Free Your Brain with a Bullet Journal

Friday, 29th May 2020

Being In Business | entrepreneur | Friday Freedom | Time Management

Gosh, there is just so much to think about in running your own business, as well as just living life .. I often feel like my brain is just a swirling soup of aaaaaaghhh! So I’m learning to offload and free my brain but do so with some sort of structure. I’m talking about:

Bullet Journals!

YES .. love it .. erm, but.

What is .. a Bullet Journal?

Bullet journals .. a wonderful handwritten hybrid diary of lists, tasks, trackers, events, mind maps, brain dumps, notes and doodles.

THD BulletJournal FreeYourBrain
All aesthetically beautiful BuJo photos by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

I have both successfully and unsuccessfully been using Bullet Journals for years.

I think you want to know how I use it successfully but let me start with the unsuccessful bit as well, because this is where I learned a lot.

I have been unsucessful at using bullet journals because:

  • I tried to fit someone else’s mould of what should work
  • I didn’t really think about what I was trying to achieve and why
  • I didn’t know how to fit it into my lifestyle
  • I wanted to be neat and tidy, I couldn’t embrace the mess

Read that last bit again, I couldn’t embrace the mess. I wanted perfection .. I’m a designer, I should be able to make it look good and I was waaaaay to focused on it being beautiful than functional. *Hangs my head in shame* because I do my best teach the functionality of websites over design aesthetics! Things nearly always do better when aesthetically pleasing but sometimes you’ve just got to do it.

I am dyslexic, and one of the neurodiverse people who doesn’t always think in a nice line. More like trying to find a line of commonality in a scattergraph! I think in concepts and pictures and then describe that. Sometimes my past, present and future tenses merge (I can still hear my English teaching telling me off about that) and I kind of explode ideas and vomit out snippets of stuff. Not ADHD, just passionate and far too inspired and can’t get my brain out onto a page with a pen fast enough, nor even with a keyboard and touch-typing!

Bullet journals .. a wonderful hand written hybrid diary of lists, tasks, events, mind maps, brain dumps, notes and doodles. It is what you make of it.

Let me say that again. It is, what YOU make of it.


Let go of the proclaimed aesthetic perfection of bullet journals.

Embrace being you. Perfectly imperfect you.

Just get it done.

So let me throw a wrench into the mix here. Let me show you what people want you to think Bullet Journaling is all about in photos.

The above makes us all sigh and think, yeah, my life could be perfection if I could do that. Oh if only it were picture perfect with candles, ALL the stationery and some biscuits too. Then I could do it.


If you truly love the aesthetics and want to spend time making them beautiful, by all means go for it. For me, it stopped me really using it in a way that works for me.

Here are what my Bullet Journal pages look like in reality!

I absolutely crave structure, I love it when I know what is going on. That happens when I plan for it .. but I also hate being hemmed in. Problem. It’s about finding the balance of what works for you, that’s the joy of being self employed. You are the boss, you can discover how you work best.

So while I don’t have a great tip on layouts and stuff like that for might work for you .. I can say this. When you find your way of having your bullet journal, it frees your brain up.

So keep writing in it, after a while you’ll spot the stuff you want to track, list, remember, be grateful for etc. It is a living book to support you.

What are my successes with my Bullet Journal?

I love my bright zingy dot filled journal. I used to be put off by boxed grids that were either too big or too small. Hey! I’m fussy about some stuff 😉

I really like the tiny pencil case that straps onto my book, it keeps my essentials: 1 black pen, 1 blue pen, 1 pencil, eraser, ruler and sharpener. I don’t need anything else.

Having a pencil. Some days a pen feels too permanent, so I write with a pencil. For those days where I need to freedom to make a mistake, erase it and try again. Mostly when I’m rushing doing client notes into it and scribbling.

That I now don’t care if it doesn’t stay perfect, that I completely mix up all the pages. Each has headings, the days of notes are clear, the month forecasts and brain dump pages are clear. When I want to break the mould and have a pretty page .. should I ever feel that I want a pretty page, then I can make one.

I’ve let go of having trackers .. I ended up judging myself and I’ve no time for that anymore. Or rather, I’m not giving any time to that any more.

Gratitude – to have the grace period to find the moments of joy and appreciation for where I am in life today. Sometimes it’s about fresh bedding to climb into, a smile, other times its big wins. This is my reminder to focus on positives.

Brain Dumps – i.e. huge tasks lists that I can’t organise straight out of my head, I do as a brain dump. Under where I’ve put T (Time) and E (Energy) is the amount of time I think it will take. I’m sometimes woefully bad at guessing how long things will take but I’m getting better. Lastly I put a smily face happy, neutral, low to denote how I need to feel in order to complete a task. There are times where my brain just needs some simple dumb tasks and I can scan that column to find low time and low energy level tasks, so that i can fill a 15 minute or 30 minute spot of time and complete a task.

I’ll put this into a new spot to really highlight this. I’ve found the best thing I’ve done for myself is to put an energy level mark against each task. We all become brain fried and zombie like at different parts of the day, overwhelmed but still needing to be able to do something to feel like we’ve been productive or had a ‘win’. I now break down big tasks into smaller pieces so that when I’m short on time or low on brain energy I can find something I can do that still moves me towards my goals. That tortoise did complete the race, so can I and so can you.

Confession .. I did write the daily journal from yesterday in a slower hand and made it a bit ‘prettier’ for the photo. On the whole though its a work in progress, just like me. I also struggled to find pages to photograph that did have all sorts of sensitive information on it!!

Some books to get you started.

If you’re interested in learning more about this, here’s a great book: The Bullet Journal Method: Track Your Past, Order Your Present, Plan Your Future. It’s from the guy that started the whole BuJo movement, you can also learn a lot for free on the Bullet Journal website. BuJo, the affectionate nickname for Bullet Journalling.

I recommend buying this one first, its the foundation of WHY you might want to bullet journal. Once you figure out your why, you’ll figure out what you want to bullet journal and how you can fit it into your life. I can’t teach you that, but I can show you and signpost a way for you to discover yourself.

I also found this book very useful too with lots of different structures: How to Bullet Plan: Everything You Need to Know About Journaling with Bullet Points. She covers a variety of kinds of things to track and do. I’ve got this book physically and I’ve dog eared the pages that are the ones that ‘fit’ me.

Blog Post Title graphic - Free your brain with a bullet journal.

What have been some bullet journal tips you’ve experienced that work for you?

If you like what you’ve read, please share this blog post .. cheers!

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