In-between the Lines

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I recently bought a bullet journal.

I’ve always been an advocate (trending evangelist) for journaling. It’s the perfect way to get out all those squishy-mushy-yucky-uncertain feelings. It’s also a great way to memorialize amazing once in a lifetime events. I’ve been known to cover an entire page in the F-word and then doodle my crush’s name over and over the very next day.

I’m also fastidious about planning my weeks out — I write down and track our meals, my workouts, my meetings, our appointments, and our social zoom calls. Almost every activity is accounted for. I quickly found out bullet journal is a little different.

Rather than the clean lines and prompts of a diary, or space for weekly meetings like a planner, it’s a booklet of grid paper. It’s truly a blank canvas. You can journal, you can plan, you can doodle. It’s a space to be creative in any way that suits you.

No one needs to see it. No one even needs to know you write. It’s the ultimate safe space.

So conceivably the “bujo” should have been a perfect solution. I can keep track of all my left brain information and also let out my right brain juice onto the page.

The issue is: bullet journaling has a reputation for being a craft. One quick google search and you’ll see what I mean. People have skill when it comes to bujo-ing — they draw elaborate pages with colors and intricate design. I am not creative in that way. I don’t know how to do cute border designs, or flower doodles, or calligraphy. I certainly can’t draw.

The only thing I know I can do is draw a straight line, and plan, so I started there.

I started off pretty simple; I used a template from the internet that showed how to track your phone habits. I wrote the days down the side of the page and the hours used across the page. So February 1st, 2021 started at the top left hand side of the corner and February 28th was the bottom left hand side — 0 hours met the 28th in the bottom left corner and I counted up from there. Every day I checked my phone to track the number of hours I was looking at my screen and then put a corresponding dot on the page.

Looking back on all my dots I can easily see which days I spent the most time on my phone. It’s been interesting to watch the pattern and see how my usage has declined or increased based on the day of the week or how busy I am at work.

I copied this method to keep track of other things like my mood, my busiest work hours, what types of workouts I do over the month, even how much water I drink. This intersection visual and concrete information opened the door for deeper reflection. I was able to learn more about my habits and see my progress either way.

This intersection visual and concrete information opened the door for deeper reflection.

My initial intention for the graph was to two-fold: I wanted to start being creative in a way that felt genuine to me and I wanted to work on some of my bad habits. Specifically, I wanted to work on decreasing my phone usage and it worked — I went from 4 hours a day to about 2.5 hours a day. I realized the secret to my success was being mindful. The bullet journal has allowed me a space to be mindful of my actions. It’s also a gentle way to keep myself accountable, and I have realized through my apple watch usage that I need gentle accountability rather than forceful accountability.

Even though I’m not drawing insanely cute borders or bohemian flowers, or even drawing at all, I realized I’m using the bujo for exactly the way it’s intended. I’m giving myself a completely blank canvas to be myself. It just took me working on my screen time to realize that who I am is a tracker. I’m also learning that I am a doodler, someone who loves literary quotes, a person who needs a “brain dump” space, and more.

I’m giving myself space between the lines to just be me.

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