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.
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:
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.
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
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.
• 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.