One of the photos I included yesterday was a shot of one of my first daily pages.
I was basically just making “to do” lists and decorating them with washi tape and stickers. And those were good days when I did that. A lot of days I just sloppily scratched lists not recognizing the therapeutic effect of hand-lettering and lines. Eventually, I did discover how meditative the lettering and lining of pages could be. I do still work full time and have 3 kids (one at college) and hold two volunteer board positions and train for the periodic marathon, so I don’t have the time to make each day a work of art, but I did start playing around with it more.
And while I enjoyed this, I was also starting to discover the “weekly” spreads were useful but I didn’t want to have one weekly spread and then seven daily spreads so I started playing around with combining days to conserve space. This proved to be useful too since I tend to not accomplish all I need to so I could just look at the unchecked stuff on the SAME PAGE instead of re-writing it on the NEW page every day. I swear I wrote “Paint Eliah’s Bathroom” everyday for 3 weeks a couple of years ago.
But this wasn’t working out for me much either – so about 6 months or so ago or so I switched to the 2-page weekly spread. It took a lot to get over ghosting, I usually only rarely use the backs of pages as I don’t like seeing the other writing under it. But with good planning, I can avoid it a little bit. The 2-page weekly spread allows me to see my week at a glance which is super-useful when scheduling things, but it also still prevents me from re-writing tasks that carry over.
This has especially proven to be a useful method for me in that it allows me to easily ply 2-3 weeks ahead which I’ve been finding I need more of lately. That’s a harder thing to do when you’re dealing with daily pages because if you have a busy Tuesday coming up and the individual things scheduled for that day are too much for your monthly page, you don’t want to have build a Tuesday page for 9 days from now when you haven’t built all of the pages in between. Once I start to get days too hectic for the monthly page (which we have a lot of when the monthly page is full of soccer games) I just quickly build the weekly spread for that week but I usually do leave a few blank pages in between for meeting notes or memory collection in the meantime.
How has your daily method changed since you started?
I’m two weeks away from starting another volume (#11!) in my bullet journal life – so it’s time to start transferring important information over to the next volume. I only transfer pages that I’ll need to reference regularly over the next three-four months. I’m not transferring my kid’s summer schedule because school has started, but I am transferring my “Books I’ve Read” list as I want to carry them out throughout the year. I don’t need several of my project pages for work, but I do need some notes from some recent meetings. You get the point!
In order to not get too overwhelmed – especially if I need to transfer a lot of data – I start about two weeks out by going through the index pages of my current volume and marking all of the pages I’ll move over. Sometimes there are pages I’ll reference again – but not often. Examples would be: Bucket List type pages. Those pages I’ll write at the bottom of the index pages on every volume. “Bucket List: Volume 3, page 72.” There are some “in between” pages that I might not ever need again, but most of those I know approximately when I made them so I can find them by searching through a few volumes. I recently was looking for notes on a past meeting and it only took me about 15 minutes to go through 5 volumes until I found it. No big deal! That’s why I like this system.
So this week I’ve start transferring information over to the new journal. Since I started two weeks ahead, I only have to do a few at a time. That way, when it’s time to start the new volume, I can put this one on the shelf and not have to carry TWO around for a few weeks, which I’ve done before. Here is my new “run log” page in my new journal.
I even took time to tape a coloring card onto the page opposite the run log. Since most of the races I do are done with friends, I figured this was an appropriate addition to this page.
How do you move stuff over to a new journal? Or do you even bother?
School started this week in my world. Soccer starts next week. On top of a full-time job and volunteer obligations, I found that my life got away from me last Autumn and we barely had time to breathe. To avoid that chaos and then anxiety it gives me, I’m trying something new this year. I’m scheduling actual down time. I’m blocking out entire evenings IN ADVANCE so that if something comes up, I have a reminder in my calendar about how important it is to just have some nights…simply at home. We’re trying to sell our house so sometimes those nights might be catching up on house work. Or maybe I’ll just veg out with the kids and watch our favorite superhero television. I’ll definitely cook a real meal on those nights since we do quick things like quesadillas or cereal on the other nights. It doesn’t matter what I do, what matters is that I am AT HOME and that I’m free to use that time how I best see fit.
Ideally I’d have two nights a week where I can block out “HOME” on the calendar, but I want to at least mandate one night a week. We don’t have soccer practice schedules yet, so I don’t know if that will be a possibility, but I really hope I can make it a priority. I think the “Something Every Night” scheduling causes me more problems than most – or else no one else talks about it. But those weeks where I work all day and then do soccer/meetings every night really take a toll on my mental health and with two kids who have their own mental health needs, it’s important I make sure to put my oxygen mask on first, so to speak.
Do you have to schedule downtime to remind yourself how important it is? Or are you one of those superheroes that can Go! Go! Go! every night and not suffer ill side effects?
I’ve been using the bullet journal system for almost 3 years now and I’m putting an average of about 3 months into each volume. I like starting a new volume at the first of the month, so there are some volumes with blank pages at the end and one with a LOT of blank pages because I really wanted to start a new volume on January 1st of the new year.
In a perfect world? I get within 10 pages of finishing one volume before starting another, but that rarely (never?) happens. I do spend too much time thinking about it, though. I’m constantly trying to decide which is worse: Start a new volume with too many extra pages at the end of the last one, or NOT HAVING ENOUGH PAGES TO FINISH A MONTH OUT. I have no idea why I’m compulsive about that, but the idea of being on – let’s say – August 20th and being on the LAST PAGE of my volume makes me TERRIFIED.
So, I always err on the side of caution and go with “too many blank pages in the previous volume” as the scenario I can handle the most.
But! This volume and this month is going to be weird and maybe hitting that perfect sweet spot. I have about 90 pages left in the volume (there are approx 250 pages in a Leuchtturm1917) and we have a month and a half left to go. Previously I averaged 3 months a volume and that’s about 120 pages a month, so logic would say: NO WAY! Not Enough Room! START A NEW VOLUME!
HOWEVER, This is the volume where I switched from doing daily pages to 2-page weekly spreads, so I’m not using as many pages per month. So! I really think 90 pages is enough to get me through August. 4 months in a volume would be about 80 pages a month and I think I can do that and not run out. And at this point, I feel like that’s a better option than putting this volume on the shelf with 60+ blank pages at the end.
SO! As I gear up to start my August spread (I usually start in the middle of the previous month) I take a gamble and bank on this new 2-page weekly spread method giving me plenty of room to finish out August in this volume. Which would actually be perfect because August is my Bullet Journal Birthday month! September would be the start of YEAR FOUR of the bullet journal. [Sidenote: How I deal with planning future dates/months can be seen here.]
Let’s do it.
What about you? How many months do you fit in a volume? Do you have the compulsive need to start a new volume on the first day of the month like I do or can you be casual and just start when you finish the previous volume?
I feel like the ONLY person in the world some days who doesn’t subscribe to some sort of “Chore Every Day” method of keeping the house clean. I’ve tried, I follow several “Clean Mama” types on Instagram, I’ve studied the Fly Lady, I totally logically support all of their ideas/suggestions/tips/calendars.
But I just can’t do it. And this weekend I figured out why.
It’s because I like the feeling of that ONE DAY where every thing is perfect. We had a birthday dinner Sunday and for that dinner everything was freshly cleaned: Floors, bathrooms, shelves…it was all perfect for that one event and it felt GREAT. I think the daily upkeep method deprives me of that ON THIS DAY IT IS ALL PERFECT! feeling and that’s why I don’t do it.
But I have too, because our house is on the market.
So, this week? I’m trying again. The house was perfect on Sunday so I’m trying to keep up with some sort of “daily chore” schedule that will keep the house “show ready” constantly. We are doing showings “appointment only” since we have pets that have to be taken care of, so I always have time to do some last minute pick up, but this will keep me from having to scrub showers or mop floors.
Hopefully. If I can even stick to it. Which I probably won’t.
Do you use your bullet journal to manage any of your domestic responsibilities?
This is one of my first bullet journal volumes when I was still trying to experiment with tabs.
I knew I wanted to tab monthly pages and kinda figured I should tab pages I flip to a lot, so from early on I put the monthly tabs on top and the content tabs on the side.
But I hadn’t decided what type of tabs I liked the best (obviously) and I think I was overestimating how many times I would need content pages, using WAY too many tabs.
This is what my current volume looks like.
If you notice, there are no tabs on the side, only the monthly tabs along the top.
I decided I like the K&Company Fabric Tabs the best, although it’s really more about the feel of them than anything. When I first started bullet journaling you could find them at Target, but now I have to get them online and I’m super-paranoid that I’m the only one who uses them so they’ll quit making them. I’ve started cutting them in half to conserve them as opposed to buying stock piles of them.
(Although every time I look at my last pack I think: BUY STOCK PILES.)
I don’t have anything tabbed on the side on the current volume. The only thing I would tab I think would be game schedules for the kids as that is something I might consult regularly. Although, I also put those on my monthly pages so I’m not sure I would need to tab it. I guess we’ll see in the fall. I do categorize things with washi tape flags which you can kinda see here.
That gives a help when I’m hunting down specific pages. Categories are marked by specific colors of tape, in specific locations on the page. The one you see most is my “therapy” category because I’m working through a grief program right now that has homework and I keep my homework in my bullet journal. But I also mark work pages and pages for different volunteer organizations I’m part of. I don’t need to tab those type of things as I don’t flip to them regularly, but I do like to have them marked visually and on the index page.
So I guess I’ve become a tabbing minimalist. Months only for now. What about you? Do you tab at all?
I’ve seen variations of category indexing before but have never needed it for my bullet journal. However, last night I decided with some new challenges in my life, to do a similar indexing myself. I have three categories of obligations that sometimes get their own pages in terms of planning or information storage. I have my job and my two volunteer positions. I decided with this volume of my bullet journal to do a category index on the back page of my bullet journal delineating those three things. Next to each category I taped a piece of wash tape.
And then, when I have a page from that category – like last night’s speech notes to earn the new position in our track club – I mark the edge of that page with the same washi tape in the same location as on the category index page. That is the key: THE SAME TAPE AND SAME LOCATION.
And then…when you look at the book closed you can easily see your category pages for quick flipping. Now, is this as easy to locate as tabbing a page? No. Will I still put the details of the page on my regular index? Yes. But I don’t like to tab pages unless I consult them daily and I don’t like flipping to my index constantly. So this seems like a good in-between type way to make some pages easier to reference.
It’s about to be January 1st and – while I won’t have filled up my last Leuchtturm yet – I’m still going to start a new one for the new year. The one I start for the new year will be volume 10 as I’ve been doing this for over two years now and I typically have not used a notebook for more than 3 months. Christmas this year is compacted into our office due to some renovations so our stockings are now hung on a bookshelf framing my bullet journals beautifully, don’t you think?
With a new notebook though, comes the transfer of pages/information from the current one that you still need/want in the new one. I used to just put these type of pages in on page 1, page 2, page 3, etc. However, these are also often pages I tab and I find it harder to grab a tab when they’re all one page after another. It also just feels heavy having frequently checked pages all on the front of the journal. SO! I started something new with my last volume…I spread out where I placed those migrated pages. The problem was how to mark them in the index. Obviously I’ll probably use the in-between pages as daily pages, so with my last volume I just listed out these important pages on the index in order and counted on not needing to index anything in between.
Except that I wanted to index stuff in between.
I just forgetting to only use those “in-between” pages as daily pages, or sometimes I just wanted to index something new near it’s daily page. Something would come up and I wanted an indexable page – like a project at work. And I didn’t want to put it at the end of all of the migrated pages because then it wasn’t near the daily page where I first created it. Part of the joy of the bullet journal system is that, when you make an indexable page it happens near the daily page where you first created it so the timeline tends to fit and it’s nice to have those newly needed index pages near the daily pages because chances are very good you’ll be referencing them together. My current volume has a super-sloppy index page because I kept forgetting to only put daily pages between migrated pages and I had to index pages out of order and arrows had to be drawn and it was TERRIBLE.
SO! I’m managing it a little better this time so I don’t end up with a sloppy index page. I’m using the BACK of the LAST index page that the Leuchtturm1917 gives you and I’m just listing out the migrated pages as I create them. This way I have them indexed, but not “permanently”. And then, once I make it past the last migrated page on my PERMANENT index page, I’ll tape a picture or a coloring page or a sticker over this to cover it up. IT WILL BE LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED.
Do you do something similar? Or do you not have these issues in your new volumes?
A few people recently asked me…I’m thinking about starting bullet journaling, but what are the minimum requirements?
I probably make bullet journals look INSANE with my bag of pens and my customized folio and my washi tape and stickers. But y’all? You don’t need ANY of that.
All you need is a blank journal and a writing utensil.
I don’t suggest you start with a Moleskine Hardcover Ruled [Update: I now use the Leuchtturm A5 Dotted Hardcover instead of a Moleskine.] as that journal right there is $18 a pop. I did my first month+ with a $5 journal from Target just to A) Make sure I liked it and B) Get the hang of the basic system.
Once you have your journal and your writing utensil? Watch this video.
Then get going! Just use that video as a guideline. Other than the checkboxes and the index, I don’t use hardly any of his recommendations. When I watch the video now I laugh because he would probably HATE MY BULLET JOURNALS. But that’s the nice thing about this system, you can modify as you go. I fill up a notebook every 3’ish months so I get a clean slate to apply any new or different methods. And every volume so far is different. I change systems constantly to suit my needs, but that’s what I love about this system. It can easily change with you because you’re only framework is a blank notebook.
But seriously. That’s all you need to get started. Don’t be intimidated by my obnoxious personalization of the method nor my compulsion to cover EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD WITH SOMETHING PRETTY AND COLORFUL! Your bullet journal can be just as wonderful sans washi tape and zendoodles. I promise you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.