, I started to unravel. I had recently sold art, which meant my inventory was down. I had a commission to work on, blog posts to write, a show to hang, art to send to clients. YIKES. I had racing brain. I had workload anxiety.
First we went to my studio and painted. Chip wanted to get acquainted with my alcohol inks—which delighted me. Chip represents all that I admire. She is in an MBA program at the University of Denver, plus, along with two other owners, she runs an online clothing company Centric. But she loves everything about art and all things creative. I often see her Facebook posts of evenings and weekends spent experimenting with paints, canvases, and color. She knows that exercising her creativity means she will thrive in her classes, and as an entrepreneur. She knows that problem-solving involves creative thinking, and she nurtures that tool. (See the article, “How to Increase Your Creativity.”)
As she showed me her Leuchtturm (pronounced LOISH-term) journal,I asked her where she found the time to do such amazing pen work. She told me that you don’t have to be so “calligraphic” or artsy to keep this type of journal. She likes to spend time hand lettering and using colorful icons and doodles because “it’s meditative.” Also, she spends about 5 minutes before she goes to sleep each night going over the journal to wind down. She knows what she has accomplished, and what she has to do the next day, and the next.
The bullet journal overall helps diminish anxiety because it helps her break down her tasks into smaller steps. For example, she had to find an internship this past summer and just the idea of “job hunting” overwhelmed her, but when she broke down her steps into monthly goals, it was manageable. Here are her job search goals for the first three months of 2017:
- Update resume
- Visit career counselor
- Start to network
At the end of January, she noted which of these goals she accomplished, and which she needed to carry forward to the next month.
- Go to different networking events
- Look and apply
- Keep working on resume and cover letters
Again, at the end of each month, she wrote down goals accomplished and those that needed to be carried forward.
- Follow up with applications/interviews
- Continue to network/go to job search events
And so on, until she secured two offers for summer internships. Chip said by breaking down the steps and writing them down, her anxiety over finding the summer job diminished. “This system keeps me healthy,” she said.
Of course, with school, an internship, and running her own business Chip has several more goals listed for each month, but she said one her biggest mistakes was listing too many goals. With too many goals listed many go unmet and that causes too much stress—and stress is what she is trying to reduce. She examined her list of goals, sliced and prioritized them into more achievable and manageable tasks. (Chip assured me that it takes some experimentation with the bullet journal to get a workable, satisfying system that works for you.)
I now was convinced to try the bullet journal for my art business. But since this a big undertaking for me, I am also taking my time in getting started (okay, procrastinating). I have bought my Leuchtturm, but it’s still in its shrink wrap. My goal for next week (my first bullet item) is to unwrap the journal and start planning how I am going to tackle getting my artistic life on paper.
I will blog at least a few more times to take you through my bullet journal steps, let you know how I am doing and if it’s working for me, but in the meantime, if you want to learn more, there are many online articles about bullet journals (and also Instagram posts). One article I find helpful, is “WTF Is A Bullet Journal And Why Should You Start One? An Explainer”. Start there if you’re interested.
Also, get a journal (Moleskin also makes some nice journals) and follow along with me if you want, and check back next week when I plan on posting my first steps. Just ensure the journal isn’t too large and bulky to carry with you, and not too small that it doesn’t fit all your content.
And as for Chip’s long-term goal to help humanity, stay tuned. I will include that in one of my next posts.