The Post To (Maybe?) End All Bullet Journal Posts.

Preface: I wrote this entry (and re-wrote it a few times) at my personal blog: misszoot.com. Then it was republished at Rocket City Mom. Since then, I have launched this website and simply brought this post over as-it-was. I have been updating it with more current information soon for the last several years, but I’m leaving the “old” stuff too so you can see how my methods have changed.

BULLET JOURNAL V/S DAILY PLANNER

I’m a pen-and-paper list maker. I write grocery lists and To-Do lists. I itemize meeting agendas and project task sheets. I make lists of chores for the day and goals for the month. If there is a pen (a good pen, I do have standards) and a piece of paper nearby, I’m probably jotting down some sort of list. And no matter how tech savvy I am, the need to write things down – to A) remember them and B) organize them – always remains. So, when I discovered a video introducing the Bullet Journal guide to living? I was hooked.

The bullet journal is a great system for list-makers. It’s a simple concept. You start with a journal of some sort, and you write all of your lists inside that journal with an index guiding you to them. That’s the basic idea. BUT – it’s not going to replace the Daily Planner style organizer IF you have a lot of stuff you schedule during the day. Example – I’m not entirely sure I could have relied on this SOLELY when I was producing musicals and plays at E’s high school. I had several things lined up at certain times on each day, weeks in advance, and I’m not sure I could have managed that with this system. Basically, if you schedule more than 3 things during your day more than 3 days a week, then the “daily” spots to manage those type of things are not going to suffice with this system. If you schedule multiple daily meetings weeks in advance, you’ll still need some sort of calendar (digital or analog) that gives you MORE space allocated for a day weeks in advance.

BUT – if you’re schedule isn’t concrete. If you’re more of a “these things need to get done today” and not a “I have a meeting next Thursday at 10am and at 2pm” type of person, the Bullet Journal should be all you need. This is in part to the Monthly pages and daily pages throughout.

The video is very useful for the general concept, but since I started I’ve solidified my technique with a few changes along the way.

Disclaimer: I like color. I like using different color pens and washi tape and stickers to just make my pages fun. This is OBVIOUSLY not mandatory. I just thought I should issue that disclaimer before I post pictures of my 2014 bullet journal.

CHOOSING YOUR BULLET JOURNAL

The original video author recommended the Moleskine Hardcover Ruled. I like the “ruled” version but they also have unlined and grid/graph versions of the same notebook. I actually started with something cheaper until I settled into a system and then I switched to this one. Here is why I used this one:

  • Size: It’s big enough to be useful, but small enough to fit in my purse.
  • Durability: The hard cover stands up to being thrown around the heavy-weight pages can handle inks and tabs.
  • Wrap: The elastic band that wraps around the book keeps the pages from getting fold when in my purse.
  • Bookmark: To mark the current day’s page.
  • Fun: It comes in several fun colors.
  • Popularity: This journal will probably always be available for purchase so as the years go on I can store them on a bookshelf as they’re uniform in size and I’ll always have record of years past.

UPDATE: I fell in love with the dotted paper so I now use the Leuchtturm A5 Dotted Hardcover I haven’t used a Moleskine since 2015 I believe.

bulletjournal_index

INDEX

This is the key to the functionality of your bullet journal. Since I started a new journal for 2014 (now that I have a good system I used the excuse to start a new one) my index is representative of the pages I carried over from my last journal. Some pages indexed in the last one didn’t get carried over. For example, in my previous journal I had soccer schedules and the kid’s training plans for their races. As seasons and races passed by, those pages are no longer needed. The daily pages won’t be indexed as I won’t need to reference them past that current day or week.

BONUS UPDATE FROM 2014: I realized that the natural “part” of a moleskine actually falls AFTER the first page. Meaning the index page on the “first” page became problematic as the page tended to resist staying open to that first page.

Problematic Index Page, Flips Forward
Problematic Index Page

Also, I filled up the Index page before I filled up the bullet journal. Writing on the back of the page is an okay solution except my favorite pens sometimes bleed a little through so I ended up having to tape a white piece of paper on the back side to continue my Index.

This "solution" has been bugging me for a month now.
This “solution” has been bugging me for a month now.

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MONTHLY PAGE

In the video above, he uses the list style monthly page like you see on the right page in the photo above. However, a lot of people I’ve talked to think this is the biggest drawback of this system, not being able to see the month at a glance in the typical grid format. I have made PDF pages for those people and have taped mine opposed of my list page. I have adapted to the list-month view fine, but it won’t hurt to have both at the ready. You can choose one or both for yourself.

bulletjournals_future

FUTURE PLANNING

One of the most common questions I get asked is: “How do I plan for the future?” – because the instructional video doesn’t really help you but for the current month. I used to keep a page marked “future dates” and just write them down and cross them off when I created that monthly page. But now! I use my printables (seen on my sidebar) and clip them to the back instead! I don’t always actually use that page when I create the monthly page because it’s often sloppy but it’s at least a guide and a way to quickly add something coming up a few months from now. I usually start the upcoming month about halfway through the current month, so I have two “live” months at a time and then 10 monthly pages pinned to the back! Boom. The entire year is ready for planning.

IMG_0190

DAILY PAGE

Every day I work on a basic To Do page for that day. Sometimes it has a grocery list, other days it has a task list. Sometimes I use one page for an entire week (unlike the guy in the instructional video) simply because I don’t necessarily have that busy of a life. These pages will create most of the filler for the journal, but they won’t be indexed. As you create a new page (either for the next day, or the next week) you make sure to carry over the items on the previous page that you didn’t complete.

WORK TASKS

Depending on your job, you can list your work tasks on your daily page. However, my job is more project based. So, I create project pages and create task lists on those pages. So, on my Daily page I’ll create a “Work” section that references those pages until those projects are complete. Each daily page is like a mini-index to help me manage my work and personal To Do lists.

OTHER PAGES I HAVE FOUND USEFUL

  • Gift Ideas: I hate it when I think of a great gift idea for someone months before Christmas or their birthday. Now I have a page to keep those ideas.
  • Bucket List: I don’t have a “bucket list” exactly – but I do have things I want to do “someday” and it’s nice to periodically look at that list.
  • Movies I Want to See: I’ll read an article or hear an NPR report about a movie that sounds good but I only have time to rent movies a few times a month. This way, I can consult my list on when to look them up.
  • Birthdays/Anniversaries: We celebrate birthdays of all of our local family and I keep a page of those dates so that I’ll remember to put them on the monthly page when I create it.
  • Wish Lists: Sometimes we have extra money and I know there are things I want/need but I can never remember them at that moment. Now I do!

BONUS UPDATE FROM 2014:

My biggest problem putting my first full Moleskin on the shelf was that – well – it was boring. I used it more as a daily planner than anything, meaning that the kids would find it terribly uninteresting if they were to go through it later. When I went through my Dad’s collection of similar journals, the cool thing was finding newspaper articles, or cards, or drawings he taped throughout. So! I decided to do the same thing. If the kids do anything small that I like, I’m adding it to the current bullet journal with a note regarding it’s origins.

photo 2

photo 3

And then, on a similar vein, I taped in the front of a card I had been holding on to because I loved it A) because it was pretty and B) because it had a nice memory attached to it.

photo 4

SO! I’m now using my bullet journal in a little bit more of a “scrapbook” type of manner. I put ticket stubs or things like that in there. When Donnie did his Ironman I posted the map we used to hunt him down all day. Some of the stuff will be useful some day, but most of it is just to induce memories or to document events. I’ve even handed the bullet journal over to the kids on some days and said, “DRAW SOMETHING.” Now? My bullet journal volumes go on the shelf every 2-3 months as TRUE representation of our lives. I love them.

FINAL TIPS

I like to put tabs on my Bullet Journal. Target had some nice tabs in their scrapbooking section and they hold up quite well. There are some pages (monthly page and future dates page) that I consult often. On my last journal the soccer schedule was tabbed. This is obviously not necessarily with the index, but I do it anyway.

I also keep a small makeup pouch in my purse that holds my pens/whiteout/scissors and washi tape. (I wrote here about the pens I use, and included a picture of the pouch.) Again – this is not necessary if you don’t turn your bullet journal into an art project like I do, but if you like using those fun things, makeup pouches are great containers.

BONUS UPDATE FROM 2016:

I started doing Weekly Spreads this year – instead of daily pages – like this:

I also started a new way of marking “categories” on pages with Washi pages. I explain in in detail here. It looks like this:

And finally – I’ve finished several volumes since I last updated this page – here is my collection now:

IN CONCLUSION

All-in-all this system has proven almost life-changing. Calendars and daily planners never seemed to help me manage the random lists I would make throughout my life. But notebooks for lists never seemed to help me manage my calendar. I ended up with scatter use of several tools whereas now I seem to rely on only one. It goes with me everywhere and I look at it regularly. Some days it’s just a scratch pad for groceries, other days it’s helping me budget our Christmas money. I also like the idea of these journals accumulating and forming a type of archive of our life. The one I just “finished” (it wasn’t quite full, but I wanted to start a new one for the new year) chronicled the kid’s soccer season and their first running challenges. It had meeting notes and grocery lists. It’s going to be an interesting way to look back on our lives as it holds everything together in one place. I have summarized my method the last couple of years with the #PlanDocumentCreate hashtag because it really simplifies what I use this system for in my life.


    Social(ly Awkward):

23 thoughts on “The Post To (Maybe?) End All Bullet Journal Posts.

  • January 6, 2014 at 8:40 am
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    You’ve inspired me, I’m going to give it a try! Starting with a cheap book is a great idea, I’ve already messed up twice.

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    • June 1, 2014 at 9:10 am
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      Its ok to mess up, its your book!!

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  • January 6, 2014 at 7:44 pm
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    I am loving your Bullet Journal posts and I think this is something that will really work for me, right now I have a notebook that I use as a to-do-list but there is no rhyme or reason for how I find stuff once its been written down. I don’t use a diary anymore because I find it easier to keep dates in my smart phone but I hate using my phone to write lists. I do have one question for you regarding your index and page numbers, where do you write your page numbers on the page? So for example you have Future dates listed at say no. 3 on your index, do you use that as a page number? Or more specifically, where you create pages for your work projects, do you have a section that you use to create these and then number those pages accordingly? I can’t quite figure out where in my journal I should put things, Index first obviously, then the first monthly page, then skip a section to put the other things in my index…. I have a half used A5 moleskin that I am using as a temporary bullet journal to try and work out a system that I like and then I will be brave and crack open the new one I bought and try transferring it! My OCD tendancies are making it hard for me to commit to writing in it until I figure out what works but thats a bit silly!

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  • January 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm
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    I use this system too and it is a great ‘random list on everything’ replacer. I have been writing a quick observation if the day in my extra space. Great to note when a caugh starts etc. the other list I use is a ‘seldom done chore’ list. It used to be if I could not rennet when I did XYZ it was time but this helps keep better track of the last time I cleaned the fridge. (Sorry this got long)

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  • January 6, 2014 at 8:14 pm
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    Typos abound… Thumb typing while nursing.
    -OF the day
    -rennet = REMEMBER

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    • January 7, 2014 at 5:42 am
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      HA! I’m wearing gloves this morning and typing and it has been DISASTROUS. πŸ™‚

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  • January 7, 2014 at 10:05 am
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    You have inspired me to new heights of record keeping…

    I have a weekly planner that I love and use daily for work and social stuff. I’ve been using the same version (from B&N) since grad school, so clearly it works for me. Then for Christmas I got the Runner’s Training Diary, so now I’m using that as well to log all my workouts in more detail. I’m in love with that, too.

    And now….today I grabbed a blank journal out of a drawer, made an index page, and it’s where allllll my lists are going to live. Because I love me a good list, but rarely actually write them down as I know I will lose them. So instead they swim around in my brain constantly and that’s just no fun at all. Especially when I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about what I already own that I can pack for my honeymoon and what I will need to buy. (Fact: Honeymoon is over 10 months away. I have issues.)

    THANK YOU!!!!! πŸ™‚

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  • January 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm
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    I was poking around my office’s supply cabinet yesterday and found this: http://www.amazon.com/Blueline-NotePro-Notebook-Inches-A9C-81/dp/B000V808LC. The first page is an Index that is color-coded to match the self-adhesive tabs that come with it. Every page has a place to put the date and the page number. It’s like a Bullet Journal Starter Kit! πŸ™‚ I like it because it has a hard cover but it lies flat. The only drawback is that it’s too big to carry in a small purse, so I can’t take it with me all the time (I’ve learned I need to keep my purse small or else it just gets filled up with junk). Just thought I would share…

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  • January 10, 2014 at 9:22 am
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    I am new to bullet journaling too – at least in the official sense. I’ve been a notebook keeper for years. When I was a professional, I was known for my famous to-do lists. (General, monthly, weekly and daily.) I kept binders, with tabs of all the projects I was working on. Now that I’ve been a SAHM for the last 6+ years, I’ve missed the sort of paper planning I was used to at work.

    Ah-ha! With a little tweaking my regular notebook of lists (already a Moleskine) is becoming a bullet journal. I am so excited!

    Also, have I mentioned, I love your blog! You are a gal after my own heart on a lot of things.

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  • January 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm
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    Ah, thanks for these great tips and the awesome calendar PDFs! Your washi tape & stickers are adorable.

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  • January 16, 2014 at 2:47 pm
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    How can you start next month while in midst of a current one? How do you know how many pages to leave blank? I need to know. My OCD goes ballistic on this. πŸ™

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    • January 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm
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      Well, I’ll create the page (I just created the Feb page yesterday) and yes – it is in the middle of my January pages right now, but I usually fit several days on one page so it’s not too off-putting. I don’t leave any blank. I think that the Feb page I tab but the daily pages I don’t, can let my brain be fooled into thinking it’s not embedded in the daily pages πŸ™‚

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  • February 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm
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    Very nice. I have started using one too. But, I had to start over already because I made a mistake in my first one and I am so stupid OCD when it comes to crap like that that I felt the need to start over fresh.

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  • March 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm
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    Can I ask more questions? Do you put all of your months together, like a group or chapter? Or do your months get interrupted with other lists – like gifts, movies, vacation, whatever …. I guess that’s what the index is for? If you’re at the very beginning of a month, but then need to start a grouping, how many pages do you leave blank?

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    • March 7, 2014 at 4:52 am
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      I separate the Monthly pages with everything in between (hence the index) and start it at the next blank page about a week or so out from the start of the month. Basically, when I start adding things on my “future dates” page that are on the next month? It’s time to start that month’s page. That’s also why I use the tabs, it helps with that so I can get to that month easily. But the “future dates” page is where I write down things that will go on upcoming calendar pages.

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      • March 8, 2014 at 6:23 pm
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        Thanks! You must get tired of answering questions. Ha. I just started mine today! It makes me somewhat batty to be starting on a date that’s not the 1st of the month, but carpe diem and all that.

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        • March 10, 2014 at 7:28 am
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          DUDE. I lurve talking about bullet journals. I LOVE BULLET JOURNAL QUESTIONS. πŸ™‚ It worked out GREAT that New Year’s happened a few months after I got the hang of my own system, gave me a GREAT excuse to start over πŸ™‚

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  • March 28, 2014 at 1:19 pm
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    The Planned Dates page is pure genius. I just started my Bullet Journal, and immediately began running into the issue of “how to I keep track of future events?”. This solution is so obvious and smooth I can’t believe it didn’t occur to me. The other list pages you mentioned are finding their way into my journal as well. Thanks for sharing the great ideas!

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  • April 9, 2014 at 8:01 am
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    I just downloaded the monthly pages from your brand-spanking-new Etsy shop. THANK YOU! One quick question: I was just rereading this post, and am admiring your tabs. Do you make them out of Washi tape or did you find these tabs online somewhere? THANKS AGAIN for being my inspiration for Bullet Journaling! FYI – not sure if you’ve seen it but there is also a Google+ community for Bullet Journal fans: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/109117749342179166498

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  • April 12, 2014 at 11:37 am
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    Hello Kim, I have really enjoyed your bullet posts. I have a question for you — have you filled up one of your bullet journal notebooks and transitioned to a new one — if so, would it be possible to describe the transition process? Really interested in your insights. Thanks again for your bullet journal posts!

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  • June 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm
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    I’m wondering what you do with things like bucket lists once a journal is full. Do you transfer the whole list over to the new journal? Just start a new list for new additions? Somehow reference/index back to the original list? Something else?

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    • June 3, 2016 at 11:44 am
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      I do transfer them if I think I’ll need to mark/edit them (like my “To Read” lists) but if I don’t – if it’s something I may only mark/edit once a year – I make a note on my next index page (REMINDER: Bucket List Volume 3, page 47) or something like that. Does that make sense?

      Reply
      • June 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm
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        Oh, that does make sense! I can see that working. Thanks!

        Reply

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