Hello, my name is DJ Allen and I own EmeraldSpecter.com, where I podcast and create entertainment about getting organized and bullet journaling.

If you were to ask my wife three years ago how well I was organized or how well I remembered important things, she’d laugh hysterically for several minutes. Things were bad enough that I couldn’t argue with that reaction, because as I get older I am discovering first hand that I can’t remember as much as I used to.

When we moved to Portland, Oregon, I decided that I needed to get a little more organized. I tried using apps on my phone, notepads, sticky notes, miniature journals, and all kinds of stuff that just never really worked. I had some notes that would do a great job of reminding me and other things that just never really stuck (or failed to remind me of what the intended reminder was about).

Poking around for a solution to my problem, I came across bullet journaling (and specifically bulletjournal.com). The concept was simple enough to keep me focused and I decided to give the concept a shot specifically for my website, a way for me to keep on top of things that needed to be done specifically to broaden the site’s scope.

It was an abysmal failure. Not because of the Bullet Journal system, but because I had no reason to update the Bullet Journal daily. When January 2017 rolled around, I began bullet journaling life in general, and then I discovered daily work in myBullet Journal was the key to my own success.

As with any new thing, I searched around the Internet to see how others were using their journals. Most of what I found was graphical layouts, ideas for tracking this or that, or just ways to make the journal appealing to look at in general. After trying a vast number of things, I found that things I initially wanted to track weren’t really important and things I hadn’t thought about tracking became things I was interested in being able to back for comparison.

About six weeks into theBullet Journal, I came up with a concept for game-ifying mine, a way to make the act of journaling fun. I love roleplaying games, both in tabletop and video game varieties, so I set about figuring out a framework for aBullet Journal roleplaying game. A good designer knows that a broad idea doesn’t necessarily work until the basic functions do, so after coming up with the “vision of the future” I started play testing the bare bones of theBullet Journal RPG (role playing game) system.

I worked diligently on the BuJoRPG (bujo being short forBullet Journal was nice slang to incorporate in the name) from March until June, when I finally released the BuJoRPG Version 1.0 “into the wild.” The core idea of the system is self improvement but I figured we could make journaling into a game so I made that game. Since I love old school kung fu movies, I used that as my “template” while testing (which eventually became the BuJoRPG: Wuxia template release).

Why don’t we take a look at what the version 1.0 system looks like in action, and then maybe provide a little bit about what BuJoRPG version 2.0 might look like?
Bujo RPG

The first thing to do with game-ifying anything is determining what you want to track. I took a two-page spread to layout some ideas. My wife and I determined a list of things that she’d like to see me improve on as well as my own added values, and then a laid out a rough table for what values would be assigned to which tasks. The experience points and belts are there to have an established leveling system to work with, so that I had something to achieve. Some of the notes on the left side of the page were concepts I couldn’t quite figure out how to implement, and as I develop out more of the BuJoRPG, those things may still come into play.

After I set this page up, I used the very next pages (after the month spread) to begin tracking the RPG elements. The initial layout was rough.

I tried to include some standardBullet Journal banners and flags in the process, but nothing quite felt right.

Bujo RPG

Seeing what worked and didn’t work was an ongoing process. I have forbade myself from fixing errors, which is something quite difficult for me to do. I even chose a page that has an error on it. The further into the month I got, the quicker my tracking was getting. Words eventually just became initials, which is why I decided a refresh was needed.

Bujo RPG

With my notes on the right, I went and added a few things that would give some depth to the experience earning process. Achievements, quests, and adding a “dailies” section were great additions that really gave me something to be concentrating on. Again, there were some rough values assigned to these items that were refined on the go, allowing me to experiment with XP that was too high, too low, or just not relevant.

I eventually go to the point where my information was in four or five different locations, and I decided a collection should be established in a two page spread to consolidate everything I had and update the things that needed updating.

Bujo RPG

This was the first big collection where I had the base values set up, the things I wanted to shoot for, the things I needed to work on, and the levels all laid out.

Bujo RPG
I formatted things differently and tested some more.

Bujo RPG

Bujo RPG

Since I’d created a BuJoRPG: Wuxia template, I decided to try it out for a few pages, which is when I learned that the layout doesn’t really work being “squished” into the page.


This leads me to the development phase, or where I’m currently at in the process. I’ve included the monthly layout (the blue were supposed to be my rotating days off, but I have them on the wrong days) and then the weekly spread, which I created to not use so many daily pages.

Bujo RPG

Bujo RPG

Everything I am tracking is now on a weekly spread, XP earning is done in special boxes and I’m happily seeing how the next phase is going to progress. In the last image, you can see the testing of the “goals” system, the shorter term quests from the version 1.0. I’m still ironing out the XP values.

I have ceased testing with a template so that I can make changes more easily. I hope you’ll enjoy my project. Please provide me with feedback. Let me know if there is anything you would like to see. To check out my full guide, you can visit the page here.

Thank you.

DJ Allen

About DJ Allen

  • Linda Drynan

    Love what you have created in your journal and I am going to try it too. Plus I love that your journal “looks” like mine! Not so much an art display but a working journal recording what it needs to. Thanks so much.

  • Rachel Bruner

    Brilliant!!! Just visited your website, read the entire PDF, looked at all the files, and going to mull over how I want to use this. If I do, and actually level up, I’ll have to let you know. Thanks a ton, DJ, for sharing, and to Ryder for posting it here on his site!

  • Sarah Haggerty

    I’ve read both of your PDFs on BujoRPG and got super excited. I like the whole gaming element and leveling up by doing something undesireable or new. I’m not huge on martial arts but that’s the great thing about RPGs, there are so many types. The use of a story to keep you using the bullet journal is my favorite part and I could use it to incorporate writing everyday, like a diary entry. I’ve even found some DnD Dungeon Master books to help me with story and character development.
    I know that you use quests to break down longer term goals like learning a language, but would it be possible to have mini quests for things that need to be done only one or twice a month/year like flipping the mattress or servicing the AC, wouuld they have more or less XP?

    • Danielle Bennett

      I think could easily be done using a “refresh” option and keeping XP for them low.

      For example:

      Quest: Finish Christmas Shopping (+30 XP)
      Refresh: Yearly in November
      Benchmarks: Finish shopping for each family member (+5 XP per person)

      Quest: Holiday Hosting Clean up (+25 XP)
      Refresh: 1 week before any event with guests coming to your house

      Quest: Clean Out Fridge (+5 XP)
      Refresh: 1st day each month

      Quest: Clean Out Closets and Take Unused Items to Thrift Store (+10 XP)
      Refresh: Every 6 months or every time the weather changes

      That’s just stuff I made up sitting on the couch, but if it’s infrequent or irregular, I think you could use a small side quest type component to make sure it’s not forgotten.

      • Sarah Haggerty

        That is an awesome list! I totally forgot about Christmas and I always wind up cutting my list short because I run out of time. 100XP bonus if shopping is done before December?

        This is like the greatest idea ever, in just gonna go geek out in the corner now.

        • Lime Allen

          I’ve got a story element version coming soon, I’ve been working on it for more than a year and I’m almost ready to release. EmeraldSpecter.com is where to find updates and I try to include BuJoRPG updates in most of my podcasts (The Specter Show).

      • Taylor Roseberry

        Oooh, I really like this idea! I may steal this….

  • Rebecca

    Thank you! This looks like a ton of fun. This is some great outside the box thinking. Who knew the Bullet Journal was a gaming system too!

  • LeatherCol

    Hey, thank you for showing all your work on BuJoRPG. It’s interesting…might not be quite what I’d be into but I find it really good that the concept can lead into such creativity. By the way, your point about leaving mistakes is really well made: initially I minded if I made a mistake in mine as I wanted everything to look neat and tidy (I still do…) but, somehow, a mistake is part of life so seems fine to stay. We all want our journals to be real and useful not sham and useless.

  • Taylor Roseberry

    I have been testing this out for myself the past week and it’s been pretty motivating, but I’ve also added rewards (cause I need something a bit more tangible than XP). I have a list of small rewards I win per level (things like a new ink color, new earings, new plant, etc), big rewards for every fifth level up (things like a new outfit, game dlc’s, etc), and I’ve also got special rewards set up for quests. For example, one of my quests is to learn the guitar, which is a very time intensive quest and will take awhile to accomplish. The reward for completing this quest is to buy a lute (something I’ve wanted for years, but won’t get because I don’t even know the guitar yet).

    Anyway, I’m glad I saw this, it’s been fun so far!

  • I recently discovered Habitica.com, which is a lot like what you describe here. It takes your daily tasks, and by completing them you get to level up your RPG character! I use it for my Daily Tasks and To-Dos, but still use my bujo for long-term planning, events, and incorporation of many of my Getting Things Done lists. Who knew that turning my life into a game is what I needed to make me more productive!?!