getting organised: bullet journaling

With 2018 right around the corner, many of us use this time to reflect on our achievements and come up with a plan of action to make the next year even better.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about bullet journals.

What is a Bullet Journal
A bullet journal is a way to organise your life.  It is completely customisable to your needs, allowing you to write down to-do lists, goals, reflections, doodles, and much more.  I like to describe it as putting your brain on paper.  In today’s digital age, there’s something very therapeutic about writing things down rather than typing them.  Your bullet journal can be practical, a work of art, or something in between.

Here’s a brief video that describes the system:

Getting Started
You’ll need four basic items in order to start bullet journaling:

  • Notebook: I absolutely love  notebooks.  I normally get a dotted, 249 page notebook in A5 size.  I find that it’s small enough to fit in my bag, but big enough that I have enough space to be creative and everything is still legible.  The pages are also numbered for quick indexing.  LEUCHTTURM also has a  with an eight page bullet journal guide, but I would suggest saving your money and referencing the video above instead.
  • Pens: my preference is .  I get fineliners in different thicknesses in order to be able to highlight or add titles to my pages, but if you wanted to get just one pen for your journal, that is absolutely fine.
  • : this allows you to make straight lines on your journal and keep it looking neat.  Any ruler will do.
  • : useful for getting rid of those mistakes (you might be able to see mine in the pictures).

You can also add optional items, depending on how creative you want to be:

  • : allows you to add subtle colours to your journal.  I used to use a lot of colour in my journal, but now use mostly pens and colours as part of my bullet journal legend.
  • Colouring Fineliners: I really like these from  because they come with a handy case and are easy to store.  This will give your journal more vibrant colours.

Customising Your Journal
Everyone has a different style.  As you can see from the video above, this is going to be the basic style of journaling.  I change my format as I go along, sometimes from month to month, but there are a few things that I like to include always:

  • A full year calendar, which allows me to reference dates quickly.  I always put this on page 1 of my bullet journal.
  • A list of goals that I want to accomplish in the year.
  • A “brain dump” which is just ideas or things that I see that I want to look into further.  I put any and all random things in there.
  • A reading list for the year.  I always add to this as I go along.
  • A two page, 12 month spread so that I can add events that are coming up later in the year.

This is always my starting set up for the year.  I tweak my set up every month as things come up.  The most important thing is to continue to index everything in order to be able to reference it quickly.

For my monthly spreads, I include a calendar for the month with priorities, a daily schedule and goals that need to be completed in that month.  Here is an unfinished example from last year (this was done freehand, so the lines aren’t as crisp as they would be with a ruler):

I would block out my schedule in the middle section.  You can use blocks like I have, or you can colour code your schedule in order to make it easier and not have to worry about writing space.

Goals and to-do for the month are listed on the right side.

The left side is for important or multi-day events.

I like this format because it lets me block out each day according to a schedule.  Before I used this method, I would find that I would double book by mistake on some days.  It’s important to remember to migrate events from your two page, 12 month spread as well so that nothing is missed.

Other Ideas
Bullet journaling can be really therapeutic, so if you are setting one up for personal use, here are some ideas to make it more of a diary than just an appointment tracker:

  • A gratuity log to note something you are thankful for each day or evening.
  • A habit tracker to help you start good habits or cut bad ones.
  • A page for monthly memories.  I also use this opportunity to practice my freehand and play with different fonts, banners and arrows.

Bullet Journal for Work
If you’re like me, and normally spend more time at work than at home, a bullet journal can be really great for professional use.  I have tried several iterations, including keeping one combined journal for work and home, separate journals for work and home, and finally giving up and having a journal for work only.  Although I intend to keep a journal primarily for personal use in 2018, here are some tips for adapting your journal to work life:

  • Monthly calendars can be kept as Monday to Friday, or whatever your normal work days are.  The extra space on the bottom can be used to keep track of items on a weekly deadline, ideas and upcoming events for the next month, deadlines, etc.
  • Keep track of any work training, meeting notes, seminar notes, changes in policy or procedures, and be sure to index them for easy reference.

Keeping a bullet journal helps you avoid finding the random notepad you used to write notes at your last meeting or desperately searching for a recap on an important policy change.  Having organised notes in one place can also help on-board a new team member quickly.

Final Points
Remember that the best part about bullet journaling is that you can customise it to make it as simple or as elaborate as you want.  As you head into 2018, think about not only what you want to get out of journaling, but how much time you want to spend on it each day.  Recap is also important.  Set aside time each evening to review the day, migrate tasks, and set up your daily log for the next morning.  Daily recap allows you to see just how much you’ve accomplished in a day, a week, a month, and for the entire year, which in our fast paced lives, is often easy to miss.

1 thought on “getting organised: bullet journaling

  1. I’ve been a long-time fan of the technique. Despite being a techy, I’ve always preferred keeping notes organized in an old-fashioned way, rather than digitally. Well summarized 🙂

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