I love the idea of journaling. Spending an hour every morning writing about my life and dreams in my own gorgeous handwriting or art journaling in a book held together by love and luck are dreams of mine, but my reality is very different. Basically, I’m a little more get-to-the-point in my own journaling style. Instead of poetry and prose, I have always stuck to bullet-points and idea-jotting. It’s served me well.
A few months ago, when I was spiraling back into this want to have a beautiful, vibrant art journaling habit, I ran across Bullet Journals on Pinterest and my brain exploded with happiness. I was enamored by the easy system of tracking daily activities and tasks with the openness of allowing for your own “spreads” or going nuts with artsy doodles and gel pens.
It all looked really familiar to me, and I soon realized why. Basically, I’ve kept bullet-style journals most of my life in the form of planners, calendars, and the Five-Star notebooks that litter my studio. But the wonderful system of the Bullet Journal took my own style and organized the hell out of it, which just made me giddy with excitement.
Because even as I wear my Apple Watch and make my home smart, this tech girl needs to put her pen to paper when it comes to what I need to be doing on any given day, and how I record ideas and thoughts. I have to have this analog component to my life, and the structure of the Bullet Journal (even though the structure is totally open to your own creative expression) helps me get pen to paper, and stay really organized, too.
If you’d like an intro to this system, check out the Bullet Journal website for a serious overview of all of it’s analog, organized magic. Here, I’ll be sharing how I use my own.
HOW I USE MY BULLET JOURNAL
After finding all the BuJo awesomeness, I put it into practice for myself at the beginning of the year. I’ve enjoyed the system almost as much as I love scrolling Pinterest for inspiration on more spreads and I’ve found it helpful for helping me stay a little more organized and on top of the most important things going on in my life. Also, it’s helped me create a more solid morning routine, which was a struggle for me after moving into our new house.
My Bullet Journal has become part of my ideal day, as I’ve worked it into my morning routine, and it stays with me throughout the day. I begin by getting up every morning and heading to the kitchen counter to begin my day by getting priorities onto paper.
Sometimes at night, when I’m struggling to turn off my brain and go to sleep, going ahead and getting all the tasks down for the next day has proven to be just the ticket to “get it all out” so that I can decompress and sleep. Either way, I focus on getting the most important things out of my head and onto paper, so I can keep my mind on what I’m doing instead of what I should be doing. Hello, sanity. Using it as a way to capture more reflective thoughts is just the icing on top.
Now, if you’ve gone on the Bullet Journal hunt, there’s no doubt that you got swept away in all the things. Ditto. But I’ve been able to reign in my habit to just a few key spreads that keep me engaged but not overwhelmed. Here are the spreads that I use:
MONTHLY GOAL TRACKING
At the beginning of each month, I create a one-page graph that will allow me to track completion of things that I think are important in my daily life, like being fully hydrated, meditating, and going for a walk. This little monthly overview helps me track – but also inspires me – to focus on the things that I want to do in my daily life. At any point during the month, I can see what I’ve been slacking on, or what I’ve truly integrated into my daily routine. It’s a great way for me to see if I’m making time to do what’s important to me.
DAILY GRATITUDE PROMPTS
At the same time that I create my Monthly Tracker, I also set aside a page for Daily Gratitude. It’s just a one-page spread where I can write down at least three things every day that I am grateful for. It’s not news that expressing gratitude is a good practice, and my Bullet Journal helps me get it done.
WEEKLY BRAIN DUMPS
Every Sunday evening or Monday morning I start my week by creating a large task list of everything that needs to get done that week. It’s everything from client projects to business development, and even things around the house. There’s no rhyme to it, It’s just a fat brain dump of everything that I know needs to get done, pulled from my head and also aggregated from our project management system. I try not to get too specific but get down the overall tasks that need to be completed. Off to the side, I create a little column for things that need to be delegated, too, so it’s easy to bring those up in my Monday morning meeting with the team.
DAILY SCHEDULE AND TASKS
Then, every day I create a daily task list, integrating my meetings from my iCal with items from the Weekly List, pulling incomplete items from previous days, and anything that may have popped up that needs to get accomplished. I will occasionally jot down notes through my day on this list too, little reminders or cool quotes that I’ve come across. It’s a great space to capture the essence of any day and to wrap my head around what needs to get done.
TAROT CARD OF THE DAY
If I can take it woo for a second, I use my Bullet Journal as the place that I record my daily tarot card pull. I jot down what I pulled and what it means to me, and I ponder the card throughout the day. It makes me think on happiness or anxiety or being calm or tempering fear.
I suckered out and got a Leuchtturm notebook. Definitely the most I’ve ever spent on a notebook, but this is good quality stuff. Hefty, sturdy, and stays open nicely, too – so none of that awkwardness of holding it open while you’re looking back and forth from your iPhone calendar to your notebook to jot down your meetings for the day. It also has some pages set aside at the beginning for a table of contents, which just rocks my world. Could I get away with a simpler notebook, sure, but this baby is with me every day, so investing in a sturdier option has never been something I’ve regretted.
I use the American Crafts Precision pen. I discovered this pen worked well with the Leuchtturm after the gel pens I bought with it were a smeary flop. These were leftover from some scrapbooking days, so I refilled my stock and starting bulletin away. My preference is the .08 size, but I like the variety pack because sometimes I want to go thinner.
For some added pizzazz, because with all my to-the-point needs I am still a creative at heart, I like to use a gold Sharpie for headers. Nothing crazy, though I’m certainly inspired to be; I like to keep it simple. But I totally invite you to trick this out with a bedazzler and washy tape, if you so choose. NOTE: A quick jot with a Sharpie does not bleed through the Leuchtturm pages. Score!
WHEN I DO AND DO NOT USE MY BULLET JOURNAL
As useful as this system is for helping me, it has not replaced every notebook that I own. I still have a journal for moments that need some more long-winded traditional journaling to go down, and I still have a sprinkling of Five Star notebooks in my studio for taking notes during client meetings and brainstorming ideas.
My Bullet Journal has, however, completely replaced my planner. As most of us creatives are, I’ve been addicted to planners my whole life, and have had a hard time finding one that really suits my needs. However, since the Bullet Journal is completely dictated by my own needs, it has taken the place of the planner and serves me well.
I still keep a tediously-kept digital calendar, but I use my journal to help me grasp the day-to-day, taking me out of the big picture (which can be really overwhelming), and getting me down to the things that need immediate attention: today’s meetings and the 3-5 tasks that most need to be completed.
And there you have it! That’s my habit—the way I use old-school pen-and-paper to help me accomplish daily, weekly, and monthly goals using the Bullet Journal system. If you’re brain just did a happy dance, then grab up a notebook and get to bulleting. See what you can accomplish, too.
If you liked this post, be sure to check out:
- Our Being Boss episode with Katie Dalebout on the transformative power of journaling
- Caitlin Brehm uses Tarot as a journaling tool
- I got Kathleen to jump onboard the Bullet Journal train!