Traveler's Notebook (Part Two): 4 Easy Steps To Section Your Bullet Journal Inserts
Let me tell you a little story about how all this got started.
Ever since I saw my first traveler's notebook, packed to the gills by a woman who clearly fell hard for this productivity system, I knew I wanted in.
I'd set up shop in one of the local Starbucks and was working on an email course for my business.
Earbuds were in and my content planner was splayed beside my MacBook Pro. A woman came in with her son and sat up at the long, bar-like table, gesturing to me then mouthing: Do you mind if we sit up here with you?
I took out an earbud and smiled. "Of course not," I said.
She thanked me and I resumed tapping at my keyboard.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that she'd plopped some small, overflowing book onto the table across from me. It had a taut black elastic band strapped around it, barely containing the contents within it.
I continued working (did I mention I'm a wee bit of a workaholic?), but found myself randomly looking up at that beautiful little bound booklet thing.
About 30 minutes elapsed and I was ready to get some lunch. I started packing up, plucked out the earbuds and the woman immediately said: "I like your planner," and motioned to my Content Strategy Planner I was just about to close. "Where'd you get something like that?"
I smiled and told her I make them and sell them on Amazon and in my online store, and she thought that was "the coolest thing".
Then she said: "I technically make my own too, but it's not printed like that." Her hands slid to that stuffed little book and I felt questions rolling up, ready to spew from my lips at any moment.
Instead I said: "I wanted to ask about that. What is it, if you don't mind?"
A Traveler's Notebook.
I stumbled across heaven but by the time I got home that day I'd forgotten what she called it. I wound up Googling "journal cover that holds several small booklets" (or something like that) and waded my way through tons of misdirection to UncommonElephant on Etsy's traveler's notebook covers.
That began my love affair with TNs almost 2 years ago now.
Fast-forward to the first part of 2017 and I was no longer focusing on my business full-time. I ran into some severe health complications in mid-2015 and my physical health fell into a downward spiral. Eventually we found out that likely all my organ failures, unexplained weight gain, overall poor health, and constant abdominal pain was due to Celiac Disease (untreated for over 25 years—yes, I was very, very lucky).
As you can imagine anyone going through a situation where they think they might not survive, you spend a good deal of time reassessing your entire life, purpose, and the future.
My husband encouraged me to start drawing and writing again, and (this time) I listened.
I began with writing, eventually starting a personal blog (now on Medium). Later I decided to meld my love of the arts and doodling, and my obsession with planning and try my hand at creative bullet journaling.
This was all at the start of 2017 and I can tell you over halfway through the year now that it's one of the greatest experiences I've ever been through. Maybe that sounds funny but to me there's no stronger grounding than when I've got pen to paper.
Literal pen to paper.
The focus it breeds makes the time spent writing and laying lines down worth every ounce of time I used to think people wasted creating a whole new layout each month, week and sometimes daily.
But I was missing the big picture.
I was poisoned by the general productivity teachings that seem to believe that the human mind belongs in a meticulously organized cube. If you detour, you're unproductive, maybe even useless.
I decided to change the way I viewed this method of connecting with yourself by creating a bridge between productivity and your own personal growth and development. (And don't forget about the passion and fun parts, too.)
I needed to dive in, head-first to see what this bullet journaling thing was all about.
I know you don't need any convincing, that's not why you're here. But I wanted to share my story into what this means to me and I hope you can relate on some level.
Now, I know it's been done before—the whole traveler's notebook obsession combining with bullet journaling. I'm not the first. But I want to bring my skills and situation to the table to share other ways you can use your bullet journal and traveler's notebook hybrids.
Why put your bullet journal in a traveler's notebook?
Simply put: Freedom and flexibility.
I shared my story in the first part of this 2-post set about how I grew tired of the single bullet journal for "all your needs" due to its inflexibility.
Since you're all caught up on that idea, let's talk about how you can utilize your traveler's journal with the power of bullet journaling to make this a solid system you'll fall in love with.
First, I won't act like everything's all butterflies and roses. Traveler's Notebooks can get pricey if you don't have the tools and materials to make them yourself. So, if you only use your bullet journal for managing your monthly, weekly and daily spreads, then a traveler's notebook probably isn't worth it for you.
But, if you take notes, record ideas, doodle—anything outside of "the basic stuff"—this hybrid system is right up your alley.
What do you (or will you) keep in your bullet journal?
In the world of bullet journaling there's this thing called Collections.
Collections are a group of tasks or notes that relate through a common theme or purpose, according to Ryder Carroll, the creator of the bullet journal planning method.
I've found that some Collections become quite vast and can take up a good deal of space in the monthly planning part of your bullet journal. Outside of that, sometimes you just want to keep these areas separate so once you've finished your month-to-month insert, you just ready a new one while the rest of your important journals stay put.
So what I devised is to split your areas of importance up, or, simply break your most commonly used themes (or Collections) into separate traveler's notebook insert journals.
Before I even get into the fun part, I found it easier to start with a list of the top 3-6 (depending on how many inserts you'll keep in your traveler's notebook) themes or key areas of your life that you reflect on or use most frequently.
For example, I have four:
- Monthly (weekly and daily) planning and tracking
- Health—for monitoring my Disease, recording safe restaurants, meals, recipes my whole family loves, etc.
- Projects—the rolling notes, ideas, lists and more for whatever project(s) I'm currently working on
- Notes—because I note everything I find important to sear it into my brain (and leave myself a reference point whenever needed)
So, the point is to split up your key areas of importance. Instead of "cramming" all these areas, Collections—whatever you want to refer to them as—into one single book, you split them up into however many different inserts your traveler's notebook allows.
Ideas for your traveler's notebook sections.
Before I define the steps, let's cover some ideas for your notebook's journal inserts:
- The four I listed prior
- Health & Fitness
- Meal ideas, planning, recipes, etc.
- Goals tracking and development
- Mindfulness / self-improvement (notes, tracking, etc.)
- Home / Family
Can you think of any more?
Megan over at PageFlutter came up with a list of ideas within each of your themes that you can check out too.
What themes will your Traveler's Notebook inserts have?
Hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to set your notebook up. But if you're looking for a little more to go on, here's a step-by-step guide to follow along with:
- Step 1. Make a list of the most important "things" or areas of tracking / planning to you.
- Step 2. Group like things together—create themes.
- Step 3. Take your themes and label the notebook inserts accordingly.
- Step 4. Get to planning!
So, what are your main 3-4 themes?
Let us know in the comments below.
Hi! I'm Sara—mom of three, wife, and non-fiction and fiction writer currently scrawling on Medium and about digital business growth on GoffCreative.com. Learn more about me right here and be sure to subscribe to get direct, hand-crafted ruminations delicately bundled for you each week.