I first came across the concept of a bullet journal when Amber shared how she bullet journals. Between watching the bullet journal video and reading Amber’s post, I became totally hooked. Like, I can’t even remember the last time a new-to-me concept grabbed hold of me and commanded my attention so strongly. That kind of hooked.
I’ve been bullet journaling for one month now, and let me tell you, how I bullet journal has changed my life. I can’t imagine not bullet journaling, now. Just can’t.
At the heart of the Bullet Journal is a method called “Rapid Logging”. Rapid Logging allows you to quickly capture and parse all the different types of data we’re trying to digest on a daily basis. This technique provides insights that can help you identify what’s important and weed out the things that aren’t. Figuring that out will help focus your time and energy much more effectively. It’s the difference between being busy and being productive.
Why Bullet Journal?
Till I started bullet journaling, I’d been using my Plum Paper Designs planner. Now, I still love that planner, and stand by my recommendation for it. However, I’d started to struggle with being able to take that planner with me everywhere I went since it was rather bulky. I even struggled bringing it to work, but that’s because my bag wasn’t big enough to store that planner along with my work laptop. I also was starting to be frustrated with the seven categories I had selected in customizing the planner. Turns out the reality of my life smack in the middle of 2015 was not the same as I had imagined when I was ordering the planner at the end of 2014!
I’ve also always been intrigued by the concept of creating my own planner. I mean, as close as Plum Paper Designs got, I still never really found one that 100 percent met my needs. That meant I fell in love with bullet journaling from the very start. I also did lots of research on different ways to customize my bullet journal, which I’ve curated via Pinterest:
What Type of Notebook is Best for a Bullet Journal?
I use a softcover Moleskine for my bullet journal. Mine is 5×8 1/4 inches (13×21 cm), which easily fits into my various purses (even when I’m taking along my work laptop!). There’s a bit of a debate in the bullet journaling community about Moleskine vs Leuchtturm 1917, but I went with Moleskine for the following reasons:
- It’s available at Target, which meant I was able to start bullet journaling the very night I decided to rather than have to wait for an Amazon order. (I’m impatient. Clearly.)
- Moleskines lay flat no matter what page is open.
- I love the ribbon that marks my place, the elastic band that holds the journal shut when I close it, and the expandable pocket on the back cover. It’s just a really nice notebook.
- I’ve always wanted a Moleskine but never had one. So, now I get to have one.
My Moleskine has a dot grid layout. I chose a dot grid layout over lined or a traditional grid because I felt it was the easiest format for me to customize my bullet journal. I can still write in straight lines, but also include neat calendars, lists, etc. After using my dot grid Moleskine, I can’t imagine myself choosing another type of layout for my bullet journal.
I use Staedtler fine tip felt tip marker pens to write in my bullet journal, in case anyone’s wondering.
How I Bullet Journal
I stick pretty closely with how Ryder Carroll lays out the bullet journal “template,” plus a few modifications for my own ease of use. I’ve laid out my method with images and text below, and I’ve also made a video too in case some prefer video over a blog post.
Creating a Key
Like most bullet journals, mine starts with a key. My most used key is the box I use to list my tasks, the triangle for work, and the little person for meetings. That sentence is quite telling about the state of my life right now, actually…
Maintaining an Index/Table of Contents
I’ve also got an index, or table of contents. Anything I’ll want to refer to after writing, I mark here. Example: I have a list of blog post ideas in my bullet journal. I’m going to want to refer to that page again and again, so I marked it in my index. But my lists of tasks for Thursday, May 28? I’m not going to refer to that once May 28 is over, so that doesn’t go in my index.
Logging Daily Tasks/Events/Notes
Each day, I mark the date in my bullet journal. Then I start listing items for that day. This includes tasks, meetings, stuff for work, what I spent, events, that sort of stuff. During the day, if I come across a memorable quote or want to jot down some notes, I’ll add those in, too.
When the day is over, I’ll check stuff off my list. There are three ways I can check something off: with a checkmark, to indicate the task is complete; with an arrow, to indicate the task is getting moved to tomorrow; or with a strikethrough line, to indicate the task is no longer needed.
I’m always finding inspiration at the most random times for random things. In my bullet journal, I have running lists that I add to every time I think of something worth adding. These lists, of course, are logged in my index/table of contents so I can go back to them easily every time I need to update them.
Using Calendars to Forward Plan
One of the major downsides of the bullet journal “template” on the website is that there’s no real way to forward plan. My workaround for that is, well, to include calendars so I can forward plan!
I have a yearlong lookahead type of calendar, where I mark down important dates. When I get to that particular month, I’ll have a two-page spread that acts as a calendar for that month. I’ll transfer those dates to that monthlong calendar. Then, for each week, I’ll use a page to act as my calendar for that week. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on most days, so this is the best way I can keep track of everything. This way, I’m able to think about the short term and long term future, and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
I also number all of my pages by hand. This is so that I can keep track of what pages I need to refer back to, and log them in my index accordingly.
What I Love about How I Bullet Journal
The beauty of my bullet journal is that I can make it anything I want it to be. Yes, I’ve got my daily list of tasks/events/notes, plus my various calendars. But I’m also able to keep all of my notes and lists in one place. Previously, I was jotting them where I could in my old planner or on random bits of scrap paper that I would inevitably lose. Now, I’ve got everything in one place. Better yet, I’ve got everything organized in one place.
Plus, I’m getting stuff done now. I’m becoming more efficient with my time and realistic with what I can and cannot accomplish within the scope of 24 hours. I’m able to prioritize and use my time wisely, and reevaluate what I’ve tasked myself with if it doesn’t get done. I’m procrastinating less (because who wants to move tasks forward when they can be done today?) and am beginning to feel like every day can be a productive, and satisfying, day.
For those who are curious about the world of bullet journaling, I wholeheartedly recommend this method. For those that have bullet journaled before, or currently do, how do you bullet journal?