It’s been a couple of months since I started a new planner/notebook system based on the Bullet Journal method. When I first discovered the system, I knew I’d found something that just might actually work for me – which was quite a big deal, because while I love the idea of a planner, I’ve never been able to really stick with anything other than remembering to put my work deadlines into Google Calendar.
I can say now that I’ve definitely found the system for me. I know this for a fact because after eight weeks of extremely heavy work deadlines, weeks during which nearly every waking moment had to be applied to whatever assignment was due next, I found myself still using the Bullet Journal. And not as a daily calendar, either.
I’ll likely continue tweaking how I use my journal, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far. Your use of the Bullet Journal method will definitely be different, because it is ideally suited for customization, and you really can’t use it without customizing it to your individual needs.
The Monthly Stuff
Mid-November, I realized the regular monthly calendar pages weren’t working for me, mainly because I use Google Calendar for entering all important dates and deadlines, and even though I dutifully logged in everything at the beginning of the month, I rarely needed to consult those pages, since I have access to my calendar on both my PC and on my phone.
One thing I’ve never been good at doing consistently, though, is keeping to a daily journal. At the start of this year, I bought one of those tiny Moleskine daily planners, thinking surely I’d be able to fill the small space for each day easily. Didn’t work. But I’m thinking now it might work in my planner. So I created a December Diary page, and plan to write just one quick line per day – kind of like a very simplified diary.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. I’d like to develop a consistent, daily gratitude practice. So I also created a December gratitude page. Here’s what they look like (They’re still blank. Which is my way of saying I haven’t yet gotten the "consistent" daily practice part of either the diary or the gratitude page down yet.)
Another thing which has worked really well for me is my "chains" page. Basing it on Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity method, I created a page for November where I could create my chains. Seinfeld used his chain method to get himself writing daily, which was my number one priority (and for most of November, I did, until I got to the stage where I had to do more research. And I’m still at the stage where I have to do more research), but I also use the method for other good habits I want to maintain.
(The "W" under E – for exercise – means I walked, instead of doing an exercise routine. I’m a little hazy as to why some of the squares have both an X and a W in them. And as you can see, I’ve been woefully behind on reading since October. The L is for litter box – see below – and it’s unmarked for those first seven days of October not because I didn’t clean the litter box for a week (!), but because I didn’t get the idea of using a chain for it until a week into the process.)
The two previous months I had chains for writing, reading, meditation and exercise, but this month, I added a research chain and an ideas chain.
My "dones" are based loosely on the chain method. These are chores that I need to keep track of, but which I might not do on a daily basis. When we had just the one kitten, cleaning the litter box was one such chore – I tried to clean it every other day. Now, with two kittens, it’s more of a daily thing so probably could be a regular chain, but I still lump it with the "dones". Clipping the kittens’ nails is another "done". With this method, I can see at a glance when I last did something.
Many of the pages in my planner system are "special pages" – meaning, I wouldn’t be able to tell you today what new pages I might add over the next few weeks. It’s a "whatever comes to mind" thing, and this is where the Bullet Journal method shines for me. When I get an idea for a new page, it’s as simple as turning to the next blank spread and starting whatever new page I need. For example, I woke up one morning from an extremely vivid and exciting dream, so I started a "Dreams" page. Haven’t added any more dreams since, but it’s there, waiting, for the next vivid dream I want to remember.
The index that you create at the front of your Bullet Journal is meant to help you find things in your journal, but I thought of an even better idea for finding those pages I use frequently: corner bookmarks! I love making these little things, but almost never use them because I’m one of those people who like to (yes, confession time) dog-ear book pages to remember my place in them. But they’re perfect for keeping track of frequently used pages!
The best instructions I’ve found for making your own corner bookmarks is here, courtesy of this post at Book, Line and Sinker.
So this is where I’m at so far after two months with the Bullet Journal method. I anticipate I’ll be putting my planner to a lot more use once I’m out of this crazy, busy work season (about mid-December, I’m hoping). I keep calling it my planner, but with the Bullet Journal system, it’s become more than just a planner. It’s my Everything Book, really.