I first found the Bullet Journaling system over a year and a half ago and I’ve never looked back. Ryder’s willingness to share this system with the world was unbelievably generous and I know that I, personally, am incredibly grateful to him for all the ways (directly and tangentially) that Bullet Journaling has impacted and enriched my life. Thank you, Ryder.
My Bullet Journal Story
My story begins on a fateful day at the end of March 2016. At this point, I can’t remember which came first: the chicken or the egg (i.e. the official Bullet Journal website or Boho Berry’s – I know I found both in rapid succession). Whichever it was, my interest was piqued by a link I saw on Facebook and I quickly fell down the rabbit hole: watching and reading everything I could find on Ryder’s site, watching Kara’s backlog of videos, and discovering Kim (Tiny Ray of Sunshine) and Jessica (Pretty Prints and Paper)…
Impatient to start, I found an empty lined Moleskine that I had laying around and got to work setting up my first Bullet Journal. I went a little (massive understatement…) gungho trying to incorporate all the cool things I’d seen and quickly realized three things:
- I didn’t like Bullet Journaling on lined paper
- I needed more space
- I didn’t like a super cluttered look
Within a week, I had bought my first dot grid Leuchtturm, revamped my set up (waaayyyy fewer doodles and quotes, for one thing), and the rest is history!
A Planner’s Perspective
A common refrain I’ve heard since joining this community goes something like this: “Bullet Journaling changed my life by helping me get more organized” or “I was never able to stick to one system until I found Bullet Journaling”. And I was always jealous because I felt like I must be doing it wrong seeing I wasn’t seeing the same drastic payoffs.
But then I finally realized something: I’ve always been a planner. I can’t remember the first time I said “I’d rather organize than clean” but it’s been years. I was the one who reorganized the fridge in college for efficiency, the one who sorted my skittles before I ate them, and I’ve always kept a planner (I still have planners from college and I’ve referred to them in later years to remind myself when things happened).
So, no…Bullet Journaling didn’t make me more organized. However, it’s definitely impacted HOW I organize. I feel more productive – like I’m finally more efficient about implementing the many plans I make (although, let’s be honest…it’s still a work in progress!).
Since I was already a planner, the other major way Bullet Journaling has impacted my life is in terms of creativity. I discovered hand lettering, brush lettering, and calligraphy. I started drawing again. I found the Traveler’s Notebook community, washi tape, and Junk Journaling. I started sending happy mail. And I started Sunshine & Stationery: first on Instagram, then on YouTube.
In short, finding this community helped re-inject creativity and art into my life. I have new hobbies and new friends (I’ve even met a few in person!). As an introvert and a naturally solitary person, Bullet Journaling has opened so many new doors for me and enriched my life in so many ways. (Thank you, Ryder!)
A Peek Under The Hood
The first thing you need to know about me is that I like order and all things greyscale. In fact, I have only ever used three colors of notebooks for my Bullet Journals (and I’m on number five): Anthracite, Black, and Navy Blue (to my chagrin, there wasn’t a third option that fell within the greyscale…). To top it off, I even rotate through them in that order. We’ll call it one of my quirks..
Inside the Front Cover
What the inside of my front cover currently looks like
I’ll sometimes keep a sticky note with a running list of open collections or other random lists inside the front cover, but otherwise, I leave it pretty bare. There’s no real reason…mostly, I’ve finally accepted that I’m not truly a doodler – since that epiphany, I’ve noticed that my style runs to minimalism (aside from lettering, of course!).
My second Bullet Journal was an Official Bullet Journal. I missed having those extra ten pages (and my normal colors), so I went back to a standard Leuchtturm afterward…however, I LOVED the style of Index and since then I’ve hacked mine to function the same way: all of my entries hug the left side with the page number(s) at the end after a colon.
Some other “hacks” I use:
- I write the name of each month slightly larger than the rest of my index
- I indent any collections that fall under that month (if I have a large collection within a month, I won’t indent it – but any of my month-level collections are)
- I swatch the main color I’ve chosen for that month (I also mark a small section on the edge of the pages within that month – not shown)
- I don’t index every page: short term collections (like emails), weeklies, and dailies don’t make the cut
Year at a Glance
I have done a Year at a Glance in all of my Bullet Journals. Sure, it takes a bit of time to write it out; but I love seeing it on that first page – and I really do refer to it!
Since my third Bullet Journal, I have used a cohesive “look” for anything in my front of journal stack (the same style of lettering, the same colors, etc) and this is where it starts.
Calendex + Future Log
First, Eddy Hope is a genius for inventing the Calendex! I have used his system since my first Bullet Journal and I find it incredibly useful for future planning for events I expect to fall within my current notebook.
I’ve been using an eight-month future planning system for a while now. I have a four-month Calendex (since that’s how many months I can fit in a journal, on average) and a four-month “standard” future log (that is, the one Ryder recommends) for anything coming up in the nearish future. I usually don’t have as much information that far in advance, so an event will normally fit on one line and I can easily fit any events that come up in the space allotted.
Currently in My Monthly Stack
This is one of those unnecessary touches that I just really like.
What my monthlies usually look like
What happens in October…
I love to letter in my notebook, so for months now, I’ve chosen a quote that relates (even obliquely) to the month to letter on the left page. October is one of the few months where I still doodle…normally I just letter the quote on the left and the month on the right (and, as in the case of September, sometimes things go a little wonky!)
Calendar, Emails & Happy Mail
I used the standard monthly log for approximately two seconds…my brain just needs a calendar format. Over time, I’ve also made my calendar much smaller so that it’s more of a general reference than a true indicator of what I’m doing (that’s what my weekly and dailies are for!)
October – my month of doodles! (stickers from @paws.and.paper)
The mini collections on the right page are something I’ve done for a few months but which I only recently moved to my month level: I try to leave unanswered emails unopened and happy mail I need to reply to in a specific place…but I’ve found I’m much more likely to get it done if I keep a running list of both.
Memories & Gratitude
These are two fairly ubiquitous collections in the community at this point and they’re some of my favorites! I’m not sure who started the Memory Log, but I believe Kim (Tiny Ray of Sunshine) is credited with the Gratitude Log.
My standard setup for Memories & Gratitude
I go back and forth on whether I have these collections (I don’t always do them when I’m busy…) and how I do them…currently, I letter my Memories and keep a running list of Gratitude (one per day). I’ve been using my Gratitude Log to practice my regular cursive, too! (I’ve been using Boho Berry’s lettering sheets to guide my practice.)
Reading Goals, Tracker, Habits & Money Goals
These are probably my most-used monthly collections.
October, before the pen
I’ve always been a reader, but I never really tracked it until I started Bullet Journaling. Now that I’ve started tracking, however, I have a better idea of how much I actually read…setting goals has also helped me to a) read more (if we’re being honest, while I think that’s a positive thing, it probably wasn’t something I really needed to “work on”!) and b) read more widely. I’ve gotten through so many more classics and novels in foreign languages than I had in my adult life prior to tracking my reading!
My tracker and habits could probably all go on one system, but I like to have some visual differentiation. I tend to think of things on my tracker as either things I do anyway that I just want to keep a record of and social media. Habits are things I’m not always good about or that I want to work on. (My vertical tracker is based on @butfirstbujo’s and I was inspired by @haleyjournals mini-calendar style for my habits.)
One of the other things I’ve finally (started) to get a better handle on since starting Bullet Journaling is my budget and financial life. I spent a solid few months just tracking where my money goes. Now that I have a better grasp of my day-to-day expenses and tendencies, I’m trying to set goals for myself to help me save more to work towards some of my goals as well as to wean myself off some of my less desirable spending habits… (it’s a work in progress…)
My Top Three Weeklies
I have used a variety of weeklies since I started Bullet Journaling, so I just chose three that I really like. The style of headers that I use for the days and my tasks is from @honeyrozes (a highlighted line with a Tombow Dual Brush Pen and the header written to hug the right hand side).
Older Two Page Weekly
This was my first big experiment with how I set up my weeklies and I still really like having my week laid out across the top with any tasks underneath. I used to use a system similar to Boho Berry’s in structure (week on the left, tasks on the right), but I was finding that my brain would ignore the tasks and just focus on the left page…so, to trick myself, I spread my week across the whole spread hoping it would force my eyes to take in everything I had going on!
Inspired by various folks who envision a horizontal week (rather than vertical)
New (To Me) Two Page Weekly
At the end of this summer, I knew I would have to go back to a two page weekly, but I was ready for a change. Luckily, @greenishplanning posted about a weekly she had started using (that was in turn inspired by various people) and I decided to give it a try! I like that this version still uses the whole spread and one major upshot from my version is that my days have more room (i.e. more space to write).
Inspired by @greenishplanning (who was inspired by others)
One Page Weekly
This one page weekly is a super-simplified version of the information I usually have in my weeklies that I use during the summer. I’m a teacher, so once the school year ends, I find that my day-to-day tasks and appointments drop way off… This way, I still have an overview of my week without wasting paper!
The weekly I use in the summer when school is out!
How I Use My Dailies
I haven’t always used the standard rapid logging system in the prescribed way: for a while when I first started, I automatically dedicated one full page to each day. I would log any tasks I needed to get done (I can be way more detailed than a lot of people may feel is necessary about the type of tasks I include…) and at the end of the day, I would fill in any extra space with lettering and journaling.
The resulting pages would look very cluttered after they were finished (although they were very minimal during the day) and, while they held a lot of memories I wouldn’t necessarily log otherwise, it became too much once I got busier. For one, migrating tasks was a pain in the neck since I’d be on a new spread every two days. For another, I had so much space that I would often use my daily like a brain dump rather than a list of tasks I could reasonably get done in a day.
Needless to say, I switched back to the standard method of starting the new day wherever the old one finished. Rapid logging works for a reason…I just needed to test other ways to make absolutely sure for myself ;D
At this point, I can usually fit two days to a page (unless my days fall on either extreme in which case I can get between 1 and 3 days to a page) and I don’t typically migrate tasks until I’m ready to move to a new spread (an ingenious tip from Boho Berry).
A Few of My Favorite
Goals & Financial
For 2017, I decided to do a 52 Goals in 52 Weeks challenge. I like to review my progress every few months and pull out some of the goals I think I’ll be able to get to in the next few months. This helps me stay on track (and not forget about my challenge!)
I also like to have a simple overview of my monthly expenses (I usually write them in pencil since they can sometimes change a bit during the course of a few months), a running log of when my bills come out (inspired by @butfirstbujo’s spread), and any pending or owed money (for things like checks or payments that take a while to process). Finally, I keep track of all my main sources of income per month. This spread works in tandem with my budgeting software and a more detailed budget / financial overview that I keep in a separate notebook.
Wishlist, Nespresso & Waiting For
Can you tell I like lists? I’m a word person, so most of my collections are some variation of text, usually grouped in some way. I log things I think I’d like to get someday on my wishlist: stationery, clothing, beauty (makeup, etc), and miscellaneous. Whenever I migrate journals, I go through my list and see if there’s anything I no longer want or need. I’ve found that I don’t end up getting the majority of things I initially write down.
I also like to track my Nespresso purchases (I track the day, where I bought it, how many capsules, and how much it was). I migrate this information into another spread that allows me to see patterns in how much I buy and how long the coffee lasts me.
Finally, I keep a small Waiting For spread to track any online purchases I make.
This spread was inspired by @overstuffedbook on Instagram, although I tweaked it to suit my style and needs. It has helped me to not forget (as much…) about the ebooks and audiobooks I borrow from Overdrive! Plus, I just like having bookish spreads.. ;D
Snippets is the name I came up with for the way I do recap journaling at the end of the day. It functions the same way I do my gratitude log (a running list); however, instead of something I’m grateful for, I write a few lines about my day. I really enjoy having this spread to fill in, but it’s not one I do every month (usually, if I do Snippets, I don’t do either memories or gratitude…or sometimes I’ll skip both if I’m busy).
A Note on Collections
I am one of those people who has a hard time living in just one notebook (as in I’ve tried and failed..). One of the first changes I made when I moved into my second Bullet Journal was to migrate certain long term collections into a Collections Bullet Journal. I keep things I’ll want to keep as a record or that I’ll need to refer to for a long time but which I don’t want to have to keep recopying in this notebook. The majority of the notebook is dedicated to lists of books I want to read, some movies I’d like to watch, and TV shows I’m watching, would like to watch, or have watched. (What can I say, I like stories!)
How to Bullet Journal Like Caitlin
In the evening:
- Review the day by checking off any finished tasks and noting any unfinished ones
- Letter the header for the next day
- Check my Calendex, monthly, and weekly for tasks that need to be added to the next day. Also check Tick Tick and brain dump …
- Update tracker and gratitude (if I didn’t do it in the morning)
In the morning:
- Review the day’s tasks (including any open tasks from other days on the current spread!)
- Update tracker (for things I do in the morning)
- Fill in gratitude (if I already have something in mind)
- Get cracking!
During the day:
- Check off completed tasks and add new tasks as needed
- My go-to notebook: Leuchtturm 1917 Dot Grid, A5
- Daily writers: Pilot G-1 or Inkjoy Gel pens (0.5 point)
- For lettering: Pentel Sign Pens, Tombow Dual Brush Pens, or watercolors (I have a Winsor & Newton pocket set) and a fine water brush (mine is Kuretake)
- For Spreads: Microns (I have a pack with 6 different nib sizes) + my Grey Staedtler Triplus Fineliner