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On The Importance of TINY: Accomplishments, Improving Craft, Bullet Journals

My goal every day, no matter how crazybusy things get: push myself to do SOMETHING, even a very small something, to work on improving my craft (art or writing) longterm. Keeping track of these tiny steps in my bullet journal helps ground me during chaostimes. More about bullet journals later in this post.

I also try to make a point of celebrating every success, no matter how small. Having bigger goals is important, of course, but so much is out of our control. I also found especially during the pandemic, it was much more of a challenge to maintain creative focus. I envied those who said they were MORE productive during lockdown.

Me? I feel like I’m just waking up after a two year fog. Keeping a bullet journal has helped me. Whenever I’m having a low day or am feeling like I’ve been spinning my wheels, I look back over my entries and remind myself that little steps count even if they’re not as exciting or flashy as the big ones.

Examples of celebrating every success, no matter how small: If I managed to reach my wordcount goal for the day or finished a layout sketch or complete my 3 Goals for that day, I reward myself with something small but joy-filled. For me, this might mean indulging in a special treat I’ve been saving (I resist doing this TOO often!), filling one of my favourite fountain pens with a new ink and doodling, playing a bit of my current favourite VR game, curling up in my reading nook and diving into a beloved book. Choose something that brings YOU joy, and make sure you explicitly treat it like a reward for yourself for something you did. Side note re: 3 Goals – I find that when I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the things I need to do, it greatly helps to write down just THREE achievable goals I want to accomplish each day. I check them off or cross them off as I complete them.

I do also use my digital calendar and reminders (I use BusyCal and CulturedCode Things) but I love the morning ritual of checking my bullet journal. It forces me to slow down, and the act of writing out daily reminders is both a comfort and aid to mindfulness and focus, helps keep me from feeling overwhelmed. Plus it’s an excuse for me to use one or more of my fountain pens as well as different kinds of ink.

For those unfamiliar with bullet journals, here are the basics of bullet journaling as outlined by Ryder Carroll, who created the original bullet journal method. You can also find a zillion videos about bullet journal set-ups and tips on YouTube. Many assume that because I’m an illustrator, I have beautifully illustrated bullet journal pages. This is not the case, though I will occasionally do random doodles in the margins.

Here’s the post I made at the beginning of 2021 about my bullet journal set-up:

For 2022, I’ve ordered a dot grid Rhodia instead of blank (I couldn’t find any available when I set up my 2021 journal): easier to keep lines straight! I haven’t been able to find any for online ordering in Canada, so I ended up ordering a couple from JetPens despite the shipping fee. I’ve ordered from JetPens before (I especially love their stand-up Delde Slide Pen Pouches) have been very happy with their products.

Depending on your tastes and what brings you joy, you can enhance your bullet journal experience with washi tape, stickers, rubber stamps. You can find MANY rubber stamps designed specifically for use in bullet journals via Etsy, or you can even design your own. I’ve received ordered custom rubber stamps from both aStampToRemember and ForestFoxPress and been pleased with both services.

The important thing to remember: Especially during uncertain times, it’s important to focus on your own journey, and to avoid comparing yourself to others. Celebrate every success, no matter how small. And don’t forget that tiny steps are just as important (and in some ways MORE important, at least for our mental health) than the big steps.

Any other writers and illustrators out there who use bullet journals?