I live, and I suspect will die, by my [bullet journal] planner. That said, I’ve had as many planners as I’ve had birthdays. Maybe more. Probably more. I’ve had expensive Franklin-Covey planners and cheap no-name brand spiral pocket notebooks. I had a Palm 3c when it was new. I had a few Palm Pilot products in the years that followed as well. I have faithfully used iCal, and half a dozen (cubed) other calendars found in the App store. I’m a little bit of a planner whore. I’ll own it. I’ve used Things, Wunderlist, Buy Me A Pie (ok, I still use that one), and a million other digital solutions to my age old problem of needing to write it down and make a list.
You know what works? Fucking writing it down and making a list.
Enter the Bullet Journal. Not a fancy-schmancy BuJo like Pinterest shows you and uses to make you feel inept. Nope. A simple, down to earth, messy, jotty, scribbly, but perfect for me BuJo. I know most BuJo users tout the Leuchtturm1917 journal, but I like my Moleskin. My current journal has Mickey Mouse on the cover. I stockpiled some others when Target recently had them on clearance. Hey, I only got a few, er, five. I can see how the grid would make some classic BuJo things easier (like tracking, and sketching, and anything that isn’t straight up writing in a straight line) *but* I can work around that just fine, and having lines in the background of my doodles doesn’t bother me.
Let’s Begin at the Beginning
My bullet journal started in classic bullet journal style – with an index. I left five pages open for the index. Just in case. I didn’t want to run out of room. It had a legend, but a few weeks in it seemed silly. My system kept changing. I wasn’t using 100% of the “official bullet journal” system, my legend page was looking a hot mess. So I cut it out. Literally. In July I made it onto page two of my index, so the first page covered February – June. Not too bad.
Right after that I have a yearly goals page. At the moment it has a couple of sad piggies and lots of empty circles on it. Why sad piggies? Those are my savings piggies. I haven’t managed to put away what I planned way back in February and we’ve rounded the corner into September 😔 I am optimistic! I may catch up by December! Why yes, I am a hope for the best/plan for the worst kind of girl.
I left a few blank pages for big yearly goals there as well, but since I’ve failed spectacularly with savings, nothing else seems important enough to commit to paper. Don’t worry, I do have smaller monthly goals. I’ll get to those in a tic.
The Nitty Gritty
In six+ months of seriously journalling I’ve found out what works for me. It’s been a lot of trial and error. A lot of “hey, that looks like a cool idea, I’m going to try that this month!” I start each month with a monthly layout. That’s a fancy way to say calendar. Some months I try to class it up, some most months it’s a pretty minimalistic grid. I only use this for appointments and other one-off’s. I don’t clutter it up with things that happen every week. There is always room for notes along the far right side and bottom, so there is always room for extra stuff that maybe I’ve run out of room for or things I want to try to fit in, but don’t know where just yet.
Next comes monthly goals. I’ve started calling it my wish list. I try to pick a different quote every month reminding me that wishing for things and working for things are often the same in the end. This list can be everything from noting that we’d like a boat (an obvious *wish* item) to the kids need extra uniforms for school (an obvious *need* item) to reminding myself to try and throw even 10$ into each kids savings this month (an obvious *goal* item). I tried having a separate goal list and wish list, but really, isn’t a wish just a long-term goal? So I combined them and saved myself a page.
Then comes my budget page. I cheated. I made a list in Pages that is an empty square and whatever bill needs to be paid next to it. Then I formatted it to print on a 5×8 piece of paper, I print two to a page, cut them, and tape one in at the beginning of each month. I fill in the square only when I’ve paid the bill, and I cross out anything that is zero balanced that month (like my Kohl’s card only gets a workout twice a year, so it’s zero-balanced more often than not, but I didn’t want to leave it off entirely). I left a ton of blank boxes to fill in if I owe anyone money, for one-off bills that might come up (like paying the dentist, or paying someone back). Savings is on that list as well! I am big on savings, even if it’s just a dollar. Like I said, I haven’t met my savings goals for the *year* but I do tuck a bit away here and there. Interested in your own? Download a free copy here – Blank Bills PDF. It is literally a blank page with boxes, so don’t get too super excited ;)
I’ve tried a memories page, but if you are making notes in your journal… the whole thing turns into sort of a diary (hello, it’s a journal). I found I did not need one extra page devoted to recopying things. Same with my soon to do – that stuff just goes on my weekly to-do list now.
I haven’t tried a single daily page yet – I haven’t had need for it. I do a weekly spread, which I think saves me a ton of pages overall. My day really only takes up a few lines in most cases – I’m not micro-managing my day in 15 minute increments. Of course I am going to wake up, get dressed, brush, etc.. I don’t need to list it.
I went through quite a few weekly layouts before I got a handle on how much room I need per day and how much room I need for lists and other notes. Personally, I can usually get Monday – Friday on one page, Saturday & Sunday at the top of the next page, and then ¾ of the page is left open for “shit I need to do this week”. I don’t stress if a Monday item isn’t done on Monday because I literally have all week to do it. Unless it *has* to be done on Monday, then it gets listed under Monday. However, a week-long to do list suits my needs just fine and is what keeps my week under control. Most of my day to day stuff can be shuffled around and completed when I am ready, not when the deadline is ready.
I make a note everyday, or try to remember every day, about what we had for dinner. I doodle. I make notes. I can insert one affirmation or an entire page of them. If I have business calls to make, phone numbers get listed and notes get taken. I start my week on Monday, regardless of the date. So if my month end and the new one begins on a Thursday, then the 1 – 4th of whatever month will be before the monthly layout and the next weekly layout (after the month, and the budget, and the wishlist) will resume on whatever the first Monday of the month is.
I tried a daily tracker in April. I found out that I was getting super stressed out by tiny squares that were not filled in, and super stressed out trying to make my life work in a way I could fill in all the squares. No thank you. I had someone suggest I use it as an “after”, so track how much I do stuff rather than if I’ve done stuff I have to do, but either/or, I was stressing over tiny boxes. So eff those tiny boxes. I moved back to noting on my weekly spread if I’ve done more than the usual amount of laundry, or if laundry needs to be done it will go on the weekly to do list. The only thing I track now is water, and I use the Fit Bit app to do that. And I don’t always remember to enter it there either 😉
This works so well for me, because if I need an entire page, I can throw it in after the current week. Then I can list it in the index. I number my pages. That way if I’m all, but that page is in here somewhere, I can check my amazing index (ok, it’s at the beginning, it’s a table of contents… but I use it like an index) and know that my summer plans are on page 47 & 48 or my June cal started on page 75. I do use washi tape to make little (sometimes big) place holders for pages I use a lot, but overall, I am mostly nose-deep into my weekly spread and whatever weekly notes I’ve needed to take.
I have a page in the beginning of my journal that my sister drew a picture on. I have a two-page + a page spread dedicated to tiny house ideas. It has a list of things we (think we) need, sketches of ideas for bedding and storage. Right after that is a “places to go, people to see” page with a list of, you guessed it, places to go and people to see there. There is a design ideas page tucked in-between a couple of weekly layouts. Meals we like to eat (a two page spread). Summer plans (also a two page spread).
Obviously, it’s kind of my go-to everything under the sun book. I’ve picked up some amazing templates from Moxiori (ahem, that finger and Fuck up there is my most recent), and a shitton of wash tape and other stickers. I don’t always remember them, but when I do, I enjoy the fuck out of them. I picked up some fitness-specific stickers the other day that I am itching to use.
Maybe it’s not your thing, but it’s the bees knees for me. I try to remember to share my week-end and/or upcoming week on my instagram, so if you want to keep up, check me out!
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