I love my Bullet Journal! If you are a Pinterest browser like me, then you’ve probably seen many gorgeous journal pages. One quick search of #bujo will elicit a ton of images, designs, graphs and charts, calendars, and to do lists. I love my Bullet Journal because it is so many things to me. My bullet journal is my planner, my contact list, my post-its in a book form, my scrapbook, my calendar, and my diary. It can do whatever you need!
The basics are simple. Really. You can watch a video and read about the structure here on the bullet journal site.
If you don’t know, essentially you have the following “collections”:
- an index to organize your journal
- a future log for planning ahead, an outline
- a monthly log with a calendar (for events) and a list of tasks
- a daily log, a space to list tasks, notes, and events for the day
- Whatever doesn’t get done one day is transferred over to the next day; this is called “migration”
- You can also migrate things from your future log or monthly log to your daily log when it’s relevant
- customized logs/collections such as: food log, fitness tracker, shopping list, passwords, books to read, recommendations, gift list, home maintenance tracker, budgeting, etc.
Why do I recommend a bullet journal?
Other strategies didn’t work for me.
Ever since I was seven, I tried to keep a diary. I would write every day for 2 weeks, then stop. I have oodles of partially written in journals, travel diaries that were great for the first half of the trip, diaries where I pre-labeled pages over and over so I would be forced to fill in something for every day (which did not work), and tons of odds and ends that attempt to capture my life in words. I started so many journals. My bullet journals are the ONLY journals I have ever filled up completely. They’re the only journals I’ve ever written in consistently. Having a set amount of space for each day as in a traditional journal does not work for me. Some days I write 5 pages. Other days I write 2 sentences. Some weeks I write nothing. Some weeks I write every day. I love having an open-ended notebook where each day flows into the next because that gives me the freedom to write what I want. I also separate out my monthly pages from my writing. I have all of my monthly calendars, habit trackers, and collections outside of my diary-like pages. I like having a clearly defined place for both, and I also like that it’s all in the same journal. Some of these things I tried to keep in other formats – notes in my phone, loose sheets, etc. – or just in all separate notebooks. I love having everything all in one book. It’s enormously precious, and I’d cry if it got lost, but I pretty much guard it with my life and actually know where it is all the time unlike some other stuff.
What made me stick to it? I think it was a variety of things.
If you read about bullet journaling on the website, you’ll see the term “rapid logging” which encourages minimal writing. The purpose behind this is to make it as efficient as possible. I love writing long, though, so I write in full, long sentences, not bullets, when I’m reflecting. About half of my bullet journal is filled with just journal/diary entries. Honestly, it’s been pretty difficult to make time to write in my journal this fall. Teaching has taken over my brain. I try to think about other things and do other things, and sometimes I successfully can mentally set it aside, but other times…well, it’s just not easy. Writing for me is the way I can get things out of my brain. When I can sit down and write at length about how I feel, it releases the power those thoughts have over me. I feel like my brain has room to think again. Any anxiety in my chest releases. I also love having a time capsule of thoughts. What’s ironic is that often when I’m overloaded, I don’t write. I sit and I brood about everything. Writing is what releases me from the endless thought cycle, though.
When I’m overwhelmed, brain dumps are the best. I love just listing a million things to do; then I start checking them off. When I’m in a funk, I will literally write things down that I have just accomplished so that I can check them off. I will put quick wins on there: make bed, clear off coffee table, call mom, watch an episode on Netflix. Even if I don’t get to all the things on the list, it really helps.
I need To Do Lists and Calendars in my Life.
For work, I keep a daily checklist/to do list in my work planner. I do have a separate work planner and bullet journal. My bullet journal is for all things home, and my to do lists for work I make on the computer, print out, and tape into a journal where there are defined spaces for each day of the week. I know some people combine home and work, but I need them separate.
One thing that works well for me is that I have themes for different days for home and work. This does not actually mean I consistently do things on these days, but I keep the themes because they give me a picture of the goals of my week. They let me know what needs to happen. I can always swap out tasks and change things; freedom within structure is what works for me.
|Day||Work Theme||Home Theme|
|Monday||Lesson Plans/Team Meeting||Groceries|
|Tuesday||Creation of Lesson Ideas||Kitchen Clean (counters, cutting board…)|
|Wednesday||Grading and Feedback||Mail & Tidy Main Level|
|Thursday||Meetings/Paperwork/Inbox||Clean bedroom/bathroom level|
|Saturday||No work||Batch Cleaning (cycle through less frequent tasks)|
|Sunday||New To Do List for the coming week||Church, small group/book club, rest|
Many of my home tasks end up on my daily work planner in the evening slot. I do, however, keep a monthly goals list in my bullet journal. I find that this is as often as I need to replenish my home to do list. I write down things for the month, carry over whatever is necessary to a new month from the old month, and just check things off. I periodically look through my list to see if I need to schedule something. I try to write in my bullet journal at least once a week, and I like doing my habit tracker every day, so it’s not difficult to flip to my monthly list to check up on any goals I have. I’ve edited my monthly pages many times. I’ve tracked what I’m reading, watching, and listening to. I’ve set goals related to a Happiness Project. I’ve focused on habits I need to improve from month to month. I like that it’s flexible.
Habit Trackers helped me.
As I just mentioned, I try to use a habit tracker every day. Now…here’s the thing. I actually haven’t used my habit tracker consistently in months. I’ve used it every once in awhile, but this was a major shift for me in 2020 pandemic times. The past couple of years I’ve used my habit tracker religiously. I also tracked a lot of things:
- abs/strength exercises
- zumba/yoga or other gym class
- walking outdoors
- wake up on time (between 6:30-7:30)
- number of sweets
- morning routine flow (did I do it all in my preferred sequence?)
- bedtime routine flow (did I do it all in my preferred sequence/time?)
- 15 minute tidy up
- pick up clothes (I’m notoriously bad at doing this; 1 day of not doing it results in a week of piles)
- weekly tasks (laundry, kitchen clean, bathroom clean, mop/sweep/vacuum, trash/recycling, dust/other/mirrors)
- nagging task (I added this as a boost for myself when my list of ongoing nagging tasks became a page long)
- other sickness
- notes on how I was feeling (energy level, etc.)
I was loving tracking all the things all the time. At one point, I also totaled how many x’s I could achieve in a day and my goal was to get a certain number each day. That worked mostly, but then I would sometimes cheat my own system. Also, my days would either be 20 points or 2. I learned a lot about myself by tracking my habits over a few years, so I loved it. This year, though…well, as you can imagine some things became not as easy to do – no more gym classes. Some things I didn’t want to track. It felt less necessary. It was not giving me the same boost I desired. I cut myself some major slack. I tried narrowing it down to only my top 5 things, and that did work for a little while. Just in the past couple of weeks, I have gotten back into my journal and am more in the present mode. I had been catching up for so long – trying to write about past events, trying to catch ideas before I forgot things – that I couldn’t be present to track my daily life. Maybe that resonates with you: the constant thinking ahead and planning ahead while simultaneously trying to think about what you’ve done and if it was a good use of your time or the right choice. I find it actually does take energy to be in the present moment and in the workings of today. I am grateful to feel like I have that energy again right now. There are weekly habit trackers, monthly habit trackers, even ones people keep for a whole year on just one habit. I highly recommend them, but also – be flexible with yourself and get outer accountability if you need it.
I love lettering and excuses to be artsy and creative.
My bullet journal is my place to doodle and make art that’s just for me. It’s my place to jot a quote down that resonates with me and make it in pretty cursive. It’s my chance to use fun pens. I love testing out styles of lettering from Pinterest. It really makes me happy to create each journal and revel in the beauty of the organization and the nice details.
It’s completely customizable.
My bullet journal (I am sure!) is different from others’ bullet journals. Each one is a unique gem. I have had different lists in different journals. I’ve focused on different habits at different times. It’s so cool that I can just keep what I like and change what I don’t with each new journal. I have yet to have a journal last a whole year, so it’s about every 6-9 months that I’m changing it up slightly. It took me to my 3rd-4th bullet journal to really settle in what I like. I love that I know I can change any aspect of my journal whenever I want. Each new one is completely styled to my own liking.
What do you need to get started?
A journal and writing utensils. That’s it. I like having my ruler for straight lines, multiple colors for color coding, decorations, and seasonal themed colors. My favorite journal has grid paper because I like to have the lines there for making larger calendars and using the boxes as places to track my habits. I never would have chosen graph paper when I first started journaling, but the journal I have has very light grid lines. I also write quite small so I can fit my writing on the small lines. I tried blank pages, and I liked that for drawing purposes, but it took me way too long to make lines for my habit trackers and 2 page calendar spreads. I also ended up writing larger and less neatly. My first bullet journal was lined, but I felt like the lines were too large for me, and I didn’t like how whenever I drew vertical lines on top to make grids, the color of the ink was so different. Clearly, I am a big fan of customization and getting things the way I like it.
My bullet journal is my refuge, my accountability partner, my back up memory, my time capsule – it’s all there. Why not give it a try? If you already journal, I hope this gave you some ideas for your own bujo.
If you have any bullet journal tips for me, I would love to hear them!