Thursday, March 19, 2015

How I Use My Bullet Journal

This year, I wanted a better organizational system. We started using a new scheduling program at work and we have a million school visits that we're doing now and I was terrified that something was going to fall through the cracks. I am not unorganized and I have great attention to detail, but I had never really found an organizational system that I had stuck with. I tended to use something for awhile and then eventually stop updating it and flounder until I tried something else. Day planners, Google calendar, etc. all went by the wayside.

So in January, inspired by the awesome Jennie Rothschild of Biblio File, I decided to give bullet journaling a try. I had seen some discussions of it around the interwebs and I figured there wasn't any harm in giving it a shot.

Guys, I love it. And let me tell you why it works for me:

I think of it less as a calendar and more of a clearinghouse for my to-do lists. The beauty of it is that it is super customizable since it's basically just a notebook and you can design the planner aspect of it however you want. Prior to starting my bullet journal, I had scraps of paper with to-do lists flying all over my office. When I lost a note about a parent visit at a school and then had no idea what we had talked about the library doing at said visit, I knew it was time for a change. And so far bullet journaling has been the change that has worked for me.

Before I go farther, here is a short video from the creator of the bullet journal that outlines the basic principles:


You can find more information at

I don't do everything like the official bullet journal calls for. Let me show you what mine looks like. I bought a fairly cheap, cute notebook at Barnes & Noble. Some folks like Moleskin, there are also cute notebooks at Target:

I start off each month with a little calendar that I paste in and a to-do list for tasks to be accomplished this month. These are not day-to-day items, but bigger items that I will be assigning myself throughout the month. As a task is completed, I color in the box. Honestly, I don't find myself using the calendar spread very much, so I may take that out at some point. I also number the pages as called for in the official bullet journal, but that's also something that's not really useful to me, so I may stop.

Then, I write in each day. I typically give myself half a page for each day unless I'm off work, in which case it might be a third of a page or less depending on what is going on. 

I use different symbols for different types of tasks. Squares are tasks, circles are library programs, and triangles are meetings or social engagements. I write down my work shift to the right of the date. And I use the bullets to write down any extra info I want to. I don't always use the bullets, but I do sometimes. 

I don't use my bullet journal for super advanced planning. I still use the calendar on my phone when I need to schedule appointments way in advance and we have a huge master calendar at the library where we can schedule our programs and school outreach way out. Each month, after I make the monthly staff schedule, I transfer it into my bullet journal. 

I thought I wouldn't like the extra work of basically rewriting the entire schedule, but what I have found is that it helps me have a sense of what's coming up over the next couple of months. It reiterates to my brain what programs I have and what I'll be working on. I use a paper clip to keep track of where I am in the journal. I can easily open it up to the current week and flip back to the current month to check off larger tasks as they're completed. 

I started lists of Summer Reading Club items in the back and I have devoted pages to listing possible baby storytime books, possible summer readalouds, a wedding guest list, and blog post ideas. The great thing about doing this in a notebook is that the pages can be whatever you want, whatever is helpful to you. (This is where the page numbers and index are supposed to come in handy. We'll see.) All my to-do lists and random notes about things in one place.

And, of course, I bought some stickers and washi tape to give it a little color and make it more fun. :) 

Using the bullet journal has helped me keep track of what I need to do and it's made me more productive. I love the satisfaction of coloring in boxes as tasks are completed. I don't know if it's something I'll keep up forever, but I've been going strong since late December, so there's hope! 

Bullet journaling may not be for everybody, but this is how it's been helpful for me. Again, it's very flexible, so you don't have to do it any one way. Some people keep track of meal planning, household chores, etc. You can find tons and tons of ideas on Pinterest

Have you tried bullet journaling? What organizational system has worked for you?