How I use a bullet journal

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

Do you bullet journal? I do and it is one of those things that even though it’s such a simple concept–it has made a huge impact on my productivity.

I’m one of those people who loves to write things down. I have a gazillion notebooks all over the house. A gratitude journal, a blogging notebook, multiple quilting notebooks, a one-sentence journal, a journal journal (diary), and a morning pages journal (where it’s okay to be really messy)–you get the idea. Add on top of that lots of bits of scrap paper and post-it notes to help me remember random bits of information. Clearly, I was drowning in paper.

Then I ran across this video, by the originator of the bullet journal concept:

Compared to the crazy layouts that bullet journaling has inspired–the original idea was pretty utilitarian. And since the last thing I need is another hobby (of designing bullet journal pages), my take on it is even more straight forward. I want to add at this point that I also keep a paper family calendar so that everyone can see what the schedule for the week is–but I don’t keep my to do list on that. I’ve used this one for years and it works perfectly for our family.

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

I’ve tried a couple of brands of notebooks for my bullet journal so far, Moleskine and  Leuchtturm. My favorite is the Lechtturm 1917 . I currently have it in navy. The pages are graph paper, which makes it easy to make little  boxes to check off, but I’d like to try the one with the dotted grid someday. One nice feature of the Lechtturm over the Moleskin is that the pages are numbered and it has a table of contents all ready to fill in. I had to create those myself with the Moleskin books.


How I organize my bullet journal

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

The idea behind bullet journaling is to have one place to capture everything. Your goals, dreams, random thoughts, and all kinds of lists: to do, movies to see, books to read, projects to sew, etc. This idea is very appealing to me. I do use it for all of the above, but mostly I use it to keep track of all of the things that I want and need to do. But the reason that you can write anything in it, in no certain order, is because of the table of contents. Every month or so, I go through and update the TOC, so that I can find all those random lists that are mixed in with my every day to do lists.

(As you can probably tell, I did not stage these photos at all–this is my real bullet journal in all it’s utilitarian, scribbley glory. There are no artful banners or washi tape here.)

Master List

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

It starts with the Master List. This is the first brain dump that I do at the beginning of a new journal. It is everything I both want and need to do. When I get a new journal, I transfer whatever is not checked off. I continue to add to it all year long. I don’t even want to tell you how many times I’ve transferred “Will” over. Seriously, we really need to get that done!

Monthly List

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

Then at the beginning of every month I write down what I want to get done sometime that month. Sometimes the list is pretty obvious, but I always flip over to the Master List to see if there is anything that I can make progress on that month.  Some of the things are easy and small, and some are larger projects. I don’t always finish what is on this list, but it gives me a framework for the month.

Weekly List

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

At the beginning of the week, I narrow it down further. What are the main things that need to happen? I check the monthly list and see what fits in for the week. I find that narrowing it down like this really helps me make progress on a number of projects.

Daily List

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

This is where the magic happens–the daily to do list. But these lists wouldn’t be as good without the thoughtful planning about what I want to accomplish this year, this month, and this week.  Beyond that, there is nothing special about them–just checklists. But I get a lot of joy out of checking off those little boxes. And I do usually take the step of reviewing the list from the day before to move forward any items that I didn’t get done. You can see that with the little arrows over the check boxes.

How to use a bullet journal to organize your life at Simple. Handmade. Everyday.

I also use it to just scribble down random ideas, lists, and things to do. This was my random brain dump list from a couple weekends ago. I just kept adding to it until one day I transferred all these thoughts and ideas to a better place. But it was very nice to have them all in one place instead on a bunch of random scraps of paper.

I also have pages of sewing projects that I want to remember, notes that I’ve taken from webinars, meals that I want to remember to make, etc. And I can find them nestled deep between the daily to do lists because I’ve listed them in the table of contents.

That’s it–pretty basic, but I have found that taking a few minutes at the beginning of the month and the beginning of the week to figure out how to move forward on all kinds of goals: housekeeping, personal development, professional development, as well as just remembering to drop off the library books has made a big difference in how much I actually get done each day and week.

How about you? How do you organize your life?

6 thoughts on “How I use a bullet journal

  1. Jalene says:

    I also use a journal every day, recording things to finish, drawing of cards to make and what to sew next! It helps me be more productive!

  2. Thank you for this! I love bullet journaling the way you do it, but sometimes find myself paralyzed by the idea that it should be prettier.

    I have a brand new lechtturm that was meant for 2018, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to write in it yet.

    I appreciate the reminder that it doesn’t have to be Instagram-ready to be useful.

  3. Kris Van Allen says:

    Thank you for sharing this! As a former hard-core scrapbooker (former because my kids are in their 20s, I don’t take photos of really anything anymore, and with the onset of the digital age), I’ve had my desire to decorate pages satisfied. I find that most “decorated planners” are really not much more than a scrapbook. Your user-friendly, utilitarian method is refreshing to see, and (probably not a coincidence!) pretty much what I’ve been doing. I’ve commandeered the leftover spiral notebooks from the school years, and do the lists and brain dumps like you do. I don’t have nearly the task count that I did when the kids were home, and I don’t work, so my lists look pretty different from yours. Two things that I personally have found help: I use Frixion pens, so that I can “erase” which I often need to do (including scribbling quick math in the margins), and I like to use the bright colors pink, purple, blue and green. Secondly, I will often flip to a back page to do a dump or write really rough notes, and go back later to “finesse” (rewrite) them into the notebook where needed.

    • I like your idea of flipping to the back of the notebook for the brain dump! I will try that! And I know what you mean about the Frixion pen–I actually am a mechanical pencil lover. I need to be able to erase!

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