(Personalized) Bullet Journaling

You may have heard about bullet journaling, the craze taking over social media (Instagram and Pintrest mostly). Buzzfeed writes about it a lot, and a slew of my friends and colleagues swear by it. 

So What Is It?

Bullet journaling is simply a system of organizing thoughts and ideas. It's a to-do list, planner, and diary combined, very helpful for anyone who has a lot of ideas, normally scribbles them on Post-Its, loses said Post-Its, and gets frustrated (just me? okay.). 

A basic bullet journal contains four elements: an index page to organize the entire journal, a month-at-a-glance page, the daily log pages, and a year-at-a-glance page. The point is to have one place to write down everything from "pick up dry cleaning" to "I think I need a new job". You can use it to track habits, map ideas, and schedule self-care. It can be particularly helpful to anyone trying to improve their mental health, for example. 

"Brains Are For Having Ideas, Not For Keeping Them"

Back in May, after hearing the above quote on the BookRiot podcast (Rebecca Schinsky said it, paraphrasing David Allen), I evaluated my desk full of Post-Its and scribbled notepads and decided to start bullet journaling. I didn't want to buy any of the fancy notebooks, so instead I grabbed a composition notebook (the ones from Staples for $1) from my supply closet and got to work. 

I put the index page at the front and then did the year-at-a-glance and then did the month of May at-a-glance. I promptly never looked at the year page again, so I doubt I'll keep that moving forward. I used the month page a little, but have tweaked it a bit. 


My average page looks like the one to the right(fictionalized for the privacy of my clients). I usually break it into who I need to call, who I need to email, and what I need to write on those days, as those are my three main activities. 

Symbols: dots are "to do", if they're "x"d out, they're finished. Arrows mean I'm moving it until later for some reason. Dashes are thoughts. 


At the end of each month, I make a summary page (fictionalized to the left) detailing significant moments of the month. This provides me a space to also reflect upon the past month, and adjust anything I need to mentally or behaviorally going forward. 

The first day of the next month, I go back through the previous month and get all the "orphan jots", the things I wrote down but didn't do, and make that the first entry of the month. I usually can prioritize them better in this space, a few weeks or days removed from panic, and can plan my upcoming month a little better.

I sometimes use color, I sometimes use markers, I rarely look at it on weekends. I still use post-its for thoughts which may not necessitate a bullet, but need to be put somewhere, but they're all in one place, instead of scattered around my world. 

I'm completely intimidated by the fancy stuff I see on Pintrest or Instagram, and usually ignore the artsy ones and cling to the practical ones. I've changed up the format each month, tracking different things, using different ideas I have gleaned from others and trying it on for size. Some of them have worked for me and some of them haven't. 

I truly believe the real gift of this model is two fold: the index page, and the flexibility. Both have been life savers as I adapt it into my life. 

So Is It Right For You?

I've turned commenting on for this post so that you can share your stories or queries below. I hope this works for you and I'd love to hear how, or what you use instead.