Friday, December 9, 2016

What is a bullet journal?

Good question. I recently asked the very same question when a friend told me about hers. It's a planning tool and it has helped my business remarkably since I took the advice of my friend to start one. It's deceptively simple but oddly difficult to explain so if you want to know more, just google it. You'll find a hundred different links explaining it, and if you go on Pinterest, you will waste the better part of a month looking at all the lovely bullet journals that people have made:

It's basically a planner or organizer that is meant to be playful and artistic instead of a boring to-do list. People use it in many different ways: for to-do lists and calendars, for menu planners, to keep track of exercise and calories, and one hundred more reasons. My friend knows me too well when she thought I would like it. I love paper to-do lists (I don't use the calendar or sticky notes on my smart phone and never have); I love to scrapbook; I like writing with pretty, colorful pens; I am the type of person who has kept a journal in the past and would again if I had more time; I have a detailed calendar planner system and have always loved setting goals and ticking off accomplished tasks. So this bullet journal thing was right up my alley.

But here's how it helped my business. I have lots of different scraps of paper and lists and ideas all over the place when it comes to my business. I have a list on my computer of the stores I want to approach to carry my cards. I have scraps of paper with drawings of new designs I want to make. I have loose sheets of paper that have facts and figures about stationery trends, best-selling cards, categories of cards, etc. I decided a bullet journal committed to just my business might help organize all these important things in one place. I am pretty good in the other part of my life as far as organization goes but these disparate business things were too disorganized. So I divided my journal into three parts. The first is all about ideas, sketches and notes about tricks of the stationery trade that I have learned through countless hours of reading forums, blogs and other sources. I also have a subsection for plant ID if I press a flower from a place other than my garden and need to remember what it is. And I have a few pages dedicated to flowers that I want to add to my own garden for future designs.

The second part is a list of the current places I sell my cards and a running total of the designs that I sell. At the end of each month and at the end of year, I can see what are my best sellers by season as well as annually and "weed out" — sorry for the intended pun — poor sellers. I can also produce more designs in the categories or styles that sell well.

The last part of the journal is the list of carefully-researched stores or markets that I want to approach to sell my cards. This is the section that has been the most productive one for me. I had a very long list of potential shops to approach that was on my computer. But it was so long that it was actually a bit daunting and I didn't end up approaching anyone at all. All I had to show for my research was a generic pitch lacking passion. But to put it into the bullet journal, it had to be organized and thought out. I dug into the list and researched each shop, going on their websites and social media pages to get as much information about them as possible, including the exact person I should contact to pitch my cards. I culled the list down to only the ones that were an excellent fit and put them in my bullet journal. Each store has its own page and includes including who to contact, a record of samples I sent, what their market is and strategies for getting them excited about my work specific to their market. I sent out a few queries and almost immediately I had a wholesale order from one of the new contacts.

The thing that made the task so appealing is all the colored pens, washi tape and even charcoal pencils and watercolor paint that I used to organize my journal. Something about the artistic aspect made me so excited to scribble, draw, design and play; a simple to-do list turns into a fun hour of crafting and inspiration. I introduced washi tape into my journal and took it to another level. Washi tape is a decorative Japanese tape that has a magical power to make everything you use it on the most adorable thing in the world. I separated each section by using a different color of washi tape. Pages that I will go back to many times have washi tape along the edges to protect the paper from ripping or tearing; it also serves as a tab to easily see the section. Sometimes in the morning before I start my work, I sit down and leaf through my bullet journal just for the happiness of it. Who knew data crunching could be so full of craft supplies and happiness!?

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