Bullet Journal update: January 2016

Last year I wrote two posts [post 1; post 2] about how I used the Bullet Journal method for my planning for personal and work use. I thought I would update those posts with my current setup. I’m going to go through my personal journal and my work journal separately, since I keep separate journals and do different things with both of them.

However, first of all, because it’s me, I’m going to go on a bit of a rant. This was sparked by an observation from my friend/fellow IN librarian Renata on Twitter, but I completely agree with her. Here’s the thing! Bullet journaling is great, and I love it and works for me in a way no previous attempted planning system has. HOWEVER. I think because of Instagram/Pinterest/etc, there’s a pressure to have journals that look super fancy and cool and you can only have¬† Moleskine or that other one starting with an L that honestly I can never even remember and you should add washi tape and decorate everything and if you don’t, you’re not doing it Right.


The genius of Bullet Journaling is how flexible it is. If you love to decorate and want to invest in high quality journals, then absolutely go for it! But you don’t need to have a reblog-worthy journal to be a successful Bullet Journaler. Do what works for you. I don’t care about the weather, so I don’t track it. Some people love tracking it! My first dedicated Bullet Journal was one I got for about $4 at CVS. I tried it out for about 3 months in literally a Mead spiral-bound notebook. I’m currently using two I bought at Target for $6 each. I inherited some Staedtler pens from my dad, and I do enjoy using them to add a touch of color. Some people use their Bullet Journals as journals, some as organizers, some as something in-between (mine is mostly an organizer). Do what works for you and don’t feel overwhelmed by the people who invest a lot of time & money in making theirs as gorgeous as possible.

With that hopefully encouraging pep talk/rant out of the way, I’m going to go ahead and look at my personal journal.




Here’s my monthly spread! There are three main categories here: Important Dates, Financial Things, and Goals. Last year I was using a “Things to Plan” category as well, but I didn’t find that worked terribly well for me. I add Important Dates at the beginning of the month and as they come up later on. Financial is just to help me make sure I’m aware of major expenses & that I’ve actually paid them. Goals is the aspect I use the most: I take my monthly goals and use them to create my weekly and daily goals as needed. I try to do sub-goals for big categories like cleaning, and if two goals are related I’ll usually stick them on the same line.

I’ve been enjoying doing some ribbon sketches around my dates, but we’ll see if I keep it up all year.



Here’s my basic format for this week, which I hadn’t filled in with the specific items yet. The spread at the top is for things I do every day: my work schedule, some daily habit tracking, events & errands (filled in from the monthly important dates where needed), blogging, and writing. I had been doing the writing tracker separately at the bottom of the page so this is an experiment–I’m always tinkering with layout and such to see if new things work.

Underneath that are a few specific things: goals for the week, filled in from my monthly goals & anything particular that needs to happen this week. Then I have a space for food that I’m planning to make, filled in from my menu document on Google Drive. Finally, there’s a space to note specific books that I need/want to read this week (this sometimes works really well & sometimes not at all).



Last one is daily. This is basically the same as in my last update, so I’m not going to go over that again, but I’ll note two new things. First: I’m sometimes color-coding my boxes with the Staedtler pens. One color is computer/online things, one is non-computer things. This just helps me balance my day a bit. Second, I’m attempting to record 3 short observations per day on the right-hand side. These don’t have to be anything big, but I’m liking how it’s working so far–I’m reflecting a bit more on my day & how it’s going. I also dropped the meal tracker I was doing last year as it wasn’t super useful to me.

Special pages

One of the great things about the Bullet Journal method is the way you can catch important topics on their own pages. I have several of these, and I’m sure I’ll add more as I go along. As someone who frequently has scattered, ongoing thoughts or ideas on a particular topic or project, having specific pages to mark these down on is really helpful.


This is my current forward planning method. I have about 7 lines for each month of 2016 and as I’m aware of events/appointments during those months, I’ll mark them down so I can add them to the monthly page as needed. It’s a bit cramped, but I think it’ll work for most months.


Here’s an example of a project page: I’m knitting shawls for friends over the course of the year. This tells me who I’m knitting what for, with what yarn, and also allows me to track when I started & finished each shawl.


Last year I was always wondering what I’d watched recently/meant to catch up on, so this year I’m planning to track the TV & movies I watch. This is a bit deceptive, though, as that was my third time seeing Star Wars. Haven’t decided if/how I want to show rewatches.

Last personal page! My work schedule varies depending on what week it is, so I have a couple of months worked out so I know which days I’ll be free. If you work 9-5 M-F, this probably isn’t super useful, but if you work a variable but regular schedule, I find this really useful.




My monthly page for work is pretty obvious/similar to what I was doing last year. Goals on the left, programs on the right, with passive programs listed a little below the others. I draw my goals based on a specific page which I created for the year, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Weekly and Daily



Unlike my personal journal, I’ve found that I don’t need a separate page for each week to keep me on track. So I just dedicate the first blank column at the start of each week to my projects, events & goals. I am setting the weekly column off a bit with some fancy ribboning.


Here’s an example of two days side by side. I do try to write down my lists in order of priority, but this is pretty rough and often I’ll remember something else or it will come up as the day goes on.

Special Pages
Here’s the page where I have big ongoing projects for the year noted: things I’m expecting and planning to do all year and what I’m hoping to accomplish in every month. This just helps me keep on track with a realistic assessment of where I should be and what my goals for each month should be.
IMAG0210 IMAG0212 
Similar things here: I do blog posts for the library and displays in the Children’s room and this way I can mark down ideas I have for either as I have them.
We plan programs out 2 months in advance, so I mark down what I’m going to be doing as I plan them (though I obviously forgot to fill in all of March–oops!)

And that’s it! Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.


Bullet Journaling, revisited

Back in January, I wrote a post about how I was using my bullet journals. [UPDATE: I’ve since written another post in January 2016.] Since then, I’ve made some changes to how I use them and I thought I would post an update here. I’m going to focus on my personal bullet journal, since the way I use my work journal has remained mostly the same.


The first change is mostly cosmetic. My dad had a set of nice fine-tipped markers which my mom sent me last year, and I decided to use one color per month to make my journal look a little more artistic. Here’s my monthly planning page for June–what’s on the page has remained the same as earlier this year, but I like having the color. I’m also writing the day of the week & date larger and in the same color marker as the month for the daily pages.


This is how I’m laying out my daily pages at this point. At the beginning of the year, I was worried about how much space each month was going to take, but at this point, I’m not as concerned about that. Also, if I need to buy a second notebook, I’ll buy a second notebook. I’m still giving myself 15 lines/day, but I’ve doubled that space by letting each day take up two columns.

In the left-hand column, I have tasks and appointments that I want to complete that day. Some of these are date-specific; others are ongoing projects, but projects that do have an end-date. In the right-hand column, I have daily personal tasks, like cleaning and reminding myself to floss.

I also wanted to have a record of what I’m doing for meals, mostly so I can look back and see how well my menu planning for a given month worked. And if I have space and want to, there’s a place for journal-type notes.


I abandoned the stars/priority method I talked about in my earlier post. It was working for awhile, and then it started becoming too much work, and wasn’t actually helping me accomplish the goals I needed to. So now I try to list the most urgent/important goals first for each day, but aside from that I’m not using priority markers except for occasional urgent tasks (like mail, below).


I’m also experimenting with a visual representation of my day. It’s helpful to me to have a sense of how much time I have and when, especially since my work schedule is variable. I’m marking work hours, and then marking off time in half-hour increments, since I often work on projects for that amount of time. I haven’t been doing this very long in my personal journal, but I’ve found it to be helpful. (I find the idea of choronodex planning appealing, but the actual system is very confusing and counter-intuitive to me.)

Finally, I had been using an adapted system of checks and crossing out, instead of the official bullet journal legend. I’ve actually gone back to the original system, at least for now (you can see on Wednesday that I did some checks, but then started filling in squares again). That’s part of the beauty of the Bullet Journal system, in my opinion–it’s both structured and flexible, and you can adapt so it meets you where you are right now.

Other bullet journal resources:
Kelly Jensen’s post at Stacked Books
A Bullet Journal FB group started by Sophie Brookover


My bullet journalish planning

[UPDATE: I’ve since written two posts about how I’m using Bullet Journaling now, one in June 2015, one in January 2016.]

I’ve been wanting to write this up for awhile and finally just decided to do it.

I heard about the Bullet Journal method of planning/life tracking/journaling via someone in the library circle I follow on Twitter (I suspect it was either Sophie Brookover or Kelly Jensen, but I’m not 100% sure). It sounded intriguing, so I tried it last year for my work plans & tracking and this year have started to use it for both personal and work stuff. However, I haven’t used it in exactly the way the original Bullet Journal method works and, even though there are a thousand different ways to adapt it, I wanted to write up my own.

I use the journals a little differently for work and personal stuff, so I’m going to talk about both.

Here’s the cover of my personal notebook. I bought both for about $3.99 each at CVS. I mention this because a lot of times bullet journal people put a big emphasis on getting really high quality notebooks and pens. And that’s great if that’s your thing, but it’s definitely not an actual requirement. Personally, I’ve found that I strongly prefer spiral-bound notebooks, because they’re easier to deal with in the places & situations I tend to use them.

I also really like the pockets in the front of these notebooks. Bullet journaling aims to cut down on an accumulation of little pieces of paper, but some amount is pretty unavoidable (at least for me) so I really like having a contained place to keep them all.

This is the index page. It’s pretty straightforward. I do put a square box around the overview/planning page for each month, though, so it’s easy to differentiate that one.

And here’s the planning page for January. I really need to have an overview of the month so I can keep my goals in mind. I also am trying to do better at tracking people’s birthdays this year, so I made sure to put that as one of the planning things I should be aware of. This is very different from the way the original bullet journal method lays out monthly planning, but for me this contained version works much better.

And finally, what I wanted to talk about most, which is the way I’m setting up the actual pages. I mostly use this notebook as a to-do/planning list, as opposed to a journal. That’s just how I’ve found myself using it. The pages of this notebook are large enough that I wanted to do two columns, fitting four days per page. So I am only allowed to use 14 lines per day. This actually helps me a lot, because it forces me to consider what I need to get done, as opposed to writing down everything I’ve ever thought of and getting bogged down in long lists.

At the end of the year last year, I started experimenting with using stars to show priority items. For personal stuff, I let myself have ten stars per day. These are the things I most need and/or want to get done. I try to make sure that, as well as the necessary adulting, there are a few fun or more creative items starred. If I finish an item completely for the day, I check the box and cross it off, and if I work on it without completing it, I just check the box. This is a departure from the bullet method; I just find crossing things off way too satisfying to give up. If I complete a starred item, I then add a star to the day and date. This lets me track how many of my priority items I’m getting done in any given day/week. Also, honestly, I find it fairly motivating. I think the origins for this came from Erin Bow’s sticker method for writing, but I’ve found it very effective for everyday stuff too. It’s also helpful if I’m having a particularly rough day: so after I get five stars done, I get a piece of chocolate or something. I am totally not above bribing myself into good behavior.

Sometimes I have, to borrow a term, stretch goals. These are things I hope to get done if I get another goal done . If the original goal was starred, I give myself a star for the stretch goal as well. I usually write these on the same line, so it’s clear what’s going on.

Here’s the notebook I’m using for work. Same notebook, different cover.

Most of what I do with this notebook is exactly the same as for my personal one, above. However, there are a couple of differences. First, when it comes to the index page (above), I make sure to star important pages which I’ll need to come back to. For instance, since a lot of my job involves planning programs and displays, I have both of those pages starred for quick reference. I’ve seen people use colored tabs to mark these pages too, but I found that personally I couldn’t remember what was what and always spent too much time trying to find what I was looking for.

Second, unlike my personal notebook, I let each day fill as many lines as it needs to. Some days, like the 12th, I have a lot I need to get done, and other days, there isn’t as much that I need to focus on. But I still find starring priority items and having a limited number of stars to give out very helpful. Since I don’t have the set number of items, I usually do half as many stars as I have tasks, rounding up instead of down. So if I had 8 things on my list, 4 can be starred; if I have 9, 5 stars.

I’m not actually by nature a super-organized person, but I’ve found that this method work well for me. I’m sure I’ll tweak it from time to time as well–I like that it feels flexible enough to work in many different circumstances.