My Bullet Journal®: The Discovery, The Method, The Game Changer
Several weeks ago I discovered the Bullet Journal®. It was recommended to me by a friend, and after watching a few videos, reading countless posts by others, and pinning all sorts of ideas, I dove right in and created a Bullet Journal® of my very own.
First, what is a Bullet Journal®?
When I talk about my Bullet Journal®, I’m inevitably asked, “What is that exactly?”
Well, I recommend heading here to read about it and watch the short video. The creator, Ryder Carroll, explains the method in its simplest form. Then, go here and read one of the best posts I found explaining the basics of the Bullet Journal®.
The Bullet Journal® is the analog system for the digital age. It’s a paper and pen method of planning that actually works!
It works because it’s a system that changes with you and works for you. It’s forgiving and customizable.
Essentially, a Bullet Journal® is whatever you want it to be.
Second, there are so many ways to keep a Bullet Journal®.
If you take it upon yourself to do a search for “Bullet Journal®” on the world wide web you will inevitably turn up some pretty exceptional Bullet Journals®. There are so many creative people out there doing amazing things with their Bullet Journals®. It’s tempting to think you have to be just like them – coloring, hand lettering, and doodling all the pretty things.
You don’t. Take it from me, you don’t have to be an artist to keep a beautiful, functional Bullet Journal®. You just need to be willing to let the system work itself out for you.
This means, you have to be willing to make mistakes as you figure out what works best for you and silence the comparison voice in your head telling you that you’re a Bullet Journal® failure. There is no one right way to keep a Bullet Journal®. You are your own worst critic and you have to let perfectionism go. Period.
I know this is making all my Type A friends get the jitters a bit. Let go of perfectionism?
Believe it or not, I am NOT Type A. I fall right splat in the middle of Type A & B. So, I get the jitters a little bit, but thankfully the Type B in me kicks in and allows me to experiment for a bit to find the best fit for me. So, you’re just going to have to trust me here, Type A friends. You have to choose to say no to perfection.
Before I started my Bullet Journal®, I thought about my ideal planner.
I’ve been using a simple daily planner since I was in high school. You might have heard me talk about my Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner for the last few years. I have loved it immensely, and it has served me so well! I still recommend it to anyone who isn’t interested in the Bullet Journal® and looking for something practical and simple.
I also updated my home planning binder last year to reflect some of the necessary needs of my home. I loved this planning binder, and I still recommend it to those looking for a binder method of planning.
I used my daily planner and home planning binder in tandem, but I stayed frustrated that it wasn’t easy enough. It wasn’t simple enough to throw in my bag. It wasn’t simple enough to have all of my work lists (which I use Trello for) and home lists in one spot.
This disjointed system didn’t allow me to keep up with all those random lists and thoughts in one spot. I was all over the place in my planning, and I am nothing if not an incessant-tweaker in search of supreme efficiency.
Efficiency is my love language.
And having my lists in so many places was threatening to drive this busy, work-at-home, homeschooling, expecting-a-third-child mom to the brink of insanity. I needed to get it together and get it together in a simple and fast system.
Insert: The Bullet Journal®!
As I researched how others kept their journals, I began to think about my perfect planner. I wrote down all the things I wish I had in a planner. All the things that worked from each of my three systems. All the things that I loved about the Homemaker’s Friend Planner. All the things I wish Trello would be to me on paper.
Essentially, I spent a good chunk of time just brainstorming what I wish I had in a planner.
The more I thought and researched the more convinced I became that the Bullet Journal® system was created for brains like mine! The more I watched video tutorials and talked to my husband, the more I became convinced that I might be on the brink of a planning break through!
Yes, I was THIS excited and dramatic about my discovery of the Bullet Journal®!
How I Do It
Because I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to like this method of planning (I’m truly such a skeptic…), let alone stick with it, I opted for a cheap classic journal from Walmart. It has 240 ruled pages, an elastic band, and a ribbon marker.
Updated in 2017 to add: I have stuck with the Bullet Journal®, and opted to treat myself this year with this beauty. I cannot wait for it to get here!
Note: I highly recommend choosing a journal with an elastic band. I keep loose receipts, papers, etc. in my journal and the elastic band keeps all of it from falling out. Plus, it keeps my journal nice and tight allowing it to go places with me without feeling too bulky. Oh, and I can attach a pen to the band which just makes planning even easier.
Next, I grabbed a cheap, clear pencil bag from the dollar store.
I happen to like planning with pretty pens, these to be exact (they don’t bleed), and the pencil bag keeps it all together for me.
As I got into using my Bullet Journal®, I found colored pencils to be a fun way to spruce up my lists when I needed some relaxing, therapy time. So, the pencil bag holds those as well.
Finally, I keep some wite-out EZcorrect tape in the bag because I make mistakes a lot. This allows me to quickly correct them without having to start all over again with one of my spreads.
Oh, and every once in a while I need a ruler because I create my own calendars. I just keep this in my desk and pull it out as I need it.
The basics you need to get started with your Bullet Journal® is a journal and a pen. That’s it. The rest you’ll discover as you go because you’ll learn what you like and don’t like.
My Bullet Journal® Game Changers:
The Index feature was the game changer for me.
This alone convinced me to try the Bullet Journal® method. I was so sick of losing things in random notebooks, and this feature allows me to keep various notes within the pages of my journal and be able to find them again later … easily. Who would have thought it possible?
I could now write down recipes for things I use regularly like homemade mayo or apple cider vinegar drink and be able to find it easily without having to pull out my recipe box (or look it up again online). I just had to make a note in my index for where to find it.
If I was collecting ideas for a homeschool unit study on American Symbols, then I could create a page in my Bullet Journal®, add the page number to my index, and come back to it when it was time to actually plan the unit out for the week. So easy!
I keep my calendar in a traditional calendar format.
I tried more of a log format for my future and monthly logs (or to-dos), but it didn’t work for me. My brain works in both visual and linear, so I had to create my own monthly log system that fit my needs.
The weekly and daily logs are the things that keep my life running somewhat smoothly.
At the beginning of each week, I do my weekly planning. I brain dump everything I need to get done that week plus all the things that would just be nice to get done onto my weekly log. I do color code this list.
- I write anything home or personal related in purple.
- I write anything homeschool related in orange.
- I write anything work related in green.
I naturally think of those sort of tasks in those colors. Plus this lets me see at a glance what I need to get done in these three main pockets of my life.
Then, I use this weekly log to create my daily logs (sticking with the same color coding method, if I have the pens nearby). I do not lay out my whole week in one fell swoop. I let the log system work for me here.
The reason I don’t lay out a weekly spread is the very reason a standard planner doesn’t work for me. Some days I have a lot to do. Other days I don’t have as much to do. This is why I love the Bullet Journal®!
I don’t have to fit my to-do list into a designated box size. Saturdays and Sundays are just as important planning days for me as the rest of the week. Those small planning boxes in regular planners just weren’t working for me!
The Bullet Journal® allows my daily planning to be flexible. No more trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Then, each night before bed, I review my daily list using the “x” for what I got done and the “>” sign for what I did not get done. The “>” indicates that this has moved forward to my next day’s to-do list. If something was on my list that I found not worth completing, or I’m realizing it’s just not the right time to try to accomplish it, I put a line through it altogether.
(Note: These symbols keep with the traditional Bullet Journal® method.)
I plan to continue learning new symbols to make this even easier for me. But for now, this is what I do.
Collections are where it is AT in the Bullet Journal® world. Again, next to the index, collections were the game changer for me.
I like to keep random lists, but I always lose them. Now, I have them all in one place.
Books to Read
I love this page. It’s my happy page. I’m such a bookworm. If someone recommends a book to me, I usually add it to my Goodreads list. But this collection in my Bullet Journal® holds the sacred list. This is the list of books that I want to read next. This page is sort of my goal list of books.
Family Favorite Dinner Ideas
There is a short list of meals that can hit my table without anyone asking, “What is this?” If you have young children, then you get me on this one. So, I keep a list of meals that every single one of us loves. I pull from this list when I really need a night of no complaining.
This houses my running wish list for my home. We don’t have all the money in the world to update and replace everything I want to update and replace. I made this list to capture all my wishes and when we have extra finances, I know these are the things most important to me.
Reading Challenge for Kids
I saw this fun reading challenge for kids on Pinterest. I thought my list-making oldest would love it, so I created a collection in my Bullet Journal® for us to check off as we go.
Before Five in a Row Book List
I just love this sweet curriculum. We’ve already gone through it twice with my oldest, but I am working through it again with my youngest. Having the list helps me to choose which book to row next with him.
Homeschool Unit/Lesson Plans
This has made homeschool planning so much easier. Now I can bulk plan a unit in one fell swoop even if it’s still weeks away from being completed. This allows me to get random inspirations onto paper so I don’t lose them. I brain dump all of my ideas onto a page and index it.
Chapter Book Read-Alouds
If someone recommends a chapter book to me for the boys, I add it to this list. Or if I’m browsing Pinterest, or happen to hear a book mentioned on a podcast that I think the boys will like, I add it to this collection.
Picture Book Read-Alouds
Same thing goes here except this list is exclusively for picture books.
Bible Passages to Memorize
We love memorizing scripture together as a family. We’ve now started trying to memorize whole passages together, and I keep a running list of passages that I want us to memorize together here. These are passages I come across in my daily quiet times or hear other families recommending.
Monthly Collections & Checklists:
There are some collections that I re-create each month. This is where my home planning binder meets my daily planner.
I like to do monthly meal planning. This collection I do keep in a log format. Works great for me! I also keep a running list of breakfast and lunch ideas.
Blog Post Ideas & Editorial Calendar
It’s always good to have a place to capture ideas when I’m out and about. I generally keep this in Trello, but if I’m not online, I add it here and transfer later. Also, my editorial calendar is something I need to see on paper and not just on my computer screen.
I am not perfect at updating this list, and I think I’m going to move it to my prayer journal, but for now, it’s in my Bullet Journal®.
I really have enjoyed the simplicity of using the “three things” list. The only problem I’ve found is that once I start writing three things, I usually feel the need to keep going.
I’m not sure I will continue to keep such an elaborate checklist for the month. I haven’t changed it though because I’m not sure how to change it or what would work better for me. I do like that I can see how lazy I was one week … this checklist definitely holds me accountable to not letting too much time pass before cleaning those pesky bathrooms.
I print off our monthly budget and keep it taped inside my Bullet Journal®. I fold it over and use the back side as a running list for our “cash envelopes.”
We don’t actually use cash, but I keep these running categories so we always know how much money is left in each “envelope.” I keep the receipts folded into the spread so I can review at the end of the month.
This is a new system for us. We’ll see how it goes. So far I am loving it!
Phew! I think this is possibly the longest post I’ve ever pulled together.
If you’re still reading, I give you mad props. I also think you must really be interested in the Bullet Journal® method of planning so I hope this post was helpful.
I know when I was first starting out, the more detail someone put in their post the better. I gleaned so much from other people just sharing what they do. This allowed me to figure out what I needed in my journal.
The Bullet Journal® method has really been an incredible process of learning for me. It’s also a system that has proven to work for me and not against me. It’s simple and easy to adapt each month. I can change what isn’t working. I can tweak and make even better what is working for me.
The Bullet Journal® is a method of planning that flows with my life and keeps my brain much more at peace with all that runs through it each day. I know there will be changes I need to make in the future, but it doesn’t worry me. I’m not buying a planner and then finding out halfway through that I don’t like it anymore. This journal sticks with me through all of my changes, life circumstances, and various needs. I could not be more pleased!
What about you? Have you ever tried the Bullet Journal®? What do you do to make your Bullet Journal® work for you?
I shared a video flip through of my Bullet Journal® if you’d like to see inside and how it all flows together from start to finish! Click here to view it!
Other posts you might like:
- Planning 101: How to Be More Intentional with Your Time
- How to Make a Prayer Notebook
- How I Set Up My Prayer Journal (inspired by my Bullet Journal®)
This post contains my affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.
I’ve never heard of this before, but I started doing a version of this months ago in my journal. I use it to write down to do lists, journal, take Bible Study notes, plan out curriculum, write down ideas for my book, etc. and I LOVE it. It’s been liberating for me and works much better with the way my mind processes information. I find that I’m more creative this way as well.
I’ll have to implement some of these Bullet Journal ideas as well. I think they’ll help take it to the next level.
I love how you naturally came upon this “method” of planning! So neat!
I started my bullet journal about a month ago and so far I am hooked. I am also not an artistic person so I don’t have a lot of graphics but it does give me a place to practice which I really enjoy. I got a few good ideas from your post that I’m going to utilize. I think the key to bullet journaling is to pull it out every day even if only for a few minutes. Some nights I have more time and can add things to my ideas and wishlists and some nights I have to hurry and can only put in what needs to be done.
Yes, pulling it out everyday is key!
I have a question. I homeschool and use a curriculum with 170 lessons, so I plan out a year at a time. Do you make your weekly lists as you go or do you write them out ahead of time?
I want to hear the answer to this too!
I plan as I go, but also plan ahead. I only have a kindergartener and soon to be preschooler, so planning too far ahead doesn’t work for me. I sit down with a rough estimate at the beginning of the year, sketched into a notepad, but … I guess what I”m saying is I don’t really plan that far ahead because I can’t due to their development and how we use curriculum. I make weekly lists as I go, but I do try to plan 3-4 weeks at a time, and sometimes I can even plan 6-8 weeks depending on our schedules and where my son has been in his development/learning process. BUT I write out this week’s plan in my journal because it’s the “final” version. If that makes any sense at all … ha!
Thank you so much for sharing your bullet journal! I love it. My question is that I see that you incorporate homeschool things in the same book. Do you do all your homeschool.planning for the week 8n 5his book too?
I keep a separate journal for homeschool things now since there is more to my planning with a 4th, 2nd, pre-k, and baby. 🙂 But I use the bullet journal format for it still.
Interesting idea (and I appreciate the detailed post)! I do a much smaller version of this for my home business, but I use a 3-ring binder with tabs so I can reprint pages I need. (I don’t like writing things out over and over again.) I will definitely consider adding more of the ideas you mentioned (especially a calendar) as it’s cumbersome to keep switching between my planner and binder!! 🙂
I didn’t think I would like re-writing anything, but the re-writing is what motivates me to “eat that frog” sometimes so I DON’T have to write it on my list tomorrow. Curbs some of my procrastination tendencies. 🙂
Great post! I’ve been on the fence for awhile and decided to “bite the bullet” and order my journal today 🙂 I can’t wait to see how you use a Bullet Journal for prayer!
I love a good pun! 🙂
I have never heard of it until now, but also until now I have not found something that works the way I think yet…and with a husband, 3 kids, full time job and lots of chaos, this may be just what I need. Excited to try this, maybe I found me a little weekend project 🙂
Well, I would say it’s worth a shot then!
I reviewed the information you facilitated for the Bullet Journal, and love it! Will start one tomorrow.
Thank you again for sharing so many wonderful organizational ideas.
This is pretty much amazing! 😉 Thanks for sharing the details and pictures!
Haha – I totally read the whole thing and adamantly agree with you on enjoying receiving all the details! Thanks! 🙂 I also have several of the lists in various places like you have… Books to read (Goodreads), scripture to memorize (pages document), meal planning (calendar), piano lessons I teach (online software), big purchases to consider (in my phone lists), etc. so I find this idea very interesting. I’m wondering on the cleaning schedule though if it wouldn’t be easier to just laminate your amazing chart, post it on a wall and check off and reuse it! I can imagine myself not doing the work of redrawing my cleaning chart every time I finish the time frame I’ve laid out. Thank you for sharing!
Great thought on the cleaning schedule. Hmmm…will have to think that one over!! Thanks!
I just happened across this post and love how detailed it/you are! I love it because I kinda do the same thing in lots of places between phone, computer, paper scraps and small notebooks, I would love to consolidate… My question is what do you do when you run out of space, say come mid-year? Do you create a new journal and then what about all the great lists and “stuff” you left in the other binder? Maybe I’m a list hoarder and would end up with a 1,000 page journal come year end…
You know? I have the same question! I will have to do an update when I get to the end of my journal. 🙂 But what I’ve seen done is that the collections that you need to take with you into the next journal, you would just copy over. Or make a copy of it and tape it in.
Great idea. Maybe, creating a bunch of blank templates, (index, book list, blank lists, blank calendars, etc.) that are available as printables in order to use as a binder might be a good idea. It would give the option of adding some cutesy designs to the templates. And being able to write in as you go. You could also add extra pages when needed. The only problem with adding pages or moving pages around, is that your index would constantly be changing. I am definitely overthinking this. ha! But, if you ever create something like that I would definitely buy it!
Hi Leigh Ann,
Thank you for your thorough post! I have lost more lists in my life than I can count and have more unfinished planners than I care to admit. I’ve got the supplies, watched the videos, taken notes and am excited to have a planner that is actually made to fit me.
Also, couldn’t help but notice For the Children’s Sake on your reading list. This book, and the subsequent journey into home schooling using the ideas put forth by Charlotte Mason, has been one of the most life-giving experiences ever for our family. We are in our 24th year of home schooling (we’re almost done!) and I can’t recommend this book highly enough as an introduction to Charlotte Mason. It’s not always an easy journey; depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find other like-minded home schoolers. But it has been so worth the effort.
Best to you!
What an incredible idea!!!
Thank you! I start tomorrow. Lol!
I love that your bullet journal is not filled with pretty artwork and fancy handlettering! It feels realistic, mine is a big ol’ mess!! As long as it works, right?! Thank you for this post!!
I am curious about your ‘envelope system’. We tried it in the past, but actually using cash didn’t work for us. How do you implement the system, but not use cash?
I have found a game changer of a pen! It erases using friction! My perfectionist side is in heaven – if I make a mistake, I can just “erase” it and start over. It’s been SO amazing for me!!
This is excellent! I’ve added it to my Recommended Writing page. Thank you so much for sharing!
Wow, great post! My favorite part is your cleaning calendar. I am not a good house keeper, so a spread like this is definitely something I’m going to work in to my bullet journal.
I would love to hear if bullet journaling is still working for you! I just started this month and as a homeschooler as well (and avid list maker) I loved seeing your post! Would you consider doing an update post on your BUJO? Thanks so much!
I’m actually still using the Bullet Journal. I’ve simplified much more, but overall I’m still really enjoying it! I do need to do an updated post. I just had a baby though so that might take a little time. 🙂
Can I just say a huge “THANK YOU!!” and give you a twirly virtual hug? I came across this while searching for prayer notebooks and while I have adopted the prayer binder idea in your other post, I would really love it to be in a notebook/journal form and yet the thing holding me back is how am I going to organise everything, what if I run out of space for a certain section midway, etc etc. You know, the over-thinker? 😛
I haven’t tried it yet but am looking forward to using it, even in the daily and homeschool planning. *fingers crossed*
I just love your last sentence about your cleaning checklist…out of the same reason I have created a cleaning checklist in my bullet journal as well 🙂 thanks for a great post!
I really appreciate this post, and the time you took to explain your method. I’ve always said I’m type Z – very easygoing and accepting 😉 – but I realized thoughts of “What if I mess it up? What if I don’t know how to set it up?” were keeping me from taking the leap into bullet journaling, so maybe I’ve got some type A in there somewhere! So thanks for talking through that.
My sons are grown now, but we’re an unschooling family; seeing your lists of books, activities, etc. brought a flood of memories! And I’m a little sad that those things won’t be part of my journal now, it sure happened quickly. What a great way to keep track of things for states that require more record-keeping!
You did such a beautiful job describing how you use it and why. Thank you. I have a scheduling method that I like but there were several journaling and list ideas that you described that are great solutions that I could incorporate. Very nicely done.
Thank you for your post! I use the same calendar and love it! I started journaling our days for this school year. Now I wish I had made a table of contents. I am looking forward to trying out many of your ideas. Thank you again!!
I like the idea of making your dailies as you go! My question is, doing it that way you never know when that month will end so where do you put your random collections and how do you account for it in your index?
I love how your layout is simple and (don’t take this wrong) not super artsy. I’m not gifted in the artistic areas but love the idea of a bullet journal. So many you see pop up on pinterest are beyond my abilities! Lol. Seeing yours is giving me confidence to give this a go. Thanks for sharing your pages and ideas!! 🙂
I just read your blog on Bullet journaling. I am a journaler (journalist?). Love it. But my experience is bible time/personal journaling. I have journaled since a youngster. I also homeschooled my two children and had books with this list, that list, books with other info. Sometimes was hard pressed to find which I needed. Now that I’m a “retiree” I don’t need too much. I still do bible journaling, but find I also have these little 3×5 books with different lists and ALWAYS picking up the wrong “little leopard or zebra book”. Soooo the need to combine things into one is needful. My question is what do you do in the bound books when you fill up a page and need to continue and you have a different item on next page? Do you have book sectionened off? My thoughts are to use the small three-ring notebook (5×7??) and have sections. When begin to fill up, can take out and file away and put in new paper. Is this understandable? Just my initial insight. They are at WalMart and cheap.
This is a great question, and it’s one reason I love the Bullet Journal. It goes back to PAGE NUMBERING! If I am writing on one page, but need to continue and there is something on the next page completely unrelated, I just flip to the next BLANK page and continue recording what I was doing. Then, I go back to the page where I ran out of room, put an arrow beside the page number and write the page number for where I continued beside it. Essentially, you’re making a note to yourself that “this thought is continued on page #xx.” Then, I do the same thing on the page where I continued, but this time I use a backward arrow, pointing BACK to the page that I started. You’re saying to yourself, “for previous thoughts go to page #xx for more information.” Does that make sense? This is probably one of my FAVORITE features of a Bullet Journal. Being able to not worry about sectioning off the lists and ideas. Just making note of where the thought continues and flipping over to that page. It’s been wonderful!
Hello… I realized this post is older & was updated for 2017 but I’m just getting started. I bought your living intentional bundle & have been reading the books. However, I’m a little confused..
Do you use the bullet journal for everything?
Do you still use the homemakers friend planner & binders for calendars?
I don’t have anything in place right now but I’m trying to start somewhere and I’m having a hard time as to where. Any advice would be appreciated . Thanks.
Also, do you still use Trello, a Master calendar, etc?
I have transitioned almost exclusively to the Bullet Journal for daily planning use. I use iCal (on my phone and Mac) to keep track of my master calendar and appointments, then use the Bullet Journal for the actual planning of the days. I use Trello almost exclusively for my business/ministry work because I collaborate with others so often. I still recommend the Homemaker’s Friend Daily Planner for those who prefer the planner method already outlined for them. I think the best advice I can give you is to choose the method and tools that most appeal to you and then just dive in. My tools morph and change to whatever season of life I find myself in. I’ve tried many different things, but it’s been through actual trial and error that I find what works in various seasons. 🙂
I really enjoyed your post. I am a natural lister so I have been doing some form of this for years and also trying to fit myself into a hole where the peg didn’t fit. I use May Books and the design I like has graph paper at the bottom and the week across the top. I picked up on a tip from you and I am implementing it as we speak. Instead of decorating the bottom portion, I am going to make my list, my brain dump, at the bottom and then as each day comes along, I will take the tasks and move them to a day. I have set tasks for each day and I’ll continue to list those, but I like the idea of the brain dump. Thanks!
Wonderful! I’m glad you found something you could implement. 🙂
I know this is an older post, but I just started a modified Bullet journal (I use a travellers notebook), and there is one thing I am not sure about. What do you do with stuff that needs to be scheduled on the next day (or in like 2-3 days) when you are still on the current day and have not started next day’s log? Write it on the weekly list with the date and rewrite it in a daily when you get to that day? Thanks a lot for any ideas! By the way, you kind of motivated me to start a prayer notebook/journal/whatever 😉
I use my bullet journal ( or my Made to Give Life Planner) for daily planning, and I keep my appointments on my Google Calendar. I check my Google calendar each morning (or the evening before) to make my daily list. I love a Bullet Journal for daily planning.
I’m glad you were motivated to do a prayer journal 🙂 I really enjoy mine!