My favorite tips and tricks after 3 months with the bullet journal.

My favorite tips and tricks after 3 months with the bullet journal.

A few months ago I took the plunge with the bullet journal, finally. I’m loving it, and this is why: my bullet journal holds the exact same information I’ve been tracking on legal pads and sheets of loose-leaf paper for years, but all in one place, plus an index. I should have made the switch a long time ago.

I learned a lot in my first week with the bullet journal, especially that this is something you have to learn by doing.

I kept mine super-simple at the beginning. It’s still relatively simple, but as I’ve gotten comfortable with the basics, I’ve branched out a little and tweaked the system to meet my own needs.

bullet journal with coffee and pens horizontal

The gear: 

For me, the right tools matter. I’m still using and loving my Leuchtturm 1917 (dotted, in navy). My favorite pen is the Pilot Precise V5. I also have and happily use my Staedtler fineliners (especially in grey, which I can’t find online but are at my local Target) and the Uniball Signo 207.

A few signifiers that are working for me: 

bullet journal daily list

The daily log is hands-down the thing I use the most in the journal. I use a handful of signifiers on a daily basis to keep everything organized.

• a dot designates a task, and I cross it through when the task is completed (or turn it into an arrow if I’m passing it to the next day)
• a line designates something to remember, but doesn’t require action (like a note about who’s driving carpool)
• an empty triangle is for an appointment, and I fill it in when it’s completed
• a star designates something crucial to get done
• a heart is for something I want to remember. This one’s my favorite! I use these for when someone loses a tooth, or we have an especially fun dinner hour, or a friend dropped by. I’ve started using these when we travel to keep track of what we did on our trip—this alone makes me wish I started bullet journaling years ago.

bullet journal close ups

A few things I love keeping in my journal:

When I started, I kept to the future log, monthly log, and daily log, and began adding the “extras” slowly.

Now I include something in my journal if I want to have it easily available at all times. If I only need the information at my desk or in my home it doesn’t need to be in my journal.

For me that looks like:

• kids’ baseball schedules—because I want easy reference to these, from anywhere
• a few more collections, including movies I want to watch, podcast episodes I loved, and a simple list of books I’ve read
• my Summer Reading Guide prep lists
• notes from meetings and conferences (if I suspect they’ll be worth keeping)
• literary matchmaking notes for What Should I Read Next
• the occasional weekly log

bullet journal close ups-2

About that weekly layout (which I mostly use for blog/podcast planning): lots of you have asked in comments and over on instagram what this layout looks like. Prepare to be underwhelmed because it couldn’t be simpler: I just make a list of the posts I have in mind for each day of the week on one side of the page, and their corresponding tasks on the right side of the page. (Those notes at the top of the page were post ideas I was considering bringing to life that week.)

This layout is simple, but as a visual planner it’s so helpful to capture a week’s worth of prospective content in one place. I used to do this on a legal pad, but it makes so much more sense to keep it here. (For weekly layouts that are more complex and beautiful than mine, check out these ideas.)

A few accessories I’ve come to love: 

washi tape. I mark my collections by taking a 1 inch piece of tape and folding it over the edge of the page so I can find them easily in my journal. However, lately there have been two pages I was constantly searching for and the washi tape wasn’t prominent enough, so I tried …

book darts and they’re working beautifully to highlight pages I’m using all the time at the moment (Books I Read, and Summer Reading Guide prep). The dart makes it super simple to find what I’m looking for in a snap, and when Summer Reading Guide prep is no longer something I’m turning to daily, I’ll remove the dart.

bullet journal close ups-3
post-it notes. It drives me crazy to have twenty piddly tasks on my daily log for two-minute tasks like emails and phone calls: it distracts me from the truly essential, important, and memorable. If I see a lot of these piling up for the day I grab a post-it, stick it next to the daily log, and jot those pesky tasks there. When the list is complete I trash the post-it.

I’m comfortable enough with my journal now that I agreed to teach a session at my local library’s How-To Festival on May 14. (If you’re in Louisville, my session is at noon.) Help me make sure I’m hitting all the basics! If you’re new to bullet journaling, what do you wish you knew before you started? If you’re thinking about starting, what would you like to know?

I’d love to hear about your experience with the bullet journal in comments. 

P.S. Read about my first week with the bullet journal here. Find out more about planning for visual types here. And if you need a primer on how to get started bullet journaling, this is my favorite resource.

P.P.S. You can now purchase my Bullet Journaling for Book Lovers webinar and a Reading Journal Kit!

My favorite tips and tricks after 3 months with the bullet journal

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  1. HW says:

    A bullet journal is NOT the same thing as a Dear-Diary journal is it? I keep getting the two confused… A bullet journal does everything else a dear-diary journal does not and it doesn’t make sense to combine the two right? It seems a bullet journal is about everyday life and keeping on task (thus you take it everywhere) but I can’t imagine someone wanting to take their dear-diary everywhere. Does that sound about right?
    The reason why I haven’t started a bullet journal is I’m afraid of dirtying it up.. I don’t know why I regard it as this super ‘precious’ and ‘perfect’ thing…

    • Anne says:

      Yes I do! And I don’t see YouTube in the cards but I DID do a bullet journal-styled reading journal video for the physical MMD journal.

  2. Wendy says:

    A question for you, Anne (and anyone else who may want to chime in) regarding how you record the special things you want to remember and mark with a heart. Do you then transfer those anywhere else, or just leave them where they are in your journal? I don’t worry about the tasks and other items, but I wonder if I would ever look back through and remember the special memories? How do you experienced bullet-journalers do this? 😉

    • Anne says:

      It depends on what they are for. Sometimes I transfer them onto the monthly page (I’d do this with a special visit or a lost tooth), sometimes I leave them where they are (like for a week-long vacation), maybe eventually I’ll make a “moments to remember” page for the really special stuff.

    • Kim says:

      I transfer all these precious memories into a separate book of memories for each of my kids. I think when my little ones are older I will like looking back at the memories of the times when they were wee.

  3. Jean says:

    I bought a nice planner binder with a zipper at local thrift store for $2. Then bought a student planner for 2016-2017 from a local dollar store for $1. (they had regular planners for $1 but the student planners work best for me) I have a hole puncher that adjusts so I could punch the holes in the planner to fit my binder. Then added pages I printed out (school calendar, birthdays/anniversaries, savings challenge, reading journal) This is a work in progress and so far I really like it. I can open it up and jot down quick notes, ideas, appointments, memories, lists because the student planner has note areas for each month and the binder has an area to hold my pens. Love this much better than using an electronic system that I tried. I’m more of a pen/pencil kinda lady. I have been reading the comments and I have found I may try to add some of the suggestions. This article got me started so my journal/planner is still in its beginning stage. Only been using a few weeks. So thank you Anne for the inspiration.

  4. Sherry says:

    I just started reading about bojo this weekend, and am intrigued by many of the features, but a bit perplexed at the idea of having to dig back though months of entires to find the things to remember or ongoing things that cross months and books. I’m thinking of using a 5×8 loose leaf binder so I can transfer notes to an archives section of things to track for auditors, etc and using dividers for a section of collections, numbered separately. I currently try to do in electronic files, but I want to try handwritten notes so that I am not interrupted by constant email requests that hinder my progress. I could also insert things from other sources. Have you seen any discussion of a loose leaf approach? I’m the director of finance and supply chain at a healthcare system who works 10-12 hour days and likes the rapid journaling concept.

    • Anne says:

      I haven’t seen anything outlining a loose leaf approach, but I’m sure you can’t be the only one who thinks it’s a good idea. If you try it let us know how it works for you?

    • Jen in Oz says:

      I have been using a Bujo in a Traveller’s Notebook style of layout and every week (or when I remember) I scan my pages as images into OneNote. You could do the same with Evernote I think. Then I use the tagging feature in OneNote to write index type entries beside the image. When I want to find an old note I look through the tag system and search my scanned images by section or notebook to find the note I am looking for. I don’t rewrite the whole handwritten note, just add a tag.

      For instance I have a tag for each child and for things like school subjects or doctor’s visits. I can bring up a child’s tag and have it all in one easy list. Or I can search tags by Doctor or Maths.

      Jen in Oz

  5. Jessica says:

    I love the idea of using hearts to designate special memories. My daughter is a month old and this seems like an easy way to jot down memories that can later be transferred to a photo album/baby book . Also I’m intrigued by Sherry’s comment about a loose leaf option because I’m wondering what to do when my notebook fills up but I still want to reference pages from this one. Has anyone started their second journal? What did you do with the first one and its contents?

    • Melissa says:

      I actually copied everything by hand. I KNOW. But I was in front of the TV anyway, and it really gave me a chance to consider whether the information was still relevant (and neaten up the lists, which had gotten messy).

  6. I’m having a terrible time doing the bullet journal. I want to try it, I just can’t wrap my head around it. But I think what’s blocking me is having this huge forever written list of all the stuff I have to do. . . even tiny 2-minute tasks!! I’d be more likely to use it with post-it notes, though. This is the first time I’ve seen that by the way. When I was a public school teacher working 60+ hours a week, I had a weekly schedule and filled it with post-its when I had time to get tasks done–emails, grading, paper signed etc–I’d put my to-do list on the post-its and space them out on my schedule–seing when I’d get them done. Post it notes can be faced in batches (depending on the time you have) and they can be moved to another day when you don’t have time. . .I see a bullet list and want to have a heart attack sometimes.

  7. Heather says:

    Thank you for keeping it simple! There are many examples of Bujos that are beautiful, but I don’t have time to make it fancy. This is a great example of why I love it- simple and easy to modify for one’s needs!

  8. Barbara Poe says:

    I began my BUJO in January. I love it! I had little spiral notebooks and Post-its all over the place. No more. A couple of things I’ve incorporated are a habit tracker (10,000 steps, 0-1 serving of sweets, retainers/floss, stretching, etc., plus a line for “something fun with my husband – a weekly goal), and a few pages set aside to write “One Good Thing” each day. I’m also tracking expenses and composing a packing list for a 3-month vacation to Australia/NZ later this year. The flexibility is phenomenal. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. I found Staedtler pens at Michaels and used a 50% off coupon. Love ’em.

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