“This is stupid,” I thought, again, as I trudged to the Bally’s gym on Clark Street. A fit of self-loathing after a birthday week surfeit of cake, stuffed pizza, and daiquiris had led to my spending my birthday check on a year’s membership. I wasn’t enjoying my workouts much, but I was determined to get my money’s worth by going five days a week.
Bally’s occupied the the seventh floor of a vertical mall. Horizontal space in downtown Chicago being limited, a lot of shopping centers instead expand upwards. A glass elevator dropped me off in front of the reception desk.
For the first couple of months I mostly pedaled one of the LifeCycles that lived by the aerobics floor. I watched Stacy C’s 5:30 high impact class as the members jumped, grape-vined and whooped. By the time I lined up (all the way at the back) I’d already practiced the routines, slow-mo, in my apartment. Soon, though, I was jumping and grape-vining along. The whooping will always be beyond me.
I don’t know when I stopped thinking “This is stupid,” but it happened. One evening I found myself heading down in the glass elevator along with Stacy C and a few others from the class. “Wow,” she said. “I can’t wait to get home and eat a big salad!”
Stacy C and I would never be soulmates, but I stayed hooked on fitness.
It was with a familiar feeling of desperate determination that I started bullet journaling at the beginning of this year (see “The Bullet Ballet” (January 10, 2021). I was fed up with my reaction to the pandemic and feeling behind and disorganized. I liked looking at artistic bullet journal (bujo) spreads on YouTube and Pinterest. It was exciting to know that my bujo could be exactly what I wanted. So many bullet journal proponents said the practice had changed their lives for the better. I felt doubtful whether this could be the case for me, but hoped for a similar miracle. Who doesn’t want to be a better person? Or, if not better, at least more bearable to myself?
Also for a while I’d wanted a single place to keep records of a year. Not so much the daily thoughts and feelings and research, the kind of things that take up space in my notebooks, but business records and appointments and lists of things I’d read, heard, and made. Because the bujo would incorporate my calendar and all of my business information, I would be committed to using it for a year.
I acquired a dot grid notebook and various accoutrements (Fineliners, washi tape, gluesticks, etc.) On January 1 I muttered a brief prayer to Ryder Carroll and made the first entry. As of March 21, 80 days into the year, I’m 50 pages in. Thoughts so far:
Pluses: 2021 in one notebook! I’m using these standard bujo features a bunch:
Future planning pages, to write upcoming dates before I set up a month.
Monthly calendar spreads, with plenty of room for personal and professional notes.
Weekly calendar spreads. I do one week on a two-page spread (letter-sized pages). To-dos, appointments, long aspirational lists of things morning me wants evening me to have accomplished, phone numbers and reminders: it all fits in here.
Collections: Covid-19 stats, books read, words written, notes written, videos completed. I’d hoped that setting up these collections would encourage me to spend more time reading, or writing, or composing, or filming. That hasn’t happened. However, as far as I can tell I’m not doing any of these activities less than I was in 2020.
Minuses: be careful of what you track! I’ve abandoned or greatly changed these features.
Collections: Fitness tracking. This page was a disaster because my first set-up was based on time, 30-minute increments, which turned me into a clock watcher and made it hard to enjoy moving. Now I just list the date along with letters representing what kind(s) of activity I did (S=strength, C=class, W=walk, B=bike, etc.).
Habit trackers in general. My tendency to scribble water, or practice time, etc., on Post-It notes resulted in misplacing the notes more often than recording them. How the stickies kept making their way to my socks I’m not sure.
Neutrals: Things I never wound up using much
The Index (anything that’s top of mind or important has a flag or tab).
Brainstorming/idea lists (I never remember that I’ve started them).
Key/Symbols. I’m not visually minded enough to process a Ryder-style list.
Big projects pages. This was going to be a thing, but I substituted lists on the weekly spreads and sometimes Post-Its, even at the hazard of their migrating sock-ward.
Art skills. As I have none, an aesthetic spread will always be a nonstarter.
Overall, I feel the bujo’s a reasonable strategy. At the very least, organizing my 2021 tax information next year will be a snap. The fitness spread debacle has helped me figure out how to set up trackers with better metrics. I’m still on the sidelines, pedaling the LifeCycle, but I’ve stopped thinking “this is stupid.”