My previous post on how I bullet journal is by far and away my most popular post ever, which is fitting since discovering the concept has had a huge impact on the productivity of my day to day life. But since the start of 2016 coincided with when I began a new Moleskine for my bullet journal, I decided it was a good time to reevaluate my approach. New year, new start, right?
My “old” approach to my bullet journal was very much task oriented, which fits the concept nicely. I wholly recommend that approach for someone who is just starting out with the bullet journal, as it was from there I was able to figure out how I wanted to continue customizing mine after I had the whole concept down. However, I found that I was copying out the same stuff too many times throughout the bullet journal because of how I had set up my forward planning monthly/weekly/daily pages, and I found myself getting frustrated with the repetition. I found myself wishing that there was some sort of way for me to build in more “journal” stuff into my bullet journal, to stoke some creativity amidst all of my task completing.
After lots of research and half completed layout sketches, I landed on an approach for my 2016 bullet journal. It consists of a happy medium between the goals and tasks aspects of a bullet journal and elements that allow for some reflecting, some creativity, and some deep thinking. Many thanks to Kim and Kara for their invaluable resources that helped spark so much creativity when I was finalizing how I wanted to lay mine out!
As you’ll see below, while some of my bullet journal approach has changed, my tools remain the same. I’m still using the same type of Moleskine (softcover with a dot grid layout) and my Staedtler Triplus fineliner pens. This is a winning combination I don’t see myself straying from anytime soon.
For those that are more video oriented than text, I’ve also done a video about my new bullet journal approach. The content in the video and in the rest of this post are the same, so feel free to just read or watch one if you don’t want to check out both.
How I Bullet Journal: My Approach in 2016
My bullet journal’s opening page has a quote from my favorite Dear Sugar column, “The Truth that Lives There.”
2016 Calendar and Key
I wrote out the 2016 calendar on the inside of my bullet journal’s first page, mainly because I like how it looks and I thought it was the best place to put it. You never know when you’ll need to look ahead in the year at a glance! I then put my key on the next page. I’m pretty much following the key I created for myself in my old bullet journal because that worked out well for me. It’s a lot of symbols, but I’m so used to using them that I can’t imagine not using them!
Table of Contents and Index
On the left page is my Table of Contents, where I make note of what I refer to as my “forward planning spreads.” As you can see, pages 6-17 of my bullet journal are where I have my “yearly spread,” or pages that encompass all of my goals/plans/intentions/etc for the year. Page 18 is where my January spread begin. The next line will be February, then March, and so on and so forth.
The Index is where I mark pages that I’l want to refer to after writing. Stuff like my 2016 calendar (pages 6-9), savings tracker (page 12), and my blog post ideas list (page 15) are all things I’m going to continuously refer to no matter where I am in my bullet journal. Those all go in the index. I’m not going to include weekly or daily calendars, though, because I won’t need to refer to those after that week or day has passed.
Forward Planning: 2016 Yearly Calendar
I’m a big proponent of incorporating forward planning into a bullet journal, for without it the concept just wouldn’t work for me. I need to keep track of what’s going on now and in the future! Here I have 2016 laid out by month, with plenty of space to make notes about upcoming events, birthdays, important dates, holidays, etc. I like to make notes of stuff in upcoming months here, and then when that month arrives I’ll “import” my notes from here and put it into the monthly calendar page I’ll create when the month begins.
Also, I do not advise writing in neon pens. That was a poor, poor mistake on my part. I returned the set I used on the pages below because MY EYES, MY EYES!
Forward Planning: 2016 Year of Intention
2016 is my year of intention, and I added this page to remind myself of that and to help keep me centered with my various intentions throughout the year. I wrote in January’s intention (live in the moment), but I haven’t written in the other months yet. I’ll probably write them in as I get to that month, because I recognize that some of these intentions may change between when I set them in January and when the month actually arrives.
Tracking: Savings and Books
I like keeping track of things in my bullet journal, as there’s something that’s very… real? about writing stuff down. Here we have my savings tracker, an idea that was totally inspired by Kara. I want to see how much I save in 2016 for my various savings goals, which is why none of the blocks are full yet — it’s too soon in 2016 for me to have been able to save anything!
As for my reading list, here I write down what titles I have checked out from my local library in the order I borrowed them. That way, I’ll know what book to read next on my Kindle without having to log into my library account to see which is next in my queue. I’ll probably also start adding in the dates the books are due on this page — probably on the far right side?
Tracking: Mileage and Blog Post Ideas
I want to become a more consistent runner, so I’m going to track how many miles I run throughout 2016. Obviously I haven’t made any headway with that yet, but I’m confident between my running apps and this manual tracker I’ll start logging miles soon!
I’m also keeping up my running list of blog post ideas, which is a must for any blogger. Half of the ideas I write down on this list may not materialize into a blog post, but I like to make note of them anyway. Inspiration comes in the strangest of places.
Tracking: Video Ideas, Pitches, and Income
On the left, I track what ideas I have for my YouTube channel. I keep going back and forth on the direction I want my channel to take, but writing out my ideas helps me figure out the content I want to make.
On the right, I have it broken up into two parts: pitches and income. At the top, I plan to track whatever outlets I pitch content to. At the bottom, I plan to track whatever meager income I make from my blog and/or freelancing. This is really just so that things will be easier for me come tax time.
Forward Planning: Monthly Calendar
And now we get into my January content! Depending on what page the month begins on (left or right), I start it with either the monthly calendar spread or my list of tasks. Because January began on the left side of the page, I started with the full calendar spread.
Tracking: Monthly Tasks and Habits
I keep a running list of things I need to do each month on my monthly tasks page. It comprises of overarching stuff like confirm a return was received and processed, make a doctor’s appointment, etc. Nothing that’s super timely, but needs to be taken care of at some point that month.
My habits page is something that I saw time and time again on Pinterest and I LOVED it. Here I make note of the stuff I want to strive to do daily, like get 10K steps, read, do yoga, etc. Rather than write all of that down every day as my daily tasks, I condensed it into this habits tracker. Now I can make note of what I do and don’t do daily, and I think this grid format will be really informative in clearly demonstrating how much progress I’m actually making.
Tracking: Intentions and Memories
Like I said earlier, 2016 is my Year of Intention. January is “Live in the Moment” so I made a page where I can make notes on how living in the moment goes during the month. As for memories, I thought having a page for me to make notes throughout the month on anything memorable would be a good way for me to keep a better record of what goes on in my day to day, rather than just focusing on the tasks.
Tracking: Gratitude and Daily Tasks
I kept a Tumblr in 2012 and made note every day of what I was grateful for. I’d like to do something like that again, and this gratitude page on the left is my attempt at that.
Since January began on a Friday, I went right in and created this one page to keep track of my daily tasks on January 1 and 2. I’ve since filled in this page since taking the picture, and I like how this roomier approach to my daily tasks gives me some room to write bigger for more important stuff or to be a little artsy with some of my more noteworthy events (like the fact that it’s day one of the new year!)
Forward Planning: Weekly Calendar
Finally, we have my weekly forward planning pages. Since there are only seven days in the week and evenly breaking up two pages gives me eight sections, I plan on having the first “block” be a sort of title or notes section for my weekly calendar. In this instance, I went with the quote “A falling leaf returns to the roots.” It’s a Chinese idiom that means all expats go home, which is fitting because during that week I went home to visit my family!
And there you have it! That’s my approach to my bullet journal in 2016. I anticipate my January pages to be filled with notes about my vacation, meaning more stuff on the memories/gratitude side than on the tasks side. Once I come back from vacation, I’m sure it’ll swing more on the tasks side as I get back to ~real life~. My current bullet journal setup has it so that I can easily do one or the other or both, and that’s what I love most about it.
While I’m really pleased with how I’m approaching my bullet journal in 2016, I’m always on the lookout for other different and creative ways to serve as inspiration. I’m still pinning all sorts of cool bullet journal things on Pinterest. After all, the beauty of the bullet journal concept is that it can be whatever you want it to be!