Traditional Calendars Cramping Your Style, Try Bullet Journaling with Kara Benz

Traditional planners are excellent for keeping track of appointments, 'to do' lists, work hours and important reminders. But for creatives who are constantly overflowing with thoughts and ideas, calendar-based planning can feel very restrictive. If you need a more expansive way to keep track of your life try Bullet Journaling.

Bullet Journaling combines the power of lists with the open-endedness of journaling. It begins with a blank book instead of a dated calendar. The first page becomes your index that you'll fill out as you go along. The next page might be a list of blog ideas. After that, a list of color combinations you want to try for your Spring jewelry line. Page three is January 22nd and that's where you write the day's 'to do' list and appointments. A week later, you come up with another blog idea, so you flip back to page one and add it to the list. Every time you start a new page, you number it and add the title and page number to your index. That way, it's easy to find any idea stream; even if your list of Christmas marketing ideas falls somewhere between your kitchen remodeling list and your 4th of July party plans.

I learned all about Bullet Journaling from Kara Benz. I'll send you over to her tutorials in a minute but first I have an interview with the lady herself. Read on. . . .

Wide Open Spaces

Cynthia: Your approach to planning is a little different. Can you talk about the benefits of Bullet Journaling over traditional "to do" list planners like the Happy Planner or an Erin Condren Life Planner?

Kara: I used to be one of those girls that would buy every new planner on the market. I would fall off the wagon so-to-speak and not plan for a few days then feel awful about the blank pages. Sometimes I’d even abandon the planner altogether because I didn’t “use it right”. 

The beauty of the Bullet Journal system is that you use as much (or as little) space as you need for the day. Each new page is a blank canvas to turn into what you need it to be that day. There have been days when I have dedicated a whole page to my task list, and other days where there are only 1 or 2 items there. 

Adding to the flexibility of the Bullet Journal (or BuJo as we like to call it for short) is the ability to try out different layouts and planning strategies. My monthly spread, for example has evolved over time. I make small tweaks to it every month, constantly improving it and re-shaping it. You just can't have that kind of flexibility in a pre-printed planner.

Staying on Track

Cynthia: Planners are exciting when they're new, but it's easy to lose faith and set them aside come March. Any tips for keeping on track?

Kara: My biggest tip for keeping on track is to create a planning routine. Like any other habit, a routine takes practice and dedication. One of the main keys to getting things done is to keep your tasks and ideas front and center. I believe that having a planning routine is one of the best ways to do that. (You can see Kara's planning routine in the image above.)


Artistic License

Cynthia: Our IndieMade store owners are all creative people. Do have any tips or resources for artistic planners - customizing, decorating, or just how to keep your creativity from sending you off in the wrong direction?

Kara: My advice here is to just make your planner your own! Sure, there’s loads of inspiration out there, but the most fulfilling thing is to create your own space that is uniquely YOURS. Don’t worry about what the rest of the world is doing. You have your own inner light and style… let it shine onto your pages!


Oops, I Did it Again!

Cynthia: One of my sticking points is the fear of messing up a journal with artwork or handwriting gone wrong. It always looks so simple and wonderful when I look at pages like the ones you do but as soon as I start to put pen to paper I freeze - what if it turns out badly! It's not like a spiral notebook where I can just rip out the page and throw it out. Advice?

Kara: This is actually a question that I hear a LOT! So many people get that “fear of starting” when they see a blank page in front of them. To be honest, I’m the same way! I’m a recovering perfectionist for sure!

My advice is to feel the fear and start anyway. I have made TONS of mistakes in my Bullet Journals. Some big, some small. If it’s a big mistake that I just can’t leave, I put a big “X” through the page, turn to a new spread and try again. If it’s a small mistake, I might try to cover it up with washi tape, simply scratch it out, or even write “Oops!” on the page and fix it.

There are a couple of quotes that come to mind here that help me through these situations: 

1. “Seek progress, not perfection.”

2. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.”

Ultimately, I think it’s important to realize that mistakes happen to all of us. No one is as perfect as their Instagram feed makes them out to be ;) They key is to get started, learn as you go, and constantly strive to be a little better today than you were yesterday :)


Get a look inside Kara's Bullet Journal on YouTube:



For more on Bullet Journaling, visit Kara's website



Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and free-spirited life.

She lives in Central NJ and is currently creating her first coloring book for adults.

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