Adventures in Bullet Journaling

September is that time of the year when I get a rush of motivation to get organized. It will be different this time! I won’t forget anything! I will get everything done on time! I won’t mix up the kids lunches! This steely commitment fizzles out by the time it starts to get cold outside. But this year looks promising, thanks to a recent incursion into bullet journaling.

I tried two beautiful notebooks from Princeton Architectural Press: The Observer’s Notebook and Grids & Guides. I loved them both, and one of them was my match.

The Observer's Notebook

grids & guides

What drew me to try bullet journaling was the ability to simplify my routine while staying more organized at the same time. My former ‘system’ involved two separate to-do lists, notes scribbled on random pieces of paper I could never track down again, and a constant battle with iCal – we’re just not meant to be. Keeping a diary became too daunting and just didn’t happen. So being able to create my own calendar / to-do / random notes / lightweight diary combo sounded fantastic. Why the heck didn’t I think of this sooner?

The Observer’s Notebook is a cloth-covered journal with 10 different page patterns, which section off the book. There are several charts and illustrations of trees and leaves, going with the journal’s inspiration theme. What I really like about this journal is that it lends itself to organizing ideas by topic, rather than by week/month. You can use the lined pages for notes, ledger pages for to-do lists, and storyboards for doodles.

Grids & Guides was inspired by traditional lab notebooks, with eight patterns that cycle through the journal 18 times, so it can easily be used as an 18-month journal. There are charts sprinkled throughout the book on things like color theory, chemistry or knot-tying, which bring an unexpected source of inspiration.

This is a great journal for people who use the same structure every month. I liked that it’s completely blank so you can really make it your own, and the different patterns nudge you to get creative and have fun journaling – or sketching, taking notes… it’s such a versatile book.

Maybe it’s because I was coming from using all these different things, but the ability to have separate ‘sections’ as opposed to a calendar approach sold me on The Observer’s Notebook. I have learned that what works for other people doesn’t necessarily work for me and that’s okay, that color is incredibly helpful to organize information in the journal, and that I definitely need to stock up on washi tape.

The Observer's Notebook

I’m still experimenting with the system to make it work for me and stick with it. I reached out to Mia Johnson, the Greenpoint-based designer behind The Observer’s Notebook, to get advice from the brains (and heart) behind the journal. She tells us a bit about her inspiration, upcoming projects and her ideal Saturday.

What was the inspiration behind the Observer’s Notebooks?
The initial idea for the Observer’s Notebooks came from Kevin Lippert, our publisher. He had an old ledger book that he enjoyed writing in, and a Boy Scouts field book from the 1940s, and came up with the idea of creating themed journals that were part field guide and part logbook. I was incredibly excited to work on the designs for these, as I myself collect old nature guidebooks, and have always been fascinated by naturalists’ notebooks and field guides from before the digital era.

We wanted the design to feel like a classic cloth-bound book you might find in your grandparent’s library, with just enough practical information on the guided pages that you’ll learn a bit about the topic, and just enough beautiful artwork sprinkled throughout to keep you inspired as you journal. The rest of the book is up to the user to fill in, so my hope is that at the end of it they might have a beautiful hand-written book that is personal to them, that they’ll keep for years to come.

After a lot of historical research and iterations with the help of Paul Wagner, our Design Director and Sara McKay, the editor, we came up with the design you see now. It’s an exciting series, in that the topics we could explore through this format are endless.. Trees and Astronomy are just the start! The next notebook is centered around the topic of weather, and will be released in the Spring. I’m really proud of this series and I hope people enjoy filling them up with their own handwritten content!

The Observer's Notebook

The Observer's Notebook

Do you have any advice for people starting out with Bullet Journaling?
I only recently learned what Bullet Journaling is, but I think the Observer’s Notebooks could be a really fun tool in that process. I’m excited to see how people will make use of the different sections of the notebook and the variety of lined paper throughout. The possibilities for creating categories and sections in these, and their timeless quality should make for a great and lasting Bullet Journal. I’ll have to try the technique myself, I’m very much a list-maker!

It’s Saturday, and your planner is blissfully blank. How do you spend your day?
Those are the best Saturdays! I have a never-ending to-do list in this city, but as of today… I think I might grab coffee and a muffin at Bakeri in Greenpoint, where I live, and then take the East River Ferry down to Brooklyn Bridge Park or Governor’s Island to enjoy the views and outdoor installation art. Then I would head into Manhattan to Soho for a sandwich from Cafe Habana, and to stop by McNally Jackson. Then I would walk up through the West Village to wander around the tiny streets and admire the little brick townhouses (Commerce and Gay streets are my personal favorites!), stop in at Greenwich Letterpress, maybe get an ice cream on the High Line, and end up in Hudson River Park in time to watch the sunset before heading back home to Brooklyn.

What other projects are you working on?
I’m just wrapping up several exciting new Paper+Goods products, including a postcard set of ferns by Living Pattern, a set of notecards made up of Emily Dickinson’s quotes and pressed flowers from her garden, and a set of rubber stamps called Stampville, that you can use to build your own little graphic town by the french printmaker Aurelien D├ębat. I’m also working on a book of woodworking projects, and am just getting started on ideas for next Fall (there may be a couple new Observer’s Notebooks in the mix!)

The Observer’s Notebook comes out October 2nd. Grids & Lines is out September 20th.