Plan Your Life

My Favorite Planning System | An Intro to Bullet Journaling

It’s finally almost March and that leads me into setting up my newest Bullet Journal!

Last year I discovered something that changed my life. Cliche? Yes. But I’m not kidding. You know those planners you have lying around half used with dates written in that feel like wasted pages? Yep. I’ve got them too. Or I did. Until I found Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal system.

An entire planning and productivity management needing two things: a pen and paper.

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This is the system I ended 2015 with. It evolved from the traditional bullet journal of one notebook and the pen of your choice. I could send you a ton of links to what this system is about, but really there’s just two parts of it that make it one of the most powerful tools in the world: note down your task list every day, and log everything else you did that day too.

Why is it called the “bullet journal”? Because this entire system revolves around the use of bullets. Whether you use a traditional solid dot bullet, or you use task boxes, it’s all bullet lists.

The original system has you using a solid dot for tasks, a small circle for events, and an X to mark them completed. Personally I tend to use boxes, because using a checkbox is a little more satisfying to me, and it’s a little easier for me to tell what I have left to do from what I already completed. This video is from the creator, outlining the FULL original system. I love his video and go back to it often when setting up a new journal or deciding what I do and don’t need to track. Then you can scroll down and see more of how my system has evolved over the last 6 months, and my recommendations for a beginner Bullet Journalist.

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When I first got into Bullet Journaling, I used a regular Composition notebook, then I moved into my first Moleskine. Basically a mustard yellow color, and in the graph print. It’s a very sturdy notebook, and it DEFINITELY made me feel more calm, prepared, and professional about tracking my tasks and to do lists. I ended up doing weather doodles and date boxes during this period, and put any challenge prompts on the left (and eventually an entertainment log below them, because my guy and I can never remember what we did and didn’t watch together) with my task list and the rest of my daily log on the right. It made sense to me, and for the most part this is still the system I use of separation. I tracked money spent along with my list of errands to handle two issues in one list item.

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I got into more artsy abstract headers sometime in November, and my system evolved to include triangles as plans/appointments, with notes as basically large asterisks for notes to remember in the future.

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In late November/early December, I got completely antsy for a dot grid journal, which you can see here (the teal soft cover Moleskine). This ended up being a ‘collections’ journal. So it’s got my Books To Read, PopSugar Reading Challenge outline, Shows To Watch, and monthly Challenges in it, as well as similar long-term lists. This is easier for me because I can lay out that journal and update those lists by checking things off from my daily notes. During this time I was also doing a doodle-a-day challenge, and this day’s theme was ‘hot’. I was the most happy with my bullet journal during this time when it looked more simplistic, almost back to the basics.

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In 2016, I added in a planner, this is primarily because I don’t personally use the forward planning aspects of the Bullet Journal, and also because I fell in love with the planner for other reasons and for more personal projects that I wanted to note, but not necessarily share publicly. My headings got more random, and on this day (literally JUST this day) the sides I used for the parts of my list, switched. My planner is very handy for marking out dates that things are SUPPOSED to be delivered, and then I write in my journal what day they are Actually delivered. I don’t actually recommend using a planner along with it, especially not right away, I’m working out the kinks in that adjustment of my system and haven’t been good at using the planner for several weeks.

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Now you can finally see into my Collections journal. These were the February challenges I started participating in, but honestly I got a little off track and overwhelmed and went back to focusing on just the core of my system and let this fall aside. I may be trying them again this month, I’ve got one more day to decide!

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These came midway through February, and this is what i’m starting March with. Specifically the yellow one will be my Bullet Journal. The blue Leuchtturm1917 is for a separate project, basically a Relationship Journal, to mark down things we learn about each other, plans we make, etc. Leuchtturm1917 is what every Bullet Journalist seems to lust for in the end. Price wise, they tend to be a few dollars more than the average similar Moleskine, but they are also brighter colored, and have two bookmarks, and slightly thicker paper. The paper is also a little whiter, though coloring never bothered me in the Moleskine either. These are both Dot Grid (or Dotted), and are purchasable on Amazon with 2 day shipping for many variations.

These run about $18-$22, Moleskine run about $14-20 depending on the color and on dot grid vs grid. Traditional lined versions of either notebook tend to be cheaper on Amazon, and there are also other brands such as Piccadilly, but I cannot personally claim use of that, though I’ve heard great things if you just want a nice lined notebook. The other difference between Leuchtturm1917 and Moleskine, is Moleskine’s dot grid notebooks DO NOT come in hardcover. My teal journal is a softcover. Which is very good quality, but isn’t a notebook I’d want to toss in my bag and go, whereas either brand in hard cover seems very sturdy.

I’ll be following this up with a post about my March setup in the next two days, so I’ll hold off on showing much of the inside until then, except for this little sneak peak.

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My Recommendations for Starting:

  • Spend 2 days to 2 weeks using any notebook you have on hand. Try logging it how you would in a notebook. Get used to the system. See if it works for you. I did this and it kept me from getting a somewhat expensive notebook that I wouldn’t use, because I didn’t have the frustrations of starting out at the same time I got a new journal.

Thennnn….

  • Leuchtturm1917, or Moleskine, really, but I kept wondering that “What if…” until I got a Leuchtturm1917 journal, and I am so in love with the quality of it. They’re both great brands.
  • Dot Grid is my preference, because it has dots that can almost disappear until you need them, but still guides you into writing straight. Graph is great too though. Lined works, but can seem un-worth it to invest in a pricier notebook without that cool extra difference. Though lined are cheaper. Piccadilly will also serve this purpose.
  • Start with ONE pen, and ONE notebook. Work on color coding or any other details later. Get used to the system. Ryder recommends at least 2 months of using the base system, but he’s also known to feature the adaptions that some Bullet Journalists have made on the blog at bulletjournal.comFollow his Get Started guide here.
  • Keep it SIMPLE. One pen, small changes to see if they work for you. Don’t get envy over someone elses journal when you’re just starting out, and not every cool looking thing will work for you. If you see one that fills an exact need, by all means, go for it! But don’t add just because it’s pretty. (it’s sooo pretty sometimes though…)

If there’s anything you’re curious about, would like to see, or have questions about, feel free to ask! Bullet Journaling is one of the best things I’ve discovered and I’m very passionate about it and more than happy to help anyone else discover if it is right for them.

And let me know if you already use this or if you’re going to try! I’d love to make some more buddies too!

Hey! Let’s connect!
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also feel free to add me on Facebook as a friend 🙂

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