I’m sure everyone has heard of bullet journals by now, right? I’ve now been using one since 2017. The beauty of a bullet journal is that you can make it fit YOUR life rather than fitting your life into a planner someone created for theirs. A reader asked if I had ever blogged about my bullet journal so here I am.
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How I Use a Bullet Journal
One thing you need to know about me to understand why I use a bullet journal the way I do is that I am a natural-born archivist. That sounds better than “saver of all bits of memories”, right?
You should see my children’s baby books. I challenge anyone to find more complete baby books. I filled out everything and then added more. Pictures, wisps of hair, a record of every illness and doctor appointment, extensive lists of vocabulary, cute anecdotes, and more fill their books to overflowing.
I love the idea there is a record of their early childhoods. I loved being a mom and treasure all these memories.
Now, most moms have some form of a baby book for their kids filled out to one degree or another. But what about our own lives?
When my grandmother died she left her well-read Bible to me. That would have been enough of a treasure on its own but it was also filled with little notes, pictures, newspaper clippings, etc. I also have a small box which contains some handwritten notes of hers. Mostly just things like menus for family Thanksgivings or grocery lists but these are still precious to me because they are a tiny glimpse into her life.
A couple of years ago it occurred to me that bullet journals could be a way for me to leave something of myself behind for my kids when I’m gone. Personal journals are just too, well, personal and I will likely make arrangements for those to be destroyed. But daily to do lists? That seems like the perfect look into my daily life without being more than children want to know about their mother.
So let’s take a look at exactly how I use my bullet journal.
I start by making the next day’s to do list on a sheet of paper on a clipboard. I’ve used this clipboard method ever since I was a hospice nurse back in the 90s and it’s still the best way I’ve found to keep up with my daily life. I like having a full sheet of paper for each day with plenty of space for notes, or to cross things off and start over. Do you ever have days like that?
Update: I switched to inexpensive spiral notebooks for these daily “worksheets” instead of a clipboard. They are easier to keep in order and thumb through if I’m looking for something on a previous day.
So each evening when I settle in with a cup of tea or a glass of wine I look at my Google Calendar for the next day, write down any appointments first and then decide what else will be on my agenda.
I include what our dinner plans are, any meetings or appointments I have, appointments or meetings David has that will affect my plans, errands and anything that takes me out of the house.
I also have sections for home, work, self-care/projects and reminders of things that need to be done soon but not necessarily that day.
Once I’ve got this all written down I often estimate how long each item will take, add it all up, realize there aren’t enough hours and see if there is anything I can eliminate or postpone.
At this point I may or may not start filling out the next day’s bullet journal entry. I like to at least have the daily format done but I usually wait until the morning to actually fill it out.
I put the date and day at the top along with some sort of decorative banner. Lately I’ve been writing some of the headings in French. Here are the ones I’m currently using:
La Maison – home: This is where I list household tasks. Every day includes: make bed, dishes, and laundry. If I do these three things every day and pick up as I go, the house stays livable until I have time for real cleaning. You might wonder why I would list something I do every day as a habit. After all, I don’t put “brush teeth” or “shower” on my daily list. But hey, I like to see things checked off at the end of the day!
Le Travail – work: Anything related to my blog, our HMA Foundation nonprofit, local boards or committees on which I serve goes here. I also include time to check email, phone calls I need to make and other tasks that are not related to housework.
Pour Moi – “for me”: This is where I list a few things to do for myself. It generally includes meditation, reading, exercise and any self-development course I’m working on. It might include something like “watch a French film” or my personal favorite, “stargaze”. I’m trying to get better about scheduling time for myself but I must admit this is often where I fail.
Le Dȋner – dinner: This is where I write down what I will be making for dinner. I make a menu each week which I usually share in my Life With Dee weekly newsletter. If you aren’t already subscribed you can sign up at the bottom of this post.
Update: I’m now using English section titles instead of French. I’m not sure when or why I switched but I just might go back to French. Who knows?
I also look up the day’s weather report and add that. I then transfer the list I wrote on the clipboard the night before. A typical day might look like this:
I have been sharing each day’s page on my Instagram Stories in case you’d like to see what I have planned each day. Do I always get everything done on my list? No. In fact…rarely. Anything I don’t complete gets moved to the next day. If I keep moving something repeatedly I ask myself if it’s something I really need to do in which case I try to get it done. Otherwise I might decide to just drop it.
One final thing I’ve been including on my daily page is a space to write something I’m grateful for that day. I’d like to keep a more detailed gratitude journal but for now this is the best I can manage.
The beauty of a bullet journal is that you can use any notebook or journal you’d like. A simple spiral-bound notebook will do or you can splurge on a fancy journal.
I’ve been using the Leuchtturm 1917 which I buy from Amazon. I’ve gone through three so far and I find them well-suited for this purpose. The size, quality of paper, numbered pages, index, two ribbon page markers and elastic closure band are all nice details that make this notebook very popular for bullet journaling.
I like that they come in lots of beautiful colors and that they are likely to remain available for years to come.
Update: I’ve come to prefer the Erin Condren spiral bound notebook for these journals. I like the larger size and the spiral binding. Right now I’m using an less expensive version of the Leuchtturm because I finished my last Erin Condren during a no-spend month and happened to have a blank one here. It suits the purpose but as soon as it’s full I’ll buy another Erin Condren.
If you are familiar with bullet journaling you may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned monthly spreads, weekly spreads, habit trackers, etc. That’s because I don’t use them. I’ve tried in the past but just didn’t find that I used them enough to be worth the time and effort it took to create them.
I keep appointments and events on my Google Calendar and don’t really feel the need to have a monthly or weekly calendar in my bullet journal.
As for habit trackers, I have an app or two on my phone which I’ve used sporadically. I probably should give it another whirl.
I do have pages to list the LWD Book Club selections, blog post ideas, places I’d like to travel and a few other lists. But mostly I use a bullet journal for planning out each day and recording it for the future.
It’s entirely possible that I’ll expand my use of the bullet journal. Perhaps I’ll give monthly or weekly spreads another try. But for me, daily pages are working well at this time.
Something I’ve been putting off doing yet know I should is to track my time. I’m pretty sure I won’t like what I find out but that’s all the more reason to do so, right? That might be a very helpful thing to add to my bullet journal. By putting it right there in my bullet journal I’ll be reminded of the results. In fact, I might just go ahead and schedule ahead to track a day once a month or so.
Do you use a bullet journal? I’d love to hear how you use yours.