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The Bullet Journal Breakdown

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The Bullet Journal Breakdown

bullet journaling

I’m a pen-and-paper list maker. I write grocery lists and To-Do lists. I itemize meeting agendas and project task sheets. I make lists of chores for the day and goals for the month. If there is a pen (a good pen, I do have standards) and a piece of paper nearby, I’m probably jotting down some sort of list. And no matter how tech savvy I am, the need to write things down – to A) remember them and B) organize them – always remains. So, when I discovered a video introducing the Bullet Journal guide to living? I was hooked.

The bullet journal is a great system for list-makers. It’s a simple concept. You start with a journal of some sort, and you write all of your lists inside that journal with an index guiding you to them. That’s the basic idea. But, to allow it to function as a calendar/planner too – you have a Monthly page and daily pages throughout. The video is very useful for the general concept, but since I started I’ve solidified my technique with a few changes along the way.

Disclaimer: I like color. I like using different color pens and washi tape and stickers to just make my pages fun. This is OBVIOUSLY not mandatory. I just thought I should issue that disclaimer before I post pictures of my bullet journal.

Choosing Your Bullet Journal

The original video author recommended the Classic Moleskine. I like the “ruled” version but they also have unlined and grid/graph versions of the same notebook. I actually started with something cheaper until I settled into a system and then I switched to this one. Here is why:

  • Size: It’s big enough to be useful, but small enough to fit in my purse.
  • Durability: The hard cover stands up to being thrown around the heavy-weight pages can handle inks and tabs.
  • Wrap: The elastic band that wraps around the book keeps the pages from getting fold when in my purse.
  • Bookmark: To mark the current day’s page.
  • Fun: It comes in several fun colors.
  • Popularity: This journal will probably always be available for purchase so as the years go on I can store them on a bookshelf as they’re uniform in size and I’ll always have record of years past.

bulletjournal_index


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Index

This is the key to the functionality of your bullet journal. Since I started a new journal for the upcoming year (now that I have a good system I used the excuse to start a new one) my index is representative of the pages I carried over from my last journal. Some pages indexed in the last one didn’t get carried over. For example, in my previous journal I had soccer schedules and the kid’s training plans for their races. As seasons and races passed by, those pages are no longer needed. The daily pages won’t be indexed as I won’t need to reference them past that current day or week.

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Monthly Page

In the video above, he uses the list style monthly page like you see on the right page in the photo above. However, a lot of people I’ve talked to think this is the biggest drawback of this system, not being able to see the month at a glance in the typical grid format. I have made PDF pages for those people and have taped mine opposed of my list page. I have adapted to the list-month view fine, but it won’t hurt to have both at the ready. You can choose one or both for yourself.

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Future Dates Page

One of the first additions I made to the original method was to create a “Future Dates” page. Since this is not a yearly calendar, it’s hard to know what to do when something comes up for your calendar on a month you’re not currently tracking. I now list those on the Future Dates page so that when I create the next month’s page, I can quickly see what needs to be put on it. Once I have 2-3 dates reserved already for the next month, I create that monthly page. I’ll probably create the February page(s) around the middle of January and will be working off two monthly pages for awhile. However, during our less-busy summer this will probably not be necessary.

bulletjournal_daily

Daily Page

Every day I work on a basic To Do page for that day. Sometimes it has a grocery list, other days it has a task list. Sometimes I use one page for an entire week (unlike the guy in the instructional video) simply because I don’t necessarily have that busy of a life. These pages will create most of the filler for the journal, but they won’t be indexed. As you create a new page (either for the next day, or the next week) you make sure to carry over the items on the previous page that you didn’t complete.

See Also

Work Tasks

Depending on your job, you can list your work tasks on your daily page. However, my job is more project based. So, I create project pages and create task lists on those pages. So, on my Daily page I’ll create a “Work” section that references those pages until those projects are complete. Each daily page is like a mini-index to help me manage my work and personal To Do lists.


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OTHER PAGES I HAVE FOUND USEFUL
  • Gift Ideas: I hate it when I think of a great gift idea for someone months before Christmas or their birthday. Now I have a page to keep those ideas.
  • Bucket List: I don’t have a “bucket list” exactly – but I do have things I want to do “someday” and it’s nice to periodically look at that list.
  • Movies I Want to See: I’ll read an article or hear an NPR report about a movie that sounds good but I only have time to rent movies a few times a month. This way, I can consult my list on when to look them up.
  • Birthdays/Anniversaries: We celebrate birthdays of all of our local family and I keep a page of those dates so that I’ll remember to put them on the monthly page when I create it.
  • Wish Lists: Sometimes we have extra money and I know there are things I want/need but I can never remember them at that moment. Now I do!

Final Tips

I like to put tabs on my Bullet Journal. Target had some nice tabs in their scrapbooking section and they hold up quite well. There are some pages (monthly page and future dates page) that I consult often. On my last journal the soccer schedule was tabbed. This is obviously not necessarily with the index, but I do it anyway.

I also keep a small makeup pouch in my purse that holds my pens/whiteout/scissors and washi tape. Again – this is not necessary if you don’t turn your bullet journal into an art project like I do, but if you like using those fun things, makeup pouches are great containers.

In Conclusion

All-in-all this system has proven almost life-changing. Calendars and daily planners never seemed to help me manage the random lists I would make throughout my life. But notebooks for lists never seemed to help me manage my calendar. I ended up with scatter use of several tools whereas now I seem to rely on only one. It goes with me everywhere and I look at it regularly. Some days it’s just a scratch pad for groceries, other days it’s helping me budget our Christmas money. I also like the idea of these journals accumulating and forming a type of archive of our life. The one I just “finished” (it wasn’t quite full, but I wanted to start a new one for the new year) chronicled the kid’s soccer season and their first running challenges. It had meeting notes and grocery lists. It’s going to be an interesting way to look back on our lives as it holds everything together in one place.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since its original publication date, this post quickly became THE #1 post on our site. Everyone jumped on the bullet journal train so much so that Kim started a separate website dedicated exclusively to talking about her love of this organizing tool and there is an Instagram account too! So go on, read what started it all and then check out these other sites to get the latest info.


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View Comments (47)
  • I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this. I keep lists and seem to work so much more efficiently when I have a to do list. This year I’ll have two moleskines in my purse – one for my novel ideas and now one for my bullet journal!

  • I read this post. I was flashed. This feeling that you’ve discovered something great. I thought about it. I even dreamt about it. And right before breakfast today, I went to buy a journal for it. This might change my life.

    • I came across the Bullet Journal idea on Lifehacker last night and when I googled it this morning (after, like Birgit, thinking and obsessing about it all night) this was the 1st site I came to. I’m glad it’s working for you. I’m heading to B&N to get my new Moleskine in a few minutes. 🙂

      • LEt us know how it goes! Staples also has a good selection of Moleskine if you come up short at B&N. Happy bullet journaling!

  • I’m so happy I found this. I spent all day yesterday trying to find a good planner, I’m a simple design person and none of them have that look I want. I was ready to just give in and get one that I was at least ok with, but I’m doing this instead. Thanks for the post.

  • I bought my journal today and I am getting started. This sounds like exactly what I’ve been looking for … Online calendars, smartphones, basic agenda books didn’t account for everything I kept track of as a writer, mom, volunteer, etc. and this sounds like it could be the answer. A quick question thought. How do you decide where to locate one of your continuous pages like gift ideas, projects, future dates etc. Do you just randomly turn to a page in the middle of the journal and start writing? Just curious because eventually everything will run together . Thank you for this post.

  • Thanks so much for sharing this, Kim! I’m a habitual list-maker and often have categories of random to-d0 lists floating around. Or I end up with separate notebooks for everything. Ugh! And for some reason, the app I downloaded a while ago just doesn’t do it for me. I think there is something special about the act of writing things out. I’m going to give this a try!

  • I’ve recently discovered the magic that is the Bullet Journal, and I am certainly impressed with it’s simplicity and customizability. I fortunately had a very nice notebook that has been waiting in my nightstand drawer for just such an occasion. I like that you’ve made calendar pages as well, some folks need that “at a glance” type of page. All in all the system is pretty well thought out and is easily adaptable across a full spectrum of professions and lifestyles.

  • I make lists to make lists. my journal is my stress reliever my time occupier and my personal biography of me , I like the ideas thanks so much for sharing.

  • I am loving the Bullet Journal, too! I adore writing by hand and I also use it S a method of remembering and organizing my brain.

    One thing I wanted to add is that for people who may use Evernote (the app that’d basically an online notebook), they’ve partnered with moleskine for an Evernote journal. They have special stickers that you can put on a page you’ve written, then you take a photo of that page, and víolà – it’s in Evernote and can even be searched. (They make use of the OCR technology that recognizes handwriting).

    Thanks for this post, Kim – it’s helped to give me even more ideas for my bullet journal!

  • I am just now learning about all this. I am going to have fun. But first, where did you get the purple journal? Are they dot or lined pages? I think I want dots.

    • I got mine Moleskine notebook Target, but you can order other types/colors/sizes online. I’m not sure what the paper options are online, I like the lined ones and I know they sell the grid paper (like graph paper) but not sure what the other options are.

  • Hi All,
    I do like this system….a lot! For the past 1yr I have been using Planner Pad.
    The system seems to be essentially the same. It funnels your weekly to-do list down to a specific day, then further to a specific time. Anything undone migrates to the next day. Everything is on a 2 page at-a-glance. The Pad also includes a 3 yr spread at-a-glance. The draw back is the cost of the planner pad….$26. Ouch!! The system shown here is only the cost of an inexpensive journal which makes it a better choice. I have already ordered my new Planner Pad but will do bullet journal next time and save $$$.

  • ALLELUIA!! FINALLY!! How did you know? I have made endless lists and lost them, even if they were in the same notebook, because I didn’t know how to organize them. I have tons of little notebooks with various lists all over the place. YOU ROCK! This is awesome.

    BTW, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the Etsy shop.

  • I’m a year 3 teacher and literally drowning under all the school-based tasks. Sooooo tired of having to keep a list of my lists and then losing them – or losing track of where I was – AAAGGGHH. Have been trialling this BJ idea for two weeks now since spotting something on PINTEREST. I am using a 48 page exercise book (in case I stuff it up). After two weeks, I’m HOOKED! This is just sooo easy. There are great ideas about bullet journalling on PINTEREST – have adjusted some of my icons accordingly and I’m good to go – have achieved so much more in just 14 days – more than the previous month. Love reading your blog! Thanks 🙂

  • I love this idea but I am going to try this using one of my disc notebooks. That way you can move the pages (like goals & calendars) around as the months change. Thanks for the idea, I am a crazy list maker!!! 🙂

  • Researching Bullet Journaling & found your post.

    I had a similar system for a few yrs. I took too many notes, made too many lists & didn’t have enough appointments to make a regular planner useful. I used a daily Moleskine (w pre-printed dates) for to-dos & notes, & pasted a monthly calendar at the front for app’s. I abandoned that when too many days/pages were left blank.

    I then switched to a regular lined notebook so I could miss days if I wanted & not feel guilty about leaving blank pages. I pasted the months where necessary & labeled each day as I went. This is close to what you have here but I hadn’t heard of the Bullet system yet. This worked well for awhile.

    I kinda like the look of the Bullet system, but like you I need the months in the gridded format. I also don’t know how useful it would be putting symbols (bullets) at the beginning of each entry. I might give it a try & see if I can remember what those symbols actually mean.

    Last yr I printed out the months of the yr and pasted them all in one little booklette. I had to do this bc I just couldn’t find a simple cheap 5×8 planner that just had the months of the yr! All were too fancy &/or expensive for my needs. I liked having all the months in one place for easy reference & long term planning, just in case. I paired this calendar booklette with a lined notebook. The calendar booklette takes a whole afternoon to put together but once you’re done you don’t have to worry about printing out the months individually throughout the yr.

    I’m trying something new this yr. For some reason I gravitate towards having 2 notebooks, one dated for app’s & one blank for projects, ideas, random lists. So this yr I’m using a pre-printed monthly/weekly calendar (just so I don’t have to print out the months myself) to keep track of app’s/events & daily to-do list, paired again with a lined notebook.

    Your system would be good for someone who wanted a calendar… but also enough space to write plenty of lists/notes… all in one notebook. I may go back to this system if the planner/notebook combo thing doesn’t work out.

    Also… there are a few blog posts on the internet about using Moleskine type notebooks & adding tabs for various subjects: work, personal info, gift lists, personal projects etc… I don’t use a lot of tabs but it’s a pretty common set up.

    • I’ve updated again. Here is the link to Kim’s blog —>http://misszoot.com/bulletjournalpages/

  • I have a feeling this post has changed my life! I just bought a “yoobi” brand journal (very similar to Moleskin classic, but bright colors, half the price, and also makes donations to a good cause!) and have started bullet-journaling. I’m only a few days in but I can already tell it’s going to be wonderful! It lets me use all my usual random lists, but all in one place! And I’m not carrying around a bulky planner with a page for every week of the year (half of which I don’t fill out because I use other random lists instead of the daily/weekly pages.)

    Thanks for the great post and including the original video!

  • Actually, the person at the “original website” did not use the Moleskine. I don’t mean to split hairs, and it’s not the type of journal that matters so much, but I just wanted to make sure that the person actually responsible for this system is the one who is getting credit for it. Thanks!

  • Love this and bookmarking to reference when I start planning for 2016! I’m much more of a lister than a planner anyway so bullet journaling really does seem like a good fit. Hoping you’ll update with a calendar pdf as well 🙂

  • I have just recently started the bullet journal, and I love it for all the reasons you list in your conclusion. Brings together the calendar, the notes, the to-do lists, the record of things that have happened. Life, in one place.

  • Thanks for the great ideas. I started using the bullet journal system a week ago and am already seeing huge improvements in my productivity. My work items are also project based. I set up project pages that linked back to the monthly log. I wasn’t totally happy with it. I like your idea of linking the monthly log and daily log pages to a project page. It’s backward of what I tried, but I think it will be perfect for me! 😀

  • Love the bullet journal idea!! I have struggled with “traditional” planners. Question, when you’re adding sections for lists, how do decide where they go and how many pages to dedicate to them?

  • Love your post! I’ve been researching this for awhile now but all the videos and other sites confused me! You were able to to articulate exactly what my ADHD brain could understand! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  • Thanks for this. I didn’t think of adding a bucket list or movies I want to see to mine. Also, your calendar pdf page doesn’t work and I so wanted to utilize the idea. Thank you any way!

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