One Month as a Bullet Journalist

Or maybe it's bullet journaler? The official Bullet Journal website calls them journalists though, and I like that. There's a video on that site that explains the basic set up.

I first heard about bullet journaling on Miss Zoot's blog. She's a super bullet journalist and has perfected the system to work for her. A quick look on Pinterest finds tons of boards and cool ideas for layouts. It's pretty intimidating and inspiring at the same time.

The idea for a bullet journal is that you put your lists in one place. No more floating pieces of paper with notes and to do lists. It's all in one notebook and you create an index and page numbers so you can find lists later. I used to use a Franklin Covey planner (still have it and it serves as my hard copy address book despite being so ginormous), but lately I'd been without a real planning system and relied on assorted lists, calendars and my memory (never a good thing to rely on!).

Also new shirt from my mama for my birthday!
The preferred notebook seems to be a Moleskine or something similar. I didn't buy a new notebook to get started. My mom had given me a beautiful spiral bound hard cover notebook with purple elephants that I decided to use. So far it's working fine, although it isn't as portable as a Moleskine and doesn't have the band or pocket to keep any loose papers. I started off using a "nice" pen but have since devolved to just using whatever regular ballpoint is close by.

I started trying to follow the system exactly - or as exactly as I could with a newbie's understanding. There were only a few days in October when I started, but I did the "calendar" list of days -- just W28 for Wednesday the 28th, etc. And I gave myself two lines for calendar items like appointments or date-specific tasks. After only four days I gave that up and switched back to my normal to do list. 

I use a half page to one page for each day and just list things that need to get done. Some items get repeated because they're really not daily tasks but "do sometime this week" kind of tasks. I also could make a separate "Weekly" list or "Longer Term" list, but I'm still finding my way and think I would lose a weekly list in the crush of daily pages.

I also started with the recommended box for a task, circle for an appointment labeling, then filling in the box or circle when the item is completed (or put an arrow in it if it's moved to another day). I LOVE crossing off things too much that the idea went by the way side and now I just have hyphens for each item and cross through as done. I might try again with the delineation, but for now I'm OK with appointments and to-do's being in the same list.

I also keep a separate pocket calendar for the month-at-a-glance type stuff. I don't have tasks in it, but that's where my appointments, visitors, etc. get written down. I carry it in my purse. I also keep a Google Calendar, which is something Shawn and I share (and have shared with family if they needed to know where we are -- I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law is looking at it daily). 

In addition to the day-to-day lists, I really like having a single place for all my lists and notes. Some of the lists I've made include:
  • Jane's birthday party, 
  • books I want to read, 
  • Christmas gift ideas (until I shifted that to an Excel file to do the math for me!), 
  • health tracking notes, 
  • Jane's classmates' names and their parents' names (as I've learned them -- how weird the school never gave us a class list? pretty weird), 
  • Thanksgiving meal planner, 
  • to crochet, 
  • wish list of things I'd like to buy, 
  • thank you notes needed to write, 
  • blog post ideas, etc. 
The index is helpful. I left about 5 pages for the index because I wasn't sure how much space I'd need. I'm on page 50 now and have used less than one page for the index (numbering starts after the index). I don't index the daily to-do lists of course. I did write a journal entry in the book on Jane's birthday that added a few pages (because while I over-packed for her plane travel I under-packed for me and had nothing to do for big chunks of the travel, especially when Jane had to use my Kindle because her tablet battery died).

I don't put my grocery or Target shopping lists in the book - mainly because I put those on a magnetic pad on the fridge and already have a system that's working to get what I need. I also REALLY don't have a desire to save those lists. But I see the value of ONE SPOT FOR ALL THE LISTS so maybe I'll change my mind later especially if I start training myself to ALWAYS have the notebook with me on my person.

When I was working full time I managed my to do list in a Word doc that I could print out, mark up and then update. I'd break up the list by projects and also kept a separate calendar for meetings/calls. I used my email inbox as a place for reminders, which is something I still do (right now it's full of shipping and purchase notifications because of all my Christmas shopping -- I'm almost done with my whole list and am faced with an s.t. of wrapping, but I'll probably spread that out across the month).

So - I recommend the bullet journal method if you like lists. It's worth a try anyway, and I'm liking it so far. I'm going to stick with my current notebook for now and maybe after I fill it up and/or fine tune my method some more I'll go for the preferred, smaller notebook.

Have you heard of bullet journaling? How do you keep yourself organized?


Melinda Loustalot said...

I found this blog post when I googled bullet journal. .I am thinking of using one for 2017. Do you still use yours? I was a Franklin devotee and still have all my old pages and binder from when I worked (before baby #3. .and that was 21 years ago. .) Anyways. .just thought I'd check in. .

Mari said...

Hi Melinda - I still use the bullet journal, although not as devotedly. I need to do an update post. I used to have a Franklin too -- loved it, but carrying around the big binder isn't practical for me with all the other stuff I cart around with a baby and preschooler. :) Thanks for reading!

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